Quietness is one of the few parameters that every PC user values very high. Office workers, devoted gamers and hardcore overclockers all want their computers run as quietly as possible. And the manufacturer of system cases Antec is known for its low-noise products, the exclusive three-layered noise-insulating panels having already acquired a legendary status.
For this review I’ve taken three newest silence-oriented system cases from Antec. Two of them are updates of earlier models of the Performance One series we haven’t had an opportunity to test. These are the huge P193 V3 and the smaller, yet also large, P183 V3. The V3 suffix means that they support USB 3.0 which has replaced eSATA that used to be available on the earlier modifications of these products. The third model I’m going to discuss is Sonata IV. It’s much smaller than the other two, supports USB 3.0, has a preinstalled 620-watt power supply and, like the Performance One series, is positioned by its manufacturer as a low-noise solution meeting Antec’s own Quiet Computing standard.
Antec Sonata IV
I will be discussing Antec’s quiet system cases in the order of ascending size. The Sonata IV is the smallest of the three, but its dimensions are rather average if you compare it to other products available on the market.
The Sonata IV looks demure and conservative, yet has a frivolous twist in the way of its glossy exterior. This piano gloss makes every greasy fingerprint just too visible but, fortunately, such smudges can be as easily cleaned off as soon as they appear.
Lacking in solidity compared to the Performance One series, the Sonata IV has a plastic front panel, even though it is high-quality plastic. The shiny middle block with I/O connectors looks just like the glossy metallic sides. It catches the observer’s eye and enlivens the overall appearance of the system case. A door lock is seamlessly integrated into the exterior so that your small children didn't have a chance of reaching to the buttons. There are two other eye-catching details worth mentioning: the curvy decorative grooves along the sides of the front panel (which also serve as stiffening ribs) and the vent grid in the right panel covered with a plastic cap that has a dust filter.
Located on the glossy spot in the middle of the front panel, the I/O ports are placed far enough from each other, so that you had no problems connecting any kind of USB devices simultaneously. One of the three USB connectors is version 3.0. It is connected to the mainboard's back-panel USB 3.0 port with a cable that goes through the entire chassis and is fixed in an expansion-slot bracket. It is long enough to reach to any back-panel port irrespective of its position on the mainboard’s back panel.
There are tiny blue indicators of HDD activity and Power in between the three USB ports and audio connectors (microphone and headphones). The indicators are bright but not distracting unless you are looking straight at them.
Power and Reset buttons can be found right above the block of I/O connectors. They are completely hidden behind the door when the latter is closed. The Power button is much larger than the Reset, but the latter can also be pressed easily, without special tools.
The accessories to the Sonata IV come to the user in a large cardboard box screwed to the mainboard's mounting plate.
The box contains fasteners, a few single-use cables straps, an Antec sticker, a mains cord for the bundled power supply, and an adaptor for installing an external 3.5-inch device into a 5.25-inch bay. Traditionally for Antec, the user manual is limited to a brief and simplified guide that doesn’t cover many details and nuances.
I wish Antec put in a normal user manual instead of the legacy I/O shields for outdated mainboards and the simplified guide. I didn't have much trouble assembling my test configuration in the system cases included into this review (although I did have to find the correct orientation of HDDs in the Sonata IV with a hit-and-miss method) but a detailed user manual would be most welcome for more extravagantly designed products like the Antec Skeleton, for example.
Sad but true: as opposed to the Sonata Plus 550 model, the Sonata IV's side panels are not trimmed with noise-insulating material on the inside. The second layer of insulation is featured by a few other models of the Sonata series, too, but there are reasons why such insulation wouldn't be very helpful for this particular model as I will explain shortly.
There are damping metallic inserts in the side panels. The latter are fastened in place with thumbscrews.
The faceplates of the 5.25-inch bays can be easily extracted from the outside. On the back side of the faceplates you can find plastic rails for installing optical drives. That's a handy way of storing the rails. You won’t lose them.
But take a look at the optical drive in the photo. It sticks out not because I didn't take the trouble of adjusting it in its bay but because of a design defect of the rails.
For the optical drive to be flush with the face panel of the system case, you must insert the screw into the third mounting hole (counting from the front) but it’s obstructed by the plastic piece of the rail. So, you have to ream out the hole or put up with your optical drive sticking out (fortunately, this is not conspicuous when the front door is closed).
The system case isn’t quite standard inside. As opposed to most other products, including most of other Sonatas, it has a solid blank front panel that has no place for a fan.