BitFenix Portal Compact Mini-ITX Chassis Review

Love the game "Portal"? Well, you may want to take a close look at BitFenix's new Portal compact Mini-ITX case, and even if you don't know the game.

Published Wed, Mar 15 2017 8:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:58 PM CST
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: BitFenix

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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As we have stated a few times before this, if BitFenix is known for one thing when it comes to chassis design, it is that they are in no way afraid to push the boundaries. Whether it be a unique exterior in lighting or shape, whether it be a trend setting Mini-ITX chassis that still to this day is hard to beat, or if it is something bringing forth new trends in interior layouts, BitFenix has come up with specialized and very successful designs in the past. Today, it's another one of those times, where BitFenix breaks the mold and introduces something we feel many will be fond of.

If you have ever played the series of Portal games in the past, you will know that there are a few things which are iconic to the game. First, there are the portals and the portal gun, which without them, the games name would not make much sense. Of course, there is also the companion cube, which became a useful tool in making it through many a level. Then we move into things like GLaDOS, and her promise of cake, which ends up to be a lie and running into many a turret, which were the bane of many levels. The last two we mentioned, both GLaDOS and the turrets, are where we can see the idea of where BitFenix derives the aesthetic appeal and design basis for their latest chassis.

While coming up with this latest Mini-ITX chassis simply called "Portal," we can where much of the design originates, and for one, we are smitten, just at a glance. There is much more to this design other than a rounded steel chassis which breaks the mold of boring square cases, in fact, BitFenix has done quite a good job with the limited amount of space that this chassis delivers. Up front, we should tell you that there are four versions of this chassis being offered, but the version we have been sent is the pinnacle of all of them, and for our money, this would be the only choice that made any sense. For those who were big fans of the Portal games, we feel that a chassis like this will take very little convincing. Even those who may have never played the series, we still feel, that much like the Prodigy, the Portal Mini-ITX chassis will be a huge hit, and can easily see it being modded by some of the best builders out there today.

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As we mentioned, the Portal is a Mini-ITX chassis, and it is made of aluminum, SECC steel, ABS plastic, and in two models, there is a transparent acrylic window. The Portal also comes with a color choice. Two of the options come in black, one with a window, and one without. The second pair of offerings are made with a white exterior and black trim, and again, you have the option for a window or not to have one. Keeping with the flow of the provided chart, we are then shown that the CPU cooler height can be only 125mm in this chassis, the video card can be up to 300mm in length, and when it comes to choosing a power supply, you need to look at SFX offerings.

Inside, you will find no room for a 5.25" bay, but there are accommodations for a pair of 3.5" drives and up to three 2.5" drives. Cooling in this chassis is handled by a 120mm fan in the front of the case, and to help with exhausting air, the Portal ships with an 80mm fan in the rear. There is no room in the top of the chassis for cooling due to the inverted interior layout, but if it is desired, you can use a single 120mm radiator or AIO in the front of the chassis. On the side of the chassis is where the I/O panel is located, and it contains two USB 3.0 ports as well as HD Audio jacks. The Portal stands 395mm tall, 411mm deep, and is 247mm with the stand attached. The actual chassis which is supported on the stand is somewhat smaller in size. All told, the Portal weighs in at 5.81 kg empty, and in the highlights section, the only thing we have not addressed at this time is the ball bearing runner used to slide the interior of the chassis out of its shell.

While BitFenix delivered all of the information for us ahead of time, one thing they did not cover was pricing. Even though we were told to keep this chassis under wraps until the NDA lifts, we do see that NCIX does have listings for this chassis on the site already. At the Canadian NCIX, we see that both the white and black versions, with the window at the top, are both being offered at $184.99 and show that they currently have stock ready to ship. However, if you live south of the border, we see that the price does increase. At this time, we see that the Portal, in black or white, again with a window, will set you back $234.99.

This is quite steep at first glance for a Mini-ITX chassis, but bold, unique, and well thought out designs do not come cheap, and in this instance, all three descriptors are present in this chassis. While the cost may scare off some, we feel that even though the price is up there, we do not see it detracting many away from the BitFenix Portal.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications


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The packaging is nothing special, just plain cardboard and black print on it. The front panel offers stylized bars at the top and bottom, where the bulk of the panel shows renderings of the Portal with and without a window.

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The right side of the box shows us a sticker describing the white chassis inside along with the model number, EAN, and UPC codes. Near the bottom, we see a specifications chart, much like the one we covered on the last page.

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The back of the box addresses a few things worth noting. There are notations at the top for the 300mm of video card space, room for a 120mm radiator, and the ball bearing runner is also displayed. The lower section shows the chassis, pointing out the aluminum exterior, and shows that the innards slide out the back of the chassis.

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The last exterior panel shows all four versions of the chassis by name, and there is a green sticker in the box for the white Portal with the window. Below that, we see a rendering showing two cases stacked behind one another, one for each model, to show off the I/O panel placement.

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Inside of the cardboard, there is a clear plastic bag that is wrapped around the entire chassis, legs and all, to protect the aluminum and the window at the top. To keep the chassis from getting dented, or being crushed, BitFenix used thick Styrofoam end caps, which allowed our sample to arrive in terrific condition to be reviewed.

BitFenix Portal Mini-ITX Chassis

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Fresh out of the box, the Portal is in full view. The front of the chassis is made of aluminum, it is rounded at the top and bottom, and the entire front is curved to meet the side panels. There is black mesh at the top and bottom of the panel to allow the chassis to breathe, and near the bottom, we see the power button, between the thick wire legs which support it.

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The top of the chassis is rounded just like we saw on the front. With this version of the Portal, we have a window which allows a view of the video card, and those without the window offer no view of the interior at all.

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The left side of the chassis is mostly flat where the black angular trim lines make their way through it. The bulk of the exterior is solid aluminum sections, and there is no door on this side, but we do see the line along the back where the chassis will open up.

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The back of the chassis has mesh at the top and bottom just like the front does, but the majority of this end of the case is opened to allow access to the pair of expansion slots, the rear I/O, and also to be able to mount the PSU.

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The right side of the chassis is nearly a mirror image of what we saw on the left side of the Portal, just that this time, we can also see that there is an I/O panel fitted into the black trim line.

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In the I/O panel, BitFenix kept it simple. There is an HDD activity LED at the bottom left, a pair of HD Audio jacks which are not marked, and there is also a pair of USB 3.0 ports found here.

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The view from under the Portal shows that all aspects of this chassis are rounded. The floor of the chassis is drilled to allow for airflow into the chassis, and we see four screws holding the ball bearing runner in place. The thick wire legs do support the chassis, and there are thick rubber tubes at the front and back to ensure good footing for the Portal.

Inside the Portal

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Removing a pair of thumbscrews at the bottom of the back panel allows the guts to slide out the back of the chassis. The inner section glides in and out on the runner, and it is robust enough to support the inner chassis with components in it as well.

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The inner part of chassis can be removed once the runner is fully extended, just by lifting it upwards, as it rests in holes, where pins on the inner chassis set into. The chassis wiring stays with the external section of the chassis, and are quite lengthy. While connecting them last may be tough, the length of these cables is not any concern.

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We left the white rear panel of the Portal attached to the chassis for orientation purposes, but the aluminum component is removable. The first look at the chassis shows that there is not a ton of extra space, but enough to easily get the build process underway.

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At the front of the chassis, BitFenix supplies a 3-pin powered 120mm fan to push air through this chassis. This location is also where you could install a 120mm radiator.

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Below the intake fan, there is a 3.5" HDD cage which supports a pair of hard drives, but the trays are also drilled to allow for 2.5" drives as well. On top of the HDD cage, there is a dedicated 2.5" drive tray which can be used as shown or rotated ninety degrees to allow the cables to run toward the motherboard rather than out the side as it is now.

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To use the HDD trays in the cage, you must spin the chassis around to the front, and by releasing the tabs on either side, the trays will slide out of the cage.

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The motherboard try is simple in its layout, but in Mini-ITX cases, there is not a lot of need for extravagance. The standoffs are already installed in the steel tray, and there is a large opening to allow access to the CPU cooler backplate.

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The back of the chassis has a pair of expansion slots at the top, which use a cover to lock them into place rather than individual screws. We also see the 80mm fan which exhausts the Portal, and room to adjust this fan to a lower position if this stock position causes conflict or is not optimal to cool the interior.

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The floor of the chassis supports an SFX PSU only and uses bits of bent metal at the back and a raised tab in the floor to support it. The bottom of the chassis is drilled out, so installing the PSU with the fan facing down is not an issue either.

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The last view of the inner chassis is that of the back side of the motherboard tray. The motherboard tray is nearly flush with the frame so that no wires can be passed there, but there is a fair amount of room next to the HDD cage to hide some of the excess wiring one might have to deal with.

Hardware & Documentation

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There is a bag of hardware which contains all of the screws and such shown here. There are 6-32 screws with washers intended for HDD installation, many M3 screws for 2.5" drive installations, and a set of fan screws. Along the bottom, we see the motherboard 6-32 screws, screws for the PSU, a pair of extra standoffs, and a socket to help drive them into the motherboard tray.

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The hardware kit also includes a motherboard POST speaker, ten zip-ties to help manage wiring, and there is an Allen wrench as well. We did not find the use for this wrench, however, as most of the screws we used or could need to be removed are Phillips head screws.

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We cannot forget about the manual, as it shows users how to get into the chassis as well as showing how all of the components are intended to be installed. The manual is handy, at least to see how to get into the chassis, but the design of the Portal is straight forward, and we did not find a need to refer to this after an initial glance at its contents.

Case Build & Finished Product

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Once all the bits and bobs were installed into the Portal, we took another trip around it with the camera. The front of the chassis is now supporting an AIO, but we did have to use the lowest fan position to do so. This did conflict with the SSD tray inside, so we removed it, as we had to be sure to clear the video card at the top.

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Looking into the main section of the Portal's guts, we can see that the motherboard fits, the tubing for the AIO runs gently with no odd bends or tweaks. The PSU has plenty of room at the bottom with room to spare for the wires, and the video card just fits at the top.

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The card did align slightly crooked at the top, but that could be a bit our fault as we wanted to be sure it was supported well. We did try a rear I/O cover and had no issues with fitment, and the PSU brought no issues to the table either.

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The hole in the motherboard tray is large, and as we can see here, it allows the backplate to be installed or removed without moving the motherboard. We did not need the room to the side of the HDD rack but to run a fan wire, but having that space is handy for those with intentions of using more than what our build required.

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Rather than to take another trip around the outside of the chassis, we skipped ahead and are showing the Portal while it is powered. The power button at the front is backlit with a light blue, almost white LED. We did miss the HDD activity LED in this image, but that will flicker with white LED illumination.

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As if the Portal did not look stellar as it was, we still have the large window at the top to discuss. This window affords users a view of the video card, and the better-looking side of it as well. If you have an LED-lit video card, you will also get a bit of light passing through the top of the chassis onto the wall near the Portal.

Final Thoughts

We are huge fans of cases that break the standard of what everyone else is offering, and just like the Prodigy, the Portal is a Mini-ITX chassis that cannot be ignored. The gentle curves, the use of textured aluminum panels, the black body accents, even down to the thick wire frame feet, the Portal is a work of art to have poised on your desk.

While we did run into the fact that we had to remove the SSD tray to fit an AIO into the chassis, it was well worth the effort, as it can be tough to find a great CPU air cooler that is under 125mm in height. We did not run into any issues with fitment, all we saw was a solid chassis design with many tricks up its sleeve, which has us liking the Portal more and more the longer we ponder what it offers.

We were even surprised when it came to testing out the chassis with our components installed. While 120mm fans can be silent without much effort, it shocked us not to have to hear a drone of noise from the 80mm fan at the back. The most we got from the chassis was 31 dB of noise at the back of the chassis, and it is so well ventilated that we did not see any of our components venture outside of the average range of temperatures. While this most certainly is not the typical layout we all expect in chassis design, it is plainly apparent that BitFenix has done their homework and delivered a chassis where every aspect has been planned out and well executed.

The only thing that will keep this chassis out of the hands of the average user is the cost. We can appreciate that designing such a unique chassis costs money, and developing the tooling to make a rounded chassis from aluminum is not very affordable either. So while many may scoff at this chassis based on the $234.99 price tag we are seeing at NCIX right now, we also know that those who appreciate elegance, art, and the game Portal will have to have this chassis come hell or high water.

Coming from someone who has seen just about everything current in cases, while the cost is up there, we find no fault with it. We can appreciate everything about the Portal mini-ITX chassis from BitFenix, and if it were our money being spent, we would not be able to click on the buy button fast enough. Even if you were never a fan of the game Portal, and have no idea who GLaDOS is or what a turret is, we still feel that the Portal chassis has so much going for it that it does not matter in the end.

Chad's Chassis Test System Specifications

TweakTown award

The Bottom Line: BitFenix takes another stab at a premier Mini-ITX chassis and struck gold! The Portal is a case with all of the right bits, a shape and elegance anyone will love, and while costly, it takes a bit of cash to get the best the market has to offer.

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Chad joined the TweakTown team in 2009 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

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