BitFenix Phenom MITX Case Review
Last week I took a look at a BitFenix Prodigy M and I walked away from the review with a love/hate relationship with this MATX version of BitFenix’s Prodigy! Today it’s the turn of the Phenom, not the MATX version (as I took a look at that around 7 months ago)! Today I will be taking a look at the BitFenix Phenom MITX, in fact this will be the first time I have taken a look at an ITX case, and an ITX motherboard for that matter!
The Phenom ITX is a cube styled Small Form Factor (SFF) case with the following dimensions (WxHxD): 250 x 330 x 374mm. The case is made from steel and plastic, and as is the norm for a BitFenix case, it’s covered with their SofTouch™ Surface Treatment. This ITX case supports Graphics Cards up to 330mm in length, with the internal drive FlexCage™ removed, there’s support for a 240mm radiator plus fans in the top of the case and even in the front too! There’s support for up to six HDDs or eleven SSDs and CPU maximum height is quoted at 175mm. The Phenom ITX comes equipped with two 120mm fans, one in the front and one in the rear. An additional two fans can also be installed in the roof, and the rear exhaust fan can be swapped for a 140mm if so desired.
The front of the eco-friendly box, that we are now accustomed to seeing, features a large BitFenix logo, the Phenom Mini-ITX name and the company’s web address.
The back of the box is a little more interesting highlighting various features of the Phenom MITX by way of three basic images. These highlight the SofTouch™ Surface Treatment, the two SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Ports, long Graphics Card support, 240mm radiator support and the FlexCage™ Hard Disk Rack.
Looking at the sides of the box, on the left we find basic model information etc and on the right there’s an additional image of the front/top of the Phenom MITX and a specifications table (see image above right and/or Specifications/Features below for more detail).
Opening the top of the box allows us to get a glimpse of the Phenom MITX hiding within, as you can see the case is covered with a plastic bag and sandwiched between two polystyrene blocks. There’s a Quick Installation Guide too…
Within the box other than the case itself we find the aforementioned Quick Installation Guide, in the case there’s a small brown cardboard box containing the rest of the case’s accessories and a HDD adapter (that’s that black plastic cage).
Within the small brown box there’s a buzzer and a small plastic bag containing various screws and stand-offs etc, including a stand-off insertion tool.
courtesy of BitFenix
|Materials||Steel, Plastic, SofTouch™|
|Colors (Int/Ext)||Black/Black, White/White|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||250 x 330 x 374mm|
|3.5” Drive Bays||x 6 (5 + 1 using included adapter)|
|2.5” Drive Bays||x 11 (5 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 using included adapter)|
|Cooling Top||120mm x 2 (optional)|
|Cooling Front||120mm x 2 (1 included) or 140/180/200/230mm x 1 (optional)|
|Cooling Rear||120mm x 1 (included) or 140mm x 1 (optional)|
|PCI Slots||x 2|
|I/O||USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio|
|Power Supply||PS2 ATX (bottom, multi direction)|
|Extras||Tool-free drive locking mechanisms, SofTouch™ surface treatment, filtered intakes|
First impressions of the Phenom MITX is very good, it falls into that rather unusual category of ‘cute’, yes it’s a small form factor cube, but there’s no denying that it looks pretty damn cute, sorry! Obviously it’s small too with dimensions as follows: (WxHxD): 250 x 330 x 374mm. Let’s take a better look around shall we and then open her up and see what’s on the inside…
There’s really not much to see at the front of the Phenom MITX, but what you can do is admire the gentle curves both top and bottom (with its signature being the top curve is smaller than the bottom, which always looks kind of odd, but cool nonetheless!). We can also stroke the front panel and appreciate BitFenix’s SofTouch™ Surface Treatment, but as you can see it’s a bit of a finger print magnet unfortunately. At the bottom there’s a simple glossy black BitFenix logo, it’s minimalistic, but that’s part of the charm I think.
At the back we find a bottom mounted Power Supply bay and a PSU bracket held in place by four thumb screws. Above this we find the horizontal (because this is an MITX case) motherboard I/O shield cut-out. Above this there’s one of two pre-installed 120mm fans. To the right we have just two (as is the norm for MITX) PCIE brackets, likely supporting a single graphics card. These are held in place by screws and a retaining bracket, the bracket is not something I’m really a fan of…
Looking at the top of the BitFenix Phenom MITX we can see that it is dominated by a large black mesh grill. This grill is removable by way of the switch at the back of the panel.
With the panel removed we can clearly see room for either a couple of 120mm fans and/or a 240mm radiator, impressive support for a Small Form Factor MITX case.
Flipping the case over allows us to take a look at the underside, there are four large feet and at the back wee have a removable dust filter for the PSU. The six screws near the front of the case allow the lower HDD cage to be removed. And the four holes in the middle of the six allows for the fitment of a 2.5″ drive.
Looking at the left side of the BitFenix Phenom MITX, there’s very little to note other than that the side panel is held in place by a couple of thumb screws. From the image below left you can see the slight incline to the front panel caused by the differing curves top and bottom.
There’s also not much to see on the other side either, but we do have the main controls for the case. This comprises of main power button and reset button, below this there are the audio ports (headphone & microphone). Each audio port seems to have an associated LED, but these are in fact the main power LED and the disk activity LED, both of which illuminate blue. Below this there are two USB 3.0 sockets.
As you can see from the image above right the right panel comes equipped with cabling (never a good idea this!), these cables obviously support the aforementioned controls built into the panel. The downside is that every time you remove the panel, you have to unplug all of the cables from both the side panel (power switch/reset switch, audio, power LED & disk LED) and the motherboard (USB 3.0). 🙁 Apparently, those black mesh cages built into the side panel can be used to fit another two 2.5″ drives, but quite why you would want to attach more cables to the side panel I really don’t know…
With the left side panel removed we can see the rather busy looking interior of the BitFenix Phenom MITX. The interior space is dominated by the two main drive cages, luckily both are removable, and to a lesser extent by the main horizontal motherboard tray and the ODD bracket at the top right of the case. You can also now see the two 120mm fans, an intake at the lower front and an exhaust at the back. Looks like we’re going to need to remove those drive cages anyway to get some air into the case… 😉
Removing the right side panel allows us to see a little more but not much! In the image below right you get a better look at that tiny MITX motherboard tray and its associated four (that’s right just four!) stand-offs.
The top drive cage or FlexCage™ can be removed by just pressing a couple of clips and it simply slides out.
Unfortunately to remove the lower drive cage you have to unscrew the six screws at the base of the case. Actually you need to undo eight as the feet are in the way of the front two, luckily they just unscrew also.
As ODD are a thing of the past (well they are as far as we’re concerned!), I also opted to remove the ODD bracket from the top of the case, this is done by removing four screws on the inside of the case and four from behind the front panel. This helps to maximise building space in what is already a small case.
As you can see from the image below left the front panel can also be removed, by way of pressing four plastic clips on the inside of the case. Now you can clearly see that 120mm intake fan, but there is no filter.
With all of these brackets and cages removed we now have a naked BitFenix Phenom MITX.
The BitFenix Phenom MITX is a good looking cube styled Small Form Factor case, and with all of the stuff that I just removed it should be easy (hopefully) to install into, let’s crack on and see shall we…
|Case||BitFenix Phenom MITX||Power Supply||Corsair Builder Series CXM 500W|
|Motherboard||MSI Z97I Gaming AC||CPU||Intel Core i5-4690K|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U9S||RAM||HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit|
|Graphics Card||XFX AMD Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition||SSD||HyperX FURY 120GB|
The first task that I undertook when installing the pcG Test Rig into the BitFenix Phenom MITX was the fitment of the Corsair AX760i Power Supply. The first task was to fit the bracket that’s held to the back of the Phenom by four thumb screws (although why there’s a bracket I just don’t know, as it seems to serve no real purpose!).
This is normally a simple task as the PSU is quite short at just 160mm, but not this time! The PSU was (rather surprisingly) too long, not by much but it wasn’t going to fit, not good as I didn’t have a smaller PSU to hand at the time!
Eventually I managed to get my hands on a Corsair CX500M that’s 20mm shorter at 140mm and it fitted perfectly!
The next task was to assemble and install the motherboard assembly, in this build we will be using a MSI Z97I GAMING AC MITX board as our regular ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer wont fit. Because of the size of the motherboard and the case we will also be using a Noctua NH-U9S cooler, the memory and the SSD come courtesy of HyperX in the form of 8GB of Savage 2400MHz RAM and a Fury 120GB SSD.
With the motherboard assembly (MB, CPU, CPU Cooler & RAM) complete it was time to dig out just four screws and screw it into place, after installing the I/O shield of course. Well that must be the easiest motherboard installation that I’ve ever done! 😉
The next task was cabling and I found that nearly all of the excess cabling could be hidden inside the PSU bay, brilliant! Just four main cables were used, x1 24-pin, x1 8-pin, x1 PCIE power cable and a single SATA power cable. With this done I could now start looking at installing our toasty test Graphics Card the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition.
Surprisingly (after my last BitFenix install) and considering our test GPU is quite long at 295mm, fitting it was simple. The only minor hindrance was the silly PCIE bracket arrangement that helps to hold the PCIE brackets in place (not too sure why BitFenix use this!?).
Although the installed cabling looks a little messy (and I confess it could be tided up, a little!) the fact that most of that cabling is inside the PSU bay is brilliant and a far cry from the problematic cabling I experienced with the Prodigy M.
The final task was to fit the HyperX Fury SSD; as I had ripped out all of the drive cages, there was only three options left (as I didn’t want to use the side panel bays), either against the upright of the motherboard tray (there’s two positions here) or on the floor, I opted for the latter. The 2.5″ drive was secured through the bottom of the case by way of four screws.
Now that was a simple install! What’s even more impressive is though is that this is the first time I’ve built an MITX system and it’s the smallest case that I have ever worked in! Installation time (well once I got a PSU that fitted!) was around 1 hour.
At pcGameware we use Prime95 and CoreTemp to evaluate CPU temperatures and we use MSI Afterburner to evaluate the GPU temperatures. Of course Prime95 being a CPU stress test also helps to generate heat for us to check the case thermals. We also use UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 for GPU temperature testing.
CPU performance testing is carried out using Prime95 (Small FFT) to stress the CPU. Each run is timed for 15 mins and the maximum temperature is recorded for all cores and then the average core heat is taken. Testing was carried out with a small overclock on the i5-4690K of 4.0GHz courtesy of MSI’s OC Genie.
GPU performance testing is carried out by running UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 for 15 minutes and then by recording the maximum GPU temperature.
* All case fans (x2 in the case of the BitFenix Phenom MITX) and the CPU Cooler (Noctua NH-U9S) are run at 100% throughout testing. To ascertain case noise levels, the GPU fans are set to their lowest setting and the CPU Cooler fan is unplugged, whilst the dB is recorded from 1m away.
|Case||Ambient Temperature||Max CPU Temperature (core average)||Delta Temperature|
|BitFenix Phenom MITX||23.00||74.50||51.50|
|BitFenix Prodigy M||23.00||78.50||55.50|
|Fractal Design Core 1100||22.50||79.25||56.75|
|In Win 901||23.00||79.50||56.50|
Wow I wasn’t expecting that, the BitFenix Phenom MITX has put in an impressive performance when it comes to CPU cooling, second only to the mighty impressive Cooltek W1. It managed to keep our overclocked (4.0GHz @ 1.2v) Intel Core i5-4690K at a core average of 74.50 degrees Celsius, impressive considering the Phenom ITX is such a small case and is only equipped with two low RPM 120mm fans.
|Case||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temperature||Delta Temperature|
|BitFenix Phenom MITX (with mesh side panel)||24.00||74.00||50.00|
|Cooler Master HAF XB||24.00||80.00||56.00|
|BitFenix Prodigy M||22.50||83.00||60.50|
|In Win 901||22.50||89.00||66.50|
|Fractal Design Core 1100||24.00||94.00||70.00|
|BitFenix Phenom MITX||22.00||94.00||72.00|
I know that cooling our rather toasty test card (XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition) is no easy task, as the Hawaii XT based GPUs do get very warm, with a thermal throttle limit of 94.00C, but I wasn’t expecting to hit it! 🙁 Of course this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as the left side panel has no vents as is approximately 10mm away from the GPU itself. The end result is that the Graphics Card was basically suffocated by its own heat!
Luckily Overclockers UK came to the rescue and sent us what turned out to be the Silver Bullet that we were looking for! No they didn’t send us a full GPU water cooling kit (but that would have been nice), they sent us a Bitfenix Phenom ITX Vented Side Panel.
Due to the fact that the BitFenix Phenom MITX is only fitted with two low RPM 120mm fans, noise is kept to a minimum. In fact there’s likely to be more noise coming from the CPU Cooler or your Graphics Card. With the CPU Cooler unplugged and the GPU at idle and the case fans at 100%, noise was measured (from 1m away) at a paltry 31dB. That’s as close as we are going to get to silence, well in the pcG office anyway…
I have enjoyed my time with the BitFenix Phenom MITX, it’s a smart little cube styled Small Form Factor case, that appears small on the outside, yet is big on the inside and the cooling performance is impressive, if paired with the optional vented side panel…
The BitFenix Phenom MITX arrived at pcG well packaged and in (what is now the norm) an eco friendly brown cardboard box. Once out of the box, I was immediately struck by how likeable this little cube styled case was. Dare I use the word, ‘Cute’ and of course cool pretty much sums it up. And as is the norm with most BitFenix cases the exterior is covered with their impressive SofTouch™ Surface Treatment.
There’s a lot to like about a potential build inside a Phenom MITX as there’s a lot of options and support, like the 240mm radiator support both front and top, support for six HDDs or eleven SSDs! And if you fancy having plenty of room inside your case for long GPU support, then both of the drive cages can be removed as well as the ODD bracket. The end result is a case that’s similar to a Tardis! 😉
Unfortunately the installation of our Test Rig didn’t get off to a good start as our normal PSU (Corsair AX760i (160mm in length)) would not fit, as it was too long! Sourcing another PSU (a Corsair CX500M (140mm in length)) solved this problem, but you may want to check the length of your PSU before you go ahead with your own build.
Luckily from this point on the build was a simple, with no gotachs throughout installation. What was particularly good was the fact that I found I could tuck all of the excess cabling (as there’s no real cable management space) into the PSU bay, making for a surprisingly tidy build for such a small case.
Performance wise the BitFenix Phenom MITX performed well when it came to CPU cooling, keeping our overclocked 4.0GHz 4690K at 74.5C during our Prime 95 test. On the other hand GPU cooling was very poor, which was a shame. But this was surprisingly easily solved, by swapping out the solid side panel for a Vented Side Panel. And the result was even more surprising: With the solid side panel in place our toasty test GPU (XFX R9 290X) thermally throttled at 94.0C, with the mesh side panel fitted this temperature dropped to an impressive 74.0C! Suggesting that if you’re thinking of buying this case for Gaming you’re going to want to pick up the optional vented side panel also. Acoustically the Phenom MITX also performed very well with its twin low RPM 120mm fans, producing no more than 31dB when running at 100%.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the BitFenix Phenom MITX case is a great little Small Form Factor case, it looks good, has plenty of flexibility and performs well. Just make sure your Power Supply fits and you pick up one of those Vented Side Panels.
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Many thanks to BitFenix for providing this sample for review