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Antec Nine Hundred Two Gaming Case

Antec Nine Hundred Two Gaming Case

August 4, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Antec Nine Hundred Two

ATX Mid Tower Case
Manufacturer
Market Price

Most manufacturers believe that simply eliminating all the cracks and holes
in a case will result in a quieter system. This is true to some degree, but
it is a much smaller factor than most believe. Slowing the system fans
by a small degree can easily offset any extra noise "escaping" from
various vents, and the extra ventilation can be very beneficial, especially
for the hotter regions of the system which do not receive much direct airflow. The fact is that thin metal panels are not very effective at blocking noise.


The Antec Nine Hundred Two box.

For gaming systems, it is unrealistic to seal
up the case due to the sheer amount of heat put out
by modern graphics cards and, to a lesser degree, CPUs. For a gaming machine, what you really need is lots
of ventilation and plenty of room for expansion, especially for extra long graphics
cards. The Antec Nine Hundred Two seems to fit the bill. It's a spacious, affordable,
user-friendly case and as a bonus it ships with four fans, each with their own
speed controller.


The Nine Hundred Two panel surfaces are composed of sturdy molded
plastic with a pleasant matte finish.

The Nine Hundred Two looks very much like the original Nine
Hundred
. Most of the differences are superficial. The interior has been
painted black, which looks more appealing through the side window compared
to standard issue grey, and the exterior has been revamped to emphasize the
case's 200 mm ceiling fan.


Accessories: a bag of screws and an adapter for an external 3.5"
drive.


Antec Nine Hundred Two: Features & Specifications
(from the product
web page
)




THE EXTERIOR



The left side panel features an oddly shaped side window, and a
triangular section with a side fan mount. The right side panel is completely
solid.


The front of the case is pretty much a wall of honeycomb style vents.
Strangely, two of the slot covers do not let air in, as they are filled
with a rubber/foam type material. The bottom six covers are attached
to two removable hard drive cages. Each cage comes with a pre-installed
120 mm fan.




The ports and buttons are located at the very top. The power and reset
buttons are flush with the surface but they do require some force to
use — accidental contact is unlikely to engage them.







The case is equipped with one of Antec's "Big Boy" 200
mm fans at the top.







3-speed controls for the top and rear fans as well as an LED toggle
switch for the top fan are located at the back of the case, just about
the rear fan exhaust. All of the included fans have blue LEDs, but only
the Big Boy's can be turned off.







Underneath, the case is equipped with short rubber feet. Note
the absence of a power supply vent; 120mm fan PSUs are meant to draw air from inside the case.

THE INTERIOR



The edges of the motherboard tray have large holes for cable management,
a feature lacking in the original Nine Hundred. The drive section is
uniform, allowing for 5.25" drives and the two removable hard drive
cages to be mounted in any position. Not only does this allow ultimate
freedom with regard to drive placement, it also removes any possible
interference with extra long graphics cards.






The case ceiling.







The case floor does not have a power supply vent so PSUs with bottom-mounted
fans go in upside down. There are four cushioning pads
to dampen vibration.






Behind the motherboard tray there are numerous handles for attaching
cable-ties, though we would have preferred hooks. There is no space between the drive bays and
the tray — all cabling is routed through three large rectangular holes.
There is ample room between the tray and side panel.






The drive cage is CD drive width and runs from the top to the bottom, with room for up to nine drives. Modular inserts allow installtion of 3.5" drives.






The drive cages are attached with four thumbscrews on each
side. A tab at the top of both drive cages allows their fine mesh air
filters to be pulled out for cleaning.






Instead of speed switches, each front fan has its own variable
speed controller, accessible from outside the case.

INSTALLATION



Each drive cage supports three hard drives. The middle cage ships
with a second fan holder which, if used, precludes the use of hard drives
altogether.






Hard drives are hard-mounted using very long screws.







Cable management is pretty good, even with a system configured with
two HD 4870's in CrossFireX (using a modular power supply helps). We
would have liked to see a couple of smaller holes between the motherboard
and power supply for the smaller cables though (USB, FireWire, front
audio, etc.).






System with CrossFireX configuration assembled with all fans on.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn
    K7
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • GPU-Z to
    monitor GPU temperatures and fan speed.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and fan speeds.
  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption
    of the system.

Primary Audio Test Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
(if possible) at idle and on load using 4 instances of CPUBurn K7 to stress
the CPU and FurMark with the Xtreme Burn option (if possible) to stress the
GPU.

BASELINE NOISE

Noise measurements were made with the rear, top and one of the
front fans supplied at standard switch settings in various configurations. The
air cavity resonances inside a case amplify fan noise, as do any vibrations
transferred from the fans into the case, so these measurements can be regarded
as the baseline SPL levels for the Nine Hundred Two with the stock fans.

Antec Nine Hundred Two Baseline SPL

Measuring mic at 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.
rear

exhaust
top

exhaust
front

intake
SPL
Low
Off
Off
15 dBA
Medium
25 dBA
High
32 dBA
Off
Low
Off
18 dBA
Medium
26 dBA
High
36 dBA
Off
Off
Minimum
25 dBA
Maximum
40 dBA
Low
Low
Off
20 dBA
Low
Medium
Off
26~27 dBA
Medium
Low
Off
26~27 dBA

The Big Boy ceiling fan actually sounds more pleasant than the rear exhaust
fan, but measures higher. Both are fairly quiet when set to low and the overall
acoustic character is broadband. The rear fan exhibits a slight hum and drones
at medium speed. The rear fan sounds less turbulent, but it clicks at close
proximity and at medium speed the fan's motor seems wobbly. The front fan sounds
very smooth, but due to its enclosed environment it sounds hollow. The resistance
created by its air filter and the shorter distance between it and our mic results
in much higher SPL values compared to the other fans in the system.

With the entire front panel acting as an enormous intake, not using either
of the front fans is recommended for a quiet system. Depending on the system
configuration, it may be advisable to use both top and rear fans on low. At
20 dBA, this configuration is fairly quiet, at least for the gamers to whom
Antec is marketing the Nine Hundred Two. If either of the fans is set the medium,
the SPL increases to 26~27 dBA. This is noticeably loud to us, but the
noise generated by the system's video card cooler may still drown it
out.

TEST CONFIG #1 (IGP only)



Case with test system installed (integrated graphics).


System Measurements (IGP)
State
Idle
Load
Idle
Load
Fan Speed

(Rear / Top)
Low / Off
Off / Low
Noise Level
21 dBA
22 dBA
CPU Temp
31°C
59°C
31°C
59°C
SB Temp
35°C
38°C
35°C
38°C
HD Temp
35°C
38°C
36°C
38°C
CPU fan speed set to 70% (9V).

Ambient temperature: 26°C.

Our IGP-only test configuration measured 21 dBA with the rear fan on low, and
22 dBA with the top fan on low. Thermally, the two setups were almost exactly
the same — there's no advantage to using one over the other with a simple
IGP-based system, even with a high performance CPU. The top fan produces slightly
more noise, but one may find its acoustic character preferable to the rear fan,
depending on proximity.

Comparisons

IGP Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
P183*
Sonata Elite
Nine Hundred Two
Rear Fan

Speed
Low
Low
Low
Noise Level
19~20 dBA
20 dBA
21 dBA
CPU Temp
50°C
55°C
55°C
SB Temp
38°C
37°C
34°C
HD Temp
37°C
30°C
34°C
CPU fan set to 70% speed (9V).

Ambient temperature: 22°C (results adjusted accordingly)

*P183 tested with Antec CP-850 power supply

The Nine Hundred Two in its quietest test configuration produces approximately
the same amount of noise as the last two Antec cases we tested, the Sonata
Elite
, and P183. The
P183 boasts a 5°C advantage in CPU temperature over the other two. The Nine
Hundred Two provided the best cooling for the motherboard, posting a
3-4°C lead in Southbridge temperature probably due to the case's extra ventilation.
The Nine Hundred Two also posted a good hard drive temperature, 3°C better
than the P183, but can't compete with the Sonata Elite — its side vent
is its only source of intake and is directly behind the hard drive compartment.

TEST CONFIG #2 (HD 4870)



Case with test system installed (HD 4870).


System Measurements (HD 4870)
State
Idle
Load
Load
Front Fan

Speed
Off
Min.
Noise
23 dBA
27~28 dBA
29 dBA
CPU Temp
35°C
55°C
56°C
SB Temp
49°C
56°C
53°C
HD Temp
37°C
37°C
35°C
GPU Temp
79°C
87°C
86°C
GPU Fan

Speed
940 RPM
1860 RPM
1770 RPM
CPU fan speed set to 100%; rear and top fans set
to low.

Ambient temperature: 28°C.

With a HD 4870 installed in the system, we decided to run it with
both the rear and top fans on low. The SPL with only one of these fans turned
on low was about 22.5 dBA and including the second fan increased it to only
23 dBA. Adding the graphics card increased the Southbridge temperature by 12°C
idle and 16°C on load. The graphics card effectively cuts off most of the
airflow around the southbridge, and the GPU itself is fairly hot, so this was
not surprising. Turning on the bottom front fan to its minimum speed resuilted
in slightly better system temperatures and a moderate noise increase, about
2 dB.

Comparisons

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Sileo 500
Sonata Elite
Nine Hundred Two
Fan Speeds

(Rear / Front

or Top)
100% / 100%
Low / NA
Low / Low
Noise Level
25 dBA
25~26 dBA
27~28 dBA
CPU Temp
56°C
55°C
49°C
SB Temp
53°C
53°C
50°C
HD Temp
34°C
32°C
31°C
GPU Temp
87°C
88°C
81°C
GPU Fan

Speed
1920 RPM
1980 RPM
1860 RPM
CPU fan set to 100% speed.

Ambient temperature: 22°C (results adjusted accordingly)

In the HD 4870 configuration, the Nine Hundred Two recorded noticeably better
thermal measurements compared to the Sonata Elite and Sileo
500
. The CPU temperature was 5-6°C cooler and the Southbridge temperature
was 3°C better. The Nine Hundred Two's hard drive temperature even edged
out the Sonata Elite. The GPU was 6-7°C cooler, so the GPU fan did not have
to spin quite as fast.

The Nine Hundred Two's baseline noise (system fans running with the case empty)
was 20 dBA compared to 19 dBA for the Sonata Elite. With the VGA fan spinning
120 RPM slower, you may be wondering why the system measured 2 dBA higher. We
believe the higher ambient temperature (28°C vs. 25°C) in the room resulted in the
power supply fan spinning faster. Unfortunately, our lab is not equipped with
air conditioning, and the day we tested it was, up to that point, the hottest
day of the month. It was the middle of a heat wave afflicting the Pacific northwest
and the high that day was 31°C — Vancouver rarely sees temperatures
above 25-26°C.

TEST CONFIG #3 (CrossFireX)



Case with test system installed (2 x HD 4870 in CrossFireX).


System Measurements (CrossFireX)
State
Idle
Load
Load
Top & Rear / Front Fans Speed
Low / Off
Medium / Minimum
Noise
23~24 dBA
38 dBA
38~39 dBA
CPU Temp
37°C
59°C
56°C
SB Temp
60°C
70°C
68°C
HD Temp
37°C
37°C
36°C
GPU #1 Temp
80°C
99°C
98°C
GPU #1 Fan

Speed
1100 RPM
2910 RPM
2880 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
75°C
91°C
89°C
GPU #2 Fan

Speed
1020 RPM
2440 RPM
2330 RPM
CPU fan speed set to 100%.

Ambient temperature: 28°C.

The addition of a second HD 4870 made only a small acoustic impact
on our test system when idle. On load however, the effect was easily noticed.
Not only was the noise level higher by 10 dBA, the CPU temperature increased
by 4°C, the Southbridge ran 14°C warmer, and the temperature of the
GPU in the top position almost reached 100°C, about 12°C higher. The
top GPU fan spun at 2910 RPM (a 600 RPM increase) while the bottom GPU fan ran
at 2440 RPM. The combination of the two are responsible for most of the extra
noise.

With the noise level reaching 38 dBA, the top and rear fans were
drowned out — increasing them to medium speed made a less than 1 dB impact
so we also turned on both of the front intakes. With the system so loud there
wasn't any reason to keep the system fan speeds low. The additional airflow
provided had only a slight affect on thermal performance, delivering temperatures
1-3°C lower and allowing the GPU fans to spin slightly slower.

Comparisons

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
P183*
Nine Hundred Two
Fan Speeds

(Rear / Front

or Side)
Low / Low
Low / Low
Noise Level
35 dBA
38 dBA
CPU Temp
58°C
53°C
SB Temp
69°C
64°C
HD Temp
39°C
31°C
GPU #1 Temp
99°C
93°C
GPU #1 Fan

Speed
3030 RPM
2910 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
89°C
85°C
GPU #2 Fan

Speed
2400 RPM
2440 RPM
CPU fan set to 100% speed.

Ambient temperature: 22°C (results adjusted accordingly)

*P183 tested with Antec CP-850 power supply

Once the Nine Hundred Two's temperatures were adjusted for the higher ambient
temperature during testing, its thermal advantage over the P183 is clear. CPU
and Southbridge temperatures were 5°C lower and the hard drive ran 8°C
cooler, even without a front fan. GPU temperatures showed a 4-6°C improvement.
The only victory for the P183 was the measured noise level — 3 dBA lower
than the Nine Hundred Two. However, as we remarked before, the higher ambient
temperature can easily explain the difference is SPL.

The baseline noise for the P183 was 17 dBA compared to 20 dBA for the Nine
Hundred Two. However with system noise exceeding 30 dBA, the affect the system
fans in either case shouldn't be noticeable. One of the GPU fans was also spinning
slower, so the only possible culprit is the power supply. It should also be
noted that the P183 was tested with Antec's CP-850 power supply, which may be
superior acoustically to the Coolermaster Silent Pro we have been using for most of the recent case
tests. Of course, with two HD 4870 stock coolers blowing at full blast, both systems in either case are unreasonably loud.

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Nine Hundred Two is well suited for use with a high power gaming system. Its design does not
focus at all on acoustics, but rather, on maximized ventilation — the large and numerous ventilation holes, side
window, and the undampened hard drive mounting scheme are testaments to this
fact. However, even a purpose-built "quiet case" like the Antec P183 with much fewer vents and better damped panels can't really silence an inherently
loud gaming system with one or more high powered graphics cards.

The Nine Hundred Two offers better cooling performance at similar noise levels compared to other cases, though at least one high performance GPU is needed before any tangible improvement can be seen. The hotter the components, the bigger the improvement.
The drive bay structure is designed to fit 5.25" drives in any location
while the hard drives have their own removable cages. Removing a cage will allow
the installation of a very long graphics card, up to 18.5" (if they ever
become that long). The Nine Hundred Two could also be utilized to house a quiet
file server, as it is possible to set up elastic suspension for up to nine drives with good ventilation for all of them; this is a really attractive aspects of the design.

The panels are not as sturdy as the rolled steel you will find on cases like
the Sonata Elite, but
the build quality is solid enough unless you intend to abuse the case. The interior is easy to work inside and cable management is excellent
with nice big holes for routing cables and plenty of room behind the motherboard
tray for hiding various odds and ends. The case also comes with four fans, each
with its own fan controller. These fans aren't as quiet as we would like,
but the rear and top fans are fairly good acoustically if you set them to low
speed. For most system configurations, we wouldn't even use the front fans —
the porous front panel supplies copious amounts of fresh air.

All in all, the Nine Hundred Two offers much to gamers everywhere, yet has utility for quiet computing users as well. With careful design and selection of quieter compoents, it might even be possible to assemble a pretty high power gaming rig that mostly stays quiet — at least when you're not blasting your online enemies with laser beams, proton grenades and the rest.

Antec Nine Hundred Two
PROS



* Heavily ventilated = Excellent cooling

* Solid construction/design

* Versatile drive mounting system

* Excellent cable management
CONS



* No bottom power supply vent

* Side panels a bit flimsy

Our thanks to Antec
Inc.
for the Nine Hundred Two sample.

* * *

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Coolermaster Sileo 500: Quiet
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Antec P183: The P182 Gets More Air

* * *

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