mATX Case Final Thoughts
You’ll notice a trend throughout this review, and that is “pick your components carefully!” While switching to micro ATX provides a little more room, if the chassis stays the same size that means there’s less overall room to fit larger components. Even so, I managed to stubbornly stick with “all the wrong components” and still get them to fit without much of a fuss – that’s impressive, and really showcases the flexibility of the Prodigy M.
I ended up adjusting my build a little though. Perhaps a perfectly sized 240mm radiator would have worked better with the rest of my components, but I decided a dust filter would be more important so I switched the Swiftech H220 out for a 120mm cooler that stacked nicely on the rear fan port. This is the configuration I would recommend; the Prodigy M just seems better suited to tower coolers or 120mm AIO liquid coolers. Still, with a different motherboard…
Overall, I have to admit that building a system in the Prodigy M took me longer than I expected. I can’t really say it was difficult, rather this was the first case in a while that I really enjoyed the process! The small size and handles make it easy to flip around and work in, while the hinged side panels are surprisingly stiff and attach without a fuss. Every aspect of the Prodigy M feels like an engineering team labored over the smallest detail, and when everything is put together it’s a really neat looking enclosure.
BitFenix Prodigy M Conclusion
I was impressed. You can tell BitFenix is a relatively new company – and I mean that as a compliment, as they’ve quickly iterated on one of the most successful mini-ITX chassis and released a micro ATX version that is just as impressive. Few companies are able to respond so quickly to changing trends. When I had asked them how much customer feedback was a factor in producing the Prodigy M, the response I received indicated it was THE factor – they had initially wanted to do a mATX Prodigy, but weren’t convinced that the trade-offs in component choice and airflow were worth it. Apparently customers were able to change their minds (and the multiple popular mATX mods to the mini-ITX Prodigy helped). I am personally glad they now offer a Prodigy in mATX format – I feel like it is the perfect size for that form factor, and you get access to SLI/Crossfire and a little more clearance around the CPU socket. While it still comes down to personal preference, in my opinion the Prodigy M is the better Prodigy.
Perhaps the airflow layout isn’t as traditional, but the Prodigy M doesn’t seem to suffer for it. With 120mm top fans mounted as intake, and BitFenix Spectre Pro 230mm/140mm fans as exhaust the Prodigy M kept an overclocked Radeon 7970 and FX-6300 (at 1GHz and 4.6GHz respectively) running well within thermal limits – I was even able to undervolt all of the case fans and let the 230mm fan do most of the work, keeping noise at very respectable levels for a small case. This is one of the best performing mATX enclosures I’ve used after modifying the stock configuration, and I’d attribute that to the close proximity of all of the fans. There simply isn’t room for “pockets” of warm air to collect, and every component gets directly blasted with cool air if desired. I may not even have the most efficient configuration yet – it would be interesting to try a positive pressure approach, and use the front mesh as a passive exhaust…in any case, there are numerous configurations to try and you should be able to find one that is appropriate for your build. The only negative I could really say here is the stock fans leave a little to be desired – BitFenix should really consider shipping the Prodigy M with a 200/230mm fan installed…
I personally like the way the Prodigy cases look. The Prodigy M streamlines it a bit more, as both panels are solid (instead of the perforated panel for the GPU in the ITX version). Even if you don’t like the mesh front you can easily swap it out with the existing Prodigy face plates – even the windowed side panels from the ITX Prodigy are compatible! You would need to remove the vertical drive bracket to see the other components, but it’s possible (and I’ve been told BitFenix is working on a different window for the “M” series of cases). The SofTouch coating (which is really well done and renders a premium feel to the entire chassis), overall proportions and nicely curved handles result in a unique look that is eye-catching. The Prodigy M is currently available in Black and White, with other colors possibly in the works (if you want to see a certain color, feel free to let them know at firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on Facebook). I appreciate the fact that BitFenix is serious about allowing users to customize the appearance of their Prodigy cases! This is one thing that BitFenix as a company seems to understand more than many companies – the people building their own rigs are doing it to reflect their own tastes and preferences, and that is hard to do with only one option.
The Prodigy M is constructed surprisingly well – I only say that because at first glance you don’t expect something so small to feel so…substantial. The side panels are solid, with zero flex. Every piece fits together nicely, and the whole thing feels very sturdy. The handles might be the only weak point here – the FyberFlex material’s flex is a little disconcerting the first time you pick up the Prodigy M, but I didn’t feel nervous carrying around a fully loaded case just by one handle. If I could change one thing, I’d prefer more of a rubber feel to the handles and less “plastic”, especially for the handles that the chassis rests on. The whole thing will rock a bit when plugging a USB device into front (side) ports, but only when sitting on a hard surface – and it wasn’t enough to bother me as I never once feared it would tip (you would have to shove it over pretty forcibly to do that).
As far as functionality, I think all the necessary pieces are here to give the Prodigy M top marks. All the difficulties I encountered while building were mainly due to my component choice, not the chassis – and when you can fit such a wide variety of coolers, motherboards, and graphics cards (multiple graphics cards) in such a small space, that’s impressive. Not only can you choose from a wide selection of components, but you can also play around quite a bit with the overall configuration – giving you a lot of control over airflow and performance.
The Prodigy M was released for sale online costing $99.99 (Newegg / Amazon); this is right in the thick of many options, but the Prodigy M’s size and feature set (and unique look) set it apart and earn every bit of its asking price. It seems to be a fair price point as they are already out of stock at Newegg and are currently selling at a slight premium on Amazon (when this review was published mid November). There are a lot of good cases out there at the $100 mark, but few of them offer performance, looks, customizability and quality in such a small and efficient enclosure.
It’s not so much the chassis itself, but what it represents. I think cases like the BitFenix Prodigy M are the most dialed in to what the PC builder / enthusiast community wants in a PC case. For responding so quickly to community feedback and offering such a unique and effective option, I think BitFenix deserves a Gold Tachometer award for the Prodigy M. The original Prodigy became a benchmark for the type of performance you could pack in a small enclosure, and the Prodigy M continues the tradition for micro-ATX.
+ Maximized use of space
+ Highly expandable / customizable to fit various levels of performance
+ Available accessories to further customize
+ Smart internal layout will accommodate a surprising amount of hardware
+ You asked, they delivered
+ SLI/Crossfire finally an option in a Prodigy
– Careful component selection required
– Stock fans may be inadequate depending on components
Final Score: 9.05 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: What is your favorite mATX computer case?