Press embargo lifts today on a new mini-ITX case from BitFenix, the “subtle, yet remarkable” Portal. The “subtle” aspect might refer to the resemblance of the logo (and to some degree, the case), which appears to resemble the turrets from Valve’s video game of the same name, but that’s really a positive feature.
The Portal is, first and foremost, designed to house HTPCs. The space and thermal limitations of mini-ITX cases typically make it difficult to jam a real gaming PC inside, and the best chance for CPU cooling in this instance is a 120mm intake slot that can fit an AIO radiator. Still, Bitfenix does stress the versatility of the case: there are two 3.5”/2.5” bays and one 2.5” bay, so there should be enough for all the components of a decent gaming system. The 120mm is one of two fan mounts on the main chamber of the case: the other is a tiny 80mm fan (both contain fans by default), something we’re interested in noise testing later. Thermal tests will be interesting--although there’s very little space, the CPU is directly in the path of airflow and the GPU and PSU are thermally isolated, which is promising. Bitfenix describes the fans as “stable airflow for basic Office and Home Theater PCs.”
Subscribers of our YouTube channel will know that we’ve been hastily assembling a gaming HTPC for the last few days, dedicated as a gift for Andie (my sister, and also occasional tester for the site). We started on the 21st, with limited time to order any missing parts, and finished just today (24th). The goal was to replace her current HTPC, catalogued many years ago on GN, which uses an A10-5800K, upgraded MSI GTX 960 Gaming X, and is struggling to operate high framerates.
The A10-5800K was an excellent CPU for the original build (which had no GPU, and later added a 750 Ti), but it’s not so powerful 4 years later. We wanted to pull parts for this build that could be readily found in GN’s lab, without shipping requirements (where avoidable), and without pulling parts that are in active or regression testing use.
Back in the day – cue black-and-white flashback – computers used to take up entire rooms. Gradually, this has changed. Personal computers have become smaller and smaller, and now the SFX form factor allows PCs that are the size of consoles. The SFX PSU form factor was originally used for HTPCs, made possible by SilverStone’s high-wattage SFX PSUs; SFX options have evolved, and now SFX form factor cases like Fractal Design Node 202 and SilverStone RVZ01 support SFX PSUs and full-length GPUs. GPUs are placed horizontally to reduce the vertical height of the case and allow for small form factor gaming PCs that don’t have to compromise between high-end components or a small size.
Unfortunately, there are few SFX power supplies with enough wattage to comfortably run a system with both a high-end GPU and high-end CPU.
The Star Wars Destroyer case mod was an obvious draw to MSI’s suite at CES 2016, thus far unrivaled in its seemingly monolithic artistry, and served as a magnetic pull for the company’s new products. That’s common in Convention Land – a fabled realm stocked with bags of chips and bottles of water – and a means for companies to generate outside interest in the passerby attendee crowd. The Destroyer was covered in our previous video and article; today’s content shifts focus to MSI’s new “Vortex” product, named for its approach to thermal dissipation through a vertical shaft.
We've said it before: Gaming HTPCs are rising in popularity. The viability of a quiet, small form factor gaming PC has never been more pronounced. For the PC builder who wants something for use in the living room with a larger screen – something that can double for movie and TV playback alongside gaming use cases – building a gaming HTPC is a quick, affordable solution. A TV-attached HTPC also bears with it the possibility of cable plan termination, given that most shows are now officially hosted online or on video streaming services.
Gaming, of course, is a major draw for such a build. We make some sacrifices in favor of budget but, in general, most graphically-modest games will go well-played on an APU or low-end dGPU.
This budget gaming PC comes in at less than $500 thanks to a DIY approach; it's easily capable of playing the likes of Skyrim, Fallout, DC Universe, and similar titles at reasonable graphics settings.
Corsair's Computex announcements began with “Bulldog,” the company's attempt at a DIY kit for “console-sized” 4K gaming. Bulldog is effectively a barebones kit of core components, to include a small form factor case, CLC, PSU, and motherboard. Users must purchase other necessary components separately.
The growing trend nowadays seems to be miniaturization, judging by phones, silicon chip sizes, and even computers. At one point, computers took up entire rooms, but over the years they have continued to shrink while becoming massively more powerful. Due to this trend, some see mITX as the next segment of the PC market that will substantially grow, which has caused mITX cases, coolers, and even GPUs to be released. Cougar looks to be the next company to make a name for themselves in the mITX market with its newest QBX, a compact gaming case meant for small form factor builds.
PCs come in all shapes and sizes. Some want large, flashy gaming rigs and some want smaller HTPCs. Recently, we did a $596 budget intel build that will be a great low-budget gaming solution; this time around, we're putting together something a little more compact.
We put together a computer that'll look great in your living room entertainment center, serving as a home-theater PC. Because we're seeing more people streaming from online services like Netflix and Amazon to watch their favorite shows, HTPCs are growing rapidly in popularity. Powered by a Kaveri APU, this system is primarily meant for general computing and media consumption, but can also do light gaming.
At around $500, this ultra-budget HTPC gaming PC will play blu-ray movies, stream TV, and play games like Gauntlet and Skyrim.
The advent of affordable, low TDP, high-performance PC hardware has enabled configuration of living room gaming PCs that act as consoles once did. The difference, of course, is more versatile functionality and greater immediate upgrade potential, ensuring gaming at the highest settings possible while retaining DVR-replacement options. There's no argument that traditional gaming consoles – like the Xbox and PS4 – have their place in this industry, but diehard PC enthusiasts finally have affordable Small Form Factor (SFF) HTPC configurations.
We recently explored the possibility of a $665 DIY HTPC with moderate graphics performance, effectively serving as a budget console replacement with Netflix / streaming options. The entire system measured in at just 20.9” x 10.2” x 14.5” – easily hidden beneath the TV.
Today's review looks at a significantly more powerful option, featuring the GTX 980 (which we've called “the best video card available”) and an i7-4790K CPU. The “Vapor Xtreme” is CyberPower's latest venture, branded independently as a “Syber” PC, similar to Kingston's branding separation with its HyperX division.
TDP has been on the minds of most the industry's major players lately, it seems. Lower TDP (watt draw) has advantages that extend beyond just lower power consumption (and a lower power bill), including lower thermals and thus a more comfortable fit in small form-factor builds. Between Intel's G3258 CPU (53W) and nVidia's GTX 750 Ti (60W), we're able to build an ultra-low TDP gaming system for home-theater use.
This $665 gaming HTPC uses budget gaming components to create a highly power-efficient, graphically-capable Steam Machine that can play most games at high settings (1080). You've got the option of installing Windows or SteamOS (or both), though SteamOS is promising for HTPC use considering the growing compatibility with game titles.
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