Articles: Cases/PSU

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Alas, large fans are not without drawbacks of their own. Besides taking a lot of space, their impeller and airflow may produce noise if the fan lacks rigidity. It is due to the lack of rigidity that I was unsatisfied with the huge 400mm fan in the AeroCool cases. On the other hand, the 200mm fan of Antec’s gaming cases was quiet enough while delivering excellent cooling.

As usual, Antec employs its own TriCool fans with a 3-position fan speed regulator.

The back panel indicates a nonstandard interior design of this case. The system fan on the top panel and the reduced height of the case made it necessary to move the power supply down to the bottom, which imposed a mainboard form-factor limitation. Yes, this rather big system case can only accommodate microATX mainboards. Full-size ATX boards won’t fit in.

This may be a problem for many users, I guess. The established opinion is that most users prefer to use full-size mainboards – you can’t have too many of expansion slots. But I want to step in to say a word in favor of the Mini P180. In many modern computers there is only a graphics card and, occasionally, TV-tuner in the expansion slots. Thus, there are one or two cards occupying up to three slots (if you’ve got a graphics card with a dual-slot cooler). Very few users run systems with multiple graphics cards. With the current level of integration, most users don’t need to install anything because network, sound and other necessary controllers are already integrated into the mainboard and are quite satisfactory in terms of quality. Most of today’s microATX mainboards, except for cheapest ones, offer four or six SATA connectors, so you won’t need an additional SATA controller, either. Thus, the four expansion slots offered by a typical microATX mainboard is going to be enough for the majority of users even if a dual-slot graphics card is used. Why not make the system case smaller then? If buying a microATX mainboard is a hard decision for you, I do suggest that you think about how many expansion slots you really need.

But let’s get back to the back panel. There are two 3-position switches at the top for controlling the speed of the two system fans: the 200mm fan at the top panel and the 120mm fan located next to the switches and belonging to the TriCool series, too.

Running a little ahead, I can tell you that these are the only two fans the system case comes with as standard. The cooling solution is very simple: the fans in the top back corner of the case are exhausting the air, creating airflow through the entire case. The idea is not new. I have seen both successful and not quite implementations of it. Hard disks may suffer, for example. You will see shortly if this system case can cope by itself, without your installing additional fans into it.

The fastening mechanism for expansion cards and back-panel brackets is rather nonstandard here. It is usually found within the case but here the screws are on the outside and the ends of the brackets are fastened with a single additional bracket. This is an odd solution. I see no advantage other than the slightly shortened length of the case but you have to fasten two additional screws every time you handle an expansion card.

The feet of the case are made from some soft material that has an excellent damping capability. Other system cases from Antec are equipped with such feet, too.

Winding up the description of the exterior I want to note one of the distinguishing features of the Performance One series: these system cases have 3-layer panels with a layer of plastic in between two layers of aluminum. This design helps the case to be quieter than its opponents: the sandwich effectively minimizes high-frequency noise and vibration as you can make sure of by tapping on the panel with your finger. You will hear a dull sound, without a metallic clang.

Now we have reached the internals. The case is indeed full of the family traits such as the overall high quality of manufacture, handy cages for HDDs, and the partitioning of the interior space into two nearly isolated compartments. The top compartment is for the mainboard and everything related to it as well as for most of drives, including all hard disk drives. The bottom compartment accommodates a power supply and two open 5-inch bays. This partitioning ensures simpler airflows with less turbulence.

The case can even be viewed as having three partitions because there is space for cables between the mainboard’s mounting plate and the right panel. Practice suggests that this design facilitates the final step of assembly when you have to tuck the various cables and wires in somewhere. The cooling of the components in the main compartment is improved because the airflows meet less resistance from cables and thus retain high speed. The only downside is that this solution sets forth an additional requirement to the power supply which must have long enough cables for the longer routes towards the connectors.

Various user-centric improvements can be found inside: there are handy hooks for cables straps, there are straps themselves (the photo shows those of them that are already fastened on the system case; a few more cable straps are included into the box), and there is a handy box for various small things at the back of a HDD cage.

The bottom compartment is exceedingly simple. The power supply lies on four damping pads and is fastened with screws to the back panel. Of course, if you’ve got a PSU with a horizontal fan, you should install it upside down, with the fan facing up, so that the fan could get the air it needs. The vent hole in the bottom of the case allows fresh air to get into this compartment.

I guess the manufacturer’s attention to small details is a very satisfying thing. Here, you can see an easily detachable dust-filtering mesh. It is appropriate because dust is going to accumulate under the system case.

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