SPCR Does CES 2007

The Silent Front
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ANTEC (Continued)

Sonata III

At the other end of the rarity scale is the facelifted Sonata III. One the highest selling enclosures of the Antec lineup, the Sonata gets a new bezel and PSU for 2007. The Sonata III will be sold with the 500 watt version of their Earth Watts line. We're pleased with the change in PSU; our review of the 430 watt flavor showed that the Earth Watts was quieter (and probably more reliable) than the SmartPower 2.0 that was provided in the Sonata II. We expect the 500 watt version to be just as quiet.

Besides the less restricted air intakes, sharp eyed readers will spot the other new feature provided by the new bezel: an eSATA port, which replaces the old IEEE1394 (Firewire) port. Given the higher proportion of motherboards that have SATA connectors compared to those with Firewire pinouts, and the rapidly expanding selection of eSATA-equipped external enclosures, Antec has decided that a front-mounted eSATA connection will be more useful to more consumers — though several SPCR staffers disagree. All future new case rollouts from Antec will feature an eSATA in place of the Firewire. Note that this change does not affect the P182 or P190 cases.

The re-styled Sonata III.

Fusion Black

Continuing the theme of “evolutionary improvement” is the new member of the NSK2400/Fusion family: the Fusion Black. The name succinctly describes its primary difference; it has a black anodized aluminum faceplate and volume knob in place of the regular Fusion's brushed aluminum. One improvement that is harder to spot is the change made to the display. The VFD unit, which we criticized in our review of the Fusion is gone, replaced by an all-new LCD unit that includes an MCE compatible IR receiver. The LCD upgrade will appear on all future Fusion cases, whether bare aluminum or black.

Looks like black is the new silver too.

Micro Fusion / NSK1400

Now for something completely new. The Micro Fusion was the only completely new PC enclosure that Antec had on display. Similar in design layout to the NSK2400/Fusion cases, but at roughly half their height, the Micro Fusion is aimed at system integrators and consumers who want an unobtrusive HTPC that blends closely with other components in an entertainment center. The front panel features the same LCD/IR unit, stealth drive bay, and aluminum construction as the Fusion. Unlike the Fusion, the Micro has Antec's new eSATA connector in place of a Firewire port.

Internally, the Micro Fusion features a unique 300 watt PSU that pulls air through the case side via its 80mm fan and exhausts directly out the rear of the case, isolating it from the rest of the case airflow path. Other internal features are a pair of horizontal HDD trays with silicon mounting and support for both desktop and notebook drives, and a single full height optical bay. As necessitated by the reduced height, the PCI slots are half-height, and the three case fans — two exhausts in the same positions as the NSK2400/Fusion's 120mm's and one intake at the HDD bays — are all 80mm in size. While it supports conventional Micro-ATX motherboards, the half-height PCI slots will likely be the limiting factor in terms of what hardware can be installed. The Micro Fusion is really aimed at the MoDT hardware market, with low total wattages and slim HSF's.

Yep, they managed to make the Fusion even smaller.

The internal layout has shifted a bit, but the most of the same airflow principles apply.

MX-1 Hard Drive Enclosure

The MX-1 is Antec's first external HDD enclosure. Noteworthy specifications include silicon dampening mounts for the HDD, aluminum/plastic sandwich top and bottom panels for noise and resonance absorption, USB and eSATA connectivity, and a very interesting active cooling system. The cooling is built around an 80mm centrifugal slot fan built into the bottom of the enclosure. The fan is rated for 1200 RPM, 3.25 CFM, and 20 dBA. The silicon mounting pad forces the airflow from the fan to be drawn in through a series of vents at the rear of the top panel, over the top of the hard drive, around the front, and then across the drive's PCB before being exhausted out of rear of the enclosure just below the I/O ports. In Antec's fairly quiet hotel suite an operating MX-1 had to be held within about a foot of your ear to be audible. We are looking forward to getting a sample in the lab for a closer inspection. Other external enclosures that we have tested have generally been disappointing in the noise department, perhaps Antec will reverse the trend.

A fat drive enclosure...

...built with quiet computing in mind.

A/V Cooler

Certainly one of the more unexpected and unusual Antec product introductions was the A/V Cooler. Looking more than a bit like an overgrown laptop cooler, the A/V Cooler is intended to be placed on top of heat producing pieces of equipment, such as an HTPC or amplifier, inside a stack of audio/video components. A pair of slot fans on the underside push heated air out to the back of stack, rather than allowing it to rise and heat the equipment above. The fans have a low/high speed control and are rated for 5.5 CFM at 1200 RPM with 22 dBA, or 8 CFM at 1600 RPM and 29 dBA respectively.

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