Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards

Cases|Damping
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FANS

The simplest way to set up the fans in the P180 is to plug the stock fans into a spare Molex connector and leave it at that. However, most users will want to remove the thick 38mm fan in the power supply chamber during installation, while others will want to install an extra fan in the front or in the VGA duct.

The PSU chamberfan is attached to a plastic bracket that allows it to be removed without unscrewing it. It is quite simple to remove, but the method is not obvious. Unclip it by pressing the lever into the case while pulling the whole unit out. Reinstall by reversing the process. It's easiest to use your fingers to grip the inside of the fan and your thumb to press the lever.


Click to download a movie clip of the fan installation (696 KB).

An empty fan bracket comes installed at the front of the case for those who want to install a front fan. The installation process is the same as for the fan in the PSU duct.


120mm fans are installed using a bracket that clips easily into place.


The 38mm PSU chamber fan installed on the fan bracket and ready to be clipped into place.

Unlike the 120mm fans, installing the 80mm fan in the VGA duct is a lengthy process. The mounting holes for the fan are inside the VGA duct, which means it must be fully disassembled before the fan can be installed. The VGA duct consists of two halves that are held together by five screws. Like the sleeve for the duct, the screws mate with the plastic frame and the same issue of durability is present.


The mounting holes for the 80mm fan are located inside the VGA duct.

Once the duct is disassembled, it's a simple matter to screw in an 80mm fan using the included fan screws. The choice of fan is important because it protrudes above the surface of the duct. The standard 25mm thick fan that we tried first made it impossible to reinstall the duct with our choice of VGA card — our card was too tall to provide the clearance necessary. Every high performance VGA card in the SPCR lab was the same height (about 5mm above the top edge of the PCI bracket), so a 20mm thick fan was used instead.

The 20mm fan allowed the duct to be properly installed, but the fan was flush against the VGA card. Reversing the direction of the fan (making the duct an exhaust instead of an intake) put the fan blades in contact with the VGA card, making it unsafe to use the fan in this configuration.

Fan Characteristics

All of the fans used during testing, including the stock Antec fans, were also tested individually outside the P180 so they could be compared to other known fans.

P180: Fan Characteristics
Fan
Setting
CFM
SPL
Antec 120 x 25mm TriCool
H
75
39 dBA/1m
M
47
31 dBA/1m
L
28
20 dBA/1m
Antec 120 x 38mm TriCool
H
64
30 dBA/1m
M
55
27 dBA/1m
L
39
23 dBA/1m
Nexus 120 x 25mm
12V
42
23 dBA/1m
7V
25
18 dBA/1m
5V
16
<17 dBA/1m
Antec 80 x 20mm
12V
17
22 dBA/1m
7V
9
<17 dBA/1m
5V
4
<17 dBA/1m

The two 120mm TriCool models are quite different in character. The range of the thinner 25mm fan is quite amazing. This fan can be a monster or a model depending on how it is set. Of interest to the SPCR audience is the Low setting, which blows a respectable 28 CFM at an even more respectable 20 dBA/1m. The noise signature is quite smooth at this level, perhaps on par with the Nexus at 12V. Although the Nexus is slightly quieter for the amount of airflow it produces, the TriCool performs very well for a stock fan.

Although the thinner TriCool fans don't vibrate any more than usual, it is worth pointing out that, unlike in some other Antec cases, they are hard-mounted with screws. Soft mounting the fan with E.A.R. grommets produced an audible drop in the overall system noise. It measured only a decibel or so, but it was subjectively significant in a quiet system.

The 120x38mm TriCool has less range and is louder at the low end, though it is still far from loud. However, the character of the noise is dirtier. This fan has a low growl or rumble that makes is more immediately identifiable than its thinner cousin. It also vibrates a lot, which may explain the rumbling in its noise character. It is probably not acceptable for a demanding silent PC enthusiast.

The 80x20mm fan provided by Antec for the VGA duct is quite impressive, especially for a thin, low profile fan. Its noise character is smooth and fairly low pitched, and its maximum SPL of 22 dBA/1m is very modest. This fan is not normally included with the P180. It has no identifying markings whatsoever except the Antec label on the hub.

Fan Recordings

MP3: 120 x 25mm Antec TriCool, 10s Low, 5s Medium, 5s High: 20-31-39 dBA/1m

MP3 120 x 38mm Antec TriCool, 10s Low, 5s Medium, 5s High: 23-27-30 dBA/1m

MP3: 120 x 25mm Nexus, 8.8V: 35 CFM / 19 dBA/1m
MP3: 120 x 25mm Nexus, 12V: 41 CFM / 23 dBA/1m

MP3: 80 x 20mm Antec, 12V: 22 dBA/1m

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone was 3" from the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake side of the fan to avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all recordings was 18 dBA or lower. It is best to download the sound files to your computer before listening.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing this Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (<17 dBA/1m) recording and set the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, all tone controls and other effects should be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system playback level to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.


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