Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case

Cases|Damping
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April 20, 2006 by Mike Chin with Devon Cooke

Product
NSK2400 Desktop Case
w/SU380 power supply
Manufacturer
Antec, Inc
MSRP
US$99

The NSK2400 is described by Antec as a desktop case, but that terminology suggests a throwback to an earlier era. The cosmetics and styling leave no doubt that this case is designed to blend well into modern audio/video equipment racks. Like most case makers, Antec now offers several horizontal PC cases in their lineup, including the fairly large Overture II and the smaller Minuet II. We have examined these in the past but found them average for noise or cooling. This is a common problem with all the horizontal media PC cases we've seen, examined or reviewed thus far. They are not great for cooling or low noise; usually both are problems. The NSK2400 was designed expressly with both low noise and effective cooling in mind. We know, because SPCR had a hand in its design.

Editor's Note: The NSK2400 is the second result of collaboration between Antec and myself. The P180, introduced about a year ago, is the first. I was the functional design consultant on the NSK2400 / Fusion project, and worked closely with the Antec design team. (Cosmetic design was not my primary concern; thermal and acoustic aspects were.) In the NSK2400, many of the core ideas from the tower-style P180 are adapted to a horizontal layout.

Mike Chin, Editor of SPCR

Some of the key features include:

  • Three thermally separate zones for the motherboard, the hard drives and the power supply.
  • Power supply cooled by outside air completely independent of other components.
  • Hard drives and video card cooled by directed airflow from 120mm exhaust fans in main chamber.
  • Sturdy 0.8mm steel chassis construction.
  • Free-breathing, directed in/out vents for ideal airflow.
  • Soft silicone rubber used for both main chassis feet and hard drive mounting to minimize noise-causing vibration transfer.

The manufacturer's suggested retail price is a bit of a surprise. A case with these features including a 380W PSU offering Active PFC at US $99 seems like a bargain.

A second product based on the same design as the NSK2400 is planned for release later in the year. Called the Fusion, it is aimed at the high end, with a real brushed aluminum front panel, integrated VFD and remote control, and other extra features.

A TOUR OF THE NSK2400

The NSK2400 comes in a colorful retail box, like most Antec products.


The usual box that sells for retail merchandising from Antec.

The case is packed with two closed-cell foam end caps for shock protection. An AC power cord, various mounting screws and an owner's manual are included.


Except for the two 12cm fan grills visible on the right side, the NSK2400 looks much like a minimalist high end audio component.

The front bezel is actually made of plastic, nicely painted with a matte metallic silver finish. It's quite a convincing effect. You have to study it closely to confirm that it is painted plastic and not some kind of metal. The unit feels hefty, as a steel chassis would. The silver portion is actually raised and offset from the black, with not quite an inch high strip of black showing all the way across the front. The visual effect is to make the unit seem lower slung than it really is; the eye sees the silver portion as the main face and tends to ignore the black. The silver/rubber feet complete the high-end audio look.

PUBLISHED ANTEC NSK2400 SPECIFICATIONS
Special Features - Triple-chamber structure to isolate power supply and hard drive heat for cooler & quieter operation
- HDD trays with silicone grommets to isolate drive vibrations
- Large soft rubber/silicone feet to minimize vibration transfer
Cooling System 2 sidemounted 120 mm TriCool™ 3-speed fans
Drive Bays
- Front Accessible
- Internal
4
2 x 5.25
2 x 3.5"
Motherboard up to Micro-ATX motherboards (9.6" x 9.6")
Expansion Slots 4
Front Ports - 2 x USB 2.0
- Audio In and Out
Material 0.8mm cold rolled steel construction
Dimensions & Weight 5.5"(H) x 17.5"(W) x 16.3"(L)
14(H) x 44.5(W) x 41.4(L) cm
17.35lbs/7.78kg (net)
20.5lbs/9.22kg (gross)
Power Supply High-efficiency 380 Watt
ATX12V v2.0 power supply
Universal input
Active PFC and high efficiency design

The case is built to the "3U" standard. "U" refers to server rack mount sizing, 1U = 1.75". Without the feet, the chassis is 5.25" tall; with the feet, it is 6". This is similar to the Zalman HD160, Ahanix MCE-601, and Silverstone LC10/14, all of which are 6" or taller. Some of the really ambitious cases such as the Lian Li PC-V880, or Thermaltake Tenor/Bach are "4U" height, and over 7" tall, which makes them look rather too chunky to be elegant.

One big difference between the NSK2400 and all the other aforementioned cases is that it accepts only up to MicroATX motherboards. This was a conscious decision. The rationale went something like this:

How many peripheral cards does a media PC need? Usually, not more than three: Graphics card, TV Tuner card, and sound card. If the tuner card is a solo version, then a second TV tuner card might be used sometimes, for recording one program while watching others. So four is enough, in most cases — one for the graphics card and three PCI slots for the rest.

The smaller 9.6" x 9.6" footprint of the microATX board opened up new possibilities for compartmentalization and airflow management within the 17~18" width and <6" height target size. You'll see the results as the review unfolds.



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