Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards

Cases|Damping
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CASE COMPARISON (continued)

Comparison Two

As configured, the SLK3000B was able to cope reasonably well with the high-end system used in our testing. Because the power supply was the only thermally controlled fan in both systems, the excellent behavior of the Seasonic S12-430 kept the noise level fairly low, even with the system under full load.

For the second comparison, the power supply in each system was swapped for an older model, a Seasonic Super Silencer 460 with the classic single 80mm fan design. The Super Silencer spent some time as an SPCR favorite, but it is no longer in production and its noise performance under load is not on par with the S12-430 used in the first comparison. However, its acoustics (and fan behavior under load) is still quite good, and representative of many current quiet power supplies.


Seasonic Super Silencer 460 in the SLK3000B.

ROUND 2: Antec P180 vs. SLK3000B, with Seasonic Super Silencer PSU
Load
System
HS Fan
CPU
GPU
AC Power
PSU fan RPM
SPL
Idle
P180
Fanless
28°C
67°C
112W
1440
26 dBA/1m
SLK3000B
Fanless
29°C
61°C
112W
1440
27 dBA/1m
2 x CPUBurn
P180
Fanless
65°C
67°C
238W
1620
28 dBA/1m
SLK3000B
Fanless
72°C*
62°C
238W
2420
38 dBA/1m
P180
Nexus @ 12V
54°C
67°C
239W
1620
29 dBA/1m
SLK3000B
Nexus @ 12V
53°C
62°C
239W
2420
39 dBA/1m
CPUBurn + Prime95 + 3DMark05
P180
Fanless
67°C
103°C**
294W
(peak)
1700
29 dBA/1m
SLK3000B
Fanless
73°C*
92°C**
294W
(peak)
2900
44 dBA/1m
P180
Nexus @ 12V
56°C
101°C**
295W
(peak)
1700
30 dBA/1m
SLK3000B
Nexus @ 12V
58°C
92°C**
295W
(peak)
2900
44 dBA/1m
*CPU Throttling occurred in these configurations.
** VGA temperatures under 3DMark05 correspond to the peak level seen between separate 3DMark05 benchmarks, and were not easily repeatable. Temperatures are reported as estimates, and cannot be directly compared.

It is interesting to note that the total AC power draw of the system hardly changed. At full system load, this Super Silencer sample has the about same efficiency as the S12-430 sample used before. The fan behavior and noise are a completely different story.

Unlike the S12-430, whose fan hardly ramped up at all during all the testing, the Super Silencer 400 responded audibly to increased temperature under load. This was the expected result of swapping the power supply, but it is worth pointing out that the fan speed increased slightly even in the P180.

CPU Cooling

The CPU and VGA temperatures in the P180 should have been identical to the previous set to tests. Swapping the power supply in the lower chamber should have no effect on temperatures in the upper chamber. However, a 1~2°C drop in CPU temperature under load and a 1~2°C rise in GPU temperature was observed with the different power supply. The most likely reason for this variance is a slight difference in the way the cables were routed.

The change in power supply had a greater effect on the CPU temperature in the SLK3000B. Without the fan on the heatsink, the CPU became hot enough for protective throttling (of CPU clock & voltage) to occur. This was a 6~7°C increase, and it would have been greater had CPU throttling not kicked in. It occurred in spite of the substantial increase in the PSU fan speed, from 1400 RPM at idle to 2400 at CPUBurn load and 2900 RPM at the maximum possible load. Intuitively, the extra airflow should help CPU cooling, but perhaps the interaction between the exhaust fan, the side "blowhole" over the CPU, and the increased fan speed in the PSU reduced the total air speed over the Ninja heatsink.

With the Nexus fan on the heatsink, CPU temperatures in the SLK3000B were much better and remained on par with the P180, although they did vary slightly from the results seen in the first test.

VGA Cooling

No significant changes in the GPU temperature occurred after the power supply swap. The performance in the SLK3000B continued to be slightly better than in the P180. The largest difference was observed in the P180 with the GPU under load, but there was no rational reason for this temperature to change so much, so the variance is most likely a indication of how unreliable the GPU load measurements are.

Noise

After the swap to the Seasonic Super Silencer, the overall noise of both system went up a bit at idle. The change was bigger with the SLK3000B, where the rougher, sharper quality of the 80mm fan in the Super Silencer could be distinguished. It was more muted in the P180.

With the CPU under load, however, the difference in noise between the two systems went from "close" to "no comparison". While the SLK3000B topped out at 44 dBA/1m under the heaviest load, the P180 stayed at a modest 30 dBA/1m — not silent, but hardly noisy, especially for a system of this power. In the SLK3000B, the power supply fan could often be heard ramping up and down in response to changes in heat at its intake, especially during the dynamic load of the 3DMark05 benchmark. This ramping was much less marked in the P180, where the increase in noise was gradual. (Note: There was no point in making recordings of the two cases; one is LOUD, the other is quiet.)

The lower noise of the P180 system can be attributed to the different position of the power supply. The separate power supply chamber ensures that the intake temperature at the PSU remains constant regardless of the heat in the upper chamber. The PSU only has to deal with its own internal heat, and therefore its fan doesn't need to spin as quickly or loudly. The choice of power supply with the P180 is therefore much less crucial than with a more conventional case.

Comparison Three

The three drives added to the P180 system during the hard drive testing were installed in the SLK3000B along with the system drive. The Raptor in the P180 and the Caviar SE in the SLK3000B are close enough in their level of vibration that they can be counted as identical for the purposes of this test. (This test was conducted with the S12-430 PSU in the systems.)

ROUND 3: Antec P180 vs. Antec SLK3000B, w/ Four Hard Drives at Idle
System
System State
HDD Temp.
SPL
SLK3000B
Idle
38°C
28-31 dBA/1m
2 x CPUBurn
38°C
29-33 dBA/1m
P180: PSU/HDD Setup 2
(no fan, exhaust vents sealed)
Idle
43°C
26 dBA/1m
2 x CPUBurn
44°C
26-27 dBA/1m
P180: PSU/HDD Setup 4
(fan set to Low)
Idle
37°C
28 dBA/1m
2 x CPUBurn
35°C
28 dBA/1m

The SPL measurements make clear the difference between the P180 and the SLK3000B: The three extra hard drives add as much as 6 dBA/1m to the system noise in the SLK3000B, while adding only 1-2 dBA/1m in the P180. The difference in even more marked subjectively. The SLK3000B pulses with sound as the resonances of the different hard drives interact with each other; the result is a low frequency hum that rises and falls in volume over a period of ten seconds. The variable nature of the sound makes it hard to ignore. The P180 didn't exhibit a trace of this sound; even with four drives installed, no significant resonance could be heard.

MP3: P180 "Hot Potato", HDD/PSU Setup 2 (four hard drives installed): 26 dBA/1m

MP3: P180 "Hot Potato", HDD Setup 4 (four hard drives installed, PSU chamberfan on Low): 28 dBA/1m

MP3: SLK3000B with four hard drives installed: 28-31 dBA/1m

Comparison Four

As a final proof of the superiority of the drive mounting system in the P180, the two systems were reverted to their original configurations, and measurements were made with the WD Raptor hard drive under heavy use. A large file copy was set up to ensure that the seek noise remained fairly constant while measurement was taking place. The 10 dBA/1m difference between the two systems is quite telling, but the most dramatic difference can be heard in the MP3 recordings of the seek noise.

In the P180, seeks sound much as they do in free air: They are short and sharp, although the composite panels of the P180 manage to take some of the bite out of their attack. On the other hand, the SLK3000B does nothing for the quality of the seek noise: The whole case is shaken with vibration and resonance when the drive is put to work.

MP3: P180 "Hot Potato", WD Raptor Drive, idle/seek: 25/29 dBA/1m

MP3: SLK3000B, WD Raptor Drive, idle/seek: 26/39 dBA/1m

ROUND 4: Antec P180 vs. Antec SLK3000B, Hard Drives Seek Noise
System
System State
SPL (Peak)
SLK3000B
Heavy HDD Seek
39 dBA/1m
P180
Heavy HDD Seek
29 dBA/1m


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