Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards

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The lower drive bay contains a small box that holds the larger accessories and the manual.

A small box of accessories is wedged into the lower drive bay.

In addition to the top spoiler, it contains two sets of drive rails, a warranty sheet, and the manual.

Many of the important accessories, however, are kept elsewhere. Small accessories — screws, motherboard standoffs, and spare grommets for the drive bays — are kept in the accessory box affixed to the back of the upper drive cage. The remaining drive rails are clipped onto the exterior of the VGA duct, where they are easily accessible.

The upper drive cage has to be removed to access the accessory box.

A full complement of hardware for installing the motherboard, the drives, and even extra fans is included.


It is worth reiterating this information from the P180 Overview article:

The stated goals for the P180:

  • To develop a case incorporating hybrid composite panels with practical and effective silencing techniques in a tower-style size that can accept a full range of standard PC components; a case that will be quiet even with ordinary components, and approach 20 dBA/1m SPL with carefully selected components.
  • To be a great solution for power users who want ultimate cooling with the hottest current desktop PC components, as well as for silencers who seek minimal noise, in an understated, modern, elegant style.

There were many principles applied to the P180. The following were central:

  • Create separate chambers for better thermal management with less airflow.
  • Ensure simple, direct, low-impedance airflow paths.
  • Use damping and mechanical decoupling whenever possible to minimize vibration transfer.
  • Keep any noise at the back of the case as much as possible.
  • The front bezel must be transparent for airflow yet prevent direct escape paths for noise.
  • Use Antec's unique multi-layer plastic/aluminum composite for the main outer panels to eliminate panel vibration.

Core Thermal Design

The positioning of the power supply and the 4-bay hard drive cage in the separate bottom compartment is a key aspect of the P180's design. There is a fan mounting spot — and a supplied 120 x 38 mm 3-speed fan — but the fan really only needs to be used with a fanless power supply. In normal use, virtually any fan-cooled PSU should draw enough air from the front vent of the bottom chamber to keep the hard drives cool. It should also have no trouble keeping itself cool without ramping up in speed.

From a thermal point of view, this arrangement is highly efficient in that the airflow of the PSU fan is used not only to cool itself but also the hard drives. At the same time, the heat of the PSU and hard drives are not adding to the heat of the CPU and video cards, which are the primary heat producers in today's PCs.

A top quality PSU will convert >80% of the AC power it draws into DC power. The remaining <20% of energy gets wasted as heat inside the power supply, which is what makes them get hot. If you have an 80% efficiency power supply and your system needs 200W DC during maximum peaks, then the PSU draws 250W AC, 50W of which converted to heat in the PSU. Hard drives rarely consume more than about 10W average in actual operation. If we assume two hard drives, the total heat in the PSU / HDD chamber or tunnel will not go above 70W. This is a small amount of heat to be evacuated through this free-flowing air tunnel.

Following this example, in a conventional ATX case where the power supply is positioned at the top, the 50W of heat from the PSU would be within inches of the hot CPU, which could easily be producing 100W of heat. The CPU and PSU would affect each other; both would run hotter, and any thermally controlled fans (in the PSU, on the CPU heatsink) would tend to ramp up faster. The 20W from the HDDs would also be added to the overall heat in the case, adding to the thermal load. With the P180's separate PSU / HDD chamber, the thermal load on all the components and on the airflow / cooling system is considerably reduced.

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