Bitfenix Portal Mini ITX Case Review

Bitfenix launches yet another case with an eye catching design, although this time it's aimed at the HTPC market. Let's see if its performance can match its looks.

*Without Stand

**Each 3.5" Drive slot can hold an additional 2.5" drive

Fresh off the drawing board, Bitfenix’s latest case—Portal—looks to bring all the benefits of a tower case to the HTPC market, without the brick-like look that usually accompanies such a form factor. With its smooth curves and clean cut lines, we’d say that the Portal does a reasonable job achieving this goal and would probably blend in well enough in most environments, be it on a desk next to a monitor or sitting beside a TV in an entertainment center.

Although it's purpose built as an HTPC case, Bitfenix does go out of its way to mention that the Portal can also be used as a gaming case, with plenty of room to fit full size graphics cards and even a compact AIO cooler. With that in mind, can it still stand up to our gaming oriented test suite? 

The Portal design is smooth, with not a single sharp corner to be found anywhere on the exterior. Up top you’ll find a clear acrylic window, which, when combined with the upside down orientation of the motherboard, offers up a view of your graphics card and a small glimpse of the rest of the case’s inner workings. If you’re seeking a more minimalist look, or if windows just aren’t your thing, the Portal is also available without a window. Furthermore, both versions of the case are also available in a white paint job if black also isn’t your thing. Finally, if you’re short on space, the stand is also removable, though we’re not sure what good that’ll do, considering the bottom of the case isn’t flat and it can’t stand up on its own.

Further examination of the case reveals a front mounted power button/power light, and for those who like their case next to a monitor on the left side of a desk, there's a set of I/O ports and hard drive activity light on the right. The I/O port offering on the Portal meets typical expectations for a Mini-ITX case, with a pair of USB 3.0 ports and the usual set of audio jacks.

On the rear of the case we find an upside down mounting configuration for the motherboard as well as a cutout for an SFX power supply. In the cooling department, there’s mounting room for one 80mm cooling fan. Yes, you read that right. Even though on first glance it looks like there might be room for an extra 80mm cooling fan below the first one, there actually isn’t quite enough room. In what seems to be odd design choice, the second pair of holes on bottom and the extra space seem to be for nothing more than extra room for airflow and perhaps an alternate mounting position for the included exhaust fan.

By now, some of you have probably noticed that there doesn’t seem to be any obvious way of accessing the inside of the case for hardware installation. As it turns out, the pair of thumbscrews at the bottom of the case happen to hold the answer.

In an interesting bit of engineering, Bitfenix has chosen an unusual way of letting you access the inside of the case without the use of removable side panels. After removing the pair of thumbscrews you see in the previous photo, the entire back end of the Portal, along with the internal structure, slides out of the back of the case along a built-in rail. Though slide-out motherboard trays used to be "the thing" back in the early 2000s, they’ve almost completely faded away since then. Furthermore, in almost all of the old case designs, it was usually only the motherboard tray and back panel that slid out, whereas here literally everything inside the case comes out as one complete unit.

For those who may be curious, here’s a shot of the case once the slide out portion has been fully removed.

Examining the case’s internal structure reveals a generous cutout in the motherboard tray as well as a removable bracket for mounting 2.5” hard drives/SSDs.

Meanwhile, the front reveals two removable 3.5” hard drive trays, which may be used to mount 2.5” drives and also include rubber spacers to help isolate mechanical drive vibration. As an extra bonus it’s worth noting that unlike some other cases, the drive holders in the Portal are made of metal and are not prone to having the front clips fail like their cheaper plastic counterparts.

Finally, there’s also a mounting bracket for a 120mm cooling fan, or a 120mm AIO cooler, which we'd recommend if you’re going to use this as a gaming case.

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  • Johan Kryger Haglert
    That was one ugly case.
    Is it supposed to look like the auto-turrets?
    Looks like something which could a case for a future Amiga when we had the Amiga Walker case:
    http://pre12.deviantart.net/f643/th/pre/f/2014/040/3/f/remake_of_the_amiga_walker_prototype_ad_by_zgodzinski-d75qfyz.jpg
    http://www.blachford.info/computer/walker/front_page/S_Walker.jpg
    Maybe even the Amiga MMC:
    http://www.vincentperkins.com/AmigaNG/images/MCC/amcc13.jpg
    http://web.tiscali.it/amigabrain/Redazione/amigaMCC.jpg :(:(:(
    So ugly. Why did this make it into a real product?
    -4
  • Rusticovertones
    I completely disagree with everything you just posted Johan. It might not be for everyone, but what is? It made it as a real product because there are people who will buy it. I Already ordered one. Love the unique design, love the layout and pull out frame. It's rare we see anything but a box frame for custom builds.

    Can't wait to build in it.
    6
  • Kunra Zether
    I'm not really liking this design. I see alot of air flow restriction. I hope you could fit some aio coolers in this because I don't see how you can expect to get all that hot air out with the lack of venting and just one 80mm exhaust fan. There should be vent slots along the sides of the case to help the hot air get out. I do like the railing system, makes the build so much easier in cases like this. What I don't understand is what this case is being marketed for. It's too bulky and obtrusive imo to be used as an htpc in your living room. I mean if I want something for the living room I want it to be able to blend in.. it would be better if you could lay it flat and slide it into your entertainment center... Even if you could thoughs USBs on the side would make it real fun to have to keep sliding it in and out to plug in device even if the could fit. As for using it as a desktop PC I just don't see the point unless you just like the uniqueness of it's looks I suppose. I'm more partial to excution then to form and I feel that there are cases that sell for much cheaper and preform alot better and also lend themselves to customization as a bonus. It also doesn't seem very portable either; at least not without having to put it in some type of carrying case or something so it doesn't fall over.

    Imo if a case breaks the $75 mark because there are alot of great cases under that line it better be bringing something truly special that makes me say wow to earn that price.

    I would personally like to see more cases being designed for gaming in the living room on the big screen because I feel that this is a part of the market that's just going to keep growing.
    -1
  • ubercake
    I like this case. It would be better if the stand didn't extend the width of the case to mini-tower proportions.

    Looking at the temps in the review, I would not build a system with this case where I would want to experiment with overclocking (I really don't think that's the intent of the mini-ITX platform). This is for a straight-up stock build.
    1
  • dstarr3
    I'm going to have to agree that this case is pretty ugly. I appreciate that they want to make rounder cases, because the PC case market is full of many, many box-shapes, but... well, just being round doesn't propel this up above the better-looking boxes.
    1
  • Giroro
    Is that back vent meant for something like a corsair hydro series H5 SF?
    0
  • gotzutech
    It's realy nice device..it's real product beacause there are people who will buy it..
    0
  • Kunra Zether
    I like how people downvote comments up hear without even giving a reply as to why they disagree with said comment...

    Ubercake my Cooler Master elite 130 mini ITX case begs to differ with mini-itx lending it's self to OC. Got an I5 6500 oc through blck to 4.0 atm can push it to 4.5 if I wanted utilizing my H60 in it's push/pull configuration. Got a GTX 1070 Asus strixs oc to boot. If there's a will there's a way. If gamer can oc.. were gonna oc
    1
  • palladin9479
    I like the concept and the look would go well in my own Home Theater environment. I use a lot of black metal and glass for a modern look and this would fit perfectly with that.

    Also a note about HTPC's, the vast majority of people doing them aren't playing heavy games on them nor are overclocking nor care about "performance". HTPC's are primary about aesthetics and noise control because the environment they exist in, the living room / entertainment / media room, is an environment meant to entertain guests or escape reality. Nothing breaks immersion more when your watching a film and hear your HTPC's fans spinning loudly to cool the overclocked components, or when your guests are sitting in the room having beers and they comment on why there is a loud whining sound in the background.

    The 1070 seems extremely overkill in a HTPC, something like a 1050Ti would be more then enough. Hell my HTPC is using the AMD A8-7650K with DDR3-2133 and it's great for what its meant to do. High end gaming is done in the computer room where my beast lives, not in the media room.

    Here is what I'm currently using

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA2F84D68845

    This is their newer version, extremely small but looks great.

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108485&cm_re=Chopin-_-11-108-485-_-Product

    No way in hell your getting a dGPU into that case so definitely not a "gaming PC".
    -1
  • Kunra Zether
    Anonymous said:
    I like the concept and the look would go well in my own Home Theater environment. I use a lot of black metal and glass for a modern look and this would fit perfectly with that.

    Also a note about HTPC's, the vast majority of people doing them aren't playing heavy games on them nor are overclocking nor care about "performance". HTPC's are primary about aesthetics and noise control because the environment they exist in, the living room / entertainment / media room, is an environment meant to entertain guests or escape reality. Nothing breaks immersion more when your watching a film and hear your HTPC's fans spinning loudly to cool the overclocked components, or when your guests are sitting in the room having beers and they comment on why there is a loud whining sound in the background.

    The 1070 seems extremely overkill in a HTPC, something like a 1050Ti would be more then enough. Hell my HTPC is using the AMD A8-7650K with DDR3-2133 and it's great for what its meant to do. High end gaming is done in the computer room where my beast lives, not in the media room.

    Here is what I'm currently using

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA2F84D68845

    This is their newer version, extremely small but looks great.

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108485&cm_re=Chopin-_-11-108-485-_-Product

    No way in hell your getting a dGPU into that case so definitely not a "gaming PC".


    Why would the 1070 be over kill maybe for you but for me it's necessary. Especially on a 60" 4k tv. Now you do know that you can set up multiple bios on a Mobo and GPU so that you can run them quietly when necessary and then put them on the OC bios when its needed all it takes is about 10 additional seconds to do so. Also not everyone likes gaming to be a secluded affair. I like to be with my family when I game usually me on the tv while my wife is on her laptop next to me. No one should ever assume that everyone else's situation/needs or wants are the same as their own and apply that to everyone. If you do some fact checking you'll notice that PC gaming in the living room space is a growing market and could become a major segment for PC growth in the future. Steam realized that, that's why they made a steam machine. I mean look at today's councils they are basically PC's running custom operating systems.

    As a side note on this case. My wife would flip if I tried to put that thing in our living room unless I could hide it somewhere lol.

    This is all my own personal opinion and is not a generalization towards others or other groups who may be so offended by said opinions
    0
  • Brian_R170
    Props to Bitfenix for making a case that's got some style, but since this is supposed to be an HTPC case I'm curious if the style is one that many people would actually put in their living room. For an HTPC, I personally go for small, quiet, and inconspicuous, and this case wouldn't make the short list. Did HTPCs become centerpoints of living room styling and I missed the trend?
    1
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    I can't tell from the review. When you "slide out" the system, are the case cables (leds, pwr/reset switches, USB/audio, etc.) long enough to actually allow the case to be pulled out enough to swap something like memory? Or are they the same length as ones in a normal ITX case? I would hate it if I wanted to pull out the system just to add memory and all of the cables pulled off of my motherboard.

    Also, can you lay this case down on its side horizontally? Or does that restrict its already limited cooling?
    0
  • cmiconi
    Anonymous said:
    I can't tell from the review. When you "slide out" the system, are the case cables (leds, pwr/reset switches, USB/audio, etc.) long enough to actually allow the case to be pulled out enough to swap something like memory? Or are they the same length as ones in a normal ITX case? I would hate it if I wanted to pull out the system just to add memory and all of the cables pulled off of my motherboard.

    Also, can you lay this case down on its side horizontally? Or does that restrict its already limited cooling?


    I don't have measurements at the moment, but the cables in this case are quite long. You can pull the inside tray out all of the way and still have a couple inches of slack.
    0
  • cmiconi
    Anonymous said:
    I like the concept and the look would go well in my own Home Theater environment. I use a lot of black metal and glass for a modern look and this would fit perfectly with that.

    Also a note about HTPC's, the vast majority of people doing them aren't playing heavy games on them nor are overclocking nor care about "performance". HTPC's are primary about aesthetics and noise control because the environment they exist in, the living room / entertainment / media room, is an environment meant to entertain guests or escape reality. Nothing breaks immersion more when your watching a film and hear your HTPC's fans spinning loudly to cool the overclocked components, or when your guests are sitting in the room having beers and they comment on why there is a loud whining sound in the background.

    The 1070 seems extremely overkill in a HTPC, something like a 1050Ti would be more then enough. Hell my HTPC is using the AMD A8-7650K with DDR3-2133 and it's great for what its meant to do. High end gaming is done in the computer room where my beast lives, not in the media room.

    Here is what I'm currently using

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA2F84D68845

    This is their newer version, extremely small but looks great.

    https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108485&cm_re=Chopin-_-11-108-485-_-Product

    No way in hell your getting a dGPU into that case so definitely not a "gaming PC".


    Arguments aside about what equipment may or may not be appropriate for use in a HTPC, we use the same hardware for every case we test unless there is a specific incompatibility that prohibits it. We do this because it allows us to maintain a consistent baseline from which to assess the performance of the products we test.
    0
  • WhyAreYou
    Nice review, looks cool
    0
  • Rheotome
    I just have to say that this case reminds me of a vacuum cleaner, more or less.
    0
  • Questors
    "Though slide-out motherboard trays used to be "the thing" back in the early 2000s, they’ve almost completely faded away since then."

    We uncool kids don’t really give a flip about those of you have no idea the benefits of a design or feature while you dismiss it. Your lack of vision is obvious.

    Cases today are cheap and flimsy compared to cases of years ago. The slide-out MB tray was not simply for flash-in-the-pan fad followers. I used them in the mid 1980s, so they were around before that and well before your claimed "the thing" statement.

    It is a good idea that could use more practice today. These tinfoil and plastic cases being marketed these days to those who don't know better are heinously over priced and flex like saplings in a strong wind. Saplings are supposed to flex, metal PC cases are not.

    One can't count on the MB CPU access cut-outs on case mounting plates to match up. I have a highly acclaimed Fractal Design and a BitFenix chassis, recent models, and they both have this very issue. I hate both of them. Take any panel off and the case turns to jelly. An elementary school kid could make better in metal shop. They also take up too much space in the closet.

    The removable MB tray is immensely more useful than a hole cut in a plate (that also reduces case rigidity). Cases with easily removable MB trays are easier to work on, can be easier to mod without having to remove a bunch of rivets and the tray can be converted to a test bench with ease.

    I am not, nor have I ever been a "cool kid" or fad follower, so I will keep the sliding motherboard trays, unplug a few cables and have incomparable access to the inside of the case and the components mounted on the uncool removable tray.

    Thank goodness for CaseLabs! I can still buy quality metal cases instead of this garbage being tossed out of the cheap-maker factories of today.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    "Though slide-out motherboard trays used to be "the thing" back in the early 2000s, they’ve almost completely faded away since then."

    We uncool kids don’t really give a flip about those of you have no idea the benefits of a design or feature while you dismiss it. Your lack of vision is obvious.

    Cases today are cheap and flimsy compared to cases of years ago. The slide-out MB tray was not simply for flash-in-the-pan fad followers. I used them in the mid 1980s, so they were around before that and well before your claimed "the thing" statement.

    It is a good idea that could use more practice today. These tinfoil and plastic cases being marketed these days to those who don't know better are heinously over priced and flex like saplings in a strong wind. Saplings are supposed to flex, metal PC cases are not.

    One can't count on the MB CPU access cut-outs on case mounting plates to match up. I have a highly acclaimed Fractal Design and a BitFenix chassis, recent models, and they both have this very issue. I hate both of them. Take any panel off and the case turns to jelly. An elementary school kid could make better in metal shop. They also take up too much space in the closet.

    The removable MB tray is immensely more useful than a hole cut in a plate (that also reduces case rigidity). Cases with easily removable MB trays are easier to work on, can be easier to mod without having to remove a bunch of rivets and the tray can be converted to a test bench with ease.

    I am not, nor have I ever been a "cool kid" or fad follower, so I will keep the sliding motherboard trays, unplug a few cables and have incomparable access to the inside of the case and the components mounted on the uncool removable tray.

    Thank goodness for CaseLabs! I can still buy quality metal cases instead of this garbage being tossed out of the cheap-maker factories of today.
    As a builder, I have a couple things to say:
    1.) Cheap and flimsy have nothing to do with whether or not the case has a removable tray and 2.) The slide-out trays did NOT make it any easier for me to build a PC. Ever. Some bad external designs made it less easy, but that's a different matter entirely. Look, the only way the slide-out tray was useful was when you could put everything on the board, slide it in and be done. But you couldn't. Because the graphics cards would block access to front panel headers. The power connectors still needed to be run up the board. You nearly had to disassemble the sub-assembly down to the board before you could put all the cables back on. And at that point, you were wishing that you'd simply bolted the motherboard into the case and did everything else in the case.

    Considering that the greatest difficulty in assembling a mid-tower is getting to the EPS12V connector, a completely removable top would be far more valuable as a feature than a removable tray has been. Of course you could just have a full tower with more space above the board, but then what will you do with all that empty space once the system is assembled? A drive rack perchance? Look at the 90's Gateway full-towers. No removable motherboard tray, big removable drive cage above the motherboard. Done.

    So you want to talk about how cheaply cases are being made using less bracing and thinner materials. That's great, but it's also a red herring in the discussion of motherboard trays.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    "Though slide-out motherboard trays used to be "the thing" back in the early 2000s, they’ve almost completely faded away since then."

    We uncool kids don’t really give a flip about those of you have no idea the benefits of a design or feature while you dismiss it. Your lack of vision is obvious.
    Sorry about the previous answer being too long. The short of it is that every system I've tried to assemble on a removable tray, I ended up having to pull half apart to access cable headers after putting the tray back into the case. To the point: I eventually gave up using the removable tray as an installation shortcut and just started building my PC's INSIDE the removable-tray case, which makes the removable tray a useless feature. That thing you call a lack of vision? It's something I call "experience".

    The only practical use I've since found for removable trays is as a platform for an open test bed. But then I don't need a case, just the tray. And If I want to switch purposes from open testbed to closed system, I must pull the open PC mostly apart when reassembling the closed system.
    0