Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards

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June 15, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Time passes and products evolve. It's been almost a year since the P180 was first released to much fanfare along with SPCR's longest review ever (in three parts). Antec has finally released the black model of the P180 to the general public (previously, it was an SPCR-exclusive product). At the same time, they revised the original P180 to address several minor issues that arose after the case was released:

  • The VGA duct has been removed entirely.
  • Vented PCI slot covers have been added to improve airflow around the VGA cards.
  • New fan clips that allow a 120mm fan to be mounted directly in front of the VGA cards are included.
  • The power supply channel is now cooled by a standard Tricool fan; the original 38mm thick fan is gone.
  • The silicone padding around the power supply frame has been improved.
  • The front door is now made of the same 3-ply material that is used in the rest of the case, resolving warping issues with the door.

These changes are minor and do not warrant another full review. However, they do affect my original conclusions about the case, especially where the VGA duct is concerned, so it is worth giving them a quick look.

My biggest criticism about the original P180 was the fact that the VGA duct was noisy, ineffective, and complicated installation. Using somewhat strong language, I advised users to avoid this particular feature: "I cannot think of any configuration where I would not remove the duct entirely." Apparently, Antec (and SPCR's editor, Mike Chin, who helped design the case) was listening. The VGA duct has been dropped entirely in favor of a much simpler and, hopefully, more effective system.

Vented PCI slot covers significantly change the airflow around the VGA card(s).

Two new features have been introduced to replace the duct. The first is the use of vented PCI slot covers to provide additional airflow in the immediate vicinity of the expansion cards. This feature was recently used to great success in Mike Chin's second collaboration with Antec, the NSK2400 desktop case.

The second feature is the inclusion of a pair of fan clips that allow an additional fan to be installed between the top drive bay and the expansion slots, giving the slots the direct airflow that the duct was supposed to provide with minimal hassle. When the fan is installed, the expansion cards can now have a dedicated cooling fan to provide a logical front-to-back airflow configuration through the VGA cards. Given the natural dividing baffle effect of a typical high end video card into upper and lower areas (and the way two such vidcard in SLI/Crossfire mode form a channel), the close positioning of this extra fan is very welcome for those who use the P180 in a high end gaming rig.

Simple fan clips with illustrated mounting instructions.

The clips allow an additional fan to be installed that provides direct airflow beneath the top VGA card, with the heated air exhausting out the back panel expansion slot openings.

The power supply channel has also received a couple of minor updates. The first is a simple fan swap. The original version of the case featured an extra-thick 120x38mm cooling fan that, unlike the rest of the fans in the case, had no business in a case designed for silence. It is now a 120x25mm fan like in the rest in the case. The change does a lot to lower the out-of-the-box noise.

The fan in the PSU channel has been replaced with a quieter version.

The second change to the PSU channel simply implements the silicone padding around the PSU frame in a better way. The original mounting system attempted to isolate the power supply by surrounding it with a thin silicone pad. However, the pedestal on which the power supply rested had no such padding, effectively short-circuiting the attempt at soft-mounting. This has now been corrected; the power supply is now padded on all sides. The frame also fits more loosely than before, allowing the silicone to do its part to absorb vibration.

The PSU frame now fits more loosely and the silicone padding has been expanded.

The final change has little to do with acoustics, but nevertheless fixes a serious aesthetic complaint that many users had. The problem was that the door was prone to warping if subjected to rapid changes in temperature, leading to a variety of fit-and-finish issued, including warping, separation of the door's two layers, and a "bulge" that would not allow the door to lie flush against the bezel.

Antec's solution was simple: The door is now made from the same three-ply construction as the rest of the case, which means that the two outer sides expand and contract together with temperature changes. Early users of the new doors have reported that this has fixed the problem. On a side note, the original review sample of the P180 currently occupies the space under my desk to the right of my knees, and has never shown any signs of warping.

The new, 3-ply door is no longer susceptible to the warping that affected the original 2-ply door. being a bit thicker, it may actually improve acoustic islolation slightly as well.

All in all, it is good to see that Antec has kept up their support of the P180. These changes are a sign that the P180 has outgrown its teething problems and that Antec probably intends to keep this model around for a while longer. The removal of the VGA duct and the replacement of the bottom fan address the only two major issues that I had with the original release. Now, a year later, the P180 is worthier than ever of the praise that I gave it in the original review: "The Antec P180 is designed for quiet computing, and based on this criterion alone, it delivers handsomely."

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