BitFenix Pandora Review. Today we examine a product I first laid eyes on, what seems like forever ago. If I remember correctly the Pandora made its debut back at Computex 2014, it’s had some changes implemented since and hit the market a few months back. The really interesting aspect about the product is choice, because not only do BitFenix offer it in two colours, but you can opt to buy it with or without a side panel window. On top of that, they offer a cheaper version dubbed “Core” that lacks the Icon display area, which is a customizable section on the front face. Without jumping ahead too much, you can literally take an image and display it on the front on the Pandora!
I’m no stranger to BitFenix products personally, but it’s our first chance to review one, The Pandora is targeted specifically at Micro-ATX users, which like Mini-ITX has seen a massive surge is choice, performance and interest. The Pandora caught my eye some time back, and it still stands as the most visually interesting Micro-ATX case I’ve ever seen.
Pricing varies from model to model, the “Core” version being the cheaper of the bunch of course. Today we’re looking at the top model, with the display and a side panel window. Pricing on the day of review is £95 but check the entire range here for a comparison.
BitFenix Pandora- Features and Specifications
Clean styling, innovative features, and exceptional build quality – Pandora represents the next level of BitFenix chassis design. The soft curved design is surrounded by luxuriously brushed Aluminum side panels that give the entire case a timelessly elegant look that melds perfectly with any modern décor. On the front of the case is another innovation dubbed BitFenix ICON™ – a programmable display that can be customized with a simple drag-and-drop interface, making it simple to personalize the look of your case whenever inspiration strikes. Despite its slim 160mm width, Pandora can accommodate high-octane hardware, such as 240mm water cooling radiators, and expansion cards up to 350mm in length. Users are able to house up to two 3.5″ HDDs or three 2.5″ SSDs, and to keep all of this hardware running cool, a direct airflow design along with smart cable management features help ensure everything runs frosty. Friendly features like pre-installed standoffs and pop-off screw less side panels help get your system up and running quickly, while magnetic dust filters allow for easy clean up.
|Materials||Aluminum, Steel, Plastic|
|Colors (Int/Ext)||Black/Black, Black/Silver|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||160 x 420 x 465|
|Motherboard Sizes||Micro ATX, Mini-ITX|
|ICON™ Display||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|
The Pandora is housed in traditional card box, with a mix of brown and black. There’s not a great deal of information to pull from the box. One side is simply the product name and large BitFenix logo, the reverse side details the difference between models. There are few options you can go for. The Pandora is available in black or silver, with our without a window or the same again choices again, in the form of a cheaper model that lacks the Icon display, so 8 options in total
Two key features are also listed here, the first being 240mm radiator support and maximum GPU length of 350mm. The two thinner sides are reserved to indicate what model is inside, and the main specs we covered earlier.
Typical packaging method here on the BitFenix Pandora with Styrofoam pads and ample plastic wrapping.
The included accessory pack might be a plain affair on the outside (simple brown box), but it’s more than ample inside. With some unexpected additions such as many, many anti- vibration washers, thumb screws, zip ties and even a BitFenix badge. An interesting extra is the velcro straps, these are a recent addition to some cases, but tend to fixed onto the actual case
The user manual is short and concise, the bulk of which includes lots of small but clear outline images, detailing features and install method.
As we always do, we’ll start our tour of the Pandora from the front and work our way around it. Out of the box the centre strip is covered in a peel back film, removing it exposes a high glossy plastic panel. While it looks sharp and eye-catching at first, I assure you it’ll be a pain to keep clean, attracting dust and fingerprint smudges. Towards the upper portion of this panel is the LCD screen, which we’ll cover in more detail later. Wrapping neatly around either side are the two side panels, once removed you can see just how much thought has been put into the actual air flow. When they’re on, you’ve given then sense that no air could surely penetrate the frame, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
The mentioned panel can be removed, but be mindful of the cabling that runs from the screen to a USB header. With the panel removed, we find 1x 120mm fan already installed, with scope to add another fan below it. This means the most common radiators are compatible, either a single 120mm, or 240mm. No luck for 280mm radiator users though, the case just isn’t wide enough. A welcome addition is the slide out dust filter, that can be also be accessed from the base of the product for maintenance.
Flipping the Pandora around to the underside, we have another dust cover over PSU mount, this time its a magnetic system. Over on the right side, there are several mounting holes for either 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives, more on that soon. To raise the product up BitFenix have fitted four feet, with a silver trim.
Turning our attention to the top now, I’m pleased to find something a little different. Rather than rely on stamped fan mounts, and a magnetic filter. BitFenix have added an entire section that can be removed, with a push-pin system.
Once removed, a further 120mm fan is found, and it looks like you could easily place another right next to it but they’ve used this space for mounting a 3.5″ hard drive instead. I like the idea of doing this, but extra holes for a 120mm fan as another option, would have been a better approach, as not everyone will even make use of the feature.
The main side (left) has an interesting window design, it’ll become more logical once we build inside. As the lowest segment is shaped to show your SSD. I have a love-hate relationship with these type of panels, and my reasons for disliking are perhaps trivial.
The brushed Aluminum panels looks fantastic, very fitting for the clean look the Pandora has. The issue is cleanliness though, they are a real problem to keep clean, both from dust and fingerprint smudges. Let’s be realistic, you shouldn’t be handling your PC often, unless you’re going a LAN. But during the build process I’d suggest approaching it with some gloves, I know that sounds ridiculous, but there only a few pounds and they will save you a headache down the line, when you’re all done and looking at the case. You don’t want it covered in smudges!
Finally to keep the clean and minimal look flowing, BitFenix have opted to use push pins on either panel, rather than screws. I found them to be just fine, after a two-week testing period (removing the panels a few times per day) to be just as tight as day one.
Finishing up our exterior tour of the Pandora at the rear. By now it ought to be apparent just how narrow the case is, but it’s really put into context when you notice the lack of a rear fan, there just isn’t any room. In its place BitFenix have fitted some ventilation, allowing hot air to expel naturally. Being a Micro ATX case, we have 5 removable, and reusable blanking plates. With the bottom mounted PSU in the floor
Time now to peek inside and first impressions are very good, despite its narrow frame the Pandora feels very roomy. Rather than stack the inside with over the top hard drive cages, Bitfenix have instead been, both realistic with what the average user needs, and generally clever with space they had to work with. As we’ll see soon
At the £80-£95 price point, I was disappointed to see no rubber grommets over the two main cable management holes, down the right side of the motherboard. Not a massive issue but before even building a system inside, I was aware that I’d be able to see cables hanging, loosely through the elegant window. No good having a crisp and sleek exterior, if the inside doesn’t match.
What’s interesting about the motherboard tray, is that’s it not flat, it actually bends towards the centre point and bevels in, and this creates extra space behind it. As I glanced around right side of the tray, I just felt as if there are too many holes. Which might sound odd, because I’d be equally annoyed if there was none but…again it’s an ultra-minimal product, and this area just seems a little messy, and frankly unnecessary. All of the front panel headers, and wiring from the fans could have gone through a single hole.
As I referenced earlier, no rear fan, but instead a ventilation point. Fans in the rear of cases do serve their purpose, but I’m not off put with the lack of one here, there a 120mm fan in the roof anyway.
Flipping around to the backside and that bevelled motherboard tray shows its benefits, on the left side there is room for cables but also an SSD. Everything you’d expect is here, such as a large CPU cut-out and even places to zip tie wires down. From this angle it looks like we have two separate chambers, but it’s not… Perhaps that’s a direction they should have taken?
Looking now at the storage options in the Pandora, a single 3.5″ can installed into the roof and as I stated earlier, it’s a really smart use of space, but isolates those who won’t use it. Me, I’d be drilling some holes for another 120mm fan instead.
The next point for storage is on the mini shroud, a drive can installed vertically and looks great, through the side panel window.
Directly behind that same panel, in the floor. The case has holes drilled for either another 3.5″ drive, or SSD.
The final spot is in the recess area of the motherboard tray. (2.5″ only)
The build inside the Pandora was mostly a nice experience, I’ve already listed a few areas that aren’t quite to my liking, but once I began building it all started to line up nicely. One area that may be frustrating is the access for thumbscrews, holding down the PCIe slots covers. BitFenix provide a hex tool, but even with that, it is fiddly.
You’ll have to use your imagination somewhat however, as I only had Mini-ITX hardware to hand on the day. So keep in mind a Micro board is both longer and wider.
The picture of the internals do all the talking here, and I’ve no cause for concern. I mentioned earlier the lack of grommets on the main cable routing holes, yet there are two on the SSD bracket below, these were a real benefit for managing the GPU power cables.
Talking of GPU’s consider the width here of just 160mm, because our test card was a struggle to fit. It does have a watercooling block on their, but that does add to the product depth. Some more recent cards like the ASUS STRIX which have custom coolers might not even fit inside the Pandora
The other side however is where things become troublesome, without literally no space behind the motherboard tray and side panel, routing wires and actually being able to close the panel is difficult. You’ll need to use a modular PSU as we did, ideally a complementing BitFenix one, would be a smart move. As the cables on those are extremely flexible and versatile. Being fully modular you’re in control and will only use what you need. The SSD bracket area, is a prime to spot to bundle up any extra wiring, or around in the bevelled section of the motherboard tray.
Its’ neither easy nor impossible, it’s just takes some extra time and planning to make it work.
I must stress that the particular motherboard we used, is possibly the worst around. What I mean is the scattered and unorthodox port locations, and this almost paints the case in a bad way. Any other Micro-ATX board would be look considerably better, my only suggestion would be another hole above the CPU cut-out, but if you’re creative enough you can make it work for fan cables and such.
As the “BitFenix ICON Programmable Display” is nothing more than executable file, on which you literally drag your image onto from your desktop. There is nothing to really say other than it works… Hopefully somewhere down the line Bitfenix offer something with a GUI.
I remember vividly, reading all of the media and looking at the screenshots way back when this product was shown for the first time. I was genuinely excited by it and to be brutally honest now it’s here in front of me, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. Let me be clear, it’s a good product, actually it’s really good product but…I just feel like it could have been better
The whole design is about being minimal, sleek and clean. In the flesh sort of speak, The Pandora is that but there are a few areas where it just doesn’t feel right. The exterior is amazing, I have no concerns at all. Other than what I stated about the material choice. It’s possibly the nicest looking Micro-ATX on the market. It’s inside where it’s gone a bit wrong. The areas I feel are weaker, are just my thoughts and depending on your needs, not likely an issue for you. For example the 3.5″ drive in the roof, but no holes for users that would prefer 2x120mm fans instead. It’s trivial and really not that big of a deal, it’s not like you fit a 240mm radiator up their either. Theirs more than enough room in front for that! The real issue is the one that’s out of sight. Around the back, even with the extra space Bitfenix have gained with a bevelled motherboard tray, managing cables is tough. You’ll find yourself putting cables into places, you’d rather not just to close the side panel
Going forward I’ve nothing but praise for the Pandora because there’s just so much on offer, inside this tiny compartment. Dr Who fans will understand what I mean, when I say it’s bigger on the inside. Above all, what I appreciate the most is clever use of other areas, rather than cram a tall hard cage inside and consume the Pandora. You could go as far as installing 3x SSD’s and even a 3.5″ drive in the roof, with no comprise at all.
I know I’ve already said, but I’ll say it again for good measure. Visually the Pandora is right up there as one of my favourite’s case I’ve reviewed to date. Specific to this particular model is the Icon display, which just adds so much, for being such small addition to the product. Some users might see it as a novelty and a bit gimmicky, and I get that. The real benefit for me, it’s being able to change the internals inside my pc, say CPU or GPU, and just match a new image with no issue.
So then, not perfect, but despite these small niggles, if you’re looking for something clean and sleek for a Micro-ATX build. The Pandora should be top of your list, for a case to consider. Who knows what Bitfenix has planned for us next, Me, I’m hoping for an ATX version…
We would like to thank BitFenix for providing the sample, and we look forward to seeing more from them, in the near future!