Antec 3700BQE (Black Quiet Edition) case

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SIDEWAYS DRIVES

Once you open up the left side panel you'll immediately notice another new feature of the 3700BQE. The internal 3.5" drive cage is rotated 90° from the normal orientation and is provided with easy to remove snap in drive sleds. Each sled has 4 firm black rubber grommets on the bottom for mounting the hard drives. The rubber grommets serve to dampen vibration from the drives and do a good jod of keeping them quieter than a normal "hard-mounted" drive. Antec has provided special shoulder bolts to mount the drives to the grommeted sleds. These bolts create just the right amount of tension on the grommets when the bolts are tightened until they bottom out on the drive.

This drive cage was first used by Antec in the Sonata and is carried over here to the more affordable 3700BQE. One advantage of the sideways oriented drives is that it's easier to route the HDD data and power cables along the sides of the case, out of the airflow. This should make it easier to maintain good airflow through the case and keep temperatures down.

DRIVE CAGE QUIBBLES

I have two quibbles about this "sideways" drive cage:

The way it's attached to the right side case wall doesn't leave much room for clean routing of flat ribbon IDE cables. There are only two slots available to run your wiring through and if they don't happen to line up (like they didn't on the board I used, which has it's IDE and floppy connectors in a very common location) you'll need to do some fancy cablegami in order to feed the cable through the slots in the drive cage. Not a big quibble.

My second gripe is reduced ventilation for the hard drives that seems to be caused mostly by this sideways drive cage, a significant flaw in an otherwise well designed case. The drive cage has only four 5/8" x 4" slots in it for air to flow through. This is a similar situation to the drive cage in the Sonata.

With both sideways and normal mounting cages, the space between the drives remains about the same, so the same amount of air is flowing over and under them. However, with the sideways mounting cage, a strip of the metal cage blocks any direct air to the side edge of the drives. With a normal mounting cage, the front edge gets the cooling benefit of direct airflow hitting it. This does cause a significant drive temperature difference.

When I intially setup the 3700BQE I noticed my HDD temps were somewhat higher than I'm used to seeing and I suspected that the more restrictive HDD mounting cage was contributing to this. So I did an experiment: I set up the 3700BQE with the identical hardware configuration that was running in my 3700AMB, the only difference being the mounting of the HDD in the cage. The 3700AMB had the 80GB Seagate Barracuda IV mounted in the middle of the drive cage. Being a standard cage, it is completely open on both ends. The 3700BQE had the same Barracuda IV mounted in the second-from-the-top drive cage.

The systems consisted of:

Intel P4-2.4C with Thermalright SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo L1BX at 1500rpm.
Intel 875PBZ mobo.
2 x 512MB Mushkin PC3200 Level II RAM @ 2-3-3-6.
80GB Seagate Barracuda IV (same drive switched between the 2 systems)
ATI Radeon 7500.
Plextor Premiun 52x CDrw.
Sony FDD.
Seasonic Super Silencer 400.
120mm Panaflo FBK12G12L @ 5V as back panel case fan.

When I ran my temperature tests (75°F ambient, system idling for one hour to stabilize temps, then the system was fully loaded by running 2 instances of Prime95 for one hour to stabilize temps), in the 3700BQE, the drive consistently ran 4-5°C hotter than in the 3700AMB.

I then installed a 5 volt 92mm Panaflo L1A fan on the front of the case, a setup that's very effective for cooling HDDs without adding extra noise. I've been running my SLK3700AMB this way and find that it lowers my HDD temperatures by around 6-8°C compared to running with only passive airflow through the drive cage. The front fan did improve drive temp in the 3700BQE, too, but to a lesser degree than in the 3700AMB. With the front fan going at 5V, the drive temp in the 3700BQE was only a degree or two better than in the original 3700 without any front fan. All this, despite the much more open fan grill of the 3700BQE.

I can only blame the higher drive temps on the sideway HDD mounting in the 3700BQE, as everything else between the two systems was identical. The case and CPU temperatures at idle and load were the same in both cases; it was only the HDD temperature that was higher.

Airflow Solution

I experimented to find a way to channel more air through the front fan opening. The solution was to tape over every hole in the front case wall except the fan hole.This actually did cool the HDD down a few more degrees. The front of this case is full of holes so I figured if I closed off all but the ones where I actually wanted air to go through that it might improve the airflow in that particular area. (see detail below) Apparently it worked. But the end result for HDD cooling was still not quite as good as with the 3700AMD.


All taped up for more directed airflow over the hard drive.

Here is a summary of my hard drive cooling experiments:

Conditions
3700AMB
3700BQE
No front fan
Idle
36°C
41°C
Load
39°C
43°C
Panaflo 92L fan at 5V
Idle
29°C
37°C
Load
33°C
40°C
Panaflo 92L + extra holes blocked
Idle
-
34°C
Load
-
38°C

MORE INSIDE DETAILS

The rest of the interior is typical Antec: Roomy, well thoughtout design with not a sharp edge to be found, easily removable 3.5" floppy drive cage and four internal 5.25" drive bays with drive rails for easy mounting and dismounting of the optical drives. The SLK3700BQE also comes with a small speaker mounted next to the front fan grill, this is another upgrade from the original 3700AMB.

The interior is roomy and easy to work in. The motherboard tray is fixed but it's not a big problem given all the room that there is to work in. The motherboard standoff hole pattern on my review sample is mislocated by about .070" too far foward. Even though I pushed the motherboard as far to the rear as possible there was still a noticeable gap between the PCI cards and I/O ports and the back wall of the case.

The 3700BQE utilizes Antec's drive rail system to mount the 5.25" drives. To install the drives you have to first screw the drive rails onto the drives, remove the front bezel, insert the drives into the drive bays until they snap into place then replace the front bezel. A little extra work compared to the SX10x0 series of cases but worth it because the finished product looks much cleaner than the earlier method of doing this.

With the SmartPower 350S PSU, Antec has followed the pattern they started with the Sonata's "TruePower 380S" by taking the regular SmartPower 350, removing the lower 92mm fan completely, redesigning the PSU circutry for lower noise and appending the model number with an "S" (for silent??).

With its single 80mm fan and redesigned circutry, this new SL350S is noticeably quieter than the SL350 PSU that was included in the 3700AMB. I was not able to get the PSU fan to ramp up in speed, even after running Prime95 for a few hours, even with the case fan turned off. Case temps were in the low 40°C range but I could not detect and increase in fan noise emanating from the PSU. Antec has done a good job of quieting this new PSU, and this together with the new low speed 120mm case fan makes the 3700BQE very noticeably quieter than its predessesor.



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