BitFenix Pandora Micro-ATX Enclosure Review: Style and Substance
Introduction, Specs, and First Impressions
BitFenix has been making enclosures for the PC market since 2010 (with the massive Colossus E-ATX case), and came to prominence a couple of years later with the introduction of the Prodigy enclosure. While the company has expanded to produce power supplies and peripherals they are still primarily a case manufacturer, as evidenced by the now 31 different models on their product page. Not content to iterate on their existing designs, BitFenix has consistently introduced new chassis ideas for different form-factors and needs.
We reviewed the Colossus Micro-ATX case back in March, and it is again an enclosure built for the venerable micro-ATX form-factor that we’re looking at here. Quite the opposite of the Colossus Micro-ATX's squat design, the Pandora is smooth and very slim.
In the world of computer cases there are many variations, but they are mostly boxes with splashes of style and the occasional window. Companies like In Win are at the opposite end of the spectrum, but the design choices for a case with commitment to artistic intent often entail a considerable price tag, and In Win consistently prices itself out of the mainstream market. So what about the middle ground? Enter the BitFenix Pandora. It boasts eye-catching looks, a slim design that seems even more so given the curved panels, and even has a color LCD screen that can be programmed with the image file of your choice!
The Pandora features a programmable color LCD display, to which I affixed this incredible logo
I don’t want to dissolve into meaningless superlatives, but the Pandora is a striking design. When it was shown at Computex earlier in 2014 it was listed as a mini-ITX enclosure, and while it definitely supports mini-ITX motherboards it is the final product’s micro-ATX support that we focus on in this review. And while it would have been large as a mini-ITX enclosure the Pandora is fairly small as an mini-ATX case, most notably due to that slim profile. This comes at a price, as there won’t be as much room for storage with such a narrow width (and those looking for any optical drive support must look elsewhere). And speaking of price, while the "core" version of the case starts at around $110, this version with programmable display is currently selling for just under $160. Steep, but not outrageous either.
Before we take a closer look at the case, here are the full specs from BitFenix for your reference:
Materials: Aluminum, Steel, Plastic
Colors (Int/Ext): Black/Black, Black/Silver
Dimensions (WxHxD): 160 x 420 x 465
Motherboard Sizes: Micro ATX, Mini-ITX
LCD: 2.4" TFT, 240 x 320
3.5” Drive Bays: x 2
2.5” Drive Bays: x 3
Cooling (Top): 120mm x 1 (included)
Cooling (Front): 120mm x 2 (1 included)
PCI Slots: x 5
I/O: USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply: PS2 ATX, up to 180mm in length
Extras: Brushed Aluminum Side Panels, BitFenix ICON Programmable Display, Cable Management
Our thanks to BitFenix for supplying the case for this review!
Packaging and Contents
There’s nothing unusual about the box that the Pandora arrives in, to be sure.
Dare we open Pandora's box?
Inside we have the customary dense foam, and the case is covered with a plastic bag to protect it from scratches.
The hardware packet includes the case screws (unfortunately all combined into a single bag), a couple of velcro bands to help organize cables, and a metal logo (because stuff).
Also included is an informative instruction booklet that collects finger marks like crazy and never lets them go.
A look around the BitFenix Pandora
Ok, so now to the case itself. First of all, it’s light. I didn’t expect it to be this light based on the size, but the side panels are aluminum and this really helps keep the overall weight down.
Looking at the front of the case you might notice the reflection of my tripod, as this black plastic panel is really shiny. Nice contrast with the silver panels in this color scheme (though this case is also available in all black). The case is also quite narrow at only 160mm (6.30 inches) wide.
The I/O is centered along the top and follows the curve of the case
The panels wrap around the front a couple of inches each as you can see, which creates a unique look. The sides of this unit are solid aluminum, and a windowed version is also offered by BitFenix.
Hard to tell here, but we’re looking at a case that’s 420mm (16.5”) tall and 465mm (18.3”) wide
Around back there is another aluminum panel which completes the rounded style of the enclosure, wrapping around at the top and bottom and creating a symmetrical overall look.
Finally, both the top and bottom of the enclosure feature removable filters. Here we see that top of the Pandora is removed in one piece (this is done by pressing one side down, which releases a spring closure) allowing the foam-lined metal mesh to be cleaned.
The bottom of the case has four short feet which barely lift the case above the table, and it appears to be sitting directly on the desk (though perhaps a millimeter above it).
A nice touch here with a magnetic filter over the power supply air intake
Next we’ll look at the interior of this case and install the system components!