BitFenix Por­tal

Sleek ITX case in­spired by a Valve puz­zler, but is this a tri­umph?

Maximum PC - - IN THE LAB -

THE REA­SONS to go ITX for your next build are many­fold: You re­claim valu­able space; you need fewer cans of com­pressed air to clean it; and now, thanks to BitFenix’s lat­est model, you can pre­tend you built a rig in­side one of Por­tal’s sen­try tur­rets.

Per­haps the rea­son ITX isn’t the dom­i­nant form fac­tor is that you need to make com­pro­mises in the name of com­pact­ness, al­though they aren’t as sig­nif­i­cant to­day as they once were. In the Por­tal’s case, you need a smaller SFX power sup­ply to power your diminu­tive ma­chine, and you’re lim­ited to a sin­gle GPU that takes up a max­i­mum of two slots. Nei­ther is a big sur­prise for an ITX case, but we also rec­om­mend go­ing as mod­u­lar as pos­si­ble with that PSU to min­i­mize un­nec­es­sary ca­bles, as this case’s un­usual in­te­rior de­sign doesn’t leave much room be­tween PSU and drive bays.

There are ben­e­fits to that de­sign, though. Rather than giv­ing you ac­cess to the com­po­nents via a re­mov­able side panel, BitFenix in­stead opts for a frame within a frame, so your en­tire build lives in an in­te­rior chas­sis that’s ac­ces­si­ble via a ball-bear­ing run­ner. It’s also ori­ented so that your graph­ics card lies “up­side down” at the very top of the case, vis­i­ble through a per­spex win­dow on the top panel, al­though vari­ants with­out the win­dow are also avail­able. In prac­tice, this al­lows easy ac­cess to some usu­ally hard-to-reach parts, and makes clean­ing the PC much eas­ier—just pull it out, bust out that air can, and push it back in. It does mean it’s a bit more tricky for cable man­age­ment, though. Cer­tain ca­bles can be tied in place on the in­te­rior frame, but those con­nected to the case it­self—case fans, power but­ton, and so on—must have enough slack to al­low the in­te­rior frame to run out past the ex­te­rior. It’s a lit­tle like build­ing a ship in a bot­tle in that way.

With a sys­tem built in­side, the ex­te­rior fea­tures of the Por­tal are kept min­i­mal to stay in line with that Valve-in­spired aes­thetic. A sin­gle power but­ton graces the front panel, and along one side are two USB 3.0 ports next to in­puts for head­phones and a mic. At the rear, an ad­di­tional bracket is fitted over the GPU screw holes on the case to al­low eas­ier ac­cess to the thumb­screws, and two large gaps at the top and bot­tom pro­vide exit points for the hot air as it’s pushed through from front to back, helped along by a sin­gle 120mm fan at the front and an 80mm fan at the rear. There is room for a 120mm ra­di­a­tor to be fitted in­stead of that 80mm fan if you opt for a more heavy­duty CPU cool­ing so­lu­tion, though. Below the in­te­rior frame there’s also plenty of room at the base for hot air from your PSU to dis­perse. For a case this size, which ap­pears so solid and un­ven­ti­lated at first glance, air­flow ac­tu­ally looks am­ple in the Por­tal.

But let’s be hon­est, if this case piques your in­ter­est, it’s prob­a­bly due, in large part, to its looks. In per­son, as it were, those looks hold up well. The alu­minum pan­els are well fin­ished and feel sturdy enough that trans­port­ing a built-up ma­chine shouldn’t do any dam­age, and it’s nicely topped off with a black or white pow­der coat, depend­ing on your taste. The only ques­tion mark comes in that run­ner de­sign, which is fine for the ini­tial build, but doesn’t feel smooth or ro­bust enough to en­dure re­peated ac­tion in the long term, for fre­quent clean­ing or reg­u­lar up­grades, with­out ex­hibit­ing a bit of wear and tear. So, was this in­deed a tri­umph? Un­for­tu­nately, the Por­tal falls just shy, but its looks and in­ter­est­ing de­sign read big in the plus col­umn. –PHIL IWANIUK

BitFenix Por­tal

HUGE SUC­CESS Sen­try tur­ret looks; breezy air­flow; frame de­sign.

WHEATLEY Flimsy run­ner. $140, www.bitfenix.com

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