BitFenix Mini-ITX Case Final Thoughts
I appreciate that BitFenix has expanded their popular Prodigy line to include the Phenom and upcoming Colossus enclosures. It isn’t “Prodigy 2.0,” mostly because it was never intended to be! The Phenom provides another option to system builders that prefer clean lines and a minimalist approach to design while featuring the capabilities of the Prodigy interior – I think it accomplishes that goal admirably well. I’m not certain they needed an entirely new chassis for that though; perhaps they could have created a “Prodigy Ecosystem” where add-on “Phenom” panels could be added to a base Prodigy chassis. This would still give end-users options for different types of systems – the changes for the Phenom are primarily cosmetic anyway. It’s still a fresh approach to a familiar case though, and it is executed very well.
Overall, I think the Phenom is almost a better fit for an ITX build than the original Prodigy – if BitFenix would have taken the opportunity to shrink the overall dimensions even more, I think it would have given cases like Fractal Design’s Node 304 and Cooler Master’s Elite 130 some incredible competition. Due to the increased size, I think the Phenom will end up being compared against mATX mini towers like the Arc Mini R2/Define Mini and N200 even though the Phenom M exists for that purpose.
BitFenix Phenom Conclusion
The short version is, the original Prodigy formula works beautifully here – I’d even go so far as to say this is an even better option in ITX trim for those users that want a small(er), streamlined, easy to assemble build that still provides room for expansion and performance. The ITX format brings with it easy to use tool-less drive trays and lots of room for radiators (compared to the micro-ATX Prodigy M, which required a more careful selection of components).
The original Prodigy was one of the coolest-running mini-ITX enclosures of its time and was one of the first (if not the first) ITX cases to accommodate 240mm radiator(s). This might be one of the only chassis where your options for aftermarket cooling are more limited by the motherboard than the enclosure! Even with less overall airflow than the Prodigy, I achieved a higher overclock (with cooler motherboard temps) than I had in any other ITX case. I would say the Prodigy legacy for performance is alive and well with the Phenom – and if you need every bit of performance possible, the Prodigy is still being sold in ITX trim…
The Phenom will turn heads – this is one of those cases where people stop and ask, “is that a computer?“ Personally, I think the main draw of the Phenom (and the best reason to choose it over the similar Prodigy) is the aesthetic – it really is a Prodigy with a new shell and purpose. If you liked the Prodigy, it’s still available – the Phenom just provides another option for those that prefer something a little more streamlined. The trademark SofTouch finish really looks premium and sets off the white very well. BitFenix did a great job with making what amounts to a metal box very attractive, and with their aftermarket accessories you should be able to accent the look to make it even more your own.
It still surprises me how sturdy the BitFenix Phenom cases are constructed. For some reason, I just don’t expect small cases to feel so substantial but the Phenom is very solid. The hinged side panels are very sturdy with no hint of flex, and the panels snap in neatly and securely. There isn’t a sharp edge anywhere, and the steel is thicker than you would expect. The almost cube-like dimensions lend a lot of stability to the chassis and the overall fit and finish is higher than many other cases in this price bracket.
The Phenom is very functional for an ITX case. With capacity for six 3.5″ drives (or eleven 2.5″ drives) you could have a lot of storage in a pretty small space – or just quickly remove some of the drive cages to improve airflow to a performance-oriented gaming build and still have space for a 240mm radiator. That’s something not many ITX cases can claim to support, and is one of the reasons the original Prodigy made such a name for itself. It would be nice if it would accommodate larger power supplies a little better, but a 140mm PSU isn’t an unreasonable requirement for an ITX case – and there’s always the Phenom M if you need some more space…
As of November 2013, the BitFenix Phenom cases are already available in ITX trim and selling for $79.99 (Newegg / Amazon). While I’ve always thought most ITX components (cases included) carry a slight premium for their size, the Phenom does an excellent job of justifying its cost. You won’t be limited to certain CPU coolers or graphics cards with the ITX Phenom, and the extra volume means you won’t be as thermally constrained as some other ITX cases. The tool-less features and drive capacity are extensive, and the overall quality is there to match. I think the Phenom appeals too much to a specific demographic to call it the best value for an ITX case (best would depend on what you’re looking for in an ITX build), but if a case like this appeals to you I think you’ll agree it’s priced right.
I like what BitFenix has done with the Phenom, and I’m excited to see them continue to respond to customer feedback (which is what spawned the Phenom in the first place). I think the Phenom is an exciting addition to BitFenix’s lineup – the case itself is very well done, but even more important to me is what it represents. I feel BitFenix is beginning to capture why people choose to build their own PCs and they’ve provided an extensive array of products and accessories to reflect that – as a company they deserve a Gold Tachometer award for being so tuned in to their community.
As for the case itself, I’m not sure if I can get away with not assigning an award – it’s based on the Prodigy, an award winning chassis and all-around game changer. The Phenom retains the majority of the features that made the Prodigy popular, and does so while addressing a different market. Now that there are micro-ATX options though, I really find myself wishing BitFenix would have taken the opportunity to shrink their ITX cases a bit more. That’s tough to ask as there wouldn’t be a way to retain all of the advantages in a significantly smaller case – sharing a platform with the Prodigy is what allows the Phenom to perform so well. At the end of the day, for its intended audience the Phenom offers a quality option for enthusiasts. The Prodigy formula is a winner here too, but it carries over the same quirks as the original chassis. If that doesn’t bother you, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the BitFenix Phenom.
+ Award winning performance with a new face
+ Retains most (if not all) of the features that made the original Prodigy so popular
+ Streamlined features give the Phenom new character
+ Overall quality is top-notch
+ Reduced size from the Prodigy
+ Component choice limited by the motherboard, not the chassis…
– …except for the PSU – needs 140mm unless you’re willing to get creative
– 5.25″ bay without ability to mount an optical drive
– Still large for an ITX enclosure
Final Score: 8.65 out of 10.
Recommended: Benchmark Reviews Seal of Approval.
COMMENT QUESTION: Which form factor are you building with?