Building in the Prodigy M
Now for the fun part! The Prodigy M was refreshing departure from the typical ATX mid-tower layout, and I had a lot of fun figuring out what worked and what to avoid. As you’ll probably notice throughout this build, your component choice will have a huge impact on what types of configurations you can employ. So let’s get started…
I started with the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and cooler which I had assembled outside of the case and installed as one unit, although installing an aftermarket cooler would have been easy with that large CPU cutout in the motherboard tray. After removing the vertical drive bracket there is a surprising amount of room to work, and I didn’t feel cramped until I started connecting cables later on in the process (which is to be expected in a small enclosure).
With the Prodigy M I wanted to see if an overclocked FX-6300 and a Radeon 7970 would stay cool given the confines of the mATX setup. The motherboard I chose was not set up for Crossfire (I don’t believe a mATX board exists for the AM3+ socket that does), so one big GPU would have to do. The twin 120mm fan mounts up top seem perfect for a 240mm radiator; the Swiftech H220 fit nicely just barely clearing the 5.25 bay mount.
Right away I noticed a problem with my component choices. If that PCI-E x16 slot would have been positioned in the very “top” slot (which is of course the “lowest” position in this picture due to the inverted motherboard arrangement in the Prodigy M) there would be enough room for the 240mm radiator and fans. As it is, the dual-slot Sapphire Radeon 7970 wouldn’t clear the radiator.
Well, there’s an easy way to free up some more room, but for now I wanted to show that there is a lot of flexibility in this chassis – more than I expected! The “floor” of the Prodigy M is almost entirely mesh because of the multiple fan mounts here, but there are two mounting points for 3.5″ drives as well. You can even mix and match drives and 120mm fans if you feel so inclined.
Now back to the GPU clearance issue at hand. Understand that this really isn’t a limitation of the Prodigy M – the case is designed to hold two graphics cards, but the motherboard I’m using is not. An SLI/Crossfire capable motherboard would probably use the “top” slot for the first GPU, mitigating my clearance issues (and really, I would recommend such a motherboard for this enclosure – two graphics cards are the major advantage of the micro-ATX form factor). Still, for this build I’m going to have to figure something out…and for now I’m just going to put the fans on the outside of the Prodigy M. Not the cleanest option, but it’ll have to do (later, I just gave up and used a 120mm AIO cooler on the back panel – it seems this is one of the best configurations for the Prodigy M, as two graphics cards wouldn’t leave any room for fans up top anyway).
Removing the 5.25 bracket and placing the uniquely shaped Swiftech H220 reservoir upside down freed up enough room to clear the graphics card. There isn’t a LOT of room there, but most GPUs should fit (this specific 7970 is almost 30cm long). For the record, I’m not going to recommend this orientation for the H220 as that extruded portion of the radiator should be at the highest point in the cooling loop. That is where the fill port is located and where any remaining air trapped in the system should collect – with it facing down, you run the risk of any air bubbles moving throughout the cooling loop instead of collecting at the integrated reservoir. I could flip it the correct way, but then we’d be back to square one regarding GPU clearance – and with the reservoir on one side of the radiator and the hoses on the other, I wouldn’t be able to place it outside the case either (it didn’t quite clear the handles, even though the hoses could be maneuvered to fit externally).