Antec P160 aluminum case

Cases|Damping
Viewing page 5 of 5 pages. Previous 1 2 3 4 5

ASSEMBLY AND TESTING

Setting up a system in the P160 was very straightforward thanks to the roomy, well designed case. The well-written manual made it easy to correctly mount the optical and floppy drives to take advantage of Antec's "stealth" mounting technique. The power supply bolted right on to the back of the case and there's plenty of room above and behind it to neatly tuck away any unused power supply wiring.

The rear case fan was literally and figuratively a snap to mount thanks to the cleverly packaged directions that came with it. The fan comes tie-wrapped to the back of the case, securely wrapped inside its padded installation instruction sheet: Yes, this sheet does double duty as a protective wrap for the fan and instructions on how to install the fan using the silicon rubber mounting barbs that are pre fitted into it. Antec has taken an extra step to make sure the fan arrives in perfect shape and that its installation goes smoothly.

For my initial build, I chose not to use any cooling fan in the front of the case, in the interest of low noise, and to see how well the P160 breathes with just one exhaust fan running at a fairly quiet 5 volts. After my initial testing I did add a 92mm Panaflo L1A to the front grill to spot cool the HDD. I wanted to see if it made any significant difference to the HDD temperature or the noise level. This fan was mounted to the front fan grill using four of the E.A.R. fan isolators.

Test System Components

* Intel 875PBZ motherboard, with BIOS P05.
* Intel P4 2.4C CPU, at stock speed and voltage (1.525v, 66.2 Watts max)
* Thermalright SLK900U + 92mm Panaflo L1BX @ 7V,
* 2 x 512MB of Corsair XMS3200c2 RAM running at 400MHz.
* ATI 7500 graphics card, passively cooled.
* 80GB Seagate Barracuda IV hard drive.
* Plextor 40x CDRW drive
* 400W Seasonic Super Silencer.
* stock Antec 120mm fan @ 5v
* CPU temperatures read from the internal thermal diode with Motherboard Monitor 5
* Ambient temperature was 21°C

Idle temps were determined by starting the machine from cold and allowing the temps to come to a stable point. Load temperatures were generated by 30 minutes of two instances of CPUBurn.

Temps
Idle
Load
Case
25°C
34°C
CPU
27°C
49°C
HDD-no fan
36°C
36°C
HDD- fan cooled
32°C
32°C
Temp sensor at CPU inlet
25°C
33°C
Temp sensor at PSU outlet
30°C
36°C

These temperatures are quite good considering the CPU fan is running at 7 volts and the stock Antec case fan is at 5V. The case fan and the PSU fan are all the exhaust fans there are on this case. The P160 obviously breathes very well. This hardware configuration runs about 1-2°C cooler than the identical configuration in an SLK3700BQE. I'm assuming that's due to the open front air intake of the P160 compared to the SLK3700BQE and not to any supposed advantage of the aluminum case. Hopefully that myth has been sufficiently debunked that no one lends it any credence.

The downside to the open front air intake is that the P160 is also somewhat louder than the BQE. With the P160 in it's typical position sitting on the floor to the right side of my desk I can hear the CPU fan (a 7 volt 92mm Panaflo L1BX) and the HDD seeks. With the same hardware in the SLK3700BQE I cannot hear the CPU fan and the HDD seeks are noticeably quieter than the P160.

Aside from the noise escaping through the air intake slots of the P160, I notice a constant hum that is not present when the same hardware is running in my SLK3700BQE. Not ever having worked much with aluminum cases before, I can only guess that this extra noise is due to the resonance of the aluminum chassis being excited by fan and hard drive vibrations. The panels of the P160 do flex more than the panels of the steel cases that I normally work on. This extra noise probably wouldn't show up on a sound level meter because it is rather subtle, but it is a bothersome sort of noise. It consists of a "throbbing" sort of hum that changes amplitude on a regular, cyclical basis. It's probably not something many people would notice as I'm comparing it to a system that is extremely quiet. (MikeC's note: Experiments with panel damping materials such as AcoustiPack may be fruitful.)

FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS

The Antec P160 is roomy and easy to work on. The removable motherboard tray will come in handy for people who swap out components on a regular basis. The 120mm fans certainly provide great airflow. The I/O panel location makes great sense and is a pleasure to use, the poorly positioned reset button excepted. The aluminum construction makes this case noticeably lighter than a steel case of comparable size, something the LAN Party guys will appreciate.

From a silent PC perspective, the 120mm fans and excellent internal layout gives the ability to effectively cool this case using very low speed quiet fans. The excellent airflow is a double-edged sword though. The same open front air intake that helps give great airflow to this case also lets noise out the front. There is a fine balance between low noise and effective cooling, and Antec has leaned towards the latter. In comparison, the Sonata has a fairly restrictive grill that's quite effective in keeping noise from getting out, while the P160 has a very open grill that flows a lot of air but lets more noise out. Is one better than the other? I guess the answer lies in your priorities; for me they're both too much of a compromise. I prefer the front bezel design of the SLK3700 series, where Antec has achieved a better balance between cooling airflow and noise reduction.

Another noise issue with the P160 is the very slight hum or vibration that I can hear. I believe it's from the aluminum construction and some experiments with dampening materials may help here. It's not a real big issue though, the system I tested the P160 with runs very quietly and the difference between the P160 and a steel case is pretty subtle.

The P160 is Antec's fusion of silence and performance, and for the most part I think they've pulled it off well. The P160 is an excellent choice for someone looking for a high performance case that's easy to work in, has great cooling and lots of features. For someone looking for a cutting-edge quiet case, it misses the top rung. The open front air intakes and aluminum construction increase the noise level to a bit above what can be achieved with their steel Sonata or SLK3700BQE cases.

PROS

* Excellent I/O panel with lots of features
* Roomy, easy to work in interior
* Removable motherboard tray
* 120mm fans
* Excellent case ventilation
* Grommet mounted HDDs and fans
* "Stealth" covers for optical & floppy drives
* PSU not included
* Well written manual
* Light weight

CONS

* Open air intake allows noise to escape
* Aluminum panels resonate
* Styling of front bezel (for me)
* Unprotected reset button
* Non-aluminum front bezel?

Great thanks to Antec Inc for the P160 samples and for their continued support of SPCR.

* * *

Discuss this this article in the SPCR Forums.



Previous 1 2 3 4 5

Cases|Damping - Article Index
Help support this site, buy the Antec P160 aluminum case from one of our affiliate retailers!