On the test bench today we have a new compact mini-ITX case from the guys over at BitFenix. Ok… I expect to be looking at a tiny little box, with very few redeeming features of note… right?
Wrong! BitFenix have decided to tear up the mini-ITX case design manual, and have instead provided us with something that looks truly unique… the Portal.
At first glance, it looks great… but have BitFenix sacrificed usability in favour of an interesting design? Let’s find out.
|Chassis Type||ITX Chassis|
|Materials||Aluminum │SECC Steel │ABS│Transparent acrylic|
|CPU Cooler||Up to 125mm Height|
|Graphic Card Length||Up to 300mm|
|Power Supply||SFX Form Factor|
|Storage Capacity (3.5″ HDD)||2|
|Storage Capacity (2.5″ HDD)||1+2|
|Cooling Capacity (Front)||120mm x 1 (Included)|
|Cooling Capacity (Rear)||80mm x 1 (Included)|
|Radiator Capacity (Front)||Up to 120mm x 1|
|Front I/O port||USB 3.0 x 2 │ HD Audio MIC & Headphone|
|Dimensions(WxHxD)||185 x 382 x 411mm (without stand)
247 x 395 x 411mm (with stand)
|Weight||5.81kg (net)│6.98kg (gross)|
Closer Look – Exterior
As mentioned in the introduction, the BitFenix Portal is no ordinary mini-ITX case, that has no redeeming external design features. In fact, it looks like something that you would want to have on view, rather than tucked away out of sight.
Right, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way immediately shall we? This small form factor case bears more than a slight resemblance to the Sentry Turret in the game Portal… and this product is called the “Portal”… so we can guess where the inspiration came from, can’t we?
The Portal comes in either black or white variants, both with optional window. Here we have the white windowed version, and right off the bat it looks stunning. With no sharp edges in sight, the smooth outer body stands proud on its legs, elevating the main chamber up off the surface of the desk.
Black detailing wraps around the body, which also includes vented sections top & bottom, for air flow. The front remains featureless, save for a single circular power button.
Spinning the portal around 180 degrees, we get an almost mirror image, but this time we have the additional IO features embedded in the black detailing.
Taking a closer look at the IO from left to right, we have HDD indicator LED, microphone & headphone jacks, and finally two USB 3.0 ports.
Around the back to look at the rear panel, and the Portal starts to give away some of it’s internal secrets. Given the placement of the rear IO access panel, the motherboard will be inverted when fitted.
A further giveaway is the diminutive space allocation for the PSU… which means that an SFX power supply will be required.
The roof of the Portal is completely dominated by the acrylic window… unless you opt for the windowless version! Given the inverted nature of the motherboard, the GPU will be directly beneath this window once the system is built.
To complete our exterior inspection of the Portal, a peak at the underside reveals a mass of holes drilled into the steel body, to aid in ventilation.
Closer Look – Interior
To gain access to the interior chamber of the Portal, two thumbscrews at the base of the back panel need to be removed. Once done, the inner cage slides out neatly on a runner.
The front IO cables are threaded through the front of the cage, but with these removed, the inner chamber can be lifted off its runner for ease of building your system.
Pre-installed in the inner chamber is the drive cages located towards the front, underneath the pre-installed 120mm intake fan, and a 80mm rear exhaust fan.
Just before we move onto the build, just a note here on the quality of the Portal’s build and materials used… they are top notch. The steel used for the main body is nice and thick, and the execution of the design is flawless, with nice smooth, sweeping curves with not a sharp edge in sight.
Closer Look – The Build
- CPU – Intel Core i5 4690k
- Motherboard – MSI Z97I Gaming AC
- Cooler – Raijintek Aidos Black
- GPU – Asus Radeon RX460
- RAM – Kingston Hyper X DDR3
- SSD – Crucial BX100 250GB
- PSU – Kolink SFX-450
As with all mini-ITX builds, space is at an absolute premium, and the process of the build can be frustrating at times. Given the nature of the chassis, and the fact that you need to slide the main chamber back into the body, you can’t just tuck excess cables behind the motherboard, and hope for the best. The fact that I only used an SSD helped here, as the majority of the cables could be pushed into the drive cages. If you use these for HDD’s however, cable management will be more of a challenge.
I had a 120mm AIO water cooler I could have used without any issue, but I wanted to see how easy it was to fit a standard tower cooler. First off I tried the Cooler Master MasterAir 3, but that wouldn’t fit in any orientation, due to the cross brace that gives the chamber its rigidity. Before I gave up and went with the AIO, I decided to try a different 92mm cooler that I had to hand. The Raijintek Aidos Black did fit, but only if I rotated it 90 degrees, so that the copper pipe ends didn’t clash with the frame.
In the interest of space, I went with the fairly small RX460 in the GPU department. Whilst it fit without any issue, the finish build would look better with a longer card, that would fill the entire roof mounted window. If you opt for the Portal without the window, then it won’t really matter in the slightest.
Finally, just a quick observation with regards the stability of the Portal once the full build is complete… it does wheelies! With the main chamber slid out on it’s rail, there is more weight to the rear of the unit, and therefore the front feet lift up off the floor!
Other than the usual stresses that are evident when building a tiny ITX system, the Portal was a pleasure to work with. Being able to remove the whole inner chamber made the build really easy to handle, and as long as you keep in mind that all wires need to be tucked inside the frame so that nothing gets snagged when sliding it back into the body, then everything will be fine.
I’m giving the Portal top marks in the design department, as it’s nice to see a company try something different with a case. Many people will use a mini-ITX build as a HTPC, and the Portal would look stunning sat next to any home entertainment setup.
Whilst the Portal also comes in black, I personally much prefer the white, as I think the contrasting black detailing really adds to the overall effect.
The Portal isn’t cheap, coming in at £119.99 at the time of the review from Overclockers UK. However, the build quality and the materials used are top drawer, and the fact that the design of the unit as a whole is super nice, means that I would happily spend my cash on the BitFenix Portal over other mini-ITX cases.
It’s so refreshing to get to work with a PC case that isn’t just an angular box, with a few RGB led’s thrown at it. Real thought has been given to the design of the Portal, and BitFenix should be commended for giving the consumers something a little different. What’s even more impressive, is that the Portal isn’t a slave to it’s design, it also performs really well too. Therefore I have no issue whatsoever in awarding the Portal the Play3r Gold Award… good job BitFenix!
Massive thanks to OcUK for sending the BitFenix Portal WIndow in for review.
- Stunning design
- Superb build quality
- Excellent quality materials used
- Price isn't cheap