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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
* 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.
HDD- fan cooled
Temp sensor at CPU inlet
Temp sensor at PSU outlet
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.
* 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
* 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.
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