BitFenix Prodigy mITX Case Review

Computers are shrinking. Even enthusiast computers are getting smaller & smaller. We’ll look more in-depth at the shrinking ability of the power-user in the coming weeks when we publish a review of EVGA’s mITX Z77 Stinger. However, before that, we’ll have a look at the case in which it will reside – the BitFenix Prodigy.

To be honest, I’ve wanted to test one of these out since they first arrived around CES 2012 in January of this year. However, there has been no mITX board on the test bed to install in the case. That changed with the Stinger. We then approached BitFenix and they were happy to let us have a look at their very popular Prodigy.

Packaging & Specifications

We’ll get the boring stuff out of the way first. Like most every case on the market, Prodigy comes in a box. The box, however, is much more stout than even the Lian Li boxes you’ve seen in past reviews. Its cardboard seems much thicker than boxes I’ve seen in the past. This thing will survive on its way to you, no doubt.

The case itself is shrouded in plastic and floated with styrofoam like most other cases. The packaging is plenty to protect the Prodigy.

BitFenix Prodigy Box

BitFenix Prodigy Box

BitFenix Prodigy Box Rear

BitFenix Prodigy Box Rear

BitFenix Prodigy Specs

BitFenix Prodigy Specs

Box Opened

Box Opened

BitFenix Prodigy Protection

BitFenix Prodigy Protection

The specifications show us a versatile case. With all of the parenthesis, you can see there are several options to choose from with regard to internal configuration.

Specifications (Courtesy BitFenix’s Prodigy product page)

Materials: Steel, Plastic
Colors (Int/Ext): Black/Black, White/White
Dimensions (WxHxD): 250 x 404 x 359mm
Internal Dimensions (WxHxD): 250 x 310 x 340 = 26.35 liters
Motherboard Sizes: Mini-ITX
5.25″ Drive Bays: x 1 (removable)
3.5″ Drive Bays: x 5 (3 + 2 modular)
2.5″ Drive Bays: x 9 (5 + 2 + 1 +1 )
Cooling Front: 120mm x 2 (120mm x 1included) or 140/180/200/230mm x 1(optional)
Cooling Rear: 120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1(optional)
Cooling Top: 120mm x 2 (optional)
PCI Slots: x 2
I/O: USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply: PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction), PSU cage depth 180mm, max PSU depth 160mm
Extras: FyberFlex™ Composite handles, SofTouch™ surface treatment, filtered intakes, tool-free drive locking

Everything looks good so far, let’s get that case out and let it stretch its legs.

Exterior Tour

The Prodigy we’re looking at today is the black model. It comes with a little silver trim on the front panel and a silver BitFenix logo. Aside from that, the case is a matte and glossy black work of steel & plastic art.

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

BitFenix Prodigy

As I said, this case has been on my short list since it came out if ever an mITX board made its way here. As you can see, there was a reason for that. The case looks stellar. It’s one of those elegant, understated looks that you know I appreciate if you’ve read any case reviews that sprung forth from my hands.

However, for all its understated coloring, it still has just enough flare to separate itself, most notably the cool rubberized plastic handles. Those things can take abuse too. Long ago there was a YouTube video of someone pushing one all the way to the case and it bouncing right back. Of course, that was the first thing I tried…before taking these photos. Thankfully it worked just the way it was supposed to!

One quick side note before moving on, if you look at the second row of photos above, they show the side panel that’s going to be very close to your GPU. There is plenty of ventilation so your GPU won’t be starved for air.

The top panel is nifty and has a removable filter for easy cleaning and access to the top fan hole(s).

Top Panel

Top Panel

The power & reset buttons are soft rubber and give a nice, tactile click when used. It looks like they could have done a little more adjustment to make the LEDs fit their holes a little better, but that’s really a very small thing that no one will notice. Mostly they won’t notice because those things are bright. Really bright and really blue. Like, see spots if you look at them too long kind of bright.

As you can see, the Prodigy is also equipped with mic and headphone jacks as well as two side-panel USB 3.0 ports. I like the use of the side panel to house the control section. It leaves the front of the case without intrusion from the cutouts.

Side I/O Panel

Side I/O Panel

The back of the case is a textbook example of using available space wisely. You have one of the two included 120mm fans, the holes for the motherboard rear I/O and power supply and a very interesting system for holding expansion cards.

Case Rear

Case Rear

Expansion Slot System

Expansion Slot System

PSU Mounting Bracket

PSU Mounting Bracket

The bottom of the case is sparse. There are screws for removing the bottom HDD rack if you would like. There is also a PSU fan filter. It’s always good to see case manufacturers going the extra mile to keep dust out of our systems.

PSU Air Filter

PSU Air Filter

With the Prodigy, BitFenix has taken small dimensions and wrapped them in style. After getting hands and eyes on this thing in person, it looks just as good as it does in photos.

Glamour Shot

Glamour Shot

If black isn’t your taste, the Prodigy also comes in multiple colors, among them white, red and orange. You can also get replacement front panels with other-than-silver trim and BitFenix logos. You can check out the red and orange variations as well as the front panels on BitFenix’ site. There are more photos of the white version on the Prodigy product page.

Accessories

The accessories come in a small box shoehorned into one of the HDD bays. There was no damage as a result of this, but it doesn’t look pretty.

Shoehorned Accessory Box

Shoehorned Accessory Box

With a case this small, there just aren’t a ton of necessary accessories. You get plenty of screws for your system installation, one stick-on wire holder and two little pieces of metal with holes in them. If you decide to remove the ODD blank, you can put these on and screw it back in place. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, but you can.

Accessories

Accessories

Interior & Features Tour

Now that the side panel is off, you can see the inside is just as good looking as the outside. There are five 3.5″ HDD bays, one 5.25″ ODD bay, the mITX motherboard tray and the PSU bay.

First Look Inside

First Look Inside

The motherboard tray comes with plenty of wire pass-through holes for wire management and the stand-offs are pre-installed. To the right is a closer look at the HDD rack. You can see around the top three HDD bays, there are plastic tabs. These are for easy removal of that part of the rack. The bottom rack’s removal is more rare and requires a screwdriver.

mITX Motherboard Tray

mITX Motherboard Tray

HDD Rack

HDD Rack

Here you can see the (also removable) 5.25″ ODD bay, which also requires a screwdriver.

ODD Rack

ODD Rack

This next photo shows a neat space saving trick that I’ve never seen on a case before. The side panel can house two 2.5″ drives. That allows for much more versatile storage solutions. Even with the top triple HDD bay removed, you can still have four drives total available (two 2.5″ + two 3.5″ or 2.5″). For those of you that want to remove both HDD trays (typically so you can install water cooling), this gives the option to still use SSD caching with an SSD and a 2.5″ HDD. Storage was very well thought out in this case.

Another good part about the side door is that both the side panel audio jacks and the USB ports have removable cables. If you have an mITX board like the one I’m installing that doesn’t have FP audio hook-ups, you simply remove that cable to reduce your clutter. Some manufacturers hard-wire these things, so this is a very welcome addition. You can even remove the LED and switch plugs if you want; you’ve got complete control over what you do and do not hook up.

On the right you can see the “back” side of the case, where you’ll do most of your wire management and plug in your disc drives.

Rear Panel

Rear Panel

Interior from Rear

Interior from Rear

In the front of the case resides the second of the included 120mm fans. These aren’t powerhouses by any stretch. Rated at 0.10 A, at 100% they run ~1600RPM. They’re good case fans, but you wouldn’t want to put them on a HSF. A big plus is the leads on these fans are quite long. This one went all the way to the back of the case out of site, just going up to plug into the rear fan header on the board being used.

Front 120mm Fan

Front 120mm Fan

Here you can see the top HDD cage removed and the rails into which it slides. You can remove those after you slide the HDD bay out for a more aesthetically pleasing top of your remaining HDD cage / bottom of your ODD cage.

Top HDD Cage Removed

Top HDD Cage Removed

Bottom Cage Rail

Bottom Cage Rail

Top Cage Rail

Top Cage Rail

HDD Rack Rail Removed

HDD Rack Rail Removed

The expansion slot system is redundant, which is always good to see. You have the two thumbscrews that hold down the cards as well as a sliding hold-down. I used them because I enjoy redundancy, but you don’t have to thanks to their system.

Expansion Slot System Closed

Expansion Slot System Closed

Expansion Slot System Opened

Expansion Slot System Opened

The Prodigy’s clean lines are echoed inside and out. One thing not mentioned is that the vast majority of the holes around the case are rolled so there no sharp edges. The only exceptions really are the expansion slots and the PSU bracket. You won’t cut yourself messing around in there, which is important in such a small case.

Working with the Prodigy

Working with the prodigy is rather straightforward and simple. There isn’t a lot of room, but that’s to be expected in an mITX case! To start with, you can remove the entire front panel (which you can replace with fancy colors if you’d like). As you can see the front panel has a plethora of fan mounting options available. It comes with a 120 mm fan installed, but there is so much more you can do! From a giant, silent intake fan to dual-120 mm radiator goodness, the only limitation is your imagination.

We also see why the case comes with those little brackets to reinstall the ODD blank – because that’s where you would mount two of the screws on a 2×120 mm radiator.

The front panel itself is held on with four clips and is very sturdy. There is no vibration to be had and the fine mesh on the front panel itself serves as a nice dust filter.

Front Panel Access

Front Panel Access

The HDD system allows installation of both 3.5″ drives (compression fit with the little metal dowels) and 2.5″ drives (screwed in from the bottom on the second and fourth rails from the front). Once you mount your chosen drive into the HDD bracket, just slide it in until it clicks.

HDD Bracket

HDD Bracket

HDD Prepped

HDD Prepped

HDD Installed

HDD Installed

As we mentioned before, the side panel allows you an additional two 2.5″ drive mounts. This particular system was installed with two 3.5″ HDDs and one 2.5″ SSD. The SSD resides in the side panel.

SSD Installed in Door

SSD Installed in Door

One thing you need to be extra cautious of is your choice of PSU. There is a set limit to how long your PSU can be and the flat metal panel does not let you get ANY longer. Most modular PSUs greater than 500-600 W will not fit in this case. I got lucky – the Cooler Master Silent Pro 600W fit perfectly. There’s plenty of power for even top of the line GPUs, enough connectors for however many drives you have and it all fit without so much as any extra pressure when pushing in the bracket.

Do note there are posts on forums and reviews around the net saying higher wattage modular PSUs will NOT fit. So when you look into a PSU for the Prodigy, make sure you account for the PSU itself AND the connectors, plus a little bit of wiggle room for the wires. Higher wattage, modular PSUs will fit, but they have to be the right model. Remember, the specs say you have 180 mm total from the back of the case to the front of the cage and they spec the max PSU depth at 160 mm. So that 180 mm number includes the wires.

PSU Bay Interior

PSU Bay Interior

PSU Installed - Not Much Room!

PSU Installed – Not Much Spare Room!

Removing the top cover shows the options you have for installing fans or a radiator in the top. I put the 120mm fan there as an example, but take note – you can NOT put a fan there when you have a radiator + fan in the rear exhaust mount. Cooling in this thing must be planned from the get go and there will be compromises to reach your desired cooling level. Remember, when going with a SFF build, you must choose your components carefully and decide how they’ll be placed before you buy them so you don’t run into any unexpected roadblocks.

Optional Fan Installation

Optional Fan Installation

Here we have the only flaw I found on the case. One of the rear fan’s screws was rusted a little bit. I won’t ding them too hard, mistakes happen and things get missed in QC. This obviously came to BitFenix like this from their supplier and the person assembling the case didn’t notice it. No big deal.

The Only Hiccup

The Only Hiccup

There isn’t much more to the install. Here we have the motherboard and some of the wiring installed as well as the all-in-one 120mm liquid cooler that’s destined for this system.

Motherboard & Cooler Installed

Motherboard & Cooler Installed

Motherboard & Cooler Installed

Motherboard & Cooler Installed

Installing a system in this case was a breeze, even for my rather large hands. Wire management was even simple – surprisingly so for the little room.

Installed & Ready for Showtime

Now that everything is installed and wired up, we’re ready for the final photo shoot. Since the case is small, installing a GPU here would completely block the rest of the system from being viewed, so here are a couple photos without the GPU installed. As you can see, wire management was easy and effective; the system is very clean and it took very little effort to make it so.

Please forgive the extra wire going under the HDD cage. That’s there in the event another GPU makes its way into this build and requires more than one PCIe power cable. Remember – plan in advance for SFF system building!

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

Now we’ll put the GPU in there and, as advertised, it blocks the rest of the system off. You don’t even need to make your wires look clean and pretty if you don’t want – the GPU will block it from view. But you’d know you didn’t do it. Anyway, with the GPU in there, the Prodigy still looks great. Clean, composed and uncompromising, even in a small enclosure.

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

After closing the system off, if you need instant easy access, you can always pop the top off. Here you can see why the top 120 mm fan wouldn’t work with the radiator/fan setup. If there was a fan here, obviously you wouldn’t have any extra access.

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

Now we put the side panels back on and everything is buttoned up. This system is ready to go!

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

BitFenix Prodigy Finished

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

Small is the new black. Or something like that. The Prodigy is in, and in a big way. I’ve seen several builds using this case on our forum and elsewhere. The two recent ones use water cooling (kyleboy77 & Fruergarrd) and look great. There’s a reason this case is seeing such wide use. To start off with, you can get it for a reasonable sum, at $79.99 for the black & white models and $89.99 for orange and red.

Not only is it a great looking case, it’s functional, very much so. Everything about the Prodigy is easy to use and there are a seemingly endless number of combinations for system configuration. The entire drive section, from the 5.25″ bay down to the bottom HDD rack is removable. You can remove all or just parts of it. From a customization standpoint, the world is your oyster. You can go as “big” or as small as you want inside the Prodigy.

Cooling wise, there is plenty of airflow regardless of what you go with. Every panel except the I/O side panel (which also holds disc drives remember) has accommodation for cooling your system. With all of the customization available, you can see why so many people are putting great water cooling setups in these too. How many mITX cases do you know that can fit two 2 x 120 mm radiators without modification? (Hint, as far as I know, the answer is exactly one…and you’re looking at it.)

The build quality is solid as well. The side panels are thicker than anticipated. For such a small piece of hardware, it’s quite heavy – 17 lbs if I recall the shipping label correctly. It’s not made of aluminum (which you would pay a lot more for), but the steel is well finished, thick and strong. LAN gamers, take heed – its sturdiness is matched only by its looks. If you want a good looking LAN box, put it in here. Wire management is also a breeze. The holes for you to use are well placed and plentiful.

There is nothing to dislike about the Prodigy. It’s small, but you know it’s small when you go to buy an mITX case. Front to back, top to bottom, the Prodigy is the perfect base on which to build your dream small form factor system.

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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21 Comments:

10XTriplet's Avatar
Perfect for a LAN party... Or a home server. I never thought of a mITX to be feature rich or large... This is the first for me...
White Runner's Avatar
Great review Hokie! My only wish for the Prodigy is to have it come in a matx format (On Bitfenix's forums, there was someone that mod'd one to fit matx and it looked sweeeeet); besides that, really a great looking mitx case for under $100.
kyleboy77's Avatar
Its the perfect case for a custom water loop in a mitx platform too.
txus.palacios's Avatar
It's the perfect mITX case.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
It really is. I've been looking into other mITX cases to review since I got this one. While there are plenty that LOOK good, the functionality this one offers is just leaps and bounds above what the others offer. It's bigger than some SFF cases of course, but the little bit of extra size is a small price to pay for all the Prodigy offers.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
Nice write up as usual, and the case looks amazing!

The size is definitely the only downside for me since it's ITX only. If I was going to go ITX, then small size would obviously be in my mind (or else I wouldn't go ITX), this would make size a major factor in deciding on a case. The TJ08-E and PS07 are a little bigger, but allow for mATX as well. So, I think the case may be a little big for ITX only. Are the Prodigy's legs/handles taken into account in the height measurement?

I'd want a really small case if I was going to build an ITX system since the 6.7" x 6.7" motherboard is the best reason to go with that form factor.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Yes, the handles/legs are included in the measurement. You can actually remove those if you want but there would be a little notch missing in the corner where the side panels meet the case.

This is for overclockers' use of an mITX system. With the Z77 Stinger and P8Z77-I Deluxe bringing mITX more to power users, it's that market I see the Prodigy appealing to.

My big thing is that I don't want to compromise cooling for size. Most mITX/HTPC cases force you to do that. Very few will fit the AIO water cooler I've got in here and zero will fit two 2x120mm radiators like the Prodigy can (you give up storage/ODD for that though). Take water cooling out and try to fit a stronger CPU cooler and more often than not, you'll find yourself in a pickle there too. If they will fit the AIO water cooler (which is small in itself) or a strong air cooler, they're built for a larger form factor - mATX or full ATX.

I might explore some other mITX cases in the future if some good ones come at CES, but they'll have big shoes to fill.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
That's cool, so the actual part holding the components is smaller, and you have the option to remove the legs/handles if you like. The legs and handles are a defining feature of the Prodigy though, much like they are on the Power Mac G5 case. Something about them just looks so good

I think this is kind of my point as well, the Prodigy seems like a mATX case in size and features, but it only allows for ITX boards. So, why not choose an mATX case that has all the same or more features over the Prodigy? I guess I'm viewing it as a not-as-good mATX case, since only a couple more inches in two dimensions and fewer in the other allows for the mATX option, 2x120 rad without ODD loss, etc. I think you see it more as a beefed ITX case. Two different points of view I guess.

It's still a great case, don't get me wrong. I especially like the horizontal motherboard config

ITX is becoming more popular, so I really hope there will be new ITX cases at CES.
10XTriplet's Avatar

Who makes the AIO water cooler? Too bad you did not list it in the equipment you used...
MattNo5ss's Avatar
It's an Intel water cooler.
txus.palacios's Avatar
Asetek made it. Intel rebranded it. The same thing applies to every single AIO cooler out there.
10XTriplet's Avatar
Awesome... how does one buy that one if I wanted it? I did not see any model number listed...
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Youd be better off buying a corsair H80. This thing is around the cooling level of the H60 but costs $100 because it says Intel on it.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
I'm pretty sure this is it:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16835203006

Compatible with LGA2011/1155/1156/1366

If I was looking for an AIO, I'd go with a H80 or H100 though.
txus.palacios's Avatar
^This.

BTW: hokie, did you review this unit for OCF? If so, how's the fan?
White Runner's Avatar
I actually saw a Prodigy case over the weekend and was surprised how big it is. The handles are definitely tough and are handy, but I was expecting something smaller than the SG09. I'm still keeping my fingers crosses Bitfenix comes out with a matx case; hopefully sooner than later.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Yep, that's the one. Good to see they've come down off the price a bit. Agreed on H80 or H100.

Nope, this was the cooler Intel sent with the 3960X in the event the reviewers didn't have one for socket 2011. I didn't use it since I review all CPUs under our water loop (we are Overclockers.com after all ). It has been collecting dust in the shop until this build.

Here's Intel's slide with the specifications. The fan can get loud when it's going full bore. It's PWM though, so you can control it down to near silence. I think it's a bit loud for a 74CFM-rated fan TBH.

EDIT - 10XTriplet, here is the full system spec list:
  • CPU: Intel i5 3570K
  • Cooler: Intel BXRTS2011LC
  • MB: EVGA Z77 Stinger
  • RAM: 8GB G.Skill RipjawsX, DDR3-2133 / 9-11-9-24
  • GPU: EVGA GTX 660
  • SSD Cache Drive: OCZ Vertex 2 120GB
  • Main OS Drive: Seagate 1TB
  • Extra Storage: Western Digital 500GB
  • ODD: LITE-ON 12x BD-ROM + DVD-R/RW
  • PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 600W
  • Case: BitFenix Prodigy
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Someone at OCN asked how much this would be. Some of my parts are older, so I chose roughly equivalent current parts on Newegg and put a cart together.



Grand total: $1,163.90 (without OS)
10XTriplet's Avatar
The H80 will fit in that case? I bought it because of your review... with a 3770K...
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I'm relatively certain the H80 will fit. Put it this way - I don't see why it wouldn't since this one fits. I can't say with 100% certainty because I don't have one to try, but the likelihood of it going in without giving you any trouble is very, very high.

Congrats on the case; it's a good one.
10XTriplet's Avatar
Yeah, its cute... Only think I don't like about it is those handles / legs are plastic. Metal would have been better. I could see this breaking down the line...
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