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Antec P150 mid-tower case w/ Neo HE 430 PSU

October 11, 2005 by Ralf
Hutter

Product
P150
Computer Case
Manufacturer
Antec, Inc
MSRP
US$180

NOTE: POSTSCRIPT 2 ADDED in Antec NeoHE 430 PSU review, DEC 21, 2005: Incompatibilities!

The Antec P180 was one of the most eagerly anticipated computer
cases in recent memory. While it received dozens of rave reviews as well as
copious amounts of positive feedback from individual users, there's a
small minority to whom the grass is always greener on the other side.
I've heard complaints that the P180...

  • is too big
  • is too complicated to set up
  • makes clean cable management difficult
  • has the PSU positioned too far away from the motherboard
  • has a door
  • has a difficult-to-remove front bezel
  • has an awkward air vent on top of the case
  • silver version looks like a refrigerator
  • black version is too monochromatic, etc.

And these are only the complaints that my pea-sized brain are capable of remembering!
I'm sure there are more, but you get the idea. To all those P180 nay-sayers,
Antec gives a big Bronx cheer as they introduce the new P150.

The P150 is positioned along with the P180 and the earlier P160
in the Performance
One Series
, Antec's flagship line of cases for hard-core PC
enthusiasts. While the P150 borrows some of the best features of its forebearer,
the P180, its also a bit of a clean slate for Antec, sporting some features
never seen on any case.

A TOUR OF THE P150

Antec really snuck this one in under the radar, as I'd never heard
a peep about it until I received a P150 pdf attachment in an email, along with
a "heads up" that one would be landing soon on the Hutter Labs receiving
dock.



P150 is packaged for retail sales
.

Antec describes the P150 as having "quiet elegance and an
environmentally friendly design". The latter probably refers to the high efficiency PSU that is included. The former, I assume, refers to the "gleaming
white and brushed aluminum finish" along with its understated and uncluttered
design theme, encompassing a pair of stealthed drive bay doors and a seemingly
grill-less front bezel. The primary color scheme of the P150 is a gloss white.
New for Antec perhaps, but already on the cutting edge of fashion trend.

My trendoid wife tells me that, for the Really Cool People, "white
is the new black", so maybe Antec is on to something here. [Editor's
Note:
Let's face it. When Dell's entire PC line is available only in black,
that color is about as mainstream as it can be.
] The sheen of the white
paint falls between the semi-matte finish of the SLK 3xxx series, and the glossy
"Piano Black" of the Sonata. It's glossy enough to look fairly classy,
yet easier to keep clean than a super shiny finish.

The white paint is offset by a burnished aluminum fascia on the
plastic front bezel. The bezel itself is a glossy white plastic that matches
the shade and sheen of the painted case quite closely. The plastic front bezel
is much beefier than the typical front bezel, which should please anti-plastic-ites.



Pearly white P150 with its brushed aluminum accent panel.

Other than the front bezel, the case is constructed entirely of
steel. The case walls are all made from 1mm thick steel, which is the same thickness
as the Sonata series. This compares to the 0.8mm steel panels used on the SLK
3x00 series, and may provide additional noise reduction and vibration dampening
over the thinner steel. It also makes the case seem more substantial.

One of the all-new features of the P150 is the damping material
that comes pre-applied to both side doors and the roof of the case. This is
a single layer of a 0.9mm textured semi-hard vinyl sheet. I assume that it is
meant to dampen panel vibrations, but it may also provide a small amount of
noise blocking as well. Rapping on the panels with my calibrated knuckles, does
show that they are well damped, but not as much as the three-layer plastic+aluminum
sandwich of the P180.

The fact that the removable side panels are steel should please
those that complained about the P180's panels being built on a base of plastic.
Thankfully for cable-management junkies, unlike the Sonata, both P150 side panels
are removable for easy access while building the system and routing all the
cables. The left side door is screwed down using a nice set of spring loaded
thumb screws that are permanently attached to the panel. The right side panel
uses the usual Phillips-head screws to keep it in place.



Vinyl dampening sheet as applied to both side panels.

The top panel gets the same treatment. Note the attached thumbscrews.

Another nice idea for cable management is found on the back side
of the 3.5" drive cage. This consists of sets of plastic "hooks"
for wrapping up any extraneous cables that normally cause a mess inside the
case. I may be a bit biased, but I think this is one of the neatest (no pun
intended) ideas I've seen in a long time, and one that I've never seen on any
other computer case.



Cable management hooks
.

THE REAR

The P150 comes standard with an 3-speed Antec Tri-cool fan mounted
directly to the rear panel with standard fan screws. Some sort of isolators would
provide a little extra bit of vibration dampening, but the Tri-cools don't have
vibration when they're run at the lowest of the three speeds.
The stamped fan grill uses the same free flowing hexagonal openings that we've
seen on most of Antec's recent cases.

At the rear of the case is a set of hexagonal
holes right next to the PCI card slots. It looks like the vestiges of the grill
for the VGA/CPU duct used in the P180 and Sonata II , but with no way to
attach the duct to the case. No duct is included with the P150. Likely, the duct was abandoned after our reviews showed its ineffectiveness in low noise cooling. My guess is that the vent holes have been retained to some amount airflow movement (in or out) to take place around
the VGA/PCI cards, as there are no vent holes on the side panel typical in many cases today.



Rear of case. Note the vent holes next to the PCI slots
.

NEO HE 430 POWER SUPPLY

Mounted on the rear wall
as standard equipment in the P150 is the new 430W Neo HE power
supply
. This PSU is being reviewed by Devon in MikeC's Vancouver lab, so
I'll just mention a few key features:

  • Antec claims 85% efficiency at 230VAC and 82% at 115VAC.
  • Low noise, as low as 18dBA (presumably @1m).
  • Cooled by single 80mm fan.
  • Detachable output power cords.

[Editor's Note: The complete Neo HE 430 review can be found by clicking here.]

The detachable output power cables allows you to use only the
cables that you need, which can help reduce case clutter. Between this, and
the cable management hooks, it's clear that Antec is thinking about wire management,
whether to improve airflow through the case, or just general aesthetics. Either
way, the end result works quite well.

The Neo HE is cooled by a single
80mm fan mounted in the standard exhaust position. The bottom of the PSU is
unventilated. A mesh grill intake makes
up the entire rear wall of the PSU. The position of the rear
grill also makes it possible to duct the PSU to
the top front drive bay(s), sealing off the PSU from the warm air
of the case and allowing it to pull cool air in through the front,
just like with the design of the P180. Of course, this requires a bit of DIY initiative.



Neo HE PSU. 24/20-pin ATX and AUX12V cables are permanently attached; other cables can be added as needed.



Rear of PSU. Note vent grill and power cable attachment connectors
.



The modular cable set includes "Y" floppy connector,
3 connector Molex cable, 2 connector PCI-Express cable, 2 connector SATA power cable and a PCI-E extension
.

THE FRONT

We find all sorts of neat new
features and some nicely implemented standards at the front. A cursory look at the front
bezel reveals a pair of stealthed 5.25" drive bay covers, a spare 5.25"
bay and another 5.25" bay with a removable insert designed to hold a
floppy drive, or any other 3.5" front panel device. These optical
drive bays are recessed about 5mm below the aluminum face of the bezel itself,
and are finished in the same bright white color as the rest of the case. Color-matching
a pair of optical drives won't be an issue, but finding a white floppy drive
might be.

Beneath the optical drives on the right side of the bezel is a pair
of recessed buttons, the larger being the power switch, the smaller being the
reset switch. The power button is surrounded by a clear plastic ring, behind
which resides the blue Power On LED. This is a nice touch that provides the
user with the de rigueur blue LED, but serves to reduce the piercing brightness
of said blue LED. Opposite the power buttons on the left side of the bezel resides
the HDD activity light. It's also a blue LED, positioned behind a clear
plastic insert that reduces the
brightness. Below the power and reset switches is a vertically positioned mounting
plate that holds the Audio In & Out ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a
Firewire port.

The front of the bezel is void of any ventilation
slots or grills. All the front air intake is provided by a series of 10mm x
3mm slots that run around the periphery of both sides and the bottom of the
bezel. These serve to provide great airflow and they keep any potential
noise from emanating directly out of the front of the case. This design
works great on the good 'ol Evercase 4252 as well as the new Antec P180 and it's
nice to see it in the P150.

SWINGING BEZEL

The door-phobes are probably reveling in their triumph, but not
so fast! There might not appear to be a door on the P150, but in fact, the entire
front bezel itself is a door. It opens from left to right, via a set of metal
hinges hidden beneath the right side of the bezel. To open the "door",
the left side panel needs to be removed and a set of three locking tabs unsnapped
which will then let the bezel/door swing open.

For those who complain that
the hinges of standard Antec case doors are "too flimsy",
this is Antec's answer: The hinges on the P150 bezel are constructed entirely
from steel, and appear very sturdy. The design of the hinges also lets
you remove the bezel very easily. All you need to do is open the bezel about
45° and lift it directly up out of the hinges. There are no wires or cables
attached to the bezel itself so it comes right off with no fiddling. Another
nice touch from Antec. The bezel is also constructed quite a bit more substantially
than the typical bezel or door. While it is still made of plastic, the plastic
is thicker than normal, and the 1" lip around the periphery makes it very resistant to flexing.



Bezel open. Note air filter, I/O ports, metal hinges
.

Behind the bezel you'll notice the fan intake filter,
and you might wonder why it's not 120mm square to cover the front fan.
Well, that's because the front fan isn't a 120mm fan, it's a pair of
92mm fans! This flies in the face of the "front and rear 120mm fans"
that have become the new standard during the past couple years. Personally,
I think this is a brilliant idea on Antec's part. Not only does the pair of
92mm fans actually cover a larger area than a single 120mm fan, the position
of fans will actually allow for the upper fan to be used in the
normal intake/HDD cooling role, while the lower one can be used as a spot cooler
for the VGA/PCI cards, if some additional cooling is needed in that area.

Another nice idea is the easy-to-remove fan filter.
Antec has been putting fan filers on most all of their cases lately, but most
have left a bit to be desired in the "ease of removal" department.
Not so with the P150's filter. Simply swing open the front bezel and the fan
filter is right there, ready to be snapped off for cleaning. It takes less time
to do it than it does to read this paragraph.



Bezel and filter removed. Note the mounting points for a pair of 92mm fan

I've experimented lots with 120mm intake fans and have come to the conclusion that they are almost always
overkill. The front intake fan rarely aids much in actual cooling, and is mostly useful for cooling the HDD(s). In the role
of HDD cooling, any 120mm fan is serious overkill. Even a 120mm Nexus Real Silent
running at 5V supplies much more air than needed. Over the years, I've generally
opted to use a super quiet 5-volt 80mm or 92mm fan mounted right onto the
120mm fan grill for HDD cooling. This provides more than enough
airflow, and is usually quieter than a 120mm solution, something that's
very important considering the front fan is the closest source of noise escaping
from the case. So I applaud Antec's choice of 92mm intake fans on the P150.
For my build I used a 92mm Nexus Real Silent fan at 5V in the upper position as a
HDD cooler. It kept my drive nice and cool, no matter what the ambient room
temperature, and was not at all audible, even from 1-2 feet away.

The front fan mounting plate actually does double duty, not only
as a mounting point for the fan(s) and filter, but also as an access port for installing
the HDDs in the 3.5" drive bays. People have complained that the normal
method of accessing the HDDs from the rear of the drive bay causes interference
issues with the VGA and PCI cards, so Antec has come up with the novel idea
of installing/removing the drives from the front of the case, while still keeping
them in the preferred "lengthwise" orientation for better airflow.
To do this, they have made the fan/filter holder removable. Simply unscrew the
two thumb screws and lift the cover off the case and you'll have easy access
to the 3.5" drive bays. The drive bays come with the standard removable
drive sleds, four of which are installed in the P150's drive cage. These sleds
use the newer, softer silicone rubber mounting grommets first seen on the P180.



Fan/filter holder removed. Note the four standard drive sleds behind it.

INTEGRATED DAMPED HDD SUSPENSION SYSTEM

Remove the drive sleds and you'll be greeted by yet another new
feature. Antec has engineered the first factory installed (to my knowledge)
rubber elastic suspension HDD setup in the P150. While probably not well known to the mainstream
PC enthusiast, elastic suspension mounting of the HDD is a technique widely used by the Silent PC community for quieting the seek and
rotational noise from one of the noisiest components in a modern PC. They've
taken the suspension technique pioneered by companies like No
Vibes
and integrated it into the P150. What a great idea!



HDD suspension mounts without drives installed.



Each round-profile rubber band loops around a smooth-edged hook in a plastic anchor on each side.



The plastic anchor snaps off and on quite easily.

Simple yet ingenious design allows the rubber bands to be replaced if necessary.

While
some folks may like tinkering or designing their own HDD suspension,
I'm quite happy to have it provided for me. With the P150, all you have to do
is slide your HDD(s) in between the elastic bands
and you're ready to go. Of all the features in the P150, this
is probably my favorite because it eliminates one of the
most difficult sources of noise in a standard PC: HDD vibrations. You're limited to a maximum of three suspended drives,
a reduction of one over the standard metal drive sled mounting, but this is plenty for most quiet PCs.



HDD suspension mounts with one drive installed.

Here's a real delight for uber-silencers. The suspension mounting also accommodates notebook drives! With the ends of the rubber bands twisted as shown below, the tension is fine for a thin notebook drive. A notebook drive can be positioned so that there's over a centimeter gap between where the rubber bands cross the drive and the edge of the drive; i.e., it won't slip off easily. A very quiet notebook drive suspended as shown below would be about as good as you can get for quiet storage. It would be essentially silent for 99% of users in almost any environment or application.

The rest of the case interior is fairly standard Antec fare. Both the upper 5.25" and lower 3.5" drive
cages are firmly riveted in place. There's the standard stiffening bar running
across the upper half of the case and a non-removable motherboard tray with
standoff holes predrilled for ATX and m-ATX motherboards. The P150 is a bit
too short, front-to-back to handle e-ATX boards. Three pairs of plastic drive
rails are stored on the floor of the case to use for installing 5.25" drives
into the upper drive cage. A standard generic I/O shield
comes pre installed. All exposed interior
edges are rolled over to prevent any sharp edges from injuring the system builder,
which is pretty standard for Antec. A series of 14 spring-loaded tabs is
positioned at the top and bottom of each side. These tabs serve
to keep the side panels from rattling or vibrating.



Bare case ready for hardware installation.

Antec includes a basic accessory pack that includes a well written
installation manual, the aforementioned set of modular cables for the Neo HE
PSU, an IEC power cord for said PSU and a bag full of assorted screws and brass
motherboard standoffs.



Accessories included with P150.

The P150 seems to have been designed from the ground up to be
used as the basis of a quiet system. From its dampened side panels, to its
well-designed front bezel, suspended drive cages, rear 120mm fan and quiet running
Neo HE power supply it sure looks like this should be a very good case to use
as the basis for a quiet PC. Sometimes the best intentions don't quiet work
out, so the next thing is to build a system
in the P150 and see what results we get.

TEST PLATFORM

Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz Northwood core run at default Vcore.


Thermalright XP-120 with 120mm Nexus Real Silent fan running
at 5.5V

Sapphire ATI Radeon 9250 passively cooled video card (AGP)

Mushkin PC3200 Level II - 2 x 512MB DDRAM @ 2-3-2-7,400MHz

Samsung SP1614N 160GB PATA hard drive

Plextor PX-716A DVD±R/RW CD-R/RW internal E-IDE (ATAPI)
drive

Nexus 92mm Real Silent fan running at 5V as an intake fan

Arctic Silver Ceramique Thermal Compound

CPUBurn processor stress software

Motherboard Monitor 5.3.7.0 software to track CPU temperature
and fan speed

Seasonic Power Angel power monitor used to measure system
power usage

Ambient temperature was held at 71°F (21°C) over the entire series
of tests. No tests were run unless the ambient temperature was at that reference
level.

* All temperatures in degrees Celsius.

* Diode: Reading from Pentium 4-3.0C diode via Motherboard Monitor. The thermal monitoring system
was calibrated using the standard SPCR
CPU Diode Calibration method
.

* Temp Rise refers to the difference between ambient temperature and
the diode reading.

This system has the highest thermal output of any that I have on hand, and
has recently been set up in an SLK3700BQE and a Sonata II, so it should be easy
to make a fairly accurate "apples-to-apples" comparison of the P150.

SYSTEM BUILD

As you'd expect my goal was to build the quietest system possible in the new
P150. I used all the stock case hardware and did no modifications of any kind.

The build was quite straightforward as the P150 is laid out in standard ATX
fashion. The motherboard mounting was a snap, with all standoff holes and the
I/O shield lining up perfectly. One potential issue might be the tight clearance
between the motherboard and the PSU. The P150 is fairly short, in fact its
only about 1/2" taller than the Sonata series. There's approximately 3/8"
clearance between the top edge of the board and the bottom of the PSU. CPU heatsinks
that overhang the board by more than this will have problems. The XP-120 that
I used had a bit of clearance, but there was virtually no clearance between
the fan mounting clips and the PSU.



Size comparison between the Sonata II and the P150.

The optical drive mounting was a snap, with the drive installed on the rails
the whole assembly slid right into its slot and ended up in exactly the correct
position to work perfectly with the stealthed drive bay covers. Easy access
to the drive bays is provided by the pivoting front bezel. This system makes
for the most trouble-free optical drive mounting of any case I've ever used.

The HDD drive sleds were initially tried and quickly dispensed with. While
the soft silicone grommets are pretty effective at dampening the noise from
the HDD, they don't quite eliminate the vibrations
of my Samsung SP80. The HDD was then mounted using Antec's
suspension system. Installation was a breeze, aided by the well-written
manual. Even though Antec firmly warns about transporting the case with the drives
suspension mounted, to me, it seemed that the included elastic cables hold
the drive very firmly. I certainly wouldn't have any reservations about transporting
the P150 with drives suspended in it.

Between the modular cables of the Neo 430 PSU, the removable right
side door and the included cable management hooks, wiring
the case neatly was easy. I used only
the PS output cables I needed, without even thinking about what to do with the
leftover mess of unused wires. The removable right side
door made it easy to tuck away the cables for the best possible
airflow. The cable management hooks meant I did not need to use cable ties or any other tricks.

The front panel I/O cables were easy to connect. All the wires are well marked. The configuration of the USB and Firewire plugs seems to finally be settling
down to a standardized configuration for simple plug and play. All the front I/O ports worked
perfectly, with no speed or operating system recognition issues at all. The
aforementioned cable management hooks also made it easy to deal with
the extra length of the I/O cables.

The blue Power On LED is positioned directly behind the power button itself,
and due to its location gives off a nicely subdued version of the typical piercing
light generated by blue LEDs. Over on the left side of the front bezel, the
HDD Activity LED is beneath a clear plastic diffuser but its light is still
pretty bright. A few strokes with a black Sharpie and this was dimmed down acceptably.

All-in-all, the P150 was easy to set up with no issues whatsoever. I've never had to work so little to have the finished product come out
looking so good.



Completed system. Neat and tidy, courtesy of Antec.

(Click on photo for larger image.)

THERMAL TESTING AND SONICS

Thermals and noise are what it all comes down to with a case that's being reviewed
by SPCR, so let's see how things turned out with the P150.

After everything was assembled, I ran Prime95 for 24hrs to make sure things
were stable, and then I began my thermal testing. The results show no big surprises,
with the 100-ish watt output of the 3.0GHz P4 dumping a lot of heat into the
case.

P150
Load Temps, w/ CPUBurn

Temp.

°C
rise
Board
37°C
16°C
CPU
48°C
27°C
HDD
23°C
2°C

°C rise refers to the rise in temperature over the
21°C ambient at load.

Over the course of the past few months I've had nearly this exact
same set of hardware running in an Antec SLK3700BQE and the new Antec Sonata
II (except for the PSU and the front intake fan):

SLK3700BQE Setup:

  • A Seasonic
    Super Silencer400
    with one mod: A Panaflo M1A was swapped for the stock fan. This is the quietest PSU I've ever used.
  • 120mm Nexus front intake fan at 5V
  • DIY suspension for HDD.

Sonata
II Setup:

  • Supplied Antec SmartPower II 450 PSU
  • HDD mounted in stock drive sled on 3/8" thick Sorbothane strips
  • No front intake
    fan.

All three systems were using a conventional
single 80mm rear exhaust fan PSU configuration, along with a Tri-Cool exhaust
fan running at its lowest setting. Because of the different PSU's and intake fan setups being used, this isn't
exactly an "apples to apples" comparison, but it should be fairly
close. Here's a chart showing the results:

Comparative System Temps w/ CPUBurn
CASE
Board temp
CPU Temp
HDD
temp
SLK3700BQE
44°C
56°C
25°C
Sonata II
44°C
54°C
27°C
P150
37°C
48°C
23°C

Temperatures

The board temp in the BQE and
the Sonata II were the same, while in the P150 it was 7°C
cooler. The CPU temp in the BQE and the Sonata II were
very nearly the same, while in the P150, it ran 6-7°C cooler.

Since the PSU fan CFM was nearly the same for all three different
samples, the board and CPU temps are most probably affected by the impedance in the airflow path through the case. Judging by these results, the P150 has better airflow than either of
the other cases.

The HDD temps are interesting. The BQE was configured with
a 5V 120mm Nexus intake fan mounted directly in front of the fully suspended
Samsung SP80 HDD, with the normal BQE drive case almost entirely
cut away for improved airflow. The Sonata II's HDD was mounted on a set of 3/8"
x 3/8" x 3" Sorbothane strips and had no front intake fan installed.
The P150's drive was mounted in the stock suspension with a 5V
92mm Nexus Real Silent fan mounted in front of the drive.

The drive
mounting vs. fan location was virtually identical between the BQE and the P150. The 5V 120mm Nexus should put out somewhat more airflow than the 5V 92mm
Nexus in the P150 rig. Yet the BQE's drive temp was 2°C warmer. Why? My best guess is because
the P150 has lower airflow impedance airflow than the BQE, particularly through the bezel.

The HDD temps in the Sonata were higher, most likely because there was not fan for the HDD in the Sonata. This is due to the oddball positioning of the
front intake fan on the back side of the Sonata's HDD cage, nearly at the center of the
case. It also doesn't help that the Sonata II's drive cage is configured in
the "rotated 90°" layout. It allows easy access to the HDD with the side panel off, but it
blocks more airflow through the 3.5" drive cage. I tried a 5V 120mm Nexus fan on the Sonata II drive cage to see
if it would help things. It did lower the HDD temp a bit,
but at the expense of slightly warmer board and CPU temps. I elected to run
without a front fan for the remainder of my testing.

HDD Suspension

The Antec HDD suspension worked as well as any of my various "home-brewed"
setups, with absolutely none of the hassles. It eliminated any HDD vibration conduction to the case, which is
always a problem when any HDD is bolted directly into the
case. It sharply reduced the already quiet seek noise of the Samsung,
and nearly eliminated rotational or bearing noises. This suspension
is wonderfully effective and really easy to set up. Antec gets a
big "A+" for this one.

Neo HE 430 PSU

The PSU was a big unknown going into
this testing. While some of the newer actively cooled Antec PSUs have been noticeably
quieter than their earlier offerings, none have been "world class"
when it comes to low noise. The specs and design of the Neo HE seemed to indicate
that this may be a winner, but the proof is in the testing.

From idle to any typical sort of system load, the Neo HE is a very
quiet PSU. For comparison, its a bit quieter than the Tri-Cool fan running
on the lowest of its three settings. The 80mm Neo HE fan has a slightly
higher pitch noise signature than the 120mm Tri-cool at low. It's also a very smooth sounding
fan with barely any perceptible mechanical noise. The vast majority of
its very quiet sonic output is the gentle woosh of air turbulence.

After loading the system at 2xCPUBurn load for about 20-30 minutes (at
about 165W of power usage according to the Power Angel) the Neo HE's fan
started ramping up in speed. The noise signature remains smooth, but the
air turbulence noise began to be audible over the sound of the Tri-Cool case fan. At an
ambient temperature of 21°C, the board temp is only in the mid to high 30°C
range when the PSU fan starts to ramp up. This ramping occurs sooner, at a lower temperature than with
the fan-modified Seasonic Super Silencer 400 PSUs that I'm used to. At full load, the exhaust temperature
of the Neo HE is noticeably warmer than that of the Seasonic under the same
load.

These observations are based on my rather high expectations
for PSU noise, based on the extremely quiet versions I'm used
to working with. The Neo HE is actually very quiet, and what noise you can
hear is smooth and inoffensive. with the slightly earlier than normal
fan ramping activity, its one of the few (if not the only) things I can find
to even sort of gripe about on the P150.

A HIGHER POWER SYSTEM IN THE P150 (by Mike Chin in the SPCR Lab in Vancouver)

Antec supplied another P150 sample for acoustic measurements. The components used by R.H. were not available in the lab, so I decided to assemble a system a bit more thermally challenging from components in the lab:



The distance between the back case fan and the Scythe Ninja HS
is 1.5~2" here.

The system was left running Windows XP Pro for a couple of hours before testing was begun. When 2xCPUBurn processor loading was run for >20 minutes, the AC power draw of the system reached 221W, nearly 60W higher than the test system R.H. built. The hard drive temperature stabilized at a perfectly cool ~33°C throughout testing; no disk-intensive activity was done.

The first test was done with no fan mounted on the Sythe Ninja heatsink. This was similar to one of the configurations tried in the P180 Part 2 review, with an Intel 660 processor rated for 115W TDP, considerably higher than the D 820's 95W TDP. In the P180, with the top vent left open and only the back 120mm fan running, the Ninja HS without a fan was enough to keep the Intel 660 CPU from throttling, at 65°C.

The second test was done with a Nexus 120mm fan mounted on the Ninja HS, blowing towards the back case fan.


Ninja HS


State

CPU

SPL

PSU fan voltage


Test 1: w/o fan




idle


45°C

24
[email protected]

4.2V


load


76°C

26
[email protected]

5.8V


Test 2: w/Nexus [email protected] 7V



idle


42°C

25
[email protected]

4.2V


load


62°C

27
[email protected]

5.7V

The overall noise at idle for both tests was dominated by the back-mounted exhaust case fan. The Tri-Cool 120 measures 20~22 [email protected] in the low setting in free air, but screw-mounted in almost any case, the measured and subjective noise goes up. A touch of low level, low frequency noise could be heard. My guess is that this is most related to the resonant frequencies of the air in the case being excited by the vibrations of the hard mounted fan. The PSU could be heard only from very close to the back of the case, and the WD Raptor HDD could be heard only as a noice source during seek.

The ramping up of the Neo HE 430 PSU fan noted by RH in his system test was clearly seen here as well. The fan voltage went up almost 1.5V, with a corresponding increase in measured noise. The PSU fan was the only variable noise source in the system, so all the SPL increase can be attributed to the PSU. The increased noise was audible, but fairly subtle.

During the first test with the heatsink run fanless, the CPU temperature reached the reported 76°C
within a scant 10 minutes. CPU throttling was not indicated by the Throttlewatch utility, and the continuing CPU temperature rise seemed to indicate no throttling. If the CPU speed and voltage was throttled, the temperature would have stopped rising. The CPU load test was stopped for fear of CPU damage. This was a bit disappointing, but not completely unexpected. Unlike the P180 in which this fanless configuration proved thermally successful, the PSU in the P150 is directly over the CPU, and there no intake vent over the heatsink.

Putting the Nexus 120 fan on the HS and running it at ~7V using a Zalman Fanmate fan controller solved the thermal problem. The increase in noise caused by the extra fan was just barely audible, but only with some effort at close distance.

I experimented with the extra holes on the back panel over the PCI slots. Leaving them uncovered, I could feel air being pulled into the case through those holes, by the back case fan and the PSU fan, presumably. Closing them up should improve CPU temperature perhaps, I thought, but this was not the case; there was no thermal impact on the CPU. It's quite possible that things could be different with a VGA card in the PCIe or AGP slot. Especially a hot video card.

* * *

The thermal results indicate that the P150 does not quite match the P180 for cooling efficiency, at least not with a hot processor. The P180's main advantage is the separate cooling / acoustic isolation chamber for the PSU that allows the CPU to be unaffected by the PSU heat (and vice versa) and makes a top 120mm fresh air intake or exhaust possible for the CPU as well.

Noisewise, the HDD suspension is the P150's great feature. But a notebook HDD in the suspension is a bit of overkill unless all the other components in the system can be kep at around or below the 20 [email protected] level. You'd have to start by soft mounting and perhaps reducing the speed of the stock TriCool back panel fan. Then the CPU and VGA heatsink fans would also have to kept that quiet, and finally, you'd want to keep the total system power draw to under ~150W AC.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The P150 has reportedly been under development for the past 1.5 years. It was put on the back-burner during the development of the P180.
Now that the P180 has hit the market and seems to be a roaring success, Antec
has finally decided to release the P150.

Some of the P150's design is said to be based on lessons learned during
the design of the P180. Whether by coincidence
or design, in the P150, Antec seems to have tackled some of the complaints about
the P180 that I recited at the very start of this article.

Never mind the P180; this review is about the P150... and I really like it. Aesthetics aside, the
P150 does a good job of doing what we want it to do: Provide a foundation for a quiet PC. The damped side panels, the quiet
PSU, the suspended HDD mounting system, the cable management hooks and the well-designed front bezel/filter/fan setup ? all of these together make an excellent
platform for a quiet system.

POSTSCRIPT

June 15, 2006 by Devon
Cooke

One of the most prevalent comments / gripes in the P150
discussion thread
was that the P150 comes only in white. Forum user hightower
summed it up nicely: "Nice case, a real shame it isn't black as we all
know black computers are faster."
With such a significant demand, Antec
quickly got working on a "faster" model.

That model has now been released, but it is no longer called the P150. Instead,
and for reasons known only to the Antec marketing department, it was renamed
SOLO, and integrated into Antec's "LifeStyle" line of cases (The P150
belongs to the "Performance One" category). Despite the odd rebranding,
the SOLO remains a P150 under its black-and-silver exterior, and provides the same airflow and the unique drive suspension system.

It should be noted that this paint job is a glossy one like that used on the Antec Sonata, rather than the more matte finish found on some other cases. Fingerprints and handling smudges are easily visible.



Black by popular demand, but no stealthed drive bays this time around.

Aside from the color, there are also a couple of minor changes to appease the
gods of product differentiation. Most importantly, the SOLO does not
include a power supply, perhaps because of the murky issues of compatibility surrounding the NeoHE 430 (now mostly resolved) that shipped with the original P150. Still, the power supply will likely be missed by some, as the pricing of the P150 with the bundled NeoHE is one of the cheapest quiet out-of-the-box case/PSU combinations ever.

Another minor change is that the front drive bays are no longer stealthed.
Presumably, the stealthed drive covers were dropped as unnecessary because black
optical drives are readily available. Pure white optical drives, on the other
hand, are virtually nonexistent.



Choose your own power supply — none is included.

Aside from the power supply and the drive bays, were were only able to find
one other difference between the SOLO and our original P150 sample: The material
used for the elastic drive suspension. The Solo comes with fabric-based rings
that are much more durable than the rubber O-Rings that shipped in the original
P150. This is a welcome improvement, as several
users reported that the rubber rings were prone to snapping after a couple months
of use
. The new bands are made of a bungee-like material that should continue
to provide support even if the internal elastic snaps.

Antec has stated that the new bands are also included in the currently-shipping
P150 cases, so the issue should be resolved no matter what your aesthetic preferences.



Fabric-reinforced elastic rings have replaced the fragile rubber O-Rings
from the original P150.

The Antec SOLO is a welcome revision of the P150 case. The new style should help the solid airflow and unique hard drive mounting system appeal to a whole new market segment. And, if the NeoHE 430 that comes bundled with the P150 is unneeded or unwanted, the SOLO provides a way to get hold of the case while keeping a redundant power supply out of the landfills.

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