BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX Case

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For a mini-ITX case, the Phenom is surprisingly wide, with the extra space utilized to make it more versatile. Few mini-ITX models can tout support for up to six 3.5 inch drives and two 2.5" drives, the option for a long graphics card, and room for a big CPU cooler. The interior is also well laid out with little wasted space. The exterior is clean and classy and it's built like a tank, which is refreshing in this day and age. Given its feature-set, great external build quality, pleasant aesthetics, and a street price of just US$80, it appears to be a phenomenal product. Unfortunately it's hampered by a couple of serious design flaws.

The lack of ventilation, particularly at the front of the case is appalling. We understand putting up a solid front face to block noise from escaping and to give it a more understated look, but the few vents along the sides of the bezel can hardly do anything for cooling. It's especially frustrating as they could have easily increased the bezel side venting for far better airflow without a significant cost in noise. Both versions of the Prodigy are far superior in this regard. Despite the Phenom's position as the living room friendly, quieter case, the Prodigy's superior ventilation may actually keep a system running quieter by allowing fans to run at lower speed.

The removable hard drive cage and drive trays are poorly-fitted, making for the loosest drive assembly we've encountered. There is noticeable wiggle room both front to back and side to side, making the entire cage highly prone to vibration. Our four drive test produced a significant amount of vibration-induced noise, and this was with only two drives in the troublesome middle cage. We highly recommend filling up the more secure two bay drive cage on the case floor first and finding ways to secure the removable cage more securely. As a small server, the Phenom is perfectly capable as far as cooling is concerned, but if noise is a sticking point, you'll have to put a bit of modding work to keep a half dozen drives quiet enough.

Still, options for small mini-ITX cases with the capacity to install a large number of hard drives are very limited. Among them, the Phenom has about the lowest price tag, and though it is a bit bigger than the others, if you're a bonafide DIYer willing to do some modding, it's a very viable option.

Our thanks to BitFenix for the Phenom Mini-ITX case sample.

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