The Prodigy case has been a success since it's release back in 2012. Over the last 18 months or so BitFenix have continued to refresh the line adding the option of windowed side panels and more colour options than you can shake a paint mixing stick at. What the case has always lacked though is the ability to house the larger, and often cheaper M-ATX motherboards. It didn't take long for the modding community being the innovators they are to recognise the potential and set about transforming many a Mini-ITX Prodigy o accept the M-ATX board. Perhaps it was always on the cards, or perhaps it was in response to the desire of the community to have native M-ATX support, either way BitFenix have played a blinder and released the Prodigy M, Same exterior as the original M-ITX version but with M-ATX internals.
|Colours (Int/Ext)||Black/Black, White/White|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||250 x 404 x 359mm|
|Motherboard Sizes||Micro ATX, Mini-ITX|
|5.25” Drive Bays||x 1 (removable)|
|3.5” Drive Bays||x 4 (2 + 2)|
|2.5” Drive Bays||x 5 (3 + 2)|
|Cooling Top||120mm x 2 (optional)|
|Cooling Bottom||120mm x 2 (1 included) or 200mm x 1(optional) or 230mm x 1 (optional)|
|Cooling Rear||120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1 (optional)|
|PCI Slots||x 5|
|I/O||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio|
|Power Supply||PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)|
|Extras||FyberFlex™ Composite handles, SofTouch™ surface treatment, heat shield|
Up Close: Exterior Overview, Sides and Roof
No Surprises on the outside, at least not from the front and sides. Always reminding us faintly of the old AppleMac G3 cases you might think the Fyberflex handle/feet extensions are brittle and a bit of a weak spot. You can whack em, Crush em, hell we reckon you could even strap em to your feet and use them as shoes and you wouldn't break them. They just flex and return to their original form. They ought to start making car bumpers out of this stuff.
Both of the FyberFlex areas are coated in the SofTouch surface treatment, with all other surfaces being painted to a high standard.
The front of the case retains the 5.25" drive blank, giving the option to install fan controllers or if you absolutely have to an optical drive. The blank itself has a sponge filter to its rear surface, which is odd because none of the rest of the mesh area has a filter
The front I/O is round the right hand side, but as you'll see later, the side panels are interchangeable so if you wanted to you could swap It o the left side
The roof sports an unfiltered mesh cut out covering an area ready to accept 2x120mm fans or a 240mm rad
Up Close: Exterior Rear and Base
In order to accommodate the larger M-ATX Motherboard BitFenix have chosen to invert it. As a result the PCI slots normally found towards the bottom are actually at the top of the case rear panel. Rather than have individual screws holding the five individual vented slot covers a single clamp is utilised. Releasing the threaded thumb bolt enables the clamp to slid back. The hands of a surgeon are then needed to remove the chosen slot cover without causing the rest to avalanche out.
It's at the bottom that we find the rear I/O area alongside an un filtered mesh grill. A 120mm fan is fitted in this position, with mounting points available for a 140 should you chose to swap. The power cable insertion is also located in the bottom right hand corner of the case.
Flipping the case over on its side enables us to get a butchers at the underside. As with the Phenom, the large mesh area is protected by a magnetically located removable carbon fibre effect heat shield. To the front of the base we find the PSU cut out.
With the heat shield removed we can better see the mounting points for the fans and HDDs that can be located in the base
Up Close: Interior
A large CPU cut out should make changing coolers a piece of piddle, however it is the only cut out there is so you can forget any thoughts of cable routing round the back. Fortunately there's a large area behind the PSU where all unwanted lengths of cable can be stashed discretely away. A pair of 120mm fans are situated in the base and the rear of the case, with both set on extract. Our thoughts on this are well documented in the review of the Phenom M so we're not going to go in at great depth here.
The front of the case is dominated by a large unfiltered mesh area. It's through this that the PSU gets it's air. We know you can orientate the PSU so that the fan faces inside the case, but as you'll see when we come to he build there are good reasons for not doing so with the Prodigy M. Above the PSU area there's a bracket for a 5.25" device with a corresponding punch-out on the exterior grill
The rear corner of the case is relatively un cluttered, with just the vented PCI clot covers and a mesh area to its right. Up in the roof we have room for 2x120mm fans or a 240mm rad. If fitting a rad it's going to be necessary to remove the 5.25" bracket.
We weren't expecting to find a lot round the back, and we weren't disappointed. The Prodigy M takes the record for the least number of cable tie points, having a grand total of none (we counted them twice). Granted there are a few round the front though which is where most of the cables will end up anyway. There's also not a fat lot of room back here, but again it's not really as issue as we doubt we'll be routing cables in this space.
Most PC case side panels have a pretty easy life, maybe housing a window, or perhaps the odd fan. The life of a Prodigy M case door is a little more involved than that though. The Front I/O for starters, with its wiring for power, reset, activity lighting as well as audio jack ports and a pair of USB3.0s. Now add in a handy dandy rack for stashing away some 2.5" drives and you might star to feel a little sorry for it.
Here we have it boys and girls, the verging on legendary BitFenix Prodigy chassis. The front panel pops off easy enough, but to get the top and bottom off requires a screwdriver and bit of know how. The majority of the external chassis is the same as the original Prodigy, and indeed the Phenom Mini-IX case we recently reviewed. It's all steel and pretty darned well put together.
The front and rear of the chassis are much the same as other iterations of the Prodigy, even sharing the panel location holes with the Phenom
The only thing separating this from the Phenom M chassis is the row of holes along the roof that locate the roof panel on the latter.
The PSU is mounted to a removable bracket before being slotted into the case. It's a bit of a tight fit but no biggy. The Motherboard goes in inverted with the CPU lowermost and the expansion slots t the top.
Clearance between the GPU and the rear of the PSU is extremely tight. We mentioned earlier that it's best to have the fan facing outwards as to have the PSU rotated would mean the main 24 pin ATX supply would be directly in the path of the GPU. As it is the sockets on this modular PSU would impinge on the PCB of the GPU were it to extend much further. It's also worth considering that we're using a 160mm long PSU, as to use anything longer would drastically reduce the max GPU length from a very ample 320mm down to a paltry 230mm. As it is the ancillary power cables in the modular PSU would impinge on a GPU dropping the length down to 290mm or even 250mm should the lower rail be needed.
If you've read our review of the Phenom then you'll be familiar with the technique we used for "managing" the cables. Having researched our technique it appears we are practicing the ancient Japanese art of "stuffing it all in the big hole round the back"
Like cable management airflow management is also a bit of an art form when it comes the M-ATX version of the Prodigy. With both fans set to extract it's a not too obvious which way round to orientate your cooler. Even switching the base fan to intake and having the intake of the cooler mounted linear to it has it disgorging its hot air onto the rear of the GPU PCB. Whichever way you chose to mount your cooler you're not going to have to worry too much about size as anything up to 160mm will fit just fine. If you can live without the HDD cross brace then you can add another 35mm to that total
Regular readers will know that we'd usually give a separate section over to the cooling options of a case, but as the choices on offer with the M-ATX Podigy are exactly the same as with the recently reviewed Phenom M there seems little point in covering the same ground. Suffice to say that you can fit a rad up to 35mm thick in the roof, but to do so you'll lose te option of both having a second GPU and also anything installed in the 5.25" bay as this room will be taken up by the rad and fans
So here we have what modders around the globe have been creating in their sheds. A BitFenix Prodigy with an M-ATX board in it.
Modding without Modding.
If you're into modding, and it's fair to say that here at OC3D we most definitely are, then you'll be familiar with the feeling of looking at a case and thinking "I wonder..." It was in taking the case apart for the "stripped" section of the review that we got to thinking as most people sit their PCs on the desk to the right of them (We guess because the majority of people are right handed) how easy it would be to create a Prodigy that didn't have the inverted motherboard layout, and therefore had the motherboard on the right hand side of the case, thus lending itself to a case window that could be viewed when sitting to the left side of the case. With us so far?
It's actually pretty simple to do mainly because the feet are exactly the same as the top handle sections, however it isn't just as simple as turning the case upside down. We also swapped the side panel that has the I/O over so that it would be facing us, if you chose to you could put this back to the other side. The final step was to carefully remove the BitFenix logo sticker and replace it in the same position but the correct way up. The side panel is now just gagging to have a window cut into it to show off all the shiny things inside
If we were to take this mod further we would definitely want to fabricate a mesh panel for the roof as obviously the new roof is what was the old floor of the case and so looks a little untidy, but you get the idea that even in simple terms the BitFenix Prodigy is still a very modable case.
This isn't going to be one of our massively long conclusions. The exterior of the Prodigy has had plenty of exposure since the release of the original Mini-ITX version all those moons ago, and it's fair to say we love it here at OC3D. It's a great looking case that has gone from strength to strength with BitFenix releasing additional colours to refresh the line as well as solid front panels and windowed side panels to add that little bit more variety.
The release of the Prodigy M has seen BitFenix alter the internals of the chassis in order to accommodate the Micro-ATX motherboard. Perhaps this was in response to the large numbers in the modding community who were converting the original to M-ATX, or perhaps it had always been a part of the grand plan for the chassis, whatever the impetus, here it is. The new internals are identical to those of the recently reviewed Phenom M, and as with the Phenom M the internals of the Prodigy M bring both advantages and disadvantages over the original Mini-ITX format. The main drawback of having more space given over to the Motherboard is the loss of the prodigious radiator capacity that the Mini-ITX version has. Now that's not to say you're not going to be able to get wet with the M because you are, it's still able to house a 35mm thick rad in the roof which means pretty much all of the current crop of 240mm based AIOs such as the H100i and Seidon 240 will fit just fine. There is a trade-off here though which is that although the larger motherboard brings with it additional PCI slots to which the M caters with its 5 expansion bays, you are going to have to surrender some of these if you want a rad in the roof, which basically means you're down to a single GPU. If you absolutely have to go multi GPU and still want to get wet then all is not lost as the rear of the M is able to accept a 140 or 120 fan, which in turn means that such units as the Kraken X40 and the H90 and H80i are viable options. If the thought of adding water to the inside of your PC case still fills you with dread you'll be delighted to know that the Prodigy M can accept CPU coolers up to 160mm and even 195mm if you're happy to loose a few HDDs. The Prodigy is also able to accept long GPUs, anything up to 320mm in fact but you are going to have to think about how you route the wiring out of the top of the PSU to avoid conflicts.
So what are the advantages of the M-ATX format of the Prodigy case? Well it pretty much boils down to the price and additional features often offered by the M-ATX format. Pound for pound M-ATX motherboards do tend to be cheaper than comparable Mini-ITX boards. Let's take as an example the latest crop of Asus Maximus boards, the Mini-ITX Maximus VI Impact with its single PCI slot and only 2 RAM slots will set you back about £190, whereas the Micro-ATX Maximus VI Gene with 4 RAM slots and dual GPU capabilities will only cost you in the region of £160, representing a £30 saving, and that's before we're even looked at SATA ports and chipset cooling. Yes we know there are some very cheap Mini-ITX boards out there, but then again there are also some very good value M-ATX boards if overclocking’s not your thing and you want to go low power.
Whether you opt for the original Mini-ITX version or the new Micro-ATX Prodigy M the fact is that you now have a choice, and with the M version priced a £75 and so costing just a fiver more than the original Mini-ITX both cases still represent excellent value for money. Which one you go for will depend largely on what your needs are, either way you won't be disappointed.
Thanks to BitFenix for sending in the Prodigy-M for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.