BitFenix company does not cease to please innovations. Now high-quality BitFenix Portal building in mini-ITX format entered our testing laboratory. The design of the case is unique, with the horizontal placement of the video card under the window of Plexiglas. But the distinctive feature of the aluminum case is the possibility of removing the motherboard tray outward on a sled with ball bearings.
According to the recently tested Shogun case, it was already clear that BitFenix reoriented its policy. The flagship model was not only distinguished by its new design, but also by the use of rather expensive materials. “Cherry on the cake” was the RGB-illumination of the SSD module behind the left glass panel.
This time the manufacturer chose a completely different form factor and got a different result. Namely the case of mini-ITX, focused on the high-end segment. BitFenix again used aluminum for the outer case, but gave the novelty a unique and fresh design. The system is installed very original, the video card is placed horizontally, it can be seen through the transparent window from above. If we got the RGB-illumination SSD from the Shogun case, then in the case of BitFenix Portal – the window with the video card. A special feature of the new Mini-ITX casing can be called a slide with ball bearings, which allow to remove the tray of the motherboard from the back of the case.
Of course, on the market for many years there were cases with a removable tray for the motherboard, but in the case of BitFenix Portal we got a very elegant solution. Similar strategy BitFenix has chosen and in the case of Shogun. With the recommended price of 129 euros BitFenix Portal can not be called a cheap mini-ITX model. However, the price still can not be called too high, given the materials and construction used. And buyers can choose different options. BitFenix Portal housing can be purchased in white or black colors, with a window on the lid or with a solid cover.
Together with the BitFenix Portal housing, you will find a user manual for mounting accessories, a system speaker, an allen key and a set of cable pins.
BitFenix does not use an overloaded, but not quite normal design. If most cases have angular shapes, here the base, cover, front and back panels are strongly arched. And so much that the body can not stand vertically by itself, only with the help of side rails. And on the curved front panel simply there is no way to install the optical drive. In front there is nothing, except that a large power button that fits perfectly into the design of BitFenix Portal.
As we mentioned above, BitFenix Portal housing is available in a completely enclosed configuration and with a window from the top. In both versions, the side panels are solid. In the variant with the window, we get a curved transparent panel of Plexiglas from above, just below it is installed a video card. If you have invested a large amount in a video card, you can show it to friends and acquaintances. At our test sample the glass was not protected for transportation, scratches appeared on it. But in retail versions, protection is present.
Of course, BitFenix had to think about cooling the case, despite the closed sidewalls. This purpose is served by several strips of metal grilles, which also trap dust. BitFenix has refused additional fabric dust filters.
On the side, the location of the ventilation holes is clearly visible – at the joints of the four narrow sides of the housing. BitFenix continued the ventilation grilles with depressions from both side panels. The design seems to be seamless, it seamlessly moves from one panel to another, which is explained: the side panels of BitFenix Portal are not removable.
On the input / output panel there are audio connectors for connecting the headset and two USB 3.0 ports, the panel itself is located on the right sidewall from the bottom. This position is not very convenient when the casing is installed on the floor. On the other hand, if you put the case on the desktop to the left of the user, the interfaces will always be at hand.
Ventilation holes are also present on the bottom of the case. Through them, among other things, the power unit can receive fresh air from below. But there are no fasteners for fans. The manufacturer has added rubber lining to the skids so that they do not scratch the surface on which the casing is mounted.
The BitFenix Portal body looks nice from all sides, but the back panel is technically more interesting. On it you can guess about the internal structure of the case. In addition, the interior can only be reached from behind. First, unscrew the two knurled screws under the power supply …
… after which the tray with the motherboard and the inside of the case can be pulled out.
The inner segment of the body is pulled out along one guide with ball bearings. But the segment with components is too heavy, so when removing it, it should be supported from the bottom – the guide with this weight can not cope. In addition to the guide, you can see quite a long cable connecting ports, buttons and indicators of the case.
From BitFenix Portal housing, not only the motherboard tray is removed, but also the internal frame of the case together with the rear panel. It can see the storage rack and two pre-installed case fans – one 120 mm fan in front and one 80 mm fan at the rear. The front attachment of the fan is interesting in that it allows the installation of a 120 mm heat exchanger with a closed circuit. In general, the removable segment resembles Nanoxia Project S with a case-box. But Nanoxia realized this idea more fully. “Box” after the extraction remains on the rollers, so you can move it. Other manufacturers also sometimes realize the concept of a removable tray of the motherboard, which can be used as an open test bench – for example, the top model is quiet! Dark Base (Pro) 900, and the tray is mounted on rubber feet. Honestly, the internal segment BitFenix Portal several rubber feet would not prevent that the body could be placed not on the edges of the steel frame.
Due to the space limitations of Mini-ITX cases, the storage rack is usually sacrificed. But in case of BitFenix Portal the case is not so compact, so inside there is a HDD rack for two drives with drawers. It can be installed as 3.5 “hard drives (with vibration isolation), and 2.5” drives (without vibration isolation) with conventional screws. Another 2.5 “drive can be installed on the rack itself with a simple mount.
The motherboard has a cutout for mounting the back plate of the CPU cooler, but there is no separate space for cable routing. BitFenix Portal enclosure refers to those mini-ITX models that do not have the ability to accurately lay cables.
The available space is used to the maximum. Between the SFX-L power supply and the storage rack, there is only enough room for power cabling. Since BitFenix has taken out the power supply for the motherboard, and not opposite to it, you can use large coolers, not just boxers. Above the CPU area, you can see the space for installing video cards, and even long models are appropriate. We used a video card Gigabyte GV-R797OC-3GD with three fans. The problem was observed with the PCIe power connectors along the long end of the video card, because of the adjacent beam to connect the hard power cables will not be so simple.
Usually we use a Radeon HD 7750 video card with passive cooling, but it did not fit because of the too wide radiator. Free space after installation of the system remains except for the front fan. But also it will be required in case of installation of a single heat exchanger SVO. After installing the components it is clearly visible that there is no possibility to lay cables neatly.
After installing the components and connecting the cables, the entire indoor unit can be pushed back inside BitFenix Portal along the guide. There are no special problems here – if you follow the numerous cables. The inner frame is simply mounted on the back of the guide and slides inward. There are two short protrusions that center the frame when mounted on a guide.
Of course, the enclosure should not only be functional and easy to assemble. It must also provide efficient cooling.
To measure the maximum temperature of the processor, we used a free test utility Prime95, which loaded the system for 30 minutes. We chose the Small FFT load, which provides maximum heat dissipation, and then fixed the maximum core temperature with the Lavalys Everest system utility. We stacked the temperatures for individual nuclei, and then divided them by the number of cores. At the same time, we loaded the graphics card with a demanding Furmark test.
The mode of temperature estimation in idle mode (idle operation of the system) is not so interesting, since processors and video card manufacturers have implemented very good energy saving mechanisms for a long time. For example, the processor cores reduce the operating voltage and frequency in case of inactivity. Therefore, the heat emission of components is significantly reduced.
The chassis’s cooling capabilities are limited, and Intel’s box cooler does not work miracles. But the CPU temperature of the younger 2-core processor remains quite tolerable. Direct comparison with the previously tested Mini-ITX cases is hardly possible, since we had to use a different graphics card due to space limitations. Due to the design of the case, there are fears about sufficient cooling of the video card. The design of the case is such that the video card is cut off from the air flow created by the fans of the case.
To measure the noise level, we used a Voltcraft SL-400 noise meter, which was located 20 cm from the housing.
When measuring the noise level, we stopped the CPU fan. In addition to the barely audible BP fan in the case, there were two more fans. The noise level of the BitFenix chassis was pleasantly low.
We measured the maximum height of the CPU cooler and the maximum length of the video card using a tape measure, as well as the distance between the tray for the motherboard and the side panel. To measure the thickness of the walls, we used a micrometer. We also took into account the data published by the manufacturer. Of course, in doing so, we made certain errors in the measurement. For this reason, we recommend that the following values be considered only for comparative evaluation, and not take them as the ultimate truth.
Because of the design considerations, BitFenix Portal body was decided to be made narrow. Therefore, there is not much room for a CPU cooler. The maximum height is 12.5 cm, so coolers with 120- or 140-mm fans are not suitable for the case.
With a maximum video card length of 30 cm, problems with retail models are unlikely to arise. But it should be remembered that the cooler should not extend beyond the PCB.
We measured the thickness of the aluminum side panels of 2.1 mm.
BitFenix again managed to release the original case, which differs from most models on the market. Following the top model of Shogun, the manufacturer sent a new BitFenix Portal building to our test lab. The appearance of the case is very original – rounded panels almost from all sides, as well as skids, on which the body is mounted. Even more interesting is the option with a window on the case cover, through which you can enjoy the video card, the most valuable component of most computers. But BitFenix pleased not only with the appearance, but also with the original design principle of the case.
The case has no removable side panels, so BitFenix managed to make the BitFenix Portal design more seamless. A removable internal segment with a motherboard tray makes it easy to install components. Unlike some competing mini-ITX cases, you do not have to install components in a cramped enclosure. It is easy enough to remove the internal segment from the case, after which free access to components is possible from several sides. The solution with the sliding segment and the guide on the bearings, at first glance, seems fragile, but if you handle the case carefully, there will be no problems. After extending outward, the inner segment can be completely removed from the guide. The reverse process is also very simple: the segment is mounted on the guide, the projections help the alignment, and then it moves into the housing. The biggest problem will be the cables, since you need to make sure that nothing gets hooked on the return of the segment inside the case.
BitFenix positions Portal as a housing for a living room / HTPC. Therefore, the components inside can be set accordingly. There are no places for large tower coolers in the hull. If you still want to use a powerful processor, then it can be cooled with the help of a closed circuit with a closed loop and a 120 mm heat exchanger. The latter is installed instead of the front fan. But still BitFenix Portal is not focused on cooling hot components. All possible fan mounts are already in the factory: 120mm front fan and 80mm rear fan. A video card under the cover of the housing for cooling will have to rely on their own fans. But we get compact body dimensions and nice quiet work.
BitFenix Portal case is too special to be able to find direct alternatives. If you are interested in a beautiful case of mini-ITX with your compromises, then for a similar price you can buy NZXT Manta. At this steel case we also get rounded shapes.
BitFenix Portal – not an ideal model mini-ITX, but in its own unique and innovative. For the original concept with the extractable internal segment, we award BitFenix Portal our technical award “New Idea”!