Antec NSK1480: The Fusion gets Smaller

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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 ambient noise, 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.

Comparatives:

FINAL THOUGHTS

The NSK1480 is a nice evolutionary addition to Antec's case lineup, incorporating solid thermal design from previous cases (notably the P180 series and the Fusion) into a smaller HTPC / desktop package. There's nothing revolutionary here, but the addition of a smaller HTPC case is welcome as the rest of the industry heads in this direction and low profile parts become easier to find.

It would have been nice to see Antec upgrade their fans, as they are starting to stand out for the worse against the competition. It's difficult to call them bad exactly. Just dated. A bigger problem is the fan in the power supply, which dominates the noise signature and cannot be easily swapped. In addition, the power supply itself is proprietary, making this an exceptionally difficult problem to deal with. Such is the price of miniaturization. Keep in mind that for most people, noise standards for media PCs can be more relaxed than with a home office PC; when it's actually being used, sound that emanates from the TV or stereo tends to mask the noise of the PC. (See page 3 of the article Cases: Basics & Recommendations for more details on this topic.)

All in all, the NSK1480 is a solid choice for an HTPC case, and we're happy to see another low profile choice in this market. The large size of HTPC cases has been a common complaint since they first showed up, and small has too often meant starved for air. The NSK1480 strikes a sensible balance between cooling, low noise, and modest size.

Our thanks to Antec for the NSK1480 sample.

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Articles of Related Interest
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Luxa2 LM100 Mini: "Exquisite & Desirable" m-ITX HTPC Case
Moneual MonCaso 301 Desktop HTPC Case
Antec Fusion Remote Max HTPC Case
Silverstone GD01 and LC17 HTPC Cases
Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case

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Discuss this article in the SPCR Forums.

POSTSCRIPT: A SIMPLE MOD by Mike Chin

Shortly after the work on this review was done, I had a need for a HTPC in my TV room. Yes, it's true: Although a few PCs have set up shop temporarily in that room, I could not justify the clutter and added complexity. A HD PVR with satellite service has been good enough. Recent downloads via torrent of HD movies and TV shows persuaded me that a PC under the TV might finally be a useful thing.

The Antec NSK1480 fits nicely into the single shelf in the existing TV stand, with several inches above for it breathe properly. The case seemed a natural choice. I wasn't too keen on the noise of the stock PSU, however. The Bell ExpressVue PVR makes enough noise by itself, and I didn't want any more noise to be added to the room ambient, as the PC would likely be on all the time, pulling down torrents.

The challenge with modding the PSU is that its fan is a slim profile 80x15mm model, not easy to find a replacement for. But examining the PSU with its cover off, and the intake vent on the side of the case. I realized there is a simple solution: Simply leave the U-shaped cover off, and mount a quiet 80x25mm fan on the case instead, at the vent. The stiff insulating plastic sheeting around the sides of the PSU provides reasonable protection against shorts and other accidental damage, and keeps the airflow unchanged. Pictures show better than words...

Double side tape was used in the corners to affix a Nexus Real Silent 80x25mm fan to the side vent for the PSU. Note the plastic sheeting on either side of the power supply. The Nexus fan lead was plugged into a motherboard fan header with a voltage-reducing resistor to drop the speed down to a constant ~600rpm, where it is basically inaudible.



The Scythe Big Shuriken heatsink/fan was used on a new AMD Athlon II X2 240e (2.8GHz) 45W TDP processor. The Asus M4A78-HTPC/RC motherboard, well-suited for this role, was called into service here. No optical drive, for now, four gigs of RAM on two sticks, and a 500GB Seagate Momentus 5400.6 2.5" drive in a "classic" elastic band suspension in one of the HDD bays.



A block of foam was also placed over the HDD, which turns out to be about the most audible component in the system, at least from up close, when it is seeking/writing.

The end result is a PC that in normal use is inaudible from the seat distance some 6' away. It is only audible from within about 1.5', but with a wireless keyboard and integrated rollerball, there's no reason to get up close to the computer anyway. AC power draw is 40~50W, and rarely exceeds 65W. The unit was not measured for SPL in the anechoic chamber before being installed in the upstairs room, but I'd guess the overall level to be some 5 dBA@1m lower than the baseline idle Devon measured, as there are only two very smooth and quiet fans: The one on the Scythe heatsink, which spins about 600~1200rpm depending on load, and the Nexus fan on the heatsink, which is at a slow ~600rpm. When the TV is actually on, it is almost impossible to hear this machine over the soundtrack even from just a couple feet away.



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