bitfenix prodigy M review

BitFenix Prodigy M mATX Chassis Review

When the BitFenix Prodigy first came out, it was instantly love at first sight for me. Not for the looks, but for the sheer flexibility of what you can do with it. Contrary to what we showcase here in the site, we have limited equipment for ourselves and when the time came that I wanted a gaming rig that was compact enough to fit in the back of the car but still roomy enough to fit a full-sized ATX PSU, the BitFenix Prodigy was definitely it.

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The original Prodigy made enough noise in and around the enthusiast and modding scene to warrant an mATX concept showcased last year which eventually materialized to what we’ll be checking out today. The BitFenix Prodigy M is the complete rebuild of the original Prodigy bearing the exact same looks but with a whole new internal frame to accommodate mATX motherboards.

Let’s take a tour in and around the BitFenix Prodigy M to see what’s it going on for it. Let’s make this showy!

Specification

Materials Steel, Plastic
Colors (Int/Ext) Black/Black, White/White
Dimensions (WxHxD) 250 x 404 x 359mm
Motherboard Sizes Micro ATX, Mini-ITX
5.25” Drive Bays x 1 (removable)
3.5” Drive Bays x 4 (2 + 2)
2.5” Drive Bays x 5 (3 + 2)
Cooling Top 120mm x 2 (optional)
Cooling Bottom 120mm x 2 (1 included) or 200mm x 1(optional) or 230mm x 1 (optional)
Cooling Rear 120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1 (optional)
PCI Slots x 5
I/O USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)
Extras FyberFlexâ„¢ Composite handles, SofTouchâ„¢ surface treatment, heat shield

Packaging

BitFenix packages the Prodigy M in a plain, brown cardboard box. The BitFenix logo is stylized on the side the side rounding our to the corner. A large Prodigy M boldly decorates the front along with the BitFenix website URL. The back of the box highlights some of the major features of the Prodigy M.

Two styrofoam pads line the sides of the box to cushion the Prodigy M during transit.

A plastic bag shields the paint from scratches and fingerprints.

Included in the package are screws, standoffs, zip ties, a manual and a USB2.0 to 3.0 conversion header. On a personal note, if you need that header, you have an ancient motherboard. /endsarcasm

Closer Look

The BitFenix Prodigy M features bare side panels held in place by thumbscrews. The right rear panel features the front panel buttons, USB3.0 and audio ports. The most noteworthy design feature of the Prodigy style are its over-arching handles which are uniform for both top and bottom. These are made of FyberFlex material and are coated with a soft-touch texture treatment.

The front of the BitFenix is plain slate with a single 5.25″ the only breakup in the completely uniform facade of the Prodigy M. Contrasting black trims round out the edges of the faceplate with a recessed groove bearing slits for front intake. The BitFenix logo is the prime ornament of the front.

The back of the Prodigy M is where the differences with the original Prodigy start to become visible. Whereas the original Prodigy had a flat orientation, the Prodigy M employs a reversed-traditional method of mounting the motherboard. This is evident in the rear with the PCI slots, a total of 5, is found on the upper side of the chassis.

Flipping the BitFenix Prodigy M over, we see its underbelly where a massive vent is present. The PSU cutout can also be seen from this shot which is at the front of the chassis. Not pictured here is the inclusion of a heat shield, a large magnetic slab of plastic that sticks in place to cover up the bottom of the chassis.

The top of the Prodigy M still retains the 240mm exhaust vent with a removable top cover from the original Prodigy.

Interior

Removing the left side panel reveals the back of the motherboard tray. As this is a reverse-mount motherboard, the business end of the chassis is the right panel.

Removing the right side panel (the one with the SSD trays and front panel ports, we can see what we’re gonna be working with. The BitFenix Prodigy M is surprisingly roomy without anything inside. That’ll change though once we get the components inside. We can see a single 120mm is included to vent air out of the case from the bottom-rear.

Speaking of SSD trays, a major departure from the original Prodigy design is the complete removal of any drive cage. All the storage placements are handled by mounts located on numerous areas on the board. One of the side panels features slots for up to three (3) 2.5″ drives.

Remnants of the original Prodigy design can be found on the front of the interior. A large 200mm vent is present although you won’t be able to use it since the PSU will occupy this space primarily. Speaking of PSU, the PSU is mounted via a bracket that screws into place from the bottom of the PSU. An extension cable routes through the bottom to the rear of the case for cosmetic purposes. A single 120mm is located on the bottom of the Prodigy M as an out-of-the-box inclusion.

Disassembly

To fully appreciate the BitFenix Prodigy M, one must know it in its barest form. – a smart-sounding quote I made up just now.

With the side panels already off, let’s proceed to take apart the chassis. The front panel is easily removed by unhooking the flaps that hold it in place. The entire front face comes up with ease and reveals that large vent we mentioned earlier. A bay guard is also present which should be removed if you need to use the 5.25″ drive bay.

The large vertical column on the right side of the Prodigy M needs to be removed if you want access to the motherboard tray. This column holds up to two(2) 2.5″/3.5″ drives vertically and can be removed by unscrewing 4 screws.

Once that column is off, you get full access to the internal of the Prodigy M.

To mount the PSU, you need to unscrew the mount that holds it in place. The screws are accessible via the bottom of the CPU in the PSU cutout.

If you want to mount a radiator or a very long-ass GPU, you’ll want to get rid of the 5.25″ bay tray on the top of the chassis. With the front panel off, you can remove 4 screws that hold it in place then remove the remaining screws that lock it in place from the side of the Prodigy M.

And here we have a disassembled Prodigy M ready for system occupation.

System Assembly

Time to build up this naked Prodigy M.

First order of business is to mount that PSU, you can do this last but I prefer first so we can pre-plan routing cables once the components go in. To mount the PSU, you need to secure the PSU to the bracket with screws, afterwards you mount it inside the chassis and hold it in place with screws as shown earlier.

After that we mount the motherboard, make sure to install the included standoffs first, to the motherboard tray. The large cutout in the back of the tray makes installing cooler backplates easy.

Here’s our gigantic dual-tower cooler once again for reference. The Phanteks PH TC14-PE is a very large cooler, technically 171mm but with the fans mounted is 180mm+ in height, the Prodigy M easily accommodates the cooler with room to spare.

BitFenix has designed a great tool-less locking mechanism for its PCI slots. There is a single screw that loosens/tightens to slide back the retention mechanism. Pretty nifty.

Most gaming and high-end mATX boards have dual-GPU support and the Prodigy M is well-suited for these applications. Although our configuration isn’t particularly the best setup, we wanted to show off what could be done inside the chassis with minimal modification nor customization to the components.

Most GPUs intake air from beneath using their cooling fans. That said, the Prodigy M’s top vent serves as the perfect spot to suck in fresh air from outside the case and dump it out the back. If your board has a dual PCI-E configuration, placing the GPU on the second slot puts it closer to the vent which should give optimal effect.

Should you be using a 240mm radiator for ALCs, you can only mount it on top. 120mm rads can be mounted on the rear exhaust or in the bottom. If you will be using an ALC like the Corsair H100i, the fat tubes will interfere if you have a long GPU. Take note of that.

If you really want to force a 240mm on the bottom… well, you can’t.

Reinstalling the drive tray column, you can mount drives in there although cable management should be better if you place drives at the bottom.

Conclusion

 The original Prodigy made big waves in the ITX scene when it first came out. Simple, stylish, clean, and most of all highly flexible. Its what set it apart from most SFF chassis that Lian Li, Silverstone and CoolerMaster have been rolling out in recent years. The BitFenix Prodigy M continues that legacy, extending its style to the mATX market brandishing a feature set unique to itself.

Build Quality. There is no arguing that BitFenix has an innate touch to details and quality. The Prodigy M is oozing with substance and a simple touch of the unique soft-touch finish is more than enough to prove this point. The attention to detail extends far beyond the physical aspect of the Prodigy M with the usability features on a completely different level of greatness.

Functionality. The level of usage of the BitFenix Prodigy M is somewhat limited as more and more motherboard makers push the mATX out of the entry-level and into the high-end market. This puts the Prodigy M in a difficult spot as the market for these boards are now shifting from SFF builders to complete gaming builds which demand room for radiators, pumps and other accessories. That said, when components are in place the Prodigy M becomes crowded and storage placement quickly becomes an issue. Cable-management also lingers in the air even with a modular PSU as SATA connectors and SATA power cables snake to reach their location.

Bundle. The BitFenix Prodigy M has plenty of out-of-box goodness pre-built into the chassis but as a premium product, the zip ties do far less to put together the bundle. P-clips, cable holders and velcro straps would’ve rounded off the package well.

Value. BitFenix is asking for $99.99 for the Prodigy M. The price range is saturated by premium chassis from major brands all catering to different people and applications. The mATX HTPC audience is small, but as more and more people are attracted to the smaller form factors, the BitFenix Prodigy M offers the most flexible feature set of all the current offerings in the market.

Right from the get-go, we already had very high expectations for the Prodigy M. The Prodigy had a lot going on for it and with its popularity so the Prodigy M can easily be deduced as a cash-grab riding on the Prodigy gravy train. Fortunately, BitFenix has steered from such a fate and the development process of the Prodigy M was a highly prominent topic in their social network channels with the fans providing feedback during the process culminating in what we have today.

The BitFenix Prodigy M is the perfect marriage of a chassis that can accommodate a high-end gaming system and keep it well below the size of modern midtowers. Flexibility is the key word for BitFenix here and that extends to the variety of the form factor as well as the installation options both the Prodigy and now the Prodigy M offers. BitFenix is carving a monument for itself in the SFF/HTPC space and the BitFenix Prodigy M with its excellent build quality and attention to details is testament to that.

We award the BitFenix Prodigy M with our B2G Silver Award.

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