Antec P160 aluminum case

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THE EXTERIOR

Antec calls the P160 a "Super Mid Tower" case. The height is 20.3", exactly 2" taller than the SLK3700 and 3.5" taller than the Sonata. The extra height appears to be directly related to their new top front control panel. More on this later.

The case has four external 5.25" bays, two external 3.5" bays and four internal 3.5" bays. The internal bays are laid out in the same 90° orientation of Antec's Sonata and SLK3700BQE and include the same type of snap in, easily removable drive trays with grommet mounting points for the drives. These trays are constructed from aluminum, as is the majority of this case. The external 5.25" bays utilize the familiar snap-in drive rail system that Antec uses on their other cases, albeit, out of aluminum instead of plastic and steel.

The sheet metal is 1.2 mm anodized aluminum, which is thicker than the more common 1 mm. The edges have been deburred and most are rolled over to prevent cuts while working inside the case. Many of the slots and holes, while not having any burrs, have been left fairly sharp. I never cut myself working inside this case but a lot of the wires had their insulation shaved a bit while being pulled through various bulkheads.

Side Panels

Both sides of the case are removable, the right side via a set of four thumbscrews, the front two of which are only accessible after the front bezel has been removed. The left side door is held on by a set of two thumbscrews on the back wall and a set of rotating latches on the upper side of the case door. One of these latches has a barrel lock built into it to prevent unauthorized access to the interior of the case. Both side doors swing open from the top and then lift up out of the case. If you're working in a cramped location, this method is slightly easier than the normal Antec method of swinging open and being removed from the back. I've come to like this door. It's real easy to grasp both latches, turn them 90° to open the door and then use the latches as a handle to lift the door away from the case.

Front Bezel

This front bezel represents a design departure for Antec. With the P160 Antec has combined a new styling exercise with functionality. The bezel attempts to carry over the silver theme of the main body with a plastic silver painted face and chrome trim. The silver edging that goes around the main faceplate integrates many small slots that open into the chassis front, and possibly provides a secondary path for air intake.

The use of plastic rather than aluminum will disappoint many who especially like the brushed aluminum on the most visible, front portion of the case. Whether Antec's is successful stylistically is certainly a matter of personal taste, but it doesn't do much for me. This decorative chrome is too busy and a little over the top for my sensibilities but it does go along with the silver theme so at least it's not glaringly out of place. (MikeC's comment: Way too James Bond for me.)

Antec's previous bezel designs have pretty much conformed to standard case style: a set of 5.25" and 3.5" drives, perhaps covered by a door, power buttons and lights, a set of louvers to cover the fan grill underneath the bezel, and on the newer cases a set of USB and perhaps Firewire ports. The P160 bezel ventures into new territory.

Swiveling Control Panel

At the top of the bezel, we see the most evident new feature, the tilting "control panel". This panel swivels up to 45° in order to give the best access to its features for a seat user when the case is placed on the floor. Antec has been innovative in locating all the buttons and I/O ports at the top. Normal case design dictates, for whatever reason, that all these buttons and ports be located in the middle or at the bottom of the bezel, sometimes even buried underneath a door. With the P160 they are all right out in the open, up at the top of the case where they are very easy to use. From left to right, the control panel features a Firewire port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, reset button, temperature sensor readout, audio I/O jacks, HDD activity and Power LEDs and the power button.


Front I/O panel. Firewire, USB 2.0, reset button, Temp readout, Audio I/O jacks and Power button. Nice! Also note edge vent slots.

I can verify that both the USB 2.0 ports are indeed USB 2.0 and are a pleasure to work with, not having to bend down to connect a USB device to them. The motherboard that I used in this review system has no onboard Firewire or audio and my Firewire PCI card has no internal headers so I was unable to test the performance of the front panel Firewire port or the audio ports.

Built-in Digital Thermometer

Another nice feature of this swiveling I/O panel are the 2 built in thermal sensors and the LED readout for them. There are 2 separate 26" long sensor wires with flat sensors on the ends. These are long enough to reach to almost anywhere in the case where you might want to measure the temperature. The LED readout is easy to see and can be set in either Celsius or Fahrenheit. I set up one sensor lead about 1.5" above the CPU cooling fan intake to measure the case temp at the cooling inlet. The other sensor was set up at the PSU fan exhaust to measure the air temperature exiting the PSU. While in operation the LED readout on the I/O panel toggles back and forth between each different temperature reading every 3 seconds. The readings seem accurate, as far as I can tell. The case temperature reading was within 1°C of the motherboard's temperature sensor reading, and the PSU temperature reading from the sensor was the same as the reading I got from an external thermometer that I used for comparison purposes.

The power and reset switches and the HDD activity and power LEDs all worked just as they should. The reset button, while not as large as the main power button, isn't recessed and can be inadvertently depressed while trying to plug in a USB device.

How do I know that?

Because I did it while plugging in a USB memory stick and not paying attention to what I was doing. I'd like to see this reset switch made smaller and recessed below flush or guarded by a raised lip or something.

Built-in Optical Drive Covers

Another new feature for Antec is the 5.25" drive bay covers. Filling the top two slots on the P160's bezel is a set of drive covers that look like the face of a standard optical drive. They're actually spring-loaded hinged doors that cover the real optical drive faceplate. The open/close button on the bezel protrudes through the back and butts up against optical drive mounted in the case. Pressing the button on the cover transfers through to the optical drive and the tray opens, pushing open the hinged cover. (See photo below). This system provides full functionality to the optical drive while neatly sidestepping any color mismatch issues.


Flip-open optical drive cover. The black CD drive mounted behind the bezel normally remains hidden behind the silver cover.

Another nice feature on the front bezel is the color coordinated faceplate for the floppy drive. This lets you mount your floppy drive behind it in a method similar to the optical drives. The drive can be any color but it's hidden behind the faux floppy faceplate so it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb yet it's fully functional.



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