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BitFenix Phenom mITX Case Review

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The Build

ITX chassis are notorious for being somewhat difficult to build in – the Prodigy (and therefore the Phenom interior) changed that to an extent with respect to aftermarket cooling, but the interior layout itself hasn’t changed.  Let’s put some components in the Phenom to get a feel for what this chassis can offer.

Phenom_PSU

Starting with the power supply unit, I followed BitFenix’s (and everyone else’s!) recommendation of installing a 140mm non-modular unit.  At least placing the PSU into the chassis is pretty simple, just attach the plate and slide it in (then fasten down with thumbscrews) – which was easy until the point in the picture above.  You’ll need both hands to make sure the cables stay out of the way and don’t get shoved into the partition wall for the PSU compartment.  Some users have had success with 160mm non-modular power supplies, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying (although it wouldn’t be too hard to add some standoffs to the PSU bracket, offsetting the power supply by another few millimeters…).

Anyway, it works, but it’s a little disappointing to see this unchanged from the original Prodigy.  Thankfully with more of a focus on small enclosures and energy use / efficiency, the selection of 140mm power supplies seems to be larger than a year ago.

Phenom_Build1

You’ll have to forgive me for skipping a step, but I went ahead and removed the center 3-bay HDD cage (simply squeeze the tabs and it slides out) and the top 5.25″ bay.  The optical drive bay is interesting – even though it’s a carryover from the Prodigy, what doesn’t carry over is a cutout for the bay in the front panel.  You can still use the plastic tray insert to attach a hard drive or SSD, but it all seems like somewhat of a waste.  The purpose of the Phenom was to provide a more streamlined, smaller Prodigy for uses like a NAS box, Steam machine or HTPC;  it’s hard for me to imagine an HTPC without some sort of optical drive (bluray/dvd).  I’m sure we’ll see some enterprising modders find a solution for this in short order…and there’s always the aftermarket Prodigy face plates that are interchangeable – those will give you a cutout for the optical bay, but then you’ll have to find a way to blend it in to the top panel.  Maybe BitFenix will develop a custom face plate for the Phenom as well…

Phenom_Build3

Installing the motherboard is very simple – all of the standoffs are pre-existing (as they should be for an ITX case) and with both panels off there’s a lot of room to work.  Routing cables isn’t too difficult, as the cable routing holes on each side of the motherboard allow you to use only the length you need and stash the rest beside the PSU.  Drives snap in easily, and the oversized SilverStone TD02 radiator has more than enough room with the 5.25″ bay removed (there are six screws attaching the bay to the frame).  As you can see, there’s ample room for large graphics cards – the Radeon 7850 pictured only takes up a little more than half of the room available.

Phenom_BuildFinal

I removed the stock 120mm Spectre intake fan to make room for a 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro (there’s room for two 120mm fans or one 230/200mm fan in the front).  I was curious to see if airflow was compromised by the solid front panel, but there seemed to be enough circular holes in the mesh sides of the front panel to make this an option (the Prodigy sells alongside the new Phenom if you really need the maximum amount of airflow this chassis can provide – they are meant to address different segments of the market after all).  By the way, the BitFenix “Phoenix” badge in the front face of the Phenom is removable – I’m not sure if they plan to offer aftermarket versions of these as well, but removing it has a side effect of allowing an LED fan to glow through the opening.  A frosted, translucent replacement would be a popular item I think…

Cable management was very simple, easily among the best of the ITX cases that I’ve worked with.  Of course, when the Phenom is almost twice the volume of enclosures like the FT03 Mini, Node 304 and Elite 130 it would stand to reason there would be much more room for such things as cables and aftermarket cooling.


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1 comment

  1. David Ramsey

    I’ve always like the internal design of the Bitfenix mITX cases, but this modern conceit of putting the I/O panel on the side of the case continues to annoy me. Sure, you get a sleek front panel, but it reminds me of all the stupid things Jobs used to do at Apple in the name of aesthetics (1-button hockey-puck mouse, anyone?)

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