BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX Chassis Review

As the last of the BitFenix cases filters through, we get to see a much sleeker, and much heavier Mini-ITX design like the Prodigy, in the latest Phenom.

Manufacturer: BitFenix
14 minute read time

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

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After having a virtual wall of BitFenix cases in the last month or so, we have finally arrived at the bottom of the pile with the last chassis BitFenix has recently released. The main idea with this design is that it takes all of the fundamentals that made the Prodigy a huge success. Unfortunately, despite the success of the Prodigy, we have seen a lot of hater talk in the past about the perceived notion that the handles are flimsy, cheap, or even unnecessary. Of course, there are those out there that just like things a bit more on the subtle side, and really have liked what the Prodigy brought forward on the interior, but for some reason or another, just were not sold on the exterior. We know it wasn't for a lack of color choice, because the Prodigy eventually came in almost every color under the sun.

For whatever reason you passed on the Prodigy when it was released, or since then, this most recent SFF BitFenix design may just sway you in their favor. BitFenix is taking another crack at this design aesthetically to try to sway those that were on the fence to come and party in their yard. If you already own a Prodigy, you may have been waiting for a return to this idea. The funny thing is that we just looked at the Core V1 from Thermaltake, and really liked what they had going on in that design, and there just so happens to be many external similarities to both the Thermaltake Core V1 and this BitFenix chassis. Even so, some major design differences are very apparent. It is nice to have the Core V1 fresh in our minds for comparison to the newest SFF chassis from BitFenix, along with many other Mini-ITX chassis designs that have crossed our photo booth over the years.

Today we are going to have a look at the latest Mini-ITX chassis to be offered from BitFenix, the Phenom Mini-ITX. So far in the lineup, there are only black and white versions of this chassis, both of which are trimmed in black. We can only assume this chassis will also be available in a multitude of flavors as time passes and customer interest develops. Yes, at the heart of it all, this is a Prodigy on the inside, but with a refreshing of the exterior to a sleek and smooth aesthetic approach. We feel this Phenom Mini-ITX case will be much more welcomed in HTPC use, or out in the kitchen for the kids to be using; wherever really, as this version will blend in much easier with any setting.

The specifications chart covers all of the majors things we need to concern ourselves with. We find the chassis is made mostly of steel, has plastic in the drive trays and in the front bezel, and we see the SofTouch coating has not been lost on this chassis either. There are color options of black on black, and white on white, but all of the images of the chassis show a white version with black logo and mesh. We also see that this Mini-ITX chassis measures 250mm wide, 330mm in height, and 374mm in depth.

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Inside and around the chassis, you will find it offers room for six 3.5" drives, but an astounding eleven 2.5" drive bays. Also, while there is no mention of the 5.25" bay that is installed on the inside, this is due to the Phenom having a smooth front bezel with no access for this bay. There are two expansion slots in the back to fill, and if you swing from the back around to the right front edge of the chassis, there you will find the front I/O panel with two USB 3.0 ports and HD audio connections.

Cooling options are really good in this design. The front of the chassis ships with a single 120mm fan installed. However, there is room for a second fan once the ODD bay is removed, and to make it more secure, the chassis ships with fan brackets to allow screws to be used in the 5.25" bay at the top of the fan. The top of the chassis offers the same thing, with room for a pair of 120mm fans. This also means that with some adjustments, both the front and the top of the chassis are fair game for water cooling as well. Lastly, as far as cooling is concerned, there is a 120mm fan installed in the back of the chassis, but this location is also drilled for 140mm fan usage.

As we typically do, we scoured the internet to try to find the best deal for the chassis on hand. As we looked around for the Phenom Mini-ITX chassis, we found it readily available almost anywhere you would typically spend your hard earned money. On the lower-end, we found with a listing just shy of $90, including shipping costs. We also thought we had a great find over at Amazon, where they are showing the Phenom Mini-ITX for $79.99; that was until we realized that they are also asking $23 to ship it. The worst of it is, we also saw pricing well into the $120 range at quite a few places, so buyers: beware when looking to obtain this chassis. For our evaluation today, we will be going with an average of everything we saw, which is closer to the $100 mark; to be honest, at this price, things better be good.

PRICING: You can find the BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX chassis for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The BitFenix Phenom (BLACK) retails for $79.99 at Amazon, and the BitFenix Phenom (WHITE) retails for $85.87 at Amazon.

Canada: The BitFenix Phenom (BLACK) retails for CDN$149.09 at Amazon Canada, and the BitFenix Phenom (WHITE) retails for CDN$149.09 at Amazon Canada.


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In usual BitFenix flare, the packaging consists of black screen printing on a plain cardboard box. Of course, the BitFenix logo is large and in charge. At the bottom we find the Phenom Mini-ITX naming, and below that we see the BitFenix web address.

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With a small logo, and the chassis name above the handle, it offers a bit of room to see the front and top of the chassis in a rendering in the middle. This leaves room at the bottom for the specifications chart.

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On the back we find three printed drawings of the chassis with mention of the SofTouch, USB 3.0 connectivity, 330mm GPU support, and that it comes with the removable and reversible FlexCage.

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With all of the bases covered for what we should expect to see inside, there is room left on this side of the box for the small stickers at the bottom that show the chassis part number, and what color chassis is inside the box. Another thing we noticed that you cannot tell from images is this chassis is considerably heavier than the Prodigy.

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With such a small chassis to begin with, being wrapped in a liner is expected, and this will help protect the paint and the SofTouch coating. The Styrofoam end caps are very thick, and really dense. All of this protective packaging delivers the Phenom Mini-ITX chassis to us in pristine condition.

BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX Chassis

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The front of the chassis is rounded at the top and bottom, and this flat expanse of black SofTouch coating runs the entire length, only to be broken up by the BitFenix logo at the bottom, and the two feet shining under it.

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As did the Prodigy, the top of the Phenom Mini-ITX also offers the removable cover that requires a latch at the back to be slid before the cover can be lifted out of the way. The frame around the mesh insert also receives the SofTouch treatment.

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As we look at the left side of the chassis, we see there is a defined run of mesh across the top, and it continues down the front as it gets wider near the bottom where the bezel protrudes more. As for the panel, there isn't a window or ventilation, only this expanse of textured, black painted steel.

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As we come around to the back, we find a familiar layout. At the top we see room for 140mm fans above the rear I/O, and both are above the PSU location at the bottom. Off to the right is a pair of expansion slots. The PSU cover, the panels, and even the expansion slots and the cover, all use thumbscrews to simplify things.

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The right side of the chassis is nearly identical to what we saw on the left. There is more of the mesh at the top, and down the front, but this time we also have the front I/O panel running vertically near the front edge.

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Moving downward from the top, we find the power button, a smaller square reset button, HD audio jacks flanked on the left with the power and HDD LEDs, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports.

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Under the chassis we find wide, thin feet to afford this Phenom the best footing possible on the rubber pads. We also find a dust filter under the PSU, but if you look closely at the front you see six screws. These screws, as well as the front feet, need to be removed to pull the FlexCage completely. The feet can go back in after.

Inside the Phenom Mini-ITX

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With a solid front to the bezel, the mesh that runs down the sides hides the fact that there are only nine small holes on each side to draw air in through. On the front of the chassis, we see all the fan mounting options, as well as the breakout plate covering the ODD bay that has no external access.

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Upon removing the doors, we found where all the extra weight is; the doors are as thick as can be, and weigh three times what is expected. With the doors off, we can now look inside to see that there is a bay adapter lying on the motherboard tray, and a box of hardware slid in the HDD bays. The paperwork is shipped outside of the chassis, under the Styrofoam.

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Even without access, the 5.25" bay is still installed, and with eight screws removed, it can come out all together. Although, keep in mind that the bay adapter will turn this into a 3.5" bay that is also drilled for 2.5" drive use.

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In the FlexCage we get five trays to use for either 3.5" drives with the pins on the sides of the trays, or 2.5" drives will also install here with screws. The top and bottom section can be removed, or either one or the other can be used, and with slight modification, it can also be turned to face the other way.

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If you have plans to hang an AIO or radiator in the front of the chassis, this is the kind of thing we like to see. With just a bit of time and a screwdriver, the front of the chassis can be completely gutted to make room for whatever the need may be.

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We went ahead and just removed the top cover. This allows us easy access to the pair of 120mm fan locations, and since there is 175mm of clearance under this panel for CPU coolers, there is plenty of that left above the memory for thick radiators and push/pull fan configurations.

Inside the Phenom Mini-ITX Continued

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We are now looking at the motherboard tray. The standoffs come in the tray, and where there isn't motherboard, they trimmed it down at the front, and left it expanded near the back. They also rolled the steel inward, and this offers a safe place to run wiring on either side. The front edge of this tray is drilled to allow a pair of 2.5" drives to reside there as well, so we are up to eight now.

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Below the motherboard tray, we find the floor to be very well ventilated with the large honeycomb pattern cut into the steel. We also find there are four rubber pads to help support short PSUs, and we strongly suggest along with being compact, they should also be modular.

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Inside the rear of the chassis we see the expansion slots are even with the back, allowing for just a simple cutout to hold the I/O shield. We also see that there is a 120mm fan installed in the back, and both this fan and the front fan use three-pin connections for power.

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With everything pretty much gone from the chassis now, as we look in from the right side, we find the tray is shaped to match the opposing side. The gears are turning as to the amount of components you can install where the drives used to be.

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Inside of the right door panel, we find a thick plastic rack installed. We find this rack to be capable of holding another pair of 2.5" drives with the PCB of the front I/O just in front of it.

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The black sleeved and ribbons of wire coming from the I/O panel terminate in the AC'97 and HD audio at the left, the HDD LED, PWR LED, power and reset button connections, and the native USB 3.0 connection to the right.

Accessories and Documentation

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All of the screws needed for assembly come in a sealed plastic bag. There are four thumbscrews to mount the bay adapter in the 5.25" bay, four PSU screws, 2.5" drive screws, motherboard and 3.5" drive screws, and a set that are used to lock the tray into the FlexCage.

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The rest of the gear you get is what we have shown here. There is a single stick down wire management loop to tame any loose wires. There are little plates that offer the top fan mounting points if the 5.25" breakout plate is removed, and some screws to install them. Lastly, we do get a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter for those without native USB 3.0 support.

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The Quick Installation guide is more of a full on manual in reality. It doesn't just show the parts included and move through a few diagrams to get you underway; instead, you also get step-by-step instructions as to how to remove, rearrange, and fill the chassis, along with chassis limitations, and best ways to access them. There is also an insert that shows the terms and conditions of the one-year warranty the Phenom comes with.

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Back to that bay adapter. Obviously, it fits inside of a 5.25" bay to drop it down to 3.5" drive usage. While this would typically be for a card reader or fan controller, with no access, this is used for storage. Also, when you look in the middle, you see two sets of holes to allow a 2.5" drive to hang on either side, offering that eleventh location for 2.5" drive capacity.

Case Build and Finished Product

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Of course, we picked a shorter PSU to go in this chassis, as the motherboard tray support will limit your options. With the fan oriented downward to take advantage of the intake there, we mounted the plate to our PSU, and just needed to slide it all the way in and secure it with the thumbscrews.

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Once the PSU was in and tidied up a bit, we went ahead and dropped in the motherboard. So far, wiring is simple, and everything gets where it needs to be with little effort. The holes near the back work really well for tending the wires, and holding them in the chassis so the panels will go on easier.

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The reason we started with a look at the right side of the chassis is because we were not quite done. Remember to run the front I/O wiring. One reason to do it now is that the GPU may block the front panel pins; secondly, you want access to tidy up the wiring while making sure the panel will go on and come off freely.

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With all of the wiring completed, we went ahead and added our video card. While this one will work fine with the FlexCage still in place, you can see without the FlexCage, getting a 330mm video card in here is relatively easy to do, as long as the power connections are on the edge and not the back.

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All boxed back up and ready for power, the Phenom Mini-ITX does one thing that we really like in cases. That is, from beginning to end, no matter what sort of build is housed inside, this chassis looks exactly the same fresh out of the box as is does now, keeping that slick aesthetic appeal that drove you to this chassis in the first place.

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As usual, we missed the flicker of the blue LED denoting HDD activity, but the bright blue glow from the power LED is unmistakable. While this will likely face off to the side when in the office or in an HTPC environment, it will not blind you, but it does put quite the flood of blue into the room.

Final Thoughts

We like the look, we like the solid feel that the extra heavy doors deliver, and, of course, we have been a fan of this interior since we first saw the Prodigy. The SofTouch at the top and bottom takes all the glare off this chassis as it blends into the shadows. Also, adding just a slight angle to the front bezel gives this Phenom Mini-ITX a more aggressive stance than the Core V1 we just saw. The modularity of the ODD is terrific considering the fact that there is no external use for it. Along with the FlexCage, the front of the motherboard tray support, the right side panel, and the bay adapter, if you were looking for a 2.5" drive storage server, even then the Phenom stands tall with its eleven locations.

We understand a lot of the decisions made with this refresh, but there are some things we would like to see in a chassis with this sort of price tag. For starters, the front intake is very limited, and over time, you will end up with dusty circles on the mesh from the fans trying to gasp air through those tiny holes. Secondly, we would have appreciated a filter that wasn't something we had to bend tabs on the mesh for, or run the entire bezel under the sink to accomplish basic cleaning. Also, we would have loved if this time around, the motherboard tray could have been a bit longer, and then just offered a modular 2.5" drive tray so that longer PSUs could fit.

However, we also understand the cost in tooling and manufacturing to redesign the interior. While we really appreciated the USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 adapter, we would have also loved some Molex to three-pin adapters or something, rather than having to use the motherboard headers. Considering there is no way outside of the motherboard PWM to control the fans, and no way to add an external fan controller, we may as well have the option to go full bore with the fans for this cost.

While we do understand the methodology to the release of this case, we are left thinking maybe this just isn't enough. This is a nice looking chassis, and may very well sway Prodigy haters into buying the Phenom instead. However, for nearly $100, we expected more than a new face and top, some feet under the chassis, and heavier door panels. Maybe it is just that we have already seen this chassis in its most basic form over and over in press, on forums, and in any mod gallery you want to look at.

We do want to give BitFenix credit on the redesigned exterior, as it will do just what they say it will. The BitFenix Phenom will blend into the room, offer tons of cooling options for air cooling or water cooling, offer modularity, and provide a really impressive amount of drive locations. It is just that sitting in our seat, we would have preferred to see a bit more, rather than seeing a new dress on a chassis we saw two years ago. While still an effective design for the time, at this price, it is rather likely that those on the fence will pass on this design, and move on to something more evolved for today's market, and much less 2012.

PRICING: You can find the BitFenix Phenom Mini-ITX chassis for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The BitFenix Phenom (BLACK) retails for $79.99 at Amazon, and the BitFenix Phenom (WHITE) retails for $85.87 at Amazon.

Canada: The BitFenix Phenom (BLACK) retails for CDN$149.09 at Amazon Canada, and the BitFenix Phenom (WHITE) retails for CDN$149.09 at Amazon Canada.

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Chad joined the TweakTown team in 2009 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM and coolers.

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