Antec P182 Advanced Super Midtower Case: P180 v.2

Cases|Damping
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There's no reason to believe that the thermal cooling or acoustics in the P182 (or P182SE) would be any different from that in the P180. It's basically the same case with added features, the main ones designed to improve ease of wire management. A truly exhaustive set of thermal and acoustic testing with several different systems and multiple configurations was done in Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards, so there really is no need to repeat all of that work. Still, for the record, a quick set of measurements were taken under various conditions.

P182SE System Snapshot
Prime95 CPU stress test
Idle
Load
CPU
34°C /
51°C
VGA
60°C
60°C
HDDs
43/42°C
43/42°C
Sound Pressure Level (dBA@1m)
27
28
AC Power
115W
165W
ATI Tool VGA stress test
Idle
Load
CPU
34°C
44°C
VGA
59°C
82°C
HDDs
43/42°C
43/42°C
Sound Pressure Level (dBA@1m)
27
28 / 36
AC Power
115W
241W
The ambient conditions were 23°C and 19 dBA. No special effort was made to lower the noise of the system. The two upper fans were set to LOW speed, and the lower chamber fan was removed. The extra vents on the back around the PSU were blocked with electrical tape. The HDDs were cooled only by the PSU fan. The front door of the case was left closed; opening it will tend to improve the cooling by a few degrees at 1~2 dBA increase in noise.

Several things worthy of note:

1) The CPU cooling was exemplary. With both top and back stock fans at LOW, the thermal fan controller in the motherboard rarely even turned the CPU fan on. As detailed in the P180 review, there are many options with those 120mm fans, but it's difficult to conceive of any system that would require either of these fans to be on any speed but low. The two of them on low together are quieter than just one on medium. In this particular system, the top fan could easily be removed and replaced with just a piece of black foam with hardly any change in cooling performance. This would drop the measured noise down about 2 dBA@1m, but the subjective result would be more significant. Assuming the case / system is placed on the floor (which is logical given the size of the case), then the top panel 120mm fan has the most direct sound path to the user's ears.

2) The lower chamber fan was not necessary for HDD cooling. The slow 120mm fan in the Nexus PSU created enough airflow (with the extra vents around the PSU on the back panel blocked off) via the front vent of the low chamber to keep the hard drives quite cool. Some users want to see <40°C, but in the vast majority of systems from the likes of Dell, HP, etc., the HDDs usually run close to 50°C. Most manufacturers rate desktop HDD operation to be safe up to 60°C. Using the low chamber fan makes wire management in the lower HDD area trickier, as it get's pretty tight if you have many hard drives down there. A modular PSU like the Nexus used in this system is a wise choice.

3) No increase in PSU fan speed (or noise) was noted any time during testing. This is a testament to how well the compartmentalized cooling works, and to good low-noise fan control design in the new Nexus NX-8060.

4) The temperature of the ATI X1950XTX (one of the hottest on the market today) was never an issue; visible artifacts on the screen generally don't appear till the temperature reaches close to 100°C in most GPUs. However, the noise of the graphics card fan periodically ramping up and down is the reason for the 28 / 36 dBA@1m recorded during the ATI Tool test. That SPL was not constant; it stepped up and down between the two numbers about every 2 minutes. The ATI card's fan seemed to be triggered to higher speed at ~82°C GPU temperature.

Would adding the optional front fan in the upper chamber keep the GPU below the ~82°C fan speed increase trigger point? This question seemed worth exploring.

The fan removed from the lower chamber was installed with clips on the back end of the upper HDD cage. ATI Tool stress test was run with the fan set at low, medium and high speed.


The front fan in upper chamber just before being slid into place. Note the gooseneck LED light, which is always on when powered off a motherboard USB header as long as the PSU is plugged into AC and switched on (ie, in standby). It is a bit dim to be that useful.

Unfortunately, the answer is that the front fan did not change the thermal behavior of the ATI X1950XTX video card. The card's cooling system actually takes in air on the inside end and exhausts it through a vent in the rear. One would expect that lowering the temperature of the intake air would help improve GPU cooling, but that did not happen. There's no question that with the intake case fan at medium and high settings, the temperature of the air directly at the video card's intake area was lower; the drop in CPU temperature can only be attributed to this added incoming airflow. Perhaps the video card's fan spins too slowly at idle for the reduced intake air temperature to make any difference. However, the front fan would certainly be useful if the stock HSF of the ATI card was replaced with a big passive heatsink like the Aerocase Condor.

ATI Tool test #2A: Front fan @ low
Idle
Load
CPU
34°C
44°C
VGA
60°C
82°C
Sound Pressure Level (dBA@1m)
28
28 / 36
ATI Tool test #2B: Front fan @ medium
Idle
Load
CPU
32°C
42°C
VGA
59°C
82°C
Sound Pressure Level (dBA@1m)
33
33 / 36
ATI Tool test #2C: Front fan @ high
Idle
Load
CPU
30°C
40°C
VGA
58°C
82°C
Sound Pressure Level (dBA@1m)
40
40

Interestingly, the front fan added virtually no audible noise at the low setting. The other fans in the system (five altogether, including the ones in the PSU and on the video card and CPU coolers) and the two hard drives basically masked whatever noise the extra fan added at this speed.

CONCLUSIONS

The Antec P182 is a genuine improvement on the P180. The core features of the P180 are retained, the wire management is vastly improved, and no new glitches are apparent. That it's also more water-cooling friendly obviously broadens the appeal of the case, and the internal gooseneck light is probably an attractive feature for most potential buyers. The easily smudged mirror finish of the SE model is not exactly my cup of tea, but surely, that's a matter of taste; if you find yourself in agreement, then the standard version is widely available and cheaper as well.

In our last review of the P180 case, Devon Cooke wrote,

The P180 is not a beginner's case. In the right hands, it has the potential to outdo almost any other case on the market in terms of noise and thermals, but some knowledge of thermodynamics and acoustics is necessary to get the most out of it. A beginner may be luckier with the P180 than another case because the choice of hard drive and power supply are less crucial, but the cable installation will take a fair bit of time.

The P182 is much closer to being a case for everyman because it's so much easier to manage the wiring. The changes were small, but the effect is dramatic. They show intelligent evolution and attention to user feedback.

The P182 is not better in cooling or silencing capability than the last production version of its immediate predecessor, the P180b. However, this is saying a lot. Straight out of the box, without modifications, the P182 has greater potential for a very quiet system to be assembled even by a novice DIY computer builder. The average user will find that in combination with reasonably chosen components, the P182 provides a quality and level of noise that is unachievable in any other case without modification. Its only real competition may be Antec's own P150 or Solo.

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Our thanks to...

Antec Inc. for the P182SE case sample
Corsair Memory for the XMS2-8500 DDR2 memory
Intel for the C2D 6700 Processor sample
Anitec Computer Technology for the Gigabyte GA965P-S3 motherboard
ATI for the X1950 XTX graphics card
Seasonic for the S12 and Super Silencer PSU samples
Western Digital for the Raptor 150 hard drive sample
Hitachi for the 7K500 HDD sample
EndPCNoise for the Nexus NX-8060 power supply s
Apack ZeroTherm for the BTF90 CPU cooler

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SPCR Articles of Related Interest

Antec P150 / Solo mid-tower case
Antec P180: The Whole Nine Yards
Lian Li PC-101: Aluminum *Can* be Quiet!
Cases: Basics and Recommendations
DIY P180 Mod: Move bottom chamber fan to front

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