BitFenix Portal Case Review
It’s always nice when you spot a new Case on the horizon and think ‘now that is something special’. Well, as you can guess, not to long ago this happened when I first saw the images of the BitFenix Portal. Not only is the Portal a small ITX Case but it’s also one of the most unique looking Cases that I’ve seen in some time.
The BitFenix Portal is an ITX Case that measures in at 185 x 382 x 411 mm (W x H x D) with its associated stand and weights in at 5.8kg. The Case itself is made from aluminium, steel and plastic (ABS). The Portal comes with two fans pre-installed (x1 120mm & x1 80mm) and features a single drive cage that can support x3 SSDs or two HDDs. The Case only supports SFX Power Supplies, can support Graphics Cards up to 300mm in length and CPU Coolers up to 125mm in height. The BitFenix portal is available in both black and white and there are both window and non-window versions.
As you can see from the images above and below the BitFenix Portal arrived in an eco-friendly cardboard box with the front of the box showing an outline image of both the window and non-window versions of the Case. You can also see from the image above left that we have the white/window version.
The back of the box highlights the following features of the Case: Graphic Card length up to 300mm, support 120mm radiator, ball bearing runner design, Graphic Card window, support Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, elegant aluminium design.
On opening the box the BitFenix Portal was found to be adequately packaged and presented with the Case supported by two hard foam blocks and covered by a plastic bag.
In the box, other than the Case itself we find a Quick Installation Guide, a PC speaker, allen key(?), cable ties and a small plastic bag containing a plethora of screws and additional stand-offs etc.
At the time of review the BitFenix Portal is retailing at Overclockers UK for approximately £120 and comes with a 1 year warranty.
courtesy of BitFenix
|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)|
|Highlights||Elegant Aluminum design │ Ball Bearing Runner design
Graphic Length up to 300mm │ Support 120mm radiator
Graphic Card window
First impressions of the BitFenix Portal are nothing short of wow! I knew what to expect but even I still was amazed at this lovely little ITX Case. It’s great to see the guys over at BitFenix trying to push the boundaries and do something new. The Portal is simply a great design and that will become more and more apparent as we progress through this review…
Describing the BitFenix Portal is actually a little tough, as was the photography as photographing a product that is both black and white for a white background is really tough. So, apologies if the imagery is not up to par.
The Case itself is best described and thought of (for review purposes) as a rounded cube. Both the left and right sides of the Case are effectively the same, with air intakes at the top and the legs at the bottom. The legs themselves are aluminium and lift the Portal off of the desk by approximately 8mm, they are also equipped with rubber feet. The only major difference is found on the right side of the Case where we find two USB 3.0 ports, audio (headphone & microphone) ports as well as a small activity indicator (red).
The front of the Case features the same design as the back, top and bottom with its highly curvaceous surface. The front section of the Case features ventilation both top and bottom while near the bottom we find a large black power button with illuminating (white) ring.
Looking at the back of the BitFenix Portal we see the small footprint for the ITX Motherboard. Up top we have just two expansion slots complete with bizarre bracket. Below this we find the main I/O shield cutout (right) and a large ventilation area o the left that houses an 80mm fan within. At the very bottom we find the main Power Supply cutout. NOTE: The BitFenix Portal only supports SFX Power Supplies a regular ATX Power Supply will NOT fit.
This particular version of the Portal features a window at the top, but the Case is available with or without. If you opt for without a window this upper area is the same as the front with no additional features. Looking at the design it may well have made sense here to have a grilled ventilation section, as (my guess is) this Case is likely to get pretty warm… This window shows off your Graphics Card thanks to the Motherboard’s orientation within. Even more reason for some ventilation me thinks as the GPU is going to want fresh cool air from somewhere.
Looking at the base of the BitFenix Portal allows us to see those angular legs that are also equipped with rubber feet. These legs can be detached but as the Case wont stand up on its own (due to the curves) I’m unsure as to why you may want to do this!? Centrally we find a large ventilation section (with no fans) providing further ventilation, something that this Case seems to really need more of from what I can see so far, hmm…
There’s no removing side panels with the BitFenix Portal, what happens after removing the two thumb screws found at the back of the Case (see above left) is pretty amazing…
The entire chassis can be slid out of the back of the Case and then removed, no more screws, simple eh… 😉
This takes the whole concept of the removable motherboard tray to a whole new level. The internal chassis simply slides on the lower rail that works telescopically. As you can see the cabling is extra long to allow the chassis to move easily in and out of the Case itself. It really is clever stuff and not something I’ve ever seen before. Nice one BitFenix.
Above we can see a couple of images of the internal chassis itself, all we need to do is add a PC to this and slide it back into position (well that’s the idea I think). Ok, so there’s no cable management space and that’s going to cause problems and cooling appears minimal. But there’s a large CPU cutout, room for up to three SSDs (or x2 HDDs), although I’m not keen on that thing hanging off of the rear 80mm exhaust fan… 🙁
Looking at what is effectively the front of the BitFenix Portal we can see the only 120mm fan in the Case. This 1,600RPM fan should logically draw cool air in from outside of the Case, but in this position once inside the Case it will draw air from within the case itself. That’s not good…
At the back of the chassis there’s a single 1,500RPM 80mm fan to help exhaust that hot air out of the Case. There’s more room there but unfortunately not enough to add another 80mm fan. Also what’s that hanging from the 80mm fan cable, a Molex connector, REALLY!? 🙁
As I mentioned earlier the BitFenix Portal supports either x2 HDDs via the drive cage (shown above left) or x3 SSDs. This is due to the fact that two SSDs can be mounted on the trays and an additional one can be mounted atop the cage itself.
The Portal employs a bracket system to hold any expansion cards in place and I’m not a fan. Not sure why this is used but the end result is often a fiddly install but a cleaner aesthetic in the end. The bracket simply (ish) is secured by way of two large thumb screws.
|Case||BitFenix Portal||Power Supply||Lian Li PE-550B|
|Motherboard||Asus Strix Z270I Gaming||CPU||Intel Core i7-7700K 5.0GHz – Pre-Binned Processor|
|CPU Cooler||ID-Cooling FrostFlow 120||RAM||Ballistix Elite 3466MHz (16GB)|
|Graphics Card||Asus GTX 1080Ti “Founders Edition”||SSD (M.2)||Samsung 960 EVO Polaris 500GB M.2|
|As this is such a unique Case I wanted to put together a system that could show it off to its best ability. Therefore what we have above is the system that I have chosen to build. All of these components have been handpicked specifically for this build. But I would like to draw your attention to one specific component and that is the Intel Core i7-7700K 5.0GHz – Pre-Binned Processor from Overclockers UK. This is a pre-binned and de-lidded CPU that is guaranteed to overclock to 5.0GHz and (maybe) beyond. I must say that although there is a premium for this CPU the fact that I know that the CPU is capable of 5.0GHz and the fact that the CPU has been de-lidded make it worth while IMHO. Especially as de-lidding a COU is no easy task. Read more about it here.|
The Motherboard assembly (above left) comprised of not only the aforementioned Intel Core i7-7700K but also an Asus Strix Z270I Gaming ITX Motherboard and some rather special Memory (RAM). The Memory/RAM was supplied by Ballistix especially for this build and is in fact the fastest RAM we have ever seen here at 3466MHz. Full review of the Ballistix Elite 3466MHz (here). Lurking beneath that large heatsink just above the PCIe slot is a Samsung Polaris 960 EVO, a PCI-e 3.0 x4 NVMe M.2 based SSD capable of Read speeds up to 3200MB/sand Write speeds up to 1800MB/s, WOW!
Now while fitting the ITX Motherboard and Power Supply was easy enough I did run into a problem with the fitment of the Lian Li Power Supply. This was due to the fact that the PSU mounting holes didn’t line up. This was due to the position of the Case lug and the power socket as they were fouling one another (see above right). Now whether the lug is too big or whether the PSU’s socket is misaligned I don’t know but the answer was a bit of filing. With that done is was time for some more surgery… 😮
No some of you may know that I have come to have a ‘pet hate’ over the last year or so and that hate is for Molex connectors. Especially (BitFenix) when they’re connected by a silly short little lead (see above left) to an otherwise useful fan plug. The reason that this design is poor is due to the fact that the unsightly Molex plug will always be drawn into your build whether you want it or not, due to its short cable length. Well the solution came courtesy of a pair of snips, bye bye Molex RIP. 🙁
The cabling for the rear 80mm fan was then coiled up and tucked under the fan itself (above right). Now you can see why you wouldn’t want that pesky Molex in there, cant you… Ok James, calm down now, calm down; it’s over…
The next task was to fit the CPU Cooler, the Platinum award winning ID-Cooling FrostFlow 120 as that’s the only size (120mm) radiator you’re ever going to get in this Case. And, as the Kryonaut Thermal Grizzly thermal paste is supplied with the pre-binned 7700K then we will be using that also.
The BitFenix 120mm fan was replaced with the one supplied with the FrostFlow 120 as not only does it look better but it also features LED illumination, although I guess, in this Case we’re going to struggle to see it. As you can see the mounting for this utilises slots to allow the radiator/fan assembly some vertical movement. This is to help with the installation of longer Graphics Cards.
All in all the ID-Cooling FrostFlow 120 was very easy to fit into the Portal Case and is a perfect partner for such a small enclosure. The AIO pump was plugged into the AIO header at the back of the Asus Strix Z270I Gaming Motherboard and the fan itself was plugged into the CPU fan header, although the cable was a little short.
The next part of this amazing Gaming PC build is of course the Graphics Card. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti ‘Founders Edition’ is perfect for this Case, as there’s not much natural airflow. The blower style cooler on the 1080Ti FE will help exhaust the hot air out of the case instead of blowing hot air all over the inside of a the Case as many (in fact most) aftermarket GPU coolers do.
The final task was to connect up the Front Panel cables (USB, Audio and Power etc) to the Motherboard. This is no easy task although the cables are plenty long enough. I found it best to just lay the chassis (complete with build PC) on its side near the front of the Case and connect the cables up accordingly. This is due to the fact that at the end of its telescopic travel the balanced chassis is a little precarious and really as soon as it is slid out of the Case the Chassis should be removed. Of course the best part is the fact that once complete you get to gaze at the GPU at the top of the Portal through that perfectly positioned window. Very smart…
The Portal Case itself was never going to produce a lot of noise due to the fact that it only contains two fans. Combined and at full speed the stock 120mm and 80mm fans produce no more than 38dBA of noise and of course this can be PWM controlled via your Motherboard’s UEFI.
But, it’s worth noting here that the thermal performance of the BitFenix Portal is unfortunately poor. But bear in mind that many (small) ITX Cases suffer from this issue often due to the cluttered interior space and the lack of airflow. We still managed to pack a state of the art Gaming system into this Case but we noted that the Boost Clock of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080Ti was limited due to thermal throttling. But, this is simply the price you pay for packing so much into a small Case…
If you’re looking for a modern looking, unique ITX Case then the BitFenix Portal is one of the best on the market today. It’s cleverly designed can house a state of the art powerful system and looks cool on the desktop. Just don’t expect it to keep the components cool…
The BitFenix Portal arrived at pcGameware in a somewhat boring brown cardboard box, that’s no doubt at least eco-friendly. Both the Case and the contents were found to be both adequately packaged and presented.
Once out of the box it’s easy to appreciate just how cool the BitFenix Portal looks and what a unique little Case it is. It is in effect a very curvaceous block supported by two metal legs, the result being a great looking little Case (that wouldn’t look out of place in a certain PC Game) that’s likely to appeal to many, especially in white (black also available).
This being a small ITX Case means that certain sacrifices have to be made right? Well, yes and no. The Portal’s well laid out chassis (that pulls out from within the Case) is capable of supporting Graphics Cards up to 300mm and CPU Coolers up to 125mm. Although there is room for a 120mm based AIO CPU Cooler as we have proved. You’re also going to want to install a SFX Power Supply as a regular ATX example will not fit. The Portal can also house x3 SSDs or x2 HDDs which is pretty good although I would suggest using a Motherboard based M.2 drive as we did to keep cabling to a minimum. But the biggest sacrifice is airflow, not only is the Case pretty enclosed with just small vents here and there it’s only capable of supporting the two supplied fans (x1 120mm & x1 80mm).
For an ITX install the build went well, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t run into some issues. The first of which was that our Lian Li PE-550B Power supply didn’t quite line up with the Portal’s screw holes. Now this could be due to the shape of the Portal’s frame in that area (see main review) or perhaps the power socket position on the PSU itself!? Some filing was the order of the day unfortunately. Installing the system into the removable chassis was actually pretty easy apart from me having to removed that annoying Molex connector (see main review) with a pair of cutters. The fact that I could install a 120mm AIO CPU Cooler was great and this again fitted without issue. Other small niggles were the use of a fiddly expansion slot bracket and the fact that the alignment for the screws for the Graphics Card seems to be a little off, as the frame seems a little twisted. But the end result is just perfect and all install niggles are soon forgotten once the BitFenix Portal adorns your desktop. 🙂
But there is one more thing we need to talk about before wrapping up and that’s cooling or in this Case (haha) the lack thereof. The Portal is a small chassis and it is equipped with just two fans (x1 120mm & x1 80mm) and the Case itself has very little ventilation. This is not uncommon in a small case but here in the Portal there’s nothing you can do to make it better. We opted for a GTX 1080Ti ‘Founders Edition’ to further aide in getting that hot air out of the Case. But the bottom line is that the Portal is one warm Case, meaning that for Gaming your GPU will be throttling more than normal. But we must remember we cant have it all: The smaller the enclosure the hotter the components and that’s not necessarily BitFenix’s fault that’s just how it is…
BitFenix really should be applauded here as the Portal really is something special and proves that the guys over at BitFenix are really trying (and succeeding) to think outside the box. What they have produced in the Portal is a great looking, well made ITX Case that really has no equal due to its unique looks and its removable chassis. Considering how much R&D Bitfenix must have to have been done even the £120 price tag seems totally fair.
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Many thanks to BitFenix for providing this sample for review