Numerology: Antec System Cases Roundup

Antec system cases from the previous series boasted some truly unique features, which would often make assembly difficult and would always affect their price. New Antec system cases, which we will be talking about today, namely – One, Eleven Hundred and P280, have more traditional design and much more appealing price.

by Dmitry Vasiliev
09/19/2012 | 12:06 PM

Antec is known for computer cases of two types: with maximum soundproofing and with attractively-priced gamer-oriented design.

 

The three relatively new products from Antec we are going to discuss here come from these two categories, too. The Antec One is positioned as an affordable gaming model. The roomier Eleven Hundred is a new flagship model of the gaming series and is designed for top-performance gaming stations including configurations with three top-end graphics cards and XL-ATX mainboards. Comparable to the Eleven Hundred in its expansion opportunities, the Antec P280 additionally offers advanced soundproofing.

So, let’s have a closer look at them and see how well they implement the declared capabilities.

Testing Participants

Antec One

The Antec One (and its modifications One S and One S3 which differ in exterior design and accessories) occupies the bottom position in Antec’s gaming product range. The Three Hundred and Two Hundred models we’ve already tested and the new One Hundred are all positioned higher than the One at the manufacturer’s website and cost more in retail.

  

The exterior design is quite conventional. The Antec One has medium dimensions, a meshed façade and is all painted black.

There are but few I/O connectors on the front panel: just a couple of USB 3.0 ports as well as headphone and microphone connectors. The Power and Reset buttons are implemented in a simple but handy way. The Reset is large enough to be pressed with a finger and they are far enough from each other for you not to press a wrong button accidentally.

The blue Power indicator isn’t very bright (it seems bright in the photo because the camera was directed right at the LED and had a long exposure) while the red indicator of disk access is almost inconspicuous. This indication is okay with us. The LEDs are informative but won’t be distracting even in darkness.

 

The One is unexpectedly light for an Antec at less than 5 kilos but it can rival products made out of thicker metal in robustness. The chassis stays firm when you try to rock it with the side panels taken off. This must be due to the numerous creases, stiffening ribs and other reinforcing elements all around this system case. Even the poles of the disk rack are connected to each other with a honeycomb mesh to increase the overall rigidity.

The Antec One is roomy enough to accommodate expansion cards up to 266 millimeters long. Considering that most graphics cards are no longer than 260 millimeters today, this should be enough for the majority of PC configurations. Those who want to install a longer (and more expensive) card will surely be able to throw in some extra money and buy a roomier case.

Although affordable, the One is painted black both inside and outside.

You can spot a robust stiffening rib below the expansion slot brackets (which are not reusable, except for the topmost one). It certainly helps make the chassis stronger, but gets in the way when you’re trying to install your PSU. The PSU bay is equipped with vibration-absorbing rubber pads.

There are openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system in the back panel, as is typical of modern gaming products, but their diameter is rather small.

There’s an easily removable dust filter for the PSU bay below the bottom of the chassis. It’s funny that the manufacturer added this filter without providing any protection against dust for the rest of the chassis.

The lack of a dust filter on the side panel might be expected but there’s only a decorative faceplate in the front. We don’t like this cost-cutting measure at all.

There are even latches there that might be used to fasten a dust filter frame, yet the filter itself is missing.

We are sure the mentioned latches are really meant for a dust filter because the front fan is fastened in a different way, to the chassis (and in an economical way again: with just a couple of long screws diagonally).

Yet another low-cost detail about the Antec One is its hard plastic feet which do not suppress vibrations and do not prevent the system case from sliding across the floor.

The cable compartment behind the mainboard’s mounting plate isn’t large and the latter has no cutout for the CPU power cable. We can also note that, unlike more expensive solutions, the openings for cables have no rubber covers.

The extruded side panels help make the cable compartment somewhat larger, though.

Anyway, the cable management system is far from handy. The problem is about the fastening of the side panels. Although similar to better solutions in shape, it is actually the same as in the cheapest of products: you have to fix the grooves at the top and bottom of the panels in the four protrusions on the chassis. This process proves to be difficult when there are a lot of cables behind the mainboard.

The single-piece disk rack consists of five 3.5-inch bays. You have to take the right panel off in order to install your drives into it. The access to the rack is blocked by the honeycomb mesh from the other side.

A couple of rails are attached to the drive to insert the latter into a bay. That’s a popular quick-fastening system. The Antec One only differs from the most low-cost modifications in having metal rather than plastic prongs on the rails. Besides, it allows you to fasten the rails to the sides of the HDD case using the middle mounting holes.

As shown in the photo above, one of our rails was defective. It had no metal prongs.

The Antec One has dedicated bays for 2.5-inch drives: one on the bottom panel below the disk rack and another above the full-size bays.

The quick fasteners of 5.25-inch drives are secure enough and you can additionally fix the device with screws from both sides (but only at one point on the farther side).

Unfortunately, the Antec One doesn’t have an external 3.5-inch bay or an adapter to make one out of a 5.25-inch bay, so it is going to be difficult to install an internal card-reader. Alas, 5.25-inch card-readers are less popular and look rather clumsy.

The CPU cooler cutout in the mainboard's mounting plate is huge.

The accessories to the Antec One include a brief user manual (the complete manual can be downloaded from the Antec website, as usual), mounting screws and drive rails, a couple of single-use cable straps and a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 header adapter. The last accessory may be needed if your system has no USB 3.0.

  

The Antec One is quite easy to assemble a computer in but there are a lot of nuisances, even though each one of them is just a trifle: the side panels are fastened in an inconvenient way, there is no cutout for the CPU power cable, it is difficult to install a PSU due to the stiffening rib, the expansion-slot brackets are not reusable, there are no rubber covers on the cable cutouts. And the lack of adequate dust protection is going to require more vacuum-cleaning on the user’s part.

This stream of criticisms can be easily stopped by mentioning the price of the Antec One, though. It sells for about $50 at online shops. There are very few worthy alternatives in that price category, especially if USB 3.0 support is a requirement.

The Antec One comes with two preinstalled 120mm exhaust fans at the back of the chassis (on the back and top panels) and allows installing two more 120mm fans (on the front and side panels) and one 120/140mm fan (on the bottom panel). As we've already mentioned above, none of these fan installation points is equipped with a dust filter.

The preinstalled fans have a specified speed of 1200 RPM. When our mainboard regulated them in the Silent mode, their speed was 760 to 780 RPM.

The acoustic comfort is worsened by the wide walls of the honeycomb cells of the back-panel fan grid which resist the air flow too much. The rest of the grids, although punched-out just like this one, are slimmer in design.

 

The assembled Antec One is hardly an eye-catching view, yet it looks good enough for its $50 price tag.

Summary

Highs:

Lows:

Antec Eleven Hundred

The Eleven Hundred is twice as expensive and almost twice as heavy as the Antec One. Its weight is 9 kilos while the Antec One is only 4.9 kilos. The Eleven Hundred is also bigger in every dimension.

  

It has the same meshed front as the Antec One, but with wider figured plastic details on the sides. The manufacturer’s name is now written in silvery letters along the bottom of the front panel.

The windowed side panel and the cutout in the mainboard’s mounting bracket let you see one of the special features of this system case. There is a seat for a 120mm fan on the other side panel, behind the CPU socket.

The back panel is designed for as many as nine expansion slots. It has a lot of vent holes, two openings for the pipes of a liquid cooling system (their diameter is larger than in the Antec One), and a fan control panel.

The control panel isn’t very functional, though. Designed for up to four switches it actually has only one, and even this switch cannot regulate any fan. It is only responsible for turning the top fan’s highlighting on and off.

There are only audio connectors and USB ports on the front panel. The USB ports come in twos of both standards (2.0 and 3.0). Unlike its junior cousin, the Eleven Hundred is shipped without an adapter for connecting its USB 3.0 ports to the mainboard’s USB 3.0 headers. The manufacturer implies that the buyer of the more expensive Eleven Hundred is supposed to have an USB 3.0-enabled mainboard, but that looks like yet another cost-cutting measure to us.

 

The Power and Reset buttons have been moved to the front part of the top panel. The Power button is expectedly larger and closer to the front edge. The Reset button can be easily pressed with a finger.

The top fan is now a huge 200mm thing, but there’s still some empty space around it.

The bottom panel is nothing exceptional. It’s got a corrugated surface to be more robust. The Eleven Hundred stands on hard plastic feet which we do not like.

The side panels seem to be fastened in the same way as those of the Antec One, but the Eleven Hundred chassis lacks any catches for them to fit into. Thanks to this (and to the huge size of the cable compartment behind the mainboard’s mounting plate), installing the side panels is a trivial matter.

Fans are supposed to be attached to the side window diagonally, which seems to be too much of simplification and cost-lowering effort for a product of this class.

The same criticism can be said against the front fan fastening. What was justifiable in the affordable Antec One doesn’t look appropriate for the flagship model of Antec’s gaming series.

As opposed to the junior model, the Eleven Hundred is protected against dust from the front. It has a fine-mesh filter in a plastic frame there.

The anti-dust production is implemented in an unconventional way, though. Such a filter is usually installed right on the chassis but in the Eleven Hundred it is placed on the back side of the removable front panel, which leads to two problems. First, the filter doesn’t fit tight to the chassis, so the fans will unavoidably get some air bypassing the filter, especially as there’s a cutout at the bottom of the front panel to make it easier to take the latter off. And second, you have to take the front panel off to remove the filter.

The PSU bay is protected with a dust filter, too. And this protection is praiseworthy. The filter can be easily taken off from the side of the chassis and fits much tighter than the front one.

 

The Eleven Hundred offers a huge interior. It can easily accommodate an XL-ATX mainboard with three dual-slot graphics cards, leaving some room for other expansion cards. Moreover, it can even take in up to three triple-slot graphics cards with nonstandard (and, usually, very quiet) coolers like ASUS’ top-end products, but you won’t be able to add in any other cards then.

The expansion cards can be up to 330 millimeters long, which is longer than any existing graphics card. In fact, you have even more space available because about 1.5 centimeters are occupied by the latches for two optional internal fans you can install on the disk rack.

The overall rigidity of the chassis seems to be lower than that of the Antec One, yet it doesn’t wobble much when you try to rock its top with the side panels removed. The Eleven Hundred is better in this respect than most products available on the market.

The cable compartment is as wide as 36 millimeters and the extruded side panel even adds 1 centimeter more. That’s why it’s not surprising that the Eleven Hundred offers you the opportunity to cool the near-socket space on the reverse side of the mainboard. A standard 120mm fan with a thickness of 25 millimeters can easily fit into that space without getting in the way of the cables.

The number in the names of the earlier products of the Hundred series, the Nine and Twelve Hundred, referred to the number of 5.25-inch bays in them. The inexpensive Three Hundred followed the same naming principle, although its design concept changed dramatically. The newer Two and One Hundred do not use the number to denote anything in their design or capabilities but the Eleven Hundred does have 11 bays for 2.5, 3.5 and 5.25-inch devices.

There are two dedicated bays for 2.5-inch drives above the topmost 3.5-inch bay. Drives can be fastened in these bays from the side of the mainboard compartment. Their bays have no mounting points on the other side, but it would be impossible to reach there with a screwdriver anyway.

Unlike the Antec One, the Eleven Hundred has no SSD bay on the bottom panel below the disk rack, although there is quite enough of room there.

The disk rack can accommodate up to six 3.5-inch drives. Our sample of the system case had a small defect of painting. The paint was swollen in one place and peeled off the metal after we inserted the rails with drive.

The design of the rails is improved compared to the Antec One. They now have vibration-absorbing silicone inserts and a handier shape.

The rails can be attached to the sides of the HDD case through the middle screw holes.

 

5.25-inch devices are installed in the same way as in the Antec One. The device is inserted into the bay and presses on a plastic lever which fixes it with prongs.

This fastening mechanism isn’t very tight. You can improve it with screws from the side of the quick fasteners only.

There are no holes for screws on the other side.

The 5.25-inch faceplates are identical to those of the Antec One.

The CPU cooler cutout is even larger than in the Antec One.

The accessories do not include a USB 3.0->USB 2.0 header adapter but there are more single-use cable straps than you get with the Antec One.

 

 

The Eleven Hundred makes it easy to assemble a computer system because there is a lot of space inside. Every assembly operation is simple and quick to do. The openings for cables are all logically placed and have rubber edging.

There is only one thing you should be aware of. The large size of the system case means you need a PSU with long cables. This is actually the reason why we took an OCZ-ZS550W power supply for this test session. Its cables are long, yet we still could hide the main ATX power cable completely in the cable compartment, although its length is quite normal (49 centimeters).

The Eleven Hundred is cooled by a couple of preinstalled exhaust fans: one 120mm fan on the back panel and one 200mm fan on the top panel. They are connected to a controller card at the top of the chassis and powered via a 4-pin PATA connector. With no regulation, they always run at their full speed. There are two empty connectors on the mentioned card, so you can connect optional fans to them.

The fans have standard 3-pin power connectors, but their cables are too short to be connected to the mainboard in order to use the latter's speed regulation capabilities. For example, the back-panel fan could only be connected to our mainboard after we turned it around in its place.

In our tests we used the default connection to the tiny controller card powered by a PATA connector. The 120mm fan rotated at 1320 RPM and the 200mm fan, at 745 RPM. The fans are more or less comfortable in the daytime, but you may want them to be quieter at night.

Unfortunately, there are no front fans by default, which means poor cooling for HDDs.

 

The assembled Eleven Hundred looks better than the Antec One thanks to the side window and the highlighted top fan, but it can hardly win any prizes at beauty contests.

Summary

Highs:

Lows:

Antec P280

  

The newest model in the Performance One series differs from its predecessors in a number of ways. The P280 is comparable to the ex-flagship P193 in its external dimensions and interior volume and may even be superior in expansion opportunities, but is lighter (and cheaper) than the smaller P183.

 

Despite some differences, this system case is obviously closely related to the above-discussed Eleven Hundred. Yes, it’s got different front and side panels and there’s a pair of 120mm fans, not a single 200mm fan, at the top, but the position of the Power and Reset buttons, the intricately shaped bottom, the fastening of the dust filter in the PSU bay and the back panel for nine expansion slots leave no doubts as to whether the P280 and the Eleven Hundred are based on the same platform or not.

When it comes to the back panel, the difference between the two models boils down to the fan control panel. The Eleven Hundred only had one switch for the fan’s highlighting whereas the P280 is capable of controlling up to three fans. As opposed to Antec’s earlier products with three speed modes, the P280 only offers two speeds to choose from. The exclusive cooling system has been accordingly renamed TwoCool instead of TriCool.

Finally, we’ve got a system case with proper feet which are soft and ensure a good grip. The silicone inserts keep the P280 fixed in its place and prevent any vibrations from moving down to the floor or desk.

 

The P280 has got the dual-hinge front door typical of the Performance One series. The door can be opened up to get parallel to the side panel. It is now padded with foam rubber on the inside as a kind of soundproofing (we’ve seen the same solution in the Define R3 and Define XL products from Fractal Design).

This padding doesn’t help much, though, because right behind the front door there are wide vent slits that let the air pass through to the front fans. Unfortunately, the fans themselves are optional, just like with every other Antec covered in this review.

The front filter is free from both downsides mentioned in the description of the Eleven Hundred. You only need to open the door and press the latch to take the filter off. Unclean air can’t get inside past the filter, either.

The position and selection of I/O ports and indicators have remained the same as in the Eleven Hundred. The only difference is the plastic faceplate. There is no adapter for connecting the mainboard’s USB 3.0 headers to the system case’s USB 2.0 ports.

The all-plastic 5.25-inch faceplates are designed in a different way than in the previous products.

  

The interior design of the system case is almost a copy of the Eleven Hundred. The most important functionality-related difference is about the HDD bays.

The installation method is similar to Antec’s previous Performance One series models as well as to products from other brands (like the above-mentioned models from Fractal Design). The disk guides are made of plastic rather than metal, but this simplification is okay. The metal/plastic combination is going to be quieter in the disk rack than a metal/metal one.

 

The main difference from the Eleven Hundred’s rails is that these guides have silicone dampers. It takes somewhat longer to prepare a hard disk for installation (you need to tighten four screws rather than just put on a couple of rails), but this solution ensures better protection against noise and vibrations.

The P280 has the same controller card with fan connectors as we’ve seen in the Eleven Hundred, but it’s turned around by 180 degrees. As you can see, one more fan could be connected to the card, but there’s no fourth switch on the control panel at the back of the system case.

The side panels are both blank, unlike those of the Eleven Hundred.

Moreover, following the long-time tradition of the Performance One series, the interior of the panels has anti-vibration and soundproofing coating. The panels have two layers, one of which is steel and another, polycarbonate, just like in the Antec P193 (earlier products of this series used to have triple-layered panels made of aluminum+plastic+aluminum). The coating isn’t thick, raising our apprehensions about its efficiency.

  

The P280 is no different from the Eleven Hundred in terms of assembly, except for the above-described hard disk installation. And it has the same requirements as to the length of power cables.

When the fan switches were set at High, the speed of the preinstalled system fans was 1150 to 1210 RPM, depending on the particular sample of the fan. When the speed was set at Low, the fans rotated at 710 to 780 RPM, again depending on the particular sample.

However, the sound of the fans was lower than with the previous models even at the maximum speed. The loudest components of our configuration – the four Raptor disks in random access mode – were about as noisy as a single eco-friendly hard disk in an ordinary system case.

So, the soundproofing of the side panels works, even though it doesn’t look very efficient. But of course there are other factors contributing to the reduced amount of noise: the blank panels, the improved (compared to the first two system cases) vibration-absorbing elements in the disk bays, and perhaps even the foam rubber on the front door.

Overall, the soundproofing solutions employed by the developer are successful indeed. Being lighter and more affordable than its predecessors, the new P280 is just as good in terms of acoustic comfort at comparable fan speeds.

 

As any other system case with a front door, it is only with the shining indicators that the assembled Antec P280 betrays that it’s got a computer system inside. When the front door is open, you can also see its optical drive.

Although the P280 digresses from the canon established by Antec’s earlier products of this series, it is no worse than its predecessors. The new model looks just as serious and restrained.

Summary

Highs:

Lows:

Testbed and Testing Methodology

We test assembled system cases at a constant ambient temperature of 23°C maintained by an air conditioner. As we assume that most users prefer low-noise computers, we set the speed of the CPU and system fans (connected via the mainboard’s 3-pin connectors) at the Silent mode (the quietest mode in the mainboard’s BIOS). If a system case has its own speed controller, we switch it to its minimum speed, too. We do not change the default configuration of air flows determined by system case design.

The following components are installed into each system case:

We test system cases with their bundled PSUs if they have one. If not stated otherwise, the HDDs are listed in the order of their placement from the top HDD bay downwards without any gaps.

The temperature of the CPU is measured with Core Temp 0.99.8. HDD, GPU and mainboard temperatures are measured with CPUID Hardware Monitor. The speed of the fans is measured with an optical tachometer Velleman DTO2234. There are the following test modes:

Every temperature is read after the system has worked for half an hour in the current test mode. The following table shows the temperatures of the components if the system is assembled without an enclosure (“open testbed”).

Open Testbed

The noise level is evaluated subjectively.

Performance

There was only one exception from our long-established testing method. The fans of the Eleven Hundred have short cables, so we used their default connection to the internal card powered by a PATA power connector and without any speed regulation. We tested the P280 at both the minimum and maximum speed of its fans.

Antec One

As you can see, the Antec One is quite good at cooling the components, despite the fact that it has exhaust fans at the back of the chassis only.

The four Raptor drives are installed close to each other, but the temperature of the hottest of them is no higher than 42°. So we can expect ordinary HDDs with a spindle rotation speed of 5400 to 7200 RPM to have a comfortable operating temperature below 40°C even if the Antec One’s basic cooling is not improved.

But if you add a low-speed front-panel fan, even 10,000RPM HDDs are going to have a comfortably low temperature.

The rest of the components are cooled properly, too. They have lower temperatures than in most other system cases priced at up to $100.

Antec Eleven Hundred

The Eleven Hundred is much bigger than the Antec One, so the higher temperature of the HDDs, which lack a front-panel fan, is not a surprise: the back-panel fans find it harder now to ensure a strong air flow in the front part of the chassis.

The temperature of the other components is even better than that of Antec’s junior gaming product thanks to the top 200 mm fan.

So, the Eleven Hundred provides good ventilation out of the box, yet it can do better if you install fans in front of the disk rack.

Antec P280 (high)

First, let’s check out the Antec P280 at the maximum speed of its fans, which is not actually what it’s meant for. Its advanced soundproofing is just not designed for high-speed fans.

However, even with the fans rotating at high speeds, the P280 is overall inferior to the Eleven Hundred which is designed in a similar way. The hard disks are cooled better (because one of the top fans is located closer to the front panel) but the other components are 1 or 2 degrees hotter.

Antec P280 (low)

It’s different at the low speed: the HDDs in the middle of the rack are almost as hot as 50°C whereas the CPU is hotter than 70°C at peak load.

So, while the first two system cases do not require front fans, we strongly recommend installing them on the P280.

The tested system cases are compared to the open testbed in the following diagrams:

Conclusion

Each of the three new system cases from Antec features a very attractive combination of price and functionality.

The junior model, Antec One, ensures excellent cooling (for its price category), has a robust chassis and supports USB 3.0. It is a good choice as an affordable system case if you are ready to put up with such downsides as the lack of dust filters and single-use expansion slot brackets.

The other two products are similar in design as well as pricing. The difference is no larger than $20, so we guess the P280 looks far more preferable. It features better soundproofing and is free from the minor flaws of the Eleven Hundred (like the inefficient design of the front filter and the hard plastic feet). Yes, the P280 is somewhat less efficient in terms of cooling, especially at the low speed of the fans, but the significant difference in noise makes it better overall.

The Eleven Hundred may be preferred by overclockers who value every extra megahertz of speed regardless of noise. They will appreciate its better out-of-box ventilation and the opportunity to install more fans. The exterior design with a side window and highlighting may also look prettier, although we’re in favor of the restrained appearance of the P280 model.

As a final remark, we'd like to recommend the potential buyer of any of these system cases to immediately install front fans on them (especially on the P280).