Being frequent guests in our test labs, Antec’s full-size system cases have always enjoyed positive reviews from us. We can recall the NSK1380 model for example. It is quite a cute cubic case for microATX mainboards. Now let’s see what the company can offer us in the super-compact segment where they have just issued the new ISK300 series.
When you take this system case out of its box and into your hands, you find it hard to believe that this is going to be a full-featured computer. It is so small that you can easily mistake it for an external optical drive or an enclosure for a couple of 3.5-inch hard disk drives. There is nothing exceptional about the exterior design of this box, though. It is just a black-painted metallic brick with a glossy face panel. A mini-ITX platform is likely to come with passive CPU cooling which calls for proper ventilation and you can see it on the sides of the case.
If your desk space is precious, you will appreciate the opportunity to put this system case upright using the included stand. We even guess it looks better when oriented vertically. Overall, the ISK300 seems to have the charm typical of many Antec products. It looks simple, restrained, yet attractive. There is some design magic about it, we guess.
The plastic stand is not fastened to the case, by the way. The case keeps firm on it using the force of friction and the small jutting parts. The stand has soft pads to avoid scratching the case. Even though the assembled computer is going to be light, it won't slide on your desk as the stand has feet to prevent such sliding as well as vibrations (if a mini-ITX system can produce any vibrations at all). It is also difficult to topple the case because the stand is rather wide (it is wider on one side than on the other for some reason).
All the system case controls can be found on the face panel. The square Power button is easy to see but it’s hard to guess that the thin line nearby is a Reset button. Although protected against an accidental touch (unless you've got small children eager to poke their nails into every slit they can find), but we wouldn’t call that button handy.
There is a good selection of connectors here: two USB ports, two audio connectors and one eSATA. Funnily enough, we don’t have a mainboard connector to connect the external SATA port to. The system case can accommodate up to three optical/hard drives and we are going to install two. However, our mainboard has only two SATA connectors, so we don’t have any of them left for the front-panel port. Many mini-ITX mainboards have four SATA connectors, though. Or you can install a low-profile expansion card with two SATA ports (a full-size one won't fit in).
Another way to free one SATA connector is to give up an optical drive. Its tray is hidden behind the flip-down cover, so the exterior design of the system case won’t suffer at all if the optical drive is missing. By the way, the cover opens up when you press it but the optical drive itself cannot open it. We guess the developer has implemented this solution because slim optical drives have the eject button on the tray and various lever-based mechanisms would be useless with them.
A large part of the back panel is a cutout for the mainboard's connectors. The system case being so small, they take more than half the space at its back. Nearby you can also see a slot for a low-profile expansion card, a power connector (with no trace of a power supply), a switch, and a hole.
This hole must have been meant for a button. We guess they must have planned to put the Reset button in there, like in Silverstone cases.
The 3-way switch should be familiar to everyone who has ever dealt with Antec products. They use such fans in the TriCool fan series to control the speed of the fan. And it looks like the developers of this model just took a ready-made block for two switches from a senior system case. Otherwise, we can't explain why it has two seats but only one switch.
Before examining the interior, let’s take a look at the elegant mechanism of expansion card fastening implemented in the ISK300-150. There is a flip-back lever at the edge of the chassis for that. Despite its simplicity, it copes with its job just fine. The expansion slot bracket is reusable, which is rather unusual for such a plain system case.