Bitfenix Portal Mini ITX Case Review

Hardware Installation, Evaluation, And Final Analysis

The Bitfenix Portal comes with a detailed installation guide as well as a standard assortment of screws and a motherboard speaker. Not pictured are a pair of extra motherboard standoffs, motherboard standoff screwdriver adapter, and a set of cable ties. 

The cable selection for the Portal is standard and includes an HD audio and USB 3.0 cable as well as the normal set of front panel power connections.

We had a bit of a tough build in this case because of some unique circumstances. We weren't able to remove our CPU cooler for testing reasons (almost all of the power and I/O headers are underneath it, and removing the cooler would mean having to reapply the thermal paste). But for everyone else the Portal should be a breeze to build in because the entire build area of the case just slides right out. Nonetheless, we eventually managed to get everything put together and got on to testing.

A couple of things worth noting here. The first is that cable management space and options are limited inside this case and we highly recommend a modular power supply to help keep things neat. The second is that due to the small size of the air intake vents, a downdraft style CPU cooler is probably a poor choice if you’re going to be packing the case full of hot, high-performance hardware, since it’s not going to help airflow one bit. We had to stick with our cooler due to testing restrictions, but if you have the option, we highly recommend a compact tower cooler or AIO liquid cooler instead.

As a parting note, the manual does advise against letting weight of the internal structure rest unsupported on the rail like this, especially when the rail is fully extended.

Since the Portal’s top window requires you to be standing directly over the case to see any noticeable change, our end result ends up looking much like it did at the start. The window does make us wish our graphics card were a bit fancier.

Here’s how the Bitfenix Portal compares to some of the other compact cases we’ve tested thus far:

Comparison Cases

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Test Configuration Changes

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been awhile since we’ve published a compact case review. The reason for this happens to be that the GeForce GTX 970 we were using in our previous testing configuration died. Because we couldn’t get the exact same graphics card from Gigabyte, we opted to upgrade to the company's new Mini-ITX version of the GeForce GTX 1070 instead. Unfortunately, the component change also necessitated that we go back and retest what Mini-ITX cases we still had on hand so we could once again have meaningful comparison test data; hence the delay between reviews.

Test Configuration

The rest of the test configuration remains unchanged, and now that we have good test data again, we’re ready to get back down to business.

Noise is measured .5m from the case's front corner, on the side that opens. The numbers are corrected to the 1m industry standard—used by many loudspeaker and fan manufacturers—by subtracting six decibels.

Additionally, the test duration for today’s review was a brutal eight hours at full load, and the ambient air temperature for the test was maintained at approximately 26°C (78.8°F).









Drivers and Settings

Test System Configuration
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
Software
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 353.30
ChipsetIntel INF 10.0.27
Benchmark Configuration
Prime95 v27.964-bit executable, Small FFTs, 4 threads
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.3.0, Extreme Preset: Graphics Test 1, Looped
Real Temp 3.40Average of maximum core readings at full CPU load
Galaxy CM-140 SPL MeterTested at 1/2 m, corrected to 1 m (-6 dB), dBA weighting

Test Results

As it turns out, our predictions about the downdraft style cooler being a poor choice to use with the Portal were correct. Still, it took eight hours of all out punishment for these numbers to climb this high. It’s also worth remembering that real world workloads aren’t going to max out both the CPU and GPU at a 100% for such a long duration, and with a better choice of CPU cooler, we doubt most people will have a problem with this case.

Fortunately for the Portal, its stiff all metal construction and lack of large vent holes to let all of the noise out do give it a bit of an advantage over some of the other cases we’ve tested. Unfortunately, however, it’s not going to be a big enough difference when it comes time to look at efficiency.

Poor scores in the temperature benchmark coupled with good—but not good enough—scores in the noise benchmark lead to an overall hit in the efficiency benchmark.

An aluminum exterior, smooth curves and a nonstandard design come together to result in a $140 price tag, which, when combined with a poor efficiency score, lead to an equally poor score in the performance-per-dollar benchmark.

Although the Portal is probably going to face some stiff completion from some of its cheaper and arguably more capable rivals, it still makes a good HTPC case whose quality build and smooth curves lend it plenty of appeal . . . for those who want to shell out $140 for a case. Although that statement gets a bit cloudier as you move towards more of a gaming focus, the Portal is still a decent choice for those who use the computer for both home entertainment and some occasional gaming.

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