Antec ISK 300-65 Mini-ITX Case

Cases|Damping
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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with about 6~10 seconds of the ambient in the anechoic chamber (silence), then 10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

Comparable System sound files:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Antec's first mini-ITX case is a solid if not flawless entry into a sector that is new to the brand. The overall airflow design in the case is sensible, simple and effective. It is better than any other case of similar size we know of. The build quality is good, with sturdy, heavy weight steel used everywhere except on the plastic front facia. The accessories include a nice one-piece vertical stand more stable than the common two-piece jobs. Styling is subdued and not quite as polished as Antec's best conventional case offerings, especially the optical drive cover, but it all works fine.

Inside, the HDD mounting frame seems unnecessarily large. It extends over the motherboard and heatsink area, constricting the already tight space. Some of the power output cables seem a bit too long, while one interferes by running in front of the exhaust fan.

Another quibble is the 65W power adapter, which seems underpowered, even if the target motherboards are only low power embedded CPU types. An 80W or 90W adapter would provide greater headroom and flexibility for a wider variety of components. Despite reservations, our test system of a 65W TDP Intel C2D CPU ran without issues.

Our single biggest complaint is about the fan. It has a nasty sonic signature. This is not to say there are not worse fans. There are plenty of fans that sound worse. But as a big case brand, Antec can pick and choose from dozens of fan makers, and hundreds of fans. A better quality fan would cost very little more to implement; why was it not done? Silverstone, a brand not known in the past for quiet cases or fans, has made dramatic improvements in the sonic quality of its fans in cases we reviewed recently. If Silverstone can do it, surely Antec can as well.

Still, the fan is not a deal-breaker. It can be replaced easily, a better fan can be had for under $10, and many SPCR regulars probably have a spare quiet fan that can be pressed into service. The ISK-300 has far better potential for quiet cooling than others of similar size we know of. (Excluding the fanless heatsink cases such as mCubed HFX Micro or Coolermaster TC100.) For that reason alone, it's welcome to the mini-ITX party. The option to add a second fan is obviously handy for users who seek quiet cooling for higher power components; two slow spinning fans often move more air while being as quiet or quieter than a single one spinning at higher speed.

A final attraction is that the price has been kept reasonable. Although the MRSP is $89, the ISK-300 is selling widely online today for under $70. Considering the inclusion of the silent and highly efficient power supply, it's a pretty good deal. ISK is a new case series from Antec, and the 300 is a good first model. Hopefully, it is a harbinger of even better things to come.

Antec ISK 300-65 Case Balance Sheet
Pros
- Sturdy and small
- Good airflow design
- Built in fanless power supply
- Already set up for 2.5" drives
- Affordable
- Better cooling than other m-ITX cases
Cons
- Could be more attractive
- Lousy fan
- Could be a bit smaller
- AC/DC power adapter is only 65W
- No HDD soft grommets

Our thanks to Antec Inc. for the ISK-300 sample.


Recommended by SPCR

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Articles of Related Interest
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mCubed HFX Micro S13 system: Atom 330, Silenced
Coolermaster's Fanless TC-100 mini-ITX case
Apex MI-008: A Cheap Quiet mini-ITX Case?
Silverstone LC-12
Zotac IONITX
Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi

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