In and Around the BitFenix Prodigy

You could be forgiven for mistaking the BitFenix Prodigy for a tiny plastic-and-steel Mac Pro tower. The Prodigy isn't quite as small as some Mini-ITX cases are, but it's still a remarkably wee enclosure for the expandability it provides.

The front of the Prodigy is entirely plastic mesh except for the BitFenix logo, including the shield for the single external 5.25" bay. It's a clean design, but given the soft plastic handles and supports of the enclosure (more on those in a second), it means that the power button, LEDs, and I/O cluster had to go somewhere else. That somewhere else is the right side panel; this won't seem too unusual to users familiar with some of Lian Li's designs, but it does limit how you can place and orient the Prodigy. As for the left side panel, that simply includes a substantial vent to help cool full-length video cards.

When the BitFenix rep asked me what I thought of the Prodigy, I did point out that I wasn't a fan of the plastic handles and supports. If you look at the photos, you can see the bottom supports bow in a little bit. This is by design, but the problem is that the material feels too flexible and I don't think it's quite stable enough on carpet. It's easy to get the case to rock back and forth, something I'm not fond of when a desktop build often includes things like optical drives and mechanical hard disks. The justification was that using the soft, flexible plastic keeps the weight of the Prodigy down (and probably costs along with it), but I personally would've taken an extra couple of pounds if it meant a more stable support. The top features a lockable, removable 240mm vent for accessing the two mounts on the top of the case.

Moving to the back of the case, we can start to get an idea of how BitFenix intended the Prodigy to come together. The power supply bay is almost dead center of the bottom, and there's a removable faceplate for it to allow you to slide the PSU in from the back. Having the supports give the bottom of the case some clearance is perfect for the PSU air intake--necessary, really--but again I wish they were sturdier. There are also a pair of expansion slots held in place by thumbscrews, and the exhaust fan mount is equipped with a 120mm fan but is capable of supporting 140mm.

Taking the side panels off is as easy as removing the four thumbscrews on the back of the case, but in the process we discover what I consider one of the major flaws of the design: the I/O cluster in the right panel is completely mounted to the panel itself. This runs the risk of making the Prodigy harder to wire than it needs to be. There are also two 2.5" drive bays built into the side panel, again complicating wiring but not as much.

The interior is pretty ingenious, though. The standoffs for a mini-ITX board are already in place, and there are holes in the left and right of the tray for routing power cables from the power supply mounted below. The primary drive cage is also very easily removable by simply squeezing the two plastic levers, and the included instruction manual details how virtually all of the drive cages (including the bottom one and the optical drive bay) can be removed.

Frankly, I quite like how the Prodigy looks and feels. Apart from two issues at first sight (the material used for the handles and supports and the I/O cluster being mounted to the side panel), this promises to actually be a fairly easy assembly given we're dealing with a mini-ITX case. More than that, it's the kind of case that pretty much begs to be tinkered with.

Introducing the BitFenix Prodigy Assembling the BitFenix Prodigy
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  • Zoomer - Saturday, June 09, 2012 - link

    They got IPOed Reply
  • Norseman4 - Saturday, June 02, 2012 - link

    Currently it's nowhere, even us.ncix.com as listing the case as "not yet available", but you can pre-order. (Shipping mid June. 79.99 w/ free shipping)

    Additionally, NewEgg looks like they will carry it, since they have placeholders (out-of-stock, Image coming soon, that sort of thing) for both the blank and the white case. (Currently showing 79.99 w/ 15.88 shipping)

    Other retailers may also carry it since the BitFenix site shows 9 resellers, but does not include the 'Egg
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 03, 2012 - link

    While Newegg does a ton of enthusiast business, I'd say BitFenix would be happier to get their stuff on Amazon first. *Everyone* has heard of Amazon; Newegg is big, but not quite that big. Reply
  • Zoomer - Saturday, June 09, 2012 - link

    They could just do that themselves right now by shipping a bunch to amazon under the fulfilled by amazon program. Reply
  • oDii - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    As someone who regrets building a WHS box in an fully populated Lian Li PC-Q08, this looks like they were so close to getting it right! Just needed one more 3.5" drive bay. To be honest, it looks like there's a decent amount of room between the drive bays, so I'm surprised they didn't just reduce that and increase the available bays... Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    You need more than five? Theoretically you can pop another one in the 5.25" bay, or alternatively, switch to 2.5" drives depending on your capacity needs. Reply
  • Streetwind - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    There's actually a ton more drive bays in there than it looks like. If you wanted to go all out, you could mount, all at the same time:

    - Five 3.5" drives in the HDD cages
    - One 2.5" drive in a mounting bracket below the bottom HDD cage
    - Two 2.5" drives in mounting brackets between the bottom HDD cage and the power supply bay
    - Two 2.5" drives in mounting brackets on the right side panel
    - Four 2.5" drives in a (third party) 5.25-to-2.5 adapter in place of the optical drive

    So yeah, while you can't do a RAID with six 3.5" drives, that's still a hell of a lot of storage for a mini-ITX case.
    Reply
  • tjoynt - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Just curious: why do you regret using the Lian Li PC-Q08? Or do you regret using WHS? ;) Reply
  • oDii - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    WHS V1 is fine for slow, slightly protected storage.

    My problem with the PC-Q08 is that once you start loading it up - lots of disks, standard ATX sized PSU (maybe slightly longer due to modular cables) - there just isn't enough room for everything. At the moment after the last time I took everything out of it, I put the HDD activity cable around the wrong way - and still haven't corrected because of how much of a pain opening it and accessing even small things in it is.

    Perhaps to even slightly talk against my own argument of "needs more drive bays!"; the Q08 stacks the drives so close together that the cable between the SATA power connector leads becomes a major cable management problem - if it sticks out too much, you can't put the case back together. Similarly, you're pretty much forced to use 90 degrees rotated SATA data cables as standard cables would break the plastic supports of the drives they're attached to long before you managed to wrestle the side panel back on.

    The positive thing about the Prodigy is that it seems like they've really got that general accessibility down with the rotated motherboard tray, as Dustin mentions on page 3.

    I guess this case would be great for someone dabbling with ZFS - few disks, and a few locations for ZFS cache/ZIL.
    Reply
  • sheltem - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    Too bad the Lian Li Q25 was released afterwards. It's a bit taller, but not as wide, because it ditches the dvd drives and has 5 hot swap hard drive bays. The side panels comes off easier. Reply

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