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HTPC Bitfenix Prodigy Build Log and Mini Review

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Neogumbercules, 17 Aug 2012.

  1. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    So I finally got around to ordering my HTPC parts and the last of it came in last week so here's the project! Don't mind the wonky sensor on my phone camera. It's a little worse for wear.

    First, the parts:

    [​IMG]

    In this image you will see -

    ASRock A75M-ITX
    AMD A6-3670k Black Edition
    Samsung 830 SSD 128GB
    Logitech K400 Keyboard/Trackpad combo
    TP-Link N-band USB Ethernet Adapter

    I'm also re-using the parts from my last build:

    Coolermaster 600W PSU
    4GB G.Skill 1333 RAM

    THE BUILD

    I don't have any pics of the Bitfenix box/unboxing process, but there's plenty of media out there if you want it. The first thing I did was put the motherboard onto the tray. Side note here - It's good to see AMD still has the easiest HSF mounting mechanism. It's been years since I built an AMD system so it's good to see they didn't fix what ain't broke! (Though naturally the stock HSF still kinda sucks). After admiring the tiny size of the Mini-ITX form factor (first time seeing one) I got down to business and pulled the case apart piece by piece:

    Nekkid Prodigy
    [​IMG]

    Mobo mounted:
    [​IMG]

    As you can see in the picture, almost every aspect of the Prodigy is modular. You need a screwdriver for the bottom HDD cage and the optical bay, but that's it. I'm going for a truly bare bones build here, so I yanked out all the cages and stuffed them back in the box. Maybe someday I'll use them, but for now, it's staying empty. The motherboard stand-offs are built into the tray, so that was nice.

    The most impressive thing about the Prodigy is it's ability to do almost anything a big case can do while making almost no sacrifices. Even with the hard drive cages completely removed the prodigy still has mounts for at least 5 2.5" drives. They simply screw either into the floor of the case, the side of the motherboard tray assembly, or slide into a specially made cage on the sidepanel.

    I opted for the motherboard tray wall. There are screw holes on the wall and proper mounting screws included with the case hardware to install the SSD here. You need to do this before you install the PSU though, as you need to reach your screwdriver from underneath the motherboard to screw it in:

    [​IMG]

    On to the PSU now then. I'm using a full-sized, non-modular, ATX PSU. The Prodigy again doesn't disappoint. First, it fits in like charm. There's a fan filter underneath the PSU to keep the dust out and little foam pads for the PSU to rest on. You need to remove the thumbscrews the keep the PSU fitting plate on the back of the case, then screw that plate into the back of your PSU. Once that's done you simply slide the PSU in, cables first, and screw the plate into the back of the case. Even with tons of cables, there was plenty of room to spare. Bitfenix afforded an empty space to the side of the PSU for you to bundle all of your cables into once you have everything plugged in. Overall, a very impressive job done by BitFenix with everything concerning the PSU:

    The backplate. Hard to see, but it's there. You can also see here that the prodigy supports dual-slot GPUs:
    [​IMG]

    Extra room for cables:
    [​IMG]

    Plugged in:
    [​IMG]

    The next step is installing the Power, Reset and LED headers. The Prodigy has all of this hardware on the right hand sidepanel. My initial reaction to this was "this is going to be a pain." Well, again, Bitfenix shows their attention to detail. All of the cables on the sidepanel are removable. That means you can unplug your Power, Reset and LED header cables from the PCB on the panel, plug them into the motherboard, snake them through the ample supply of wire routing holes, and plug them back into the panel. Just don't forget which one goes where! :thumb: Unfortunately the USB 3 header cable can't be removed in such a fashion, but this is a big, thick cord which is easy to snake through a crowded case and easy to get a hold of when you're pulling it under the motherboard tray.

    Bitfenix really proves that their engineers have spent a fair amount of time tinkering around in cases before and know about the little things that make the difference between a pleasurable build and a major hassle. They've done a good job of making this a pleasure to work in, although this header panel is the victim of my first (of two) complaints with this case: The header PCB is a little wobbly. It doesn't make a firm connection to the side panel and the USB header feels like it's actually sagging down the whole PCB. In fact, once it was all put together, a USB thumb drive sags down at a pretty low angle. This is a minor complaint, but I gotta come up with something.

    The sidepanel with header cables removed. Here you can also see the grated area where you can install yet more SSDs:
    [​IMG]


    Cable Management

    I won't devote too much time to this aspect of the case, as it is essentially amazing. This was easier to manage than my mid-tower Fractal Design Define R3. With the extra cable space under the motherboard tray and the routing holes that literally surround the entire tray assembly, there are virtually unlimited options for cabling this thing. If I had to find ONE thing to complain about, it would be the header cables. It would be nice if they were a few inches longer. But seeing as how they are already miles easier to install than any I have done before, I'm prepared to call that a wash.

    Managed!
    [​IMG]

    Time to button it up and plug it in!
    [​IMG]

    I guess since I'm at the end of the build I'll mention the only other complaint I have regarding this case. The sidepanels wobble a little bit. They don't fit in completely snug, so they tend to rattle a little bit when you move the case. However, this barely matters, as when is your computer case going to be moving around?

    Overall, between this and the header PCB wobblyness you can see slight cost-savings sacrifices in build quality. I guess it's worth mentioning that it only takes a little bit of pressure to accidentally pop a hard drive tray out of it's cage. The optical bay cover is also not quite straight on mine and my case came with the middle HDD cage jammed in improperly (though honestly it could have come out of whack during shipping) and a couple of superficial scuff marks on the exterior.

    However, with the amazing feature set this case comes with, it's modular potential, the water cooling ability, and amazing attention to detail in areas most manufacturers would consider insignificant, this is a more than fair trade-off. So again, these are minor issues, all easily fixed, and none a deal-breaker for an $80 case with SO much to offer.

    Hooked Up

    Hey, it works! (Ignore the ancient dresser and wood paneling :blush:)
    [​IMG]

    I installed Windows 7 through a bootable USB, which is pretty snappy. I never use optical media anymore... like... ever. I don't think I'll be missing it here. Everything installed very quickly and the system boots as fast as my main rig. It chews up any media apps and runs IE/Chrome/Firefox like a boss.

    One thing I had to play around with the DPI settings. I don't have a huge TV, so I had to crank it up to 175% in Windows so I can see everything easier from the across the room. I also had to set my TV settings to "Wide" mode in order to get it to stop scaling the video output for some reason. That's a TV issue though (does the same thing with any other HDMI device I hook up besides my game consoles).

    Thermals, Noise, Performance and Overclock results to come in a future update!
    (Spoiler Alert: It OC's like a champ!)
     
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  2. docodine

    docodine killed a guy once

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    Bit of empty space in that case
     
  3. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    That's the idea:thumb:

    However, I think my next "full" build will be in one of these as well. I'm half tempted to sell my R3 and Gen3 board and pick up a decent Z77 ITX and a black Prodigy.
     
  4. murraynt

    murraynt Modder

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    I'd love to downsize my rig.

    Are you going to instal an aftermarket HSF?
     
  5. docodine

    docodine killed a guy once

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    Why would you want so much empty space for an HTPC though? The Prodigy is only really worth buying if you're going to use a big video card, a lot of hard drives, or a giant CPU cooler while still staying with ITX

    Just curious
     
  6. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    I may install an aftermarket hsf at some point depending on my needs.

    I went with the prodigy because it's the best itx case on the market in my price range, I love the design to bits, and I maaay end up filling that thing up!
     
  7. docodine

    docodine killed a guy once

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    Looking foward to it!
     
  8. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    Overclocking Results

    Hi Guys. Back after some tinkering and I have some results to share. Overclocking the A6-3670k is an easy task thanks to the unlocked multiplier. As such, I didn't even touch the base clock. After some messing around I settled on an OC of:

    33x Multiplier for 3.3GHz
    1.5v CPU
    OC'd my 1333 RAM to 1600
    Load Line Calibration set to the "1/2" setting

    For the GPU:

    Set core to 592MHz up from 433
    APU PCI-E VDDP to 1.210

    I haven't run hardcore benchmarks but honestly that's not what this build is all about. Literally the -most- intensive program I run is Skyrim. It seems like my CPU is hitting it's hard limit at this point. It refuses to boot with a 34x multiplier. Now I'm sure if I cranked my voltage up and played with the base clock I could push it further, but that would be somewhat extreme and totally unnecessary for the purposes of this PC. Here's my Skyrim results!

    Skyrim Settings:

    1280x720
    Anti-Aliasing - off
    Anisopteric Filtering - 4x
    Textures - High
    Decals - High
    Radial Blur - Low
    Shadows - Low

    Subjective opinions of these graphic settings: I play with a controller about 11' away from the 32" TV. Even if I could get better performance at 1080p, I'd choose not too. At that resolution text just gets too hard to see for me. Personally, I think the game still looks pretty good. Now on my main rig with texture packs and maxed out everything it looks amazing. On the Prodigy build with integrated graphics, it still looks good. I'd say it looks far better than the console version even. The most noticeable negative aspect of these settings is the pop-in. Overall, it's decent.

    The numbers tell the true story though. My play session was about 40 minutes or so. I did the entire "Missing in Action" quest, which involved a good deal of running around Whiterun, a trek from Solitude to Northwatch keep, and culminated in a big outdoor battle that spills into a dungeon. There were a lot of characters on screen and some heavy weather/fog effects going on when outside. I finished it up with some smithing and a trip to good 'ol Belethor's general goods store to sell off the spoils.

    Stock:
    Average FPS: 45
    Lowest: 13
    Max: 65

    Overclocked:
    Average FPS: 52
    Lowest FPS: 0 (probably a loading screen or something)
    Max FPS: 65

    So it looks like I gain, on average, 7FPS from my overclock. Not bad at all. That can make the difference between playable and unplayable. That said, even at 45FPS, that's very impressive for an integrated GPU. I know the hype has somewhat come and gone for this generation of APU, but it's new to me and I have to say I'm genuinely impressed here.


    Temps

    Max Stock CPU Temp- 31c
    Max OC CPU Temp - 52c
    Stability - Rock Solid

    Even though I'm pumping a pretty substantial voltage and frequency the temps aren't getting out of hand here. This is where I had a bit of a hiccup though. My minimum CPU temp is being reported my HW monitor as 10c. That's not possible. Not sure why it's doing that, but I'm hoping the max temps are accurate.

    Overall I'd say this system performs well above my expectations. As long as I can play Skyrim on it, I'm a happy camper. Nothing like stretching out in bed, sitting back, and enjoying a quality slothful gaming session.


    Noise

    Unsurprisingly the AMD heatsink is the greatest source of noise in the case. At first it was blowing at full force 100% of the time. After digging into the ASRock UEFI BIOS I found the fan settings, which had them set to "full on." My Z68 Gen3 Extreme3 had the same setting. I'm not sure why ASRock makes them that way out of the box, but it's a simple process of setting your target CPU/Case temp and your preferred fan speed "level." I feel like this setting could be a lot more intuitive but it is what it is I guess.

    After setting it properly the case is very quiet. If I'm sitting in my room with everything off I can hear a low whirring coming from it, but my window AC unit immediatly drowns that out, as well as the sound coming from the TV. It's good in this aspect, though if I ever do get an aftermarket HSF, it'll be to reduce noise, not necessarily to push my OC.

    Overall I'm very happy with the whole build and I foresee myself getting a lot of use out of this system.:thumb:
     
    Last edited: 21 Aug 2012
  9. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    So Skryim runs like a monster but as soon as I loaded up Darksiders the whole system crashed within 30 seconds. May need to re-evaluate my OC settings.
     
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  10. Bogomip

    Bogomip ... Yo Momma

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    Nice build, I will be putting up a similar project log in the next week for my build with a prodigy. Mine looks a lot fuller though as I have an arctic freezer 13 and do not have your cable tidying skills :p
     
  11. Cei

    Cei pew pew pew

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    Wow, so much empty space in that case! I'd be shoving a proper GPU in there immediately.

    However, I love the fact that you can remove the HD bays and stick SSDs everywhere.
     
  12. Neogumbercules

    Neogumbercules What's a Dremel?

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    I might consider a video card. I'm thinking something along the lines of a 660 (non-Ti) if those ever come out. The enthusiast in me wants to put in full WC and all kinds of other expensive, totally unnecessary stuff.
     
  13. Cei

    Cei pew pew pew

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    The 660 is out, just only as an OEM part currently :(
     

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