By – John Williamson

bitfenix

The Bitfenix Prodigy was an extraordinarily popular ITX case with system builders looking to create a beautiful, small-form factor PC. Part of its appeal came from the wide selection of colour finishes and light, portable size making it a perfect match for LAN events. The innovative design offered ample room for cooling options and storage despite being designed for the remarkably small Mini ITX motherboard format. While Mini ITX boards have come on leaps and bounds, they are still restricted to only 1 PCI-E slot. This isn’t a viable option for high-end users who demand dual card setups or require a single graphics card and dedicated sound card. This resulted in a number of changes from talented modders who altered the design to accommodate Micro ATX motherboards. Bitfenix listened to the community feedback and decided to launch its own official mATX version.

Test System:

  • Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition
  • 8GB 1866MHz Crucial Ballistix Smart Tracer
  • Asus ROG Z87 Maximus VI Gene
  • Bitfenix Prodigy M Case
  • 480GB Seagate SSD
  • Corsair HX850 Power Supply
  • 2 Bitfenix Spectre Pro 120mm fans, 1 140mm variant

Bitfenix has retained the packaging aesthetic from the original Prodigy which features clear diagrams of its capabilities and a large, striking Bitfenix logo. The box is a little bland for my tastes but it’s easy to read and more importantly, employs a fairly thick grade of cardboard. Inside the package is the case protected by a plastic sheet and two polystyrene supports to enhance protection during delivery. These two pieces are extremely well made with no manufacturing flaws. Furthermore, I was unable to intentionally break the polystyrene despite applying a large amount of pressure. For this reason alone, Bitfenix deserves credit for not skimping on packaging quality and ensuring the unit doesn’t get scratched or irreversibly damaged.

It’s not entirely perfect since you can purchase a windowed side panel as an optional extra and this came with a large scratch across the glass. Bitfenix uses a small rectangular cardboard box to ship this accessory and to be fair, it should have provided adequate padding. In all honestly, I believe this was down to bad luck instead of poor planning on Bitfenix’s part.

There are a wide array of colour options to choose from including red, white, black and the sample I’ll be testing today is blue. Each of these colours are bright, vivid and create a fantastic theme for a particular build. I inspected the blue paint and it was flawless with no evidence of sloppy workmanship or over/under application of the finish. A lot of case manufacturers could learn from Bitfenix’s approach as enthusiasts usually demand a specific colour choice as aesthetic continuity becomes more important.

Moving onto the case itself, the top portion features a removable dust filter and support for 2 120mm fans or a 240mm radiator. Removing the filter is relatively simple and involves pushing a plastic tab. I was disappointed with the build quality here though as the mechanism is fairly stiff and exhibits a lot of flex even when locked. As such, it’s possible this could cause vibrations in the long-term. Another annoyance occurs with the filter’s end points which are obscured by the FyberFlex™ Composite handles and makes cleaning fans a far from seamless task. I would have preferred a traditional pop-in mechanism which opens the filter as you press down on one side.

You have to be exceptionally careful when selecting components since the inverted motherboard layout results in a very tight space for a 2nd PCI-E device. When you attach a device in this position, there is almost no clearance for thick radiators or non-flexible tubing. Please remember that the gap between this slot and the cooling is approximately 30mm. The one advantage to this however, is you can cool the GPU’s VRM directly from 120mm fans.. I must reiterate this, if you are going for a CLC water unit or dual slot SLI/Crossfire, measure the parts first and do some planning.

Bitfenix Prodigy M Case Review 1

The bottom section contains a wide assortment of cooling options including 120mm x 2 (1 included) 200mm x 1(optional) or 230mm x 1 (optional) fan setups. The bundled fans are fairly decent at shifting the air around but I would recommend some aftermarket fans such as the Corsair AF120 or Noctua NF-F12. Rather surprisingly for stock fans, the noise/performance ratio is good and the audio levels are staggeringly quiet Alongside the fan mounts are 2 3.5” drive bays which fit by sliding the drives in place and tightening 4 screws.

Interestingly, this case utilizes a vertical PSU mount and power extension cable. You have to screw a metal bracket to your power supply, feed the cables through and tighten the thumbscrew when the unit is perfectly flush. Before you do this, hold the power extension lead and position it underneath your PSU. This is an an awkward and infuriating process with virtually no room to maneuver. In my case, I found the cable was too tight and wouldn’t insert into the PSU source. As a result, I attached the cable before hand and with a degree of force, screwed down the plate.

This cramped area also creates two herculean problems which will be a nightmare for the less-experienced builders. Firstly, the gap between the PSU and 24 pin power adapter is ridiculously small which makes inserting the power cable a chore. On another note, there is no room whatsoever for cable management due to the narrow gap between the side panel and PSU mount. Often, it involves just randomly shoving the cables behind the motherboard tray and placing cables across the floor. During this build, I was using a semi-modular power supply and the finish was quite tight. As such, I would strongly recommend that you only use a modular PSU with this unit or the cable management will become impossible. One tip is to remove the front 5.25” bracket since that gets in the way of your thicker 24 pin and 8 pin EPS12V.

I was concerned as the situation appeared to get even worse if you wish to use a windowed side panel. Bitfenix have designed the case so the panel with the USB 3.0, front audio and 2.5” drive bays fit on the opposite side to the PSU cabling. Obviously, this is a sensible idea, but aligning it in the correct position makes the side window only work by showing the motherboard cutout. Thankfully, you can just tilt the panel upside down and use it on the opposite side. It’s far from ideal as this windowed panel comes at the expense of rooting a wealth of cables in a tight section near the PSU.

There are some other positive aspects to the case layout including a magnetic PSU dust filter, superb quantity of hard drive mounts, support for up to 320mm graphics cards and thoughtful ventilation throughout to aid airflow. I cannot emphasize enough how impressive it is to have this amount of storage expandability in such a small form factor. I tested the case for idle and load temperatures using OCCT and monitored the results with HWMonitor and CoreTemp. Space is quite limited so I opted to use the Noctua NH-U9S and achieved an idle temp of 25 and load of 68 at stock. I couldn’t really try for an overclock due to the small Noctua heatsink.

On the rear are ventilation holes, 5 PCI brackets with a closing mechanism, 120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1 (optional) fan and an AC socket. The PCI brackets are of a high quality and I didn’t detect any sharp edges of uneven surfaces along the steel. In terms of the case’s overall construction, I feel content barring the top dust filter. There is virtually no flex and the steel/plastic is resistant to heavy use and withholds the strain of components being changed. The FyberFlex™ Composite handles still make me a little uneasy but I’m guessing this is fairly irrational since I’ve not heard of a failure yet from other users.

Bitfenix Prodigy M Case Review 5

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

The Bitfenix Prodigy M review has taken over 2 months to review because I both love it and hate it at the same time. In my opinion, it’s an absolutely gorgeous small-form factor case for Micro-ATX builders looking at creating their own Steam Machine or Media PC.  My major complaint is the overly complicated build process and lackluster instructions.  This means it isn’t a good option for those who change components on a regular basis. It’s difficult to say whether this is due to poor design, a limitation of smaller cases or a combination of both. If you have the confidence then the Prodigy M is possibly the best Micro-ATX case on the market.

Bitfenix Prodigy M PC Case Summary:

  • Time Used – 65 Days
  • System Specification – Intel G3258, 8GB RAM, Sapphire R9 290x 8GB
  • Software Used – OCCT, HWMonitor, CoreTemp
  • Acquisition Method – Review Unit
  • Availability – Newegg
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