BitFenix Portal Review
The new Portal from BitFenix is certainly something different, and although it might not be to everybody's taste, or suit everybody's needs, there's no denying that it has a pretty and individual aesthetic. Let's put it this way, my good lady wife here in the Lincolnshire branch of OC3D towers has seen more than a few cases sitting out on the photography bench. The Portal saw one of the few times where she's remarked how nice a case looked, and how good it was to see something other than the usual black boxes with a window in the side. That said, one thing that does bug us are the legs. In conversations with Tom they've been likened to both coat hangers, and the landing skids of a Bell 47 (think MASH opening credits Helicopter). The legs seem strong enough, but we're not that sure enough that we're willing to put any additional weight on them to test the theory.
So it's pretty on the outside, but what about the all important innards? Well, as you might have guessed from its scanty vital statistics, it'll only take M-ITX boards, and in fact utilises an inverted motherboard design to enable the GPU to be seen through the top window. Talking of GPUs, the Portal will take Graphics cards up to 300mm in length, which should be plenty for the type of build that's likely to be put in here, but it does mean you won't be able to slap a monster card in it.
For such a small enclosure, the Portal is actually quite easy to build into. The only complain we have in this respect is that there's no where to route the 8pin CPU cable, so it has to go on the front side of the Motherboard. There's no window in the side to see it through though, so that's not really a biggy.
You'll also notice that we haven't shown the Portal with our normal Havik 120 cooler, and that's because with only 125mm of room to be had there's not way it, or for that matter any other half decent tower cooler to fit in here. OK, so there are plenty of tower coolers on the market that fit under that restriction, but then throw in the limitations of the M-ITX platform and you're narrowing that choice down considerably. The only real option CPU for cooling is to place a 120mm AIO in the front of the case. Doing so will certainly provide decent cooling for the CPU, but rob the rest of the case of any through flow of cool air as it will replace the front fan intake.
While on the subject of cooling we think we ought to address the single biggest concern we have about the Portal. Take a look back through the images and you'll see that although the case appears to have decent intake and exhaust mesh panels, these mesh panels are actually quite restricted internally by plastic baffles. Take a look at image four on page two to get a better idea of what we're talking about. Sadly that's not where our cooling concerns end. Given that at least some air might make it into and out of the Portal, we are, to say the least more than a little baffled as to the path of air circulation. Baffled to the point where we were seriously considering doing a smoke pellet test to see if we could determine the route
So what are we left with? Well if you're looking for a different looking case with an individual and sleek aesthetic for a low power build, and you happen to have £120 at your disposal, (Yes, £120!), then the Portal may very well be a good choice. If however you're looking to make an M-ITX gaming rig out of it then what you're going to be left with is one of the most aesthetic mini Pizza ovens you've ever clapped eyes on.
So it's not all things to all men by any means, but we are going to grace it with our Innovation award, just because it looks so different, its just a shame they didnt really think about anything else.