Antec 3700BQE (Black Quiet Edition) case

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Final system setup in Ralf's usual uber-tidy style.

OK, LET'S SUM THIS ALL UP

Antec never made any "low noise" claims for its original SLK3700AMB but the case was a real sleeper. With a little metal work and a PSU replacement you'd have one of the quietest cases around. With the SLK3700BQE they're raised the bar a bit and are promoting it as a "Quiet Edition". For the most part they've nailed it. The redesigned PSU, the quiet 120mm fan and the wonderful new vent grills all add up to a pretty darn quiet case, right out of the box. Sure, it may not quite hit the mark for the hardcore die-hards here at SilentPCReview but for the vast majority of people that want to build a Quiet PC this case is a winner. And for those of us who are harder to please, a simple PSU and fan swap is all that is needed, the rest is taken care of.

The primary issue I have with this case is the reduced hard drive cooling caused by the sideways drive cage. The 3700AMB's drive cage is easy to remove, include rubber grommet mounts and offer excellent flow-through ventilation, so including the Sonata sideways drive cage seems a bit of a step back, notwithstanding MikeC's enthusiasm for the convenience of the side mounting (expressed in his Sonata case review). In these post-IBM 75GXP days of HDDs with one year warranties, I think it's really important to keep your hard drives cool. If not for this, I'd give the 3700BQE a 10 out of 10.

Between the 3700AMB and the 3700BQE, which would I choose? It depends.

  • If I didn't want to mess with cutting out the grills I'd go with the 3700BQE.
  • If I wanted the best "turnkey" Silent PC case I'd go with the 3700BQE.
  • If I was willing to mod the fan grills myself and was going to replace the PSU and case fan with the quietest versions I could get, I'd go with the 3700AMB.

Between the 3700BQE and the Sonata, which would I choose?

  • The 3700BQE, no matter what. It breathes better so it'll run cooler at the same noise levels, it's roomier inside and it costs less money than the Sonata. The one thing the Sonata has going for it is the front Firewire port, but that's not much of an obstacle to work around in order to start with a better case.

PROS:

Wonderfully unrestrictive 120mm fan grills
Quiet case fan with silicon rubber mounts
Included 350W fairly quiet PSU
Easily removable drive sleds with grommet mounts
3.5” Removable cage
5.25" bays use drive rails
Front mounted USB 2.0 ports
Easily removable left panel
Quality construction
Satin black finish

CONS:

Higher HDD temperatures
Mislocated motherboard mounting holes
Side door rattles like a Model T (but pretty easily fixed)

* * * * *

HARD DRIVE TEMPERATURE

POINT • Reality Check by Mike Chin

In comparing these cases, it is easy to get caught up in the differences and forget The Big Picture: The drive temperatures in Ralf's reference 3700AMB case are in the champion class! 39°C for a Barracuda IV 2-platter drive under full load without fan cooling is really excellent.* This is a lower temperature than I get with cooler-running 1-platter Barracuda IV drives in any of my own systems, all modded and optimized for good case / drive cooling. And no, I have not had a single heat-related drive failure ever -- I have other ways to kill and maim them. ;)

The worst temp recorded by Ralf in the BQE is only 43°C (and this is without any front fan). Poke around on any hardware site (including this one) and you'll see drive temps up to 50°C routinely being reported. Seagate, Maxtor, WD and other hard drive makers specify 55-60°C as max temps for most of their current drives.

In that light, Ralf's standard for drive cooling seems onerous... and a maximum temp of 43°C seems pretty safe. His reference is certainly tough to match! Perhaps if you are the unfortunate victim of multiple IBM 75GXP drive failures, anything above room temperature might seem too high, but in all honesty, I think the SLK3700BQE does a fine job of keeping a hard drive cool.

* In a comparative review of hard drives, I measured 36°C as the full load temperature of a Barracuda IV 40G hard drive on an open test bench in a 20°C room. So 39°C inside a case for a hotter 2-platter 'cuda is really cool.

COUNTERPOINT • What Price Data Safety? by Ralf Hutter

Intel says you can run your CPU up to 70°C, AMD says 90°C is OK but most enthusiasts feel uncomfortable if their CPUs are running more than 70% of the max recommended temperature.

Now extrapolate this to the HDD, quite likely the most delicate piece of hardware in a PC. Here you've got a mechanical device that is supposed to run at incredibly tight tolerances, heating and cooling, stopping and starting, and it contains all your data (that most likely hasn't been backed up). Why someone would be content to run such a delicate, important piece of hardware like an HDD at near the Maximum Recommended Temperature and yet be worried about whether their CPU goes over 50°C is hard for me to comprehend.

Discuss this this article in the SPCR Forums.



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