Quiet Mini-ITX Gaming Build Guide #3: BitFenix Prodigy Edition

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Quiet Mini-ITX Gaming Build Guide #3: BitFenix Prodigy Edition

December 30, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Assembling a quiet yet high performance gaming PC in a small case is a challenge, but we've proven it can be done. Earlier this month we built a mini-ITX gaming system that produced just 13 [email protected] at idle and 20 [email protected] on full load. It featured an ASUS STRIX GTX 980, which has an excellent stock cooling solution, and the Rosewill Legacy W1, a somewhat spacious case with a good feature-set.

Our latest build reuses most of the same components from our first mini-ITX gaming build guide, but the case has been switched out for a BitFenix Prodigy. This popular mini-ITX case is well-regarded in enthusiast circles. We've finally gotten our hands on one and are anxious to see if it truly lives up to all the hype.

COMPONENT SELECTION

Case: BitFenix Prodigy (Black) - US$80

Alternatives:


The BitFenix Prodigy (black).

It's easy to see why the Prodigy is one of the most popular mini-ITX cases on the market. It's a bit oversized for the form factor, with a body measuring 25.0 x 31.0 x 34.0 cm or 9.8 x 12.2 x 13.4 inches (W x H x D) for a total volume of 26.4 Liters, but with this girth comes excellent compatibility. Almost any component you can put in an ATX tower fits in the Prodigy as well, whether it be a large tower heatsink, a 240 mm radiator, a long graphics card, an ATX power supply, a standard-sized optical drive, or even an oversized 18~23 cm intake fan. The left side, where the graphics card resides is well ventilated, providing an ample supply of fresh cool air from outside the chassis. It's available in an assortment of colors as well, but the black variant is of particular interest as it has a slightly different design that gives it a significant edge in performance.


The BitFenix Prodigy, black vs. white version.


Front mesh grill.

For unknown reasons, the black model is the only iteration of the Prodigy to have a fully ventilated front bezel; the other versions are only equipped with a series of small slits running along the perimeter of the front panel. The more open design from bezel of the black version allows for much better airflow, which is essential for a hot-running compact system. That said, the vent is still more restrictive than we'd like, as there are several layers of impedance. There's a metal grill on the chassis itself, a thick plastic honeycomb one on the bezel with each comb lined with an additional grill of large circular holes and also a layer of fine rectangular mesh. That's four layers of airflow impedance in total.


Layout.

The motherboard sits horizontally with the power supply partially segregated underneath. At the front of the case is an array of drive bays, two 3.5 inch mounts on the bottom, three 3.5 inch mounts in the center, and a 5.25 inch mount at the top. All of these can be removed, with the center cage being the most likely candidate as it limits graphics card compatibility. Two 120 mm fans are provided but the front fan should be moved higher to create better front to back airflow for both the CPU and GPU. There's are also two 120 mm fan placements at the top, an ideal spot for mounting a large radiator.


Power supply bracket.

To ease assembly, the power supply is installed by mounting it to a metal bracket and pushing it in through the back.


Right side panel.

The most surprising aspect of the Prodigy is the unusually high build quality of the main chassis. The side panels are refreshingly thick and sturdy, something you wouldn't expect in a sub-US$100 chassis. It's a throwback to cases from a decade ago. Two USB 3.0 ports, audio connectors, and power and reset buttons are offered on the right side panel. There's also a plastic mounting grid for 2.5 inch drives.

Unfortunately the quality of construction doesn't extend to the external plastic structures at the top and bottom. The top piece acts as dual handles but the area near one of the tabs that hold it in place cracked with ordinary handling even before assembly/testing began.



Crack in the handle.


The contours also means the case the doesn't sit flat, so the entire chassis wobbles from side to side at the slightest touch. We didn't feel comfortable with either, so both the handle and feet were removed prior to testing, though this did ruin the case's aesthetics.



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