Antec Mini P180: A micro-ATX P182

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March 7, 2008 by Mike Chin

Product
Antec Mini P180
Advanced Super Mini Tower Case
Manufacturer
Antec
Market Price
US$120~160

Antec's P180 franchise, which began right here at SPCR three years ago, shows no sign of abating. The original design underwent some modifications during the first couple of years. Last year, it was relaunched as the P182, with substantially improved cable management. P182 model variants include the standard aluminum, black, and a mirror finish steel. A large Extended ATX version also made its appearance last year, the P190. It's a couple inches deeper, with multiple large fans including a 200mm fan on the side panel, and room for two power supplies that can be ganged together for truly power-hungry systems. Now, they've released the Mini P180, which shrinks the P180-182 to the micro-ATX form factor.

The P180 and P182 were both aimed at the interests of the silent and power computing enthusiast who wants to tinker to his heart's content. Because the original design predated the dual graphics card gaming era ushered in by nVidia's SLI, the needs of the extreme gaming enthusiast were less well met than the needs of the silent PC enthusiast. In the Mini P180, Antec's reps suggested to me that the balance has shifted a bit, that extreme gaming needs have a slightly higher priority than ultra low noise. This caution may simply be to soften us up for the noise of the 200mm fan that's mounted at the back of the top panel.

Antec's promotional blurb states:

Good things come in small packages

The reliability, performance, and versatility of the Antec Performance One series is now available in a stylishly small enclosure, perfect for gamers on the move. The Mini P180 boasts a heat-reducing dual chamber design with room for your microATX motherboard, power supply, and up to 5 hard drives. Sound-deadening multi-layer side panels and silicone grommets ensure quiet computing, while 120 mm and 200 mm fans provide optimal cooling. Top it off with a sleek interior black finish and front USB, audio, and eSATA ports, and you won’t believe the quality we’ve fit into this petite portable case.

The idea of a high quality case that can only take up to micro-ATX boards yet is geared to extreme gamers seems.... a bit odd. As far as I am aware, there are no micro-ATX boards which feature dual PCIe 16X slots for dual graphics card setups. Still, there are single CPUs and single graphics cards that can draw well over 100W each, so the idea of a smaller chassis that can handle a really hot system with cool aplomb may have appeal.

SPCR readers have been anticipating the Mini P180 since the middle of last year when early samples first saw the light of day, at Computex in Taipei. I visited Antec's suite to report on this product and many others. A forum discussion thread about the case begain in July 2007, and it now stretches over 70 posts. The Mini P180 is finally beginning to show up in stores now. A sample from the first production run was airfreighted to our lab last week for the benefit of eager SPCR readers. We begin our review with a photo.


The Mini P180 bears a strong resemblance to its predecessors.

Our sample is finished in sort of a charcoal black, and it's reflective enough to be very difficult to photograph. The apparent smears in the panels above are reflections of things in the lab. It's not exactly small, either. In fact, it's the size of a standard mid-tower ATX case, which is probably disappointing for anyone hoping for a small mATX case like the Antec NSK3480 or the Silverstone TJ08. There are reasons for its size, some of which will become apparent when you examine the specifications.

The physical reality of the case conflicts with Antec's own description, "petite portable case": It's only petite in comparison with large cases such as the P180/182 or P190, and it's very difficult to consider it portable. Small <14" screen laptops that weigh <4lbs are portable. Mobile phones and iPods are portable. Mid-tower size cases weighing 20 lbs are not portable.

A clarification before moving on: I played the role of lead thermal/acoustic design consultant on the P180, and had some minor input on the P182, but I had no role in the development P190 or the Mini P180.

FEATURES & SPECS

Antec Mini P180 Summary (from the product page)
SPEC / FEATURE
Our Comment
Unique upper and lower chamber structure: the power supply resides in a separate chamber to isolate heat from the system and lower system noise.
First introduced in the P180; Antec's NSK3480 mini-tower and NSK2480 / Fusion horizontal desktops are the only other mATX cases with such a design.
Innovative three-layer side panel (aluminum, plastic, aluminum) dampens system generated noise, making this one of the quietest cases.
Again, introduced in the P180; unique to selected Antec cases.
Configurable to accomodate graphics cards with full length PCBs
Important for the extreme gamer, actually better than many ATX mid-tower cases in this regard.
No power supply included:
to optimize the performance of your Mini P180, your choice of power supply is crucial.
PSU choice is a good thing, and no bundled PSU is the mark of a high end computer case.
Cooling System:
• 1 rear 120x25mm TriCool Fan
• 1 top 200x25mm TriCool fan
• 2 front (optional) 120mm Fans
• Exterior speed control switches
A lot of airflow potential for a mATX case, especially with the huge 200mm fan.
8 Drive Bays
• External 3 x 5.25”; 1 x 3.5”
• Internal 5 x 3.5” for HDD
Quite a few for this size case.
4 Expansion Slots
The norm for mATX.
Front-mounted ports for easy multimedia connections
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x eSATA
- Audio In / Out (AC’ 97 and HDA)
The eSATA port is a nice touch.
Double hinge door
designed to open up to 270º
Same as in P180~190 series.
0.8mm cold rolled steel for durability through the majority of chassis
It suggests sturdy construction.
Compatibility
Accommodates MicroATX motherboards (9.6" x 9.6")
Dimensions
• 17.1"(H) x 8.3"(W) x 17.2"(D)
• 43.5cm(H) x 21.2cm(W) x 43.6cm(D)
The ATX mid-tower Antec P150/Solo is only bigger in depth by a little over an inch: 18.5"
Weight
• Net: 20.9 lbs / 9.5 kg
• Gross: 24.4 lbs / 11.1 kg
Antec Solo is lighter at 20.3 lbs.

In summary, there are several central features:

  • Two separate thermal chambers, with the bottom mounted PSU having direct access to outside air in order minimize the heat through it and thus keep its fan from speeding up.
  • The main chamber has two exhaust fans, a 120mm fan on the back panel and a 200mm fan on the top, directly over the motherboard area. The latter obviously dominates as its airflow will easily be three times that of the 120mm fan.
  • It's the combination of the large top mounted fan, the extra internal partition, and the need for some space for the PSU fan to breathe that adds ~4" height over micro-ATX cases such as Antec's own NSK3480 (reviewed) or the SilverStone TJ-08 (discussed).
  • The 3-ply composite side panels and door resist vibration well, and also block noise better than the typical steel or aluminum panel.




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