Today I’ll be reviewing a slim computer case from BitFenix and its called the Pandora. Bitfenix Pandora was showcased in Computex 2014 where it supports mini-ITX motherboard. Upon launching worldwide, it now supports both mini-ITX and MATX motherboard. The goal of BitFenix Pandora is to create a compact case which is capable of hosting long graphic cards, provides sufficient drive capacity for RAID/SSD users, allows implementation of dual 120mm water cooler, fully dust proof without sacrificing adequate airflow and has sufficient cable management room to work with.
Pandora comes in multiple versions based on 3 aspects: color (black/silver), side-panel (window/solid), BitFenix Icon Display (included/not-included). To simplify the selection process, BitFenix Pandora offers 4 options; each option can be either Silver/Black casing color; Core refers to excluding the premium BitFenix Icon Display.
2) Pandora Window
3) Pandora Core
4) Pandora Core Window
The SRP (Suggested Retail Price) for the Pandora Window is RM479 while the other models are currently not available in Malaysia. I believe that the Pandora Core model will cost less expensive when it arrives locally. Here is a price comparison in USA for both model: Pandora Window $139 USD, Pandora Core $109 USD. Before diving into the review, lets take a look at BitFenix Pandora chassis specifications listed below:
Materials: Aluminum, Steel, Plastic
Colors (Internal/External): Black/Black, Black/Silver
Dimensions (WxHxD): 160 x 420 x 465
Motherboard Sizes: Micro ATX, Mini-ITX
LCD 2.4″ TFT Resolution (Pixels): 240 x 320
3.5” Drive Bays: 2
2.5” Drive Bays: 3
Cooling Top: 120mm 120mm x 1 (1 included)
Cooling Front: 120mm x 2 (1 included)
PCI Slots: 5
I/O: USB 3.0 x 2, HD Audio
Power Supply: PS ATX Up to 180mm in length
1. BitFenix ICON Programmable Display
2. Brushed Aluminum Side Panels
3. Slim Design
4. Top, Front and Bottom Dust Filters
5. Supports 240mm Radiators
6. Supports Long Graphic Card up to 350mm.
7. Optional Window Side Panel
8. Cable Management Accessories
BitFenix Related Products
The front of the box displays Bifenix logo accompanied with the computer case name “Pandora”. On the right side, it lists the specifications of the computer case. The left side displays the 4 options (Pandora, Pandora Window, Pandora Core, Pandora Core Window). The rear displays a brief feature overview. The chassis is protected with 2 hard foams (top and bottom) and a large thick plastic bag. Unwrapping the plastic bag reveals additional plastic protecting the window side panel and the front panel to prevent scratches on the screen.
The accessories are packed in a smaller box and extracting the contents reveals 2 Velcro cable strap, 5 zip ties, 1 Aluminium BitFenix Logo, 1 x 3mm Hex Key (aka Allen Key) and a plastic-bag filled with mixed screws.
The air-tight plastic bag contains:
1. 18 x Standard Screw M3*5mm Round for 2.5” SSD and Motherboard Tray.
2. 1 x Motherboard Standoff for Motherboard.
3. 2 x M3 Thumbscrews for PCI Slot.
4. 6 x 6mm Round Standard Screw for 3.5” HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
5. 4 x 6-32 Hex Standard Screw for PSU (Power Supply Unit)
6. 11 x Anti-Vibration Rubber Kit for HDD and SSD.
BitFenix Pandora Top Panel
Looking at the top, you can find the I/O Control Panel (Input and Output Interface). Starting from the left to right, you will find a Power Button (with Power LED), 1 Headphone Jack, 1 Microphone Jack, 2 Super Speed USB 3.0 ports and Reset Button (with HDD LED). Both audio jacks does not have any symbols, which was confusing at first. Luckily, it was described in the user-manual. The top is equipped with a tool-less removable dust filter which you will press on both left-top and left-bottom corner of the filter to unlatch it. Removing the dust filter reveals 1 x 120mm BitFenix Fan and a slot to place a HDD.
Taking a closer look at the top panel, you can see the top panel exterior is made of circular black mesh with hexagon plastic sandwiching the thin black foam dust filter. This type of dust filter is capable of preventing dust from getting in but it is difficult to clean with pressurized air. If it was washed with running water, it’ll take a long time to dry the soaked foam. Even though there is ample space near the I/O Control Panel, it is not possible to equip a secondary 120mm fan as there isn’t any mounting option for fan but for hard disk only.
The BitFenix Pandora comes equipped with 2 x 120mm Brushless DC Fan, one for the top and the other for the front panel. Running the fan at 12V is very quiet and delivers air pressure somewhat between running your car at 30km/h with your hands placed out of the window. Do take note that this fan is close-corner type and threading screws in it requires much more effort compared to open-corner fan. The fan’s cable length is approximately 20 inches.
Bifenix Pandora Front Panel
The front panel looks minimalistic and classy with reflective black plastic panel flanked by curvy aluminum side-panels. The surface of the front panel easily attracts dust especially fabric fibers but it’s easy to clean with a silky cloth or paper towel. Removing both side panel reveals the front rectangular air-intake outlet.
The front is equipped with a magnetic dust filter. This method makes it very convenient to insert and remove dust filter especially the longer ones compared to sliding them into rails. Removing the dust filter exposes the unrestricted front air intake that supports 2 x 120mm fan mounts. The front fan mounting uses a rail system. The front has 1 pre-installed 120mm BitFenix Brushless DC fan. The front supports 240mm liquid CPU cooler either push or pull configuration but not both push-pull as there isn’t sufficient space unless you do not plan to install any HDD/SSD at the bottom but relocate them to the top and behind the motherboard.
A closer examination on the dust filter shows that it uses plastic-threaded instead of foam to block dust particles. It’s held with glue on all sides but somehow my filter has some part loosen. This can be fixed by applying “All Purpose 3 sec Super Adhesive Glue” which can be purchased from DIY store. The dust filter is restrictive as it uses plastic hexagon mesh and I would prefer the same design that they have implemented for their bottom dust filter which is using the large square design.
BitFenix Pandora Side Panel
Taking a look at the side panels, it has brushed-aluminum appearance for both sides. The windowed side-panel isn’t square-shaped but has a little small square cut-out close at the bottom to showcase your SSD if you are planning to install 1. On the other side, its basically a solid side-panel. It seems that these panels easily collect finger prints. Therefore, you might want to wear gloves or just wash your hands with soap before handling them. The side panels are very durable and solid. It does not flex at all when removing or placing it back onto the case.
The side panels use ball-knob tool-less mounting system where it hooks to the 4 parts of the cases. It’s very convenient having to insert and remove the side panels without the need of a screwdriver and less worries of having missing thumbscrew screws. After handling the Pandora case for few times, I noticed that it is difficult to insert and remove the side panels when the case is in a standing state. You will need to place them side flat, removing the windowed side-panel first followed by the solid side-panel to avoid unwanted scratches to the window screen. It would be a little bit difficult to do so especially when the case is loaded with heavy computer components (e.g. graphic card, power supply, CPU heatsink, hard disks)
To remove each of the side panel, place the case flat on its side, the thumb rest on the non-removable curve rear and the other 4 fingers gripping the bottom and top of the panel. Gently push the side-panel outwards using the both thumbs starting from the rear and do the same for the front.
BitFenix Pandora Bottom
At the bottom of the Pandora case, you can find a magnetic dust filter covering the power supply air intake, 4 chrome feet with anti-slip rubber pads and a HDD/SSD mounting area. One of the anti-slip rubber pads was a little shorter than the rest, thererfore, it made the case slightly wobbly when its loaded with computer components.
The dust filter uses square pillars to support the threaded-filter instead of hexagon pillars which is found in the front panel dust filter. The screw holes seem rather large because you will need to manually add the anti-vibration grommets before securing the SSD/HDD with the provided screws.
BitFenix Pandora Rear
Looking at the rear of the Pandora case, we can find 5 PCI-E slots and no fan mounting option with a plastic cover hiding the thumbscrews. Do note that these thumbscrews cannot be unloosened with regular Philip screw drivers but only with a Hex-key which is provided in the accessories. The case does not support any fan mounting here as what we see can see in most common PC cases that allows users to mount a 120mm fan. Based on my measurement, Bitfenix Pandora rear could make use of that space to equip a single 80mm fan.
BitFenix Pandora hides the case feet from view by using large side panels spanning to the bottom and having the rear with curvy metal so it looks aesthetically pleasant to seen, but it has given me somewhat an inconvenient experience. When moving and carrying the case around, I found the extra curvy metal on the rear blocks my fingers from accessing the bottom of the case to be carried up. The curvy metals on the rear will obstruct large screwdrivers when screwing the screws for the power supply and also during securing the graphic cards. Taking a look into the power supply chamber, its supported with 4 elevated mini feet padded with rubber to absorb the vibration from the power supply.
The Pandora motherboard section has pre-installed motherboard screws and this saves some time in installing the motherboard. This case does not support any ODD (Optical Disk Drive), that’s one the reason why it has a large unused space at the top right corner. There aren’t any rubber grommets covering the holes of the motherboard except for the drive cage side. The case supports up to 350mm long graphic card, which is practically compatible with all graphic card in the market. At the rear side of the motherboard, there is only 10mm space on the left side whereas the right-side practically has no space to fit in the power supply cables especially the 4-pin or 8-pin ATX 12V (aka P4 Connector) without having the side-panel bulging out a little. However, this can be solved by routing the P4 Connector in front of the motherboard.
The motherboard has a large cutout section measuring 140mm x 125mm width and height. This allows you to install third-party custom water and air coolers for the CPU without any issues..
BitFenix Pandora Drive Slots
The Pandora case provides 2 areas to mount your HDD (Hard Disk Drive): one at the top and the other at the bottom. Placing the HDD at the top will require you to route the SATA and Power Cables to the top and this means air-flow will be slightly obstructed by those cables. I noticed there isn’t much gap between the case bottom and the HDD. Running hard disk passively cool will be risky especially a high performance hard disk such as Western Digital Black Caviar will easily overheat it unless a secondary fan is installed in the front to draw cool fresh air in to chill the hard disk. The large area above the bottom HDD allows users to hide their power supply cables inside there. I would recommend users to get a semi/fully modular power supply if they plan to purchase this compact case.
The Pandora case also provides 3 mounting areas for SSD (Solid State Drive): one behind the motherboard, one near the windowed side-panel and the other is the same slot as the HDD at the bottom. Do take note that all of the HDD and SSD requires you to install the anti-rubber grommet first before screwing in as the screw hole’s diameter is larger than the screw themselves.
BitFenix Icon Display
The very last piece before we conclude is the BitFenix ICON Programmable Display. It is a front panel display that connects via the motherboard USB header. It is capable of showing JPG and PNG images (240 x 320 pixel resolution; 3:4 aspect ratio) that you drag and drop to the software. The software does not display time nor any animation but just static image. The software can be downloaded at Bitfenix Pandora Support.
The front panel plastic provides a place to mount the ICON display. If your display isn’t working, you can contact BitFenix for support as some reviewers have experienced with faulty ICON display.
Here is a closer examination of the BitFenix ICON display electronics.
Below are several 240×320 images that I created using photoshop and loaded via the BitFenix ICON display software to showcase on the TFT display. The color production is similar to a non-IPS monitor. The first 2 are “StoreKini” and “Lowyat.net”
Here is another image (anime) in all-blue color. I noticed that using a low quality image, TFT display can show the pixelated images easily. The light projected from the display isn’t glaring.
Here is an image of a person smiling. The color production is splendid, does not have any washed out colors. This can easily be seen from the photo snapped at the close-up tilted 45 degree angle.
BitFenix Pandora is one of the thinnest premium case in the market and it is capable of housing all of the large computer components such as the power supply and graphic card easily. However, Bitfenix Pandora can certainly perform better with minor tweaks here and there based on the consumer feedback to make the case more practical during handling and performing cleaning maintenance. For users who are looking for a compact case that can fit on their small desk, and also being light-weight for portability purposes, supports a smaller ATX motherboard (ITX / MATX), looks elegant for house/office usage and does not use more than 4 drives, you can add BitFenix Pandora into your computer case consideration list.
Pros and Cons
- One of the thinnest premium case in the market which is capable of mini-ITX (ITX) and micro-ATX (MATX) motherboard.
- Tool-less design. No screws required to secure side and top panels and both front-bottom dust filters.
- Elegant brushed-aluminum design and pleasant looking compact design allows to be placed in tight areas especially small tables.
- The BitFenix ICON display allows users to display their company logo.
- Easy to understand user manual as it comes with picture to describe how to use the case.
- Lots of choices (windowed/non-windowed ) side panel, different external case color options and provides less expensive price tag such as Pandora Core.
- Lack of removable drive caddies to install SSD/HDD on it for easier installation of drives.
- Front dust filter is too restrictive. Could use a square pattern similarly to the filter found on the bottom.
- Short case feet (10mm) risk choking the air intake for the power supply. Not advisable to be placed on carpet floor.
- Flimsy power and reset buttons which is only stabilized in the center but not on the sides as how its design in large keyboard buttons (e.g. spacebar)
- Lack of space behind the motherboard, therefore routing the P4 Connector from behind instead of the front will cause bulging to the side panel.
- Difficult to open/close side panels unless the case place flat on its side.
- Side panels cover the feet from view, difficult to place fingers below it to carry up.
- Possibility of side panel scratching the table/floor when try to move it by pushing without carrying it because the anti-slip pad will be compressed when the case is loaded.
- Lacks of ODD (Optical Disk Drive)
- Difficult to screw the graphic card and power supply.
- The top dust filter easily unlatches when slight pressure is applied. This usually occurs when flipping the case around.
- The screw in the accessories are placed all in 1 bag, will be cause some hassle to the users to sort them out before using them.
- The BitFenix ICON display is limited to displaying small static images, no animation nor dynamic values such as clock/time/e-mail received etc.
- Side panels easily attract finger prints and cloth fibers.
p.s. I would like to give a big thanks to Bitfenix Malaysia for providing me the opportunity to review this PC case!