Manufacturer: BitFenix UK price (as reviewed):£64.99 Inc. VAT US price (as reviewed):$79.99 (ex Tax)
We don't think we've ever seen a case with as much pre-launch anticipation, combined with an equally rich and varied account of post-launch build logs and general raving, as this one. However, BitFenix isn't a stranger to such attention; its Colossus case is one of several to feature outside-the-box thinking, even after all these years of PC case development. However, the goal of producing a mini-ITX case that was both flexible enough to make real use of the latest Z77 mini-ITX overclocking and gaming-orientated motherboards, while also small enough to retain some attraction for those wanting to build a very small PC, was a fairly easy one.
This is for the simple reason that mini-ITX cases have traditionally been lacking when it comes to cooling and features. Most are small cubes that simply don't have the room for large coolers, never mind water-cooling, and you'd be lucky if you could fit more than a pair of hard disks and a mid-range graphics card in too. It's for these reasons that the mini-ITX modding scene has been so popular, especially since we've had fairly good overclocking motherboards within the form factor for a while too.
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So what's so good about the Prodigy that has made it so popular? Well for starters it's very cheap and extremely small. Although not quite as small as some mini-ITX cases out there; its volume is considerably greater than the SilverStone FT03 Mini and Fractal Design Node for example. The large Fyberflex handles above and below the core shell of the case inflate its dimensions quite a bit so it's actually similar in size to quite a few micro-ATX cases. However, the internals are very much mini-ITX orientated.
Sticking with the outside, and you'll probably have noticed the power, reset and USB ports aren't located on the front or top of the case. Instead, they're on the side - potentially awkward if you have the PC on the floor but very accessible if it's located on your desk. The top dual-fan grille is removable, revealing two 120mm fan mounts, spaced correctly to support a dual 120mm-fan radiator - Corsair's H100 or a custom radiator would fit perfectly. There will be some compromise here, however, with the external 5.25in bay. A short fan controller should be no problem whatever cooling options you go for, however an optical drive or bay reservoir will limit you to using the rear of the two roof 120mm fan mounts.
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The front fascia is entirely meshed, which should aid cooling with a large vent in the side panel too. The exterior also plays host to our two main criticisms of the Prodigy. The Fyberflex extremities are far too flexible to use as case feet. The result is a case that sways like it's in an earthquake when you touch it. While these parts are strong and will likely not bow or warp over time even with a litre of water, a radiator and a couple of copper waterblocks added to your usual system, (BitFenix also told us they're there to break any would-be falls which we guess is actually a good thing) we'd be very tempted to remove the bottom Fyberflex parts and use standard case feet, especially if you're not planning on taking it to LAN parties.
The second is the side panel, which rattles more than a disgruntled diamondback. It's a build quality blemish in an otherwise well-built case. A thin strip of neoprene or ductape would all that's needed to remedy the issue, but it's design point-loser none-the-less.
Dimensions (mm) 250 x 359 x 404mm (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black (reviewed) White
Front panel Power, reset, 2 x USB 3, stereo, microphone,
Drive bays 1 x external 5.25in drive bays, 5 x internal 3.5in or 4 internal 2.5in
Form factor(s) Mini-ITX
Cooling 2 x 120 or 1 x140,180, 200 or 230mm front mount (1 x 120mm fan supplied), 1x 120 or 140mm rear fan mount (120mm fan supplied), 2 x 120 roof fan mounts (fans not supplied)
CPU cooler clearance 170mm
Maximum graphics card length 330mm without HDD cage, 180mm with