Antec P160 aluminum case

Cases|Damping
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THE INTERIOR


Ooh, look at all that beautiful shiny unblemished aluminum!


Big front intake vent features an open pattern grill similar to the back.

A few new things here; otherwise it's a continuation of Antec's successful Sonata and SKL3700AMB interiors.

First up are the four 5.25" drive bays with the familiar screw-on rails. One change here is the inclusion of two sets of mounting holes on the rails. The first is for mounting the drives so their faces are flush with the face of the front bezel, the other set is positioned so the drive will sit below the face of the front bezel and is intended to be used by an optical drive in one of the top two bays with the flip-open faceplates.

Next comes the first of the 3.5" drive bays, this one is intended to mount a standard floppy drive as well as one more 3.5" drive. If the floppy drive is mounted in the top drive bay it can be positioned behind the fake bezel, quite like the optical drives, so it matches the front bezel.


Four HDD bays and the "door" for the front fan compartment. The wires are power for the front LEDs.

Sidewinder HDD Sleds

The basic setup is very similar to that first used in the Sonata and then more recently on the SLK3700BQE. Beneath the middle set of 3.5" bays is the hard drive cage that is rotated 90° from the normal orientation and is provided with 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 keep 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. It is not a complete solution: The grommets are just a bit too hard to eliminate drive vibrations; they reduce it. (You may know if you read the SPCR forums that I ended up using pads of Sorbothane¬ģ in place of grommets and screws to achieve complete freedom from HDD vibration in the SLK3700BQE.)

One advantage of the sideways oriented drives is that it's easier to route the IDE 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, although this is offset somewhat by the construction of the drive cage itself which provides only four 3/4" x 4" slots for the air to circulate through the drive cage area.

The drive sleds and the cage are made out of aluminum, just like the rest of the case. They fit rather loosely into the cages; it seems like there's some potential for a noisy or high vibration drive to cause the sled to rattle within the cage. Despite that, the sled can stick or jam easily when inserting and removing. This may be a result of aluminum's softness rather than any design or manufacturing flaw. I used a Seagate Barracuda IV, still the quietest desktop drive ever, for this review and I didn't notice any vibration or rattling coming from the drive cage, but I did experience more seek noise than normal. I don't know if this was due to the drive cage resonance, or perhaps the very open, unrestricted air intake slots, or maybe a little of both.

Door to the front fan

Between the drive cage and the front case wall is a small aluminum door fastened with a thumbscrew (as are the majority of the removable pieces on the P160. Another nice touch by Antec). This is actually the front fan mounting bracket. It slides into the front of the case sort of like a guillotine blade and has a 120mm hole and 4 mounting holes to allow the owner to attach a 120mm x 25mm fan of their choice.

The front fan grill is very open and unobstructive, this should provide a unimpeded path for the air to flow into the case. This fan mounting setup is flawed though.

1. The fan has to be screwed directly onto the plate, there's not enough room to use any sort of dampened mounting method such as O-rings or the same type of rubber mounts that are used on the rear fan.

2. The second problem is that the mounting bracket itself fits loosely in its rails and can rattle around easily. This definitely isn't conducive to quiet operation. Antec does offer the caveat that you "not install a front fan unless necessary for cooling, since it will create additional noise". They're spot-on with that tip.


120mm front fan bracket slid out.

Included 120mm Fan

The case comes equipped with one 120mm fan that's intended to be used as the case exhaust fan on the back wall. This fan has no model numbers on it but seems to be the same low noise version I found in the SLK3700BQE. It comes wired with a 4-pin Molex connector with a pass through connector.

Antec also included the four silicon rubber mounting barbs that are also used in the Sonata and the 3700BQE. These mounts do an excellent job of decoupling the fan so that any fan vibration or noise isn't amplified by being bolted solidly to the case wall.

I first tried this fan out at 12 volts and while it wasn't as loud as some 120mm fans that I've heard, it was still too loud for me so I undervolted it to 5 volts. At 5 volts it's pretty darn quiet, and puts out a fairly decent amount of air so I left it. This fan has a somewhat noticeable clicking noise that decreases in frequency, but not volume, as you lower the voltage. The excellent fan grill on the rear wall doesn't seem to add any additional air turbulence noise to the case.

Rear case fan. Note the silicon rubber mounting barbs. These do a good job of decoupling the fan from the case for less noise.

Removable Motherboard Tray

One of the things that you'll notice when you open up the P160 is the removable motherboard tray. This has got to be the #1 most requested features on enthusiasts' wish list for cases. Apparently Antec was listening to their customers when they drew up the plans for the P160. The Antec tray will fit micro-ATX or standard ATX motherboards. It's aluminum and comes with threaded steel inserts for the brass motherboard standoffs that are included in the accessory box.

The Antec motherboard tray is designed differently than most of removable motherboard trays that I'm used to dealing with. Instead of including a bracket that the AGP and PCI cards bolt onto, Antec has designed this tray so that the cards must be removed from the tray before it can be removed from the case. This makes it more of a hassle than if they had designed the tray in the normal fashion where the motherboard and cards are all attached to the removable tray.


Motherboard tray removed from case. Note the standard ATX and m-ATX hole pattern. The six slots are the tabs that hold this tray onto the chassis. Note the handle.

Another departure from convention is that instead of the tray sliding out the rear of the case, it actually gets pulled right out the open side of the case. The tray is attached to the case by some tabs on the tray which engage slots on the case as you slide the tray into position against the back case wall. There is a retaining plate that holds the tray in place. The tray rests against three nylon pads that are attached to the chassis. These pads keep the tray from rattling.

There is a protruding "handle" that can be used to grasp onto the motherboard tray for removal, that way you don't have to hold your motherboard by the CPU fan or the memory sticks when you're installing or removing it. The problem with this handle is that it is positioned in such a way that it block easy access to the IDE and FDD header of most motherboards. Rounded cable users probably won't have any problems with this, but for people that use flat ribbon IDE/FDD cables and like to keep them folded flat out of the airflow this handle provides a nice challenge. Having the tray pull out the side of the case instead of the rear means you'll have to move all the disconnected IDE and power cables back out of the way so they don't keep getting hooked on the motherboard and components as you're removing it from the case.


Motherboard installed on tray. Note the position of the handle relative to the IDE/FDD headers.

Antec has not included a power supply with the P160, allowing the user to choose whichever power supply fits their needs. I used a Seasonic Super Silencer 400W. This power supply mounted with no problem at all.

Also included inside the P160 is a box full of the usual motherboard standoffs, assorted case screws and drive mounting screws plus the special shoulder bolts for use with the hard drive mounting grommets. There's also a bag containing four sets of aluminum drive rails for the 5.25" bays and a set of keys for the lockable left side panel. With the left side panel locked the case is impervious to casual intruders. Neither the front bezel nor the right side panel is removable until the left side panel has been taken off the case.

A Good Manual!

Then there is the Owner's Manual. Most case manuals, if they exist at all, are pretty basic. Antec has been continuously improving their manuals recently, and the P160 manual continues that trend: It is by far the best case manual I've seen. It is remarkably thorough and easy to understand. All the assembly procedures are well covered, from the connections for the myriad of wiring that emanates from the back of the I/O panel, to different techniques of mounting the optical and floppy drives.



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