Antec SLK3000B mid-tower case

Cases|Damping
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ON THE TEST BENCH

There's not much to test here, as we can easily summarize the performance: The SLK3000's cooling / acoustic potential is better than a 3700AMB, even with the front and back fan grills cut out and replaced with wire finger guards. It's the side cover vents that give the edge to the 3000.

The grill-cut 3700AMB has excellent cooling / acoustic performance, as already well documented not only in the previous 3700 case reviews, but also the various systems I have assembled in modded 3700AMB cases and posted information about in the General Gallery of the forums.

The 3000 also has better airflow / cooling performance than the 3700 BQE. Not considering the effect of the 3000's vented side cover, the BQE can match the performance of the SLK3000 only if the HDD cage is completely removed -- but then you can't easily put the HDD cage back, at which point you'd obviously be better off with the SLK3000!

The vented side cover can allow a direct path for sound between fans and the user's ears, but if the system is judiciously placed under the desk, there's no increase in perceived noise. This is particularly true for rigs that emply low speed fans. If they are not needed, then it is easy to block the side vents in a variety of ways -- tape or glue with black colored heavy paper, plastic sheeting, or dense foam work fine. On the other hand, the vents can provide very useful cool air intake for a hot CPU or VGA card.

Now for some listening, performance tests, and sound recordings of the new Antec TriCool fan, with data from Mike Chin's audio lab.

Switch
Airflow (CFM)
SPL (dBA/1m)
Comments
Claimed
Measured
Claimed
Measured
Low
39
35
25
21
It moves less air than claimed, but also is quieter. It is slightly quieter than a Nexus 120 at 12V. Probably quiet enough for lots of applications and certainly still moves plenty of air. Basic noise is smooth, very little bearing noise.
Mid
56
57
28
28
Measurement match claims almost dead on. It is smooth, mostly wind turbulence, with some vibration and mechanical bearing noise. May be quiet enough for some, but probably not for most serious silencers.
High
79
78
30
37
The airflow measurement matches the claim, but the noise is much higher. It is too noisy for a quiet PC, but the option to push this much air may be useful at times.

There is some evidence of greater bearing noise when the fan is in a horizontal position blowing up or down.
This is fairly common. and in this case, not very serious because this fan is used vertically.

MP3 Files of Audio Recordings

Antec TriCool 120 - low - 35 CFM / 21 dBA @ 1m

Antec TriCool 120 - mid - 57 CFM / 28 dBA @ 1m

Antec TriCool 120 - high - 78 CFM / 37 dBA @ 1m

Comparables

Globe Fan 120SL - 5.8V - 35 CFM / 22dBA @ 1m

Globe Fan 120SL - 12V - 77 CFM / 37 dBA @ 1m

Nexus 120 - 8.8V - 35 CFM / 19 dBA @ 1m

Nexus 120 - 12V - 41 CFM / 22.5 dBA @ 1m

Both the Globe Fan and the Nexus fan speeds were adjusted to give the same airflow (cubic feet per minute) as the Antec TriCool at the low setting ,which is the one of greatest interest to SPCR users.
Please see the note just below about sample-to-sample variations.

In general, this new TriCool fan isn't ground-breaking, but it is decent. At the high speed, it moves quite a bit of air, much like the Globe Fan, but the high turbulence and mechanical noise put it out of the running for use in a quiet PC. Direct screw mounting to the case does not help as I can easily hear some case resonance generated by the vibration of the fan. Decoupling it would definitely help. It's not too bad at the mid setting, but still a bit loud. It's quiet at the low setting, with little more than a touch of mechanical noise to break the silence. At this setting, the TriCool fan reminds me a lot of the case fan included with the 3700BQE.

NOTE: Mike's comments and lab results differ slightly from my listening impressions. My TriCool 120 sample has some light clicking at the low setting, and I would actually not replace any of my 120mm Globe Fans with it. Since we are looking at only two samples, it is impossible to say which one is more representative of the norm. Often these inconsistencies are caused by minor bearing damage during shipping, which we think is one of the most common sources of fan variances. It's a safe guess that my fan sample was damaged and Mike's was not. So be aware that sample-to-sample variations can impact low speed acoustic performance.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS

The SLK3000B is a logical evolution of the successful SLK3700 series. With the low restriction grills and a return to the more conventional, removable HDD cage of the 3700AMB, Antec has eliminated the last of the major bugs out of the SLK3700 series. The absence of a PSU is a big "plus" for system builders, especially silence-obsessed types; it allows us to pick and choose the best possible PSU for our individual systems. The Therrmally Advantaged Case vented side cover expands the suitability of the case to a broader range of hot components, and provides the intelligent silent PC builder with useful options for improved cooling at little cost in noise.

Early on in this review, we posed the question "Will we see yet another revision to this platform or will the SLK3000 be the summit (and end) of the line?" Well, the 3000B isn't quite perfect, with its plastic front fan mounting bracket, hard-mounted rear fan, slightly restrictive front bezel and dust filter byspass flaw. Maybe if Antec is bored, they could consider doing a "SLK3000.5B", but I doubt the retooling is going to happen. Their marketing department will probably demand this series be replaced with a brand new looking case -- for better or worse.

With the SLK3000B, Antec has created about the best modestly priced case for the mod-wary silent PC enthusiast. Only the Evercase 4252 poses any real challenge. Some people may grouse about the cosmetics, but the cosmetics don't affect the performance, and it is a subjective judgment anyway. Objectively speaking, the SLK3000B is a great case for building a quiet PC.

PROS

* Very low restriction fan grills
* HDD cage oriented for best case airflow
* CPU and VGA vents in side cover can be very useful
* Easily removable HDD cage allows for suspending HDDs
* Sturdy steel construction with no sharp edges
* No included PSU - freedom to choose your own
* Satin black finish resists fingerprints and easily matches drives

CONS

* Plastic front fan mount with non-standard hole pattern.
* Hard mounted rear fan that's not quiet at faster speeds
* Front bezel could be less restricted and the filter better positioned
* No manual (might be changed w/o notice though)

Much thanks to Antec for the opportunity to review the SLK3000B.

* * *

Discuss this this article in the SPCR Forums.



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