SPCR Does CES 2007

The Silent Front
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January 18, 2007 by Russ Kinder and Charles Gilliatt

The 2007 CES show proved to be an especially difficult event to report on from a “silent PC” perspective. Not because the show floor itself has a noise level somewhere between that of a daycare center just before nap time and a thrash-metal concert, although it does. And not because of a lack of interest from the exhibitors with regards to computer acoustics. It is actually because the exact opposite is true. Nearly everyone in the PC hardware business wants to talk about acoustics now. SPCR is no longer an evangelical voice in the wilderness. The concept of “quiet equals good” is now widespread. In most respects this is a great thing: it is nice to have vendors want to talk to you just because they read “Silent PC Review” on your press badge (or actually chase you down a corridor to ask you to come to their booth, as happened to us a couple of times this year), and to not have to begin every conversation with a description of what SPCR is and why they should care about noise. But with acceptance has come a maturity of the technology. There are simply fewer “gee-whiz” quiet computing products on display. We've seen this all before, the new products are mostly refinements on existing concepts. While good for consumers, it's the “gee-whiz” moments that make for exciting conventioneering.

So, if there was not a plethora of quiet PC innovations at CES, what was taking up the 1.7 million square feet of convention space? Televisions. Well, televisions, and iPod docks. The flat panel display arms race is very much alive and well. Sharp and LG were both showing 108” LCDs, and Optoma was quite proud of their 120” rear projection DLP display. Keeping up with the Jones' is going to require building an addition on your living room... and perhaps selling a kidney: The Optoma 120” will retail for $50K+. While the truly monster displays are only being produced by a handful of companies, it appears that nearly everyone in the consumer electronics business is producing some sort of iPod docking gadget now. Sometime between last year's CES and this year's, iPod speaker docking stations started reproducing like Tribbles. They were everywhere. We did an informal survey of one aisle of booths in the International Pavilion where small companies can get CES exposure for less money than the big-guy displays in the main halls and we counted that nearly 25% of the booths had some sort of iPod dock on display. The phenomenon was not limited to the low-rent district of CES, even the rarefied halls of the High End Audio suites housed at the Venetian Hotel were not immune, although to be fair, the single iPod dock that we spotted there was the $2400 iLink system produced by MSBTech.

But never fear, we were able to pick out a few new silent PC oriented items that had enough of the elusive “gee-whiz” about them to get our attention.

ANTEC

In keeping with their usual mode of operations at CES, Antec eschewed the hustle and bustle of a show floor booth and instead offered invitation-only presentations of new products at their off-site hotel suite. It's very nice to be able to talk to the company representatives without shouting over the din, and to be able to actually hear a running product when it claims to be quiet.

The Expanded Performance One Family

Featured at the presentation were two new cases derived from the original P180 - an improved version with minor tweaks that will be sold as the P182, and an extended, enhanced ventilation model, the P190. Antec bills the P190 as being designed to handle systems that contain multiples of essentially every PC component, from CPU's, to GPU's, to stacks of HDD's.

The P182 we are very exited about - the modifications to the original P180 design seem very logical, and should help make an already quiet case even better. The P190 we are not as sure about. It adds large amounts of open area on the top and left side - the sides that frequently directly face the user - allowing more noise to potentially escape. Few people seemed to complain about systems overheating in the P180, so all the extra airflow may be overkill.

Shared improvements of both cases include:

  • A revised motherboard panel placement that adds about a centimeter of space between the tray and the side of the case for easier behind-the-board cablegami.
  • The addition of two watercooling grommets on the back panel.
  • External adjustment for the TriCool case fan speeds.
  • Improved cable pass-thru at the divider between the motherboard and PSU compartments to alleviate routing issues caused by having large PCI cards occupying slots at the end of the motherboard.


The motherboard trays have been raised to make behind-the-board cable management easier.


The chamber divider has been revised to ease cable management.

P182 Front and back; note the fan speed switch at the rear top.

The P182 featured a new color that is to replace the all black P180B. It proved nearly impossible to photograph properly in the warm lighting of the Bellagio, but in person it is a very striking titanium gunmetal gray.

In addition to the shared upgrades with the P182, the P190 adds:

  • Extra case depth to accommodate E-ATX motherboards and even the longest VGA cards.
  • A pair of 140mm exhausts on the top in place of the P180's single 120mm.
  • A huge 200mm fan on the side panel, with a slide out washable air filter. While big, the 200mm fan is also slow: maximum speed is only 800 RPM, and it features the same Tri-Cool three position speed adjustment of Antec's other fans. Its spec's are: 400/600/800 RPM, 83/108/134 CFM, and 24/27/30 dBA respectively, at the three speed settings.
  • Dual PSU's as the stock retail power configuration. Every P190 will ship with a pair of Neo PSU's; one at 550 watts and the other at 650, providing a total of 1200 watts of rated capacity spread across no fewer than six 12 volt rails.


The P190 features E-ATX Support...


...Dual PSU's...


...and a massive 200mm TriCool fan.

P182 “Special Edition”

Unlike every other product Antec had on display, the P182 “Special Edition” is not destined for immediate retail release. It is the PC equivalent of a concept car: a one-off creation shown to test consumer reaction and interest. Functionally it is identical to the stock P182. The differences are purely cosmetic, but oh boy is it different. In place of the outer aluminum layer of the typical P180 "sandwich panels" is a layer of mirror polished stainless steel. The polish is protected by a layer of automotive quality clearcoat finish for scratch and fingerprint resistance.

The appearance upgrades continue to the interior, where the inside of the door and the entire steel chassis are powdercoated matte black. The aesthetic difference between the matte black and the typical gray found in nearly every other case is really quite shocking. While the mirror exterior is a bit of a love-or-hate effect, the all-black interior is probably The Next Big Thing for high-end cases. It is rather surprising that there are not more cases out there with it, particularly for the window and cathode set.

As stated above, the Special Edition is not going to be produced for retail sale, but given enough customer interest Antec will make it available on a limited basis. So if you like it, let them know. If ever sold, expect it to cost in the range of $50 more than a typical P182.


Bling bling.


Black is the new gray..



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