We all know Antec. The P150/Solo (now the Sonata Designer/Plus), the P180 and later on the 182. The NSK3480 and the 4480. But the NSK1380 is much well known. And much less used.
Few notes: I don't have professionale equipment, so no noise statistics and no power recordings. All sounds mentioned in this review are subjective.
Furthermore, I was very eager to put the pc together, so I don't have any pictures from the empty case.
I had to build a pc for my little brother. His old one was very old (an AMD Duron processor), the motherboard's condensors started leaking. Oh yeah, and since he dusted his pc his mouse and keyboard stopped working for some reason (USB and PS/2 connectors stopped working). He needed a new one. He doesn't game, just some typing (Word), surfing on the web and msning. So not much power was needed.
I selected the following components:
- AMD Sempron LE-1150 (45W, with stock cooler);
- MSI K9N6SGM-V motherboard with GeForce 6100 onboard VGA;
- 1 GB ram (Kingston);
- Samsung HD161HJ, a 160GB hard disk;
- Samsung DVD-burner (SATA);
- And of course the 1380.
In the first set-up, I also used an old Maxtor hard disk which had some data left on it.
When I first saw the case by itself I loved the looks, but I also noticed it was quite wide. This is because the mATX motherboard lies flat.
The upper panel however had a very strange gray coloring. It didn't quite match the side panels. A bit disappointing.
It was also pretty heavy, because of the metal that covers the side and upper panels.
The case is opened by a single thumbscrew on the back. Then the upper panel can be removed and after that the two side panels. When you remove the upper panel you immediately notice the CD/HD-cage. It's very hard not to. Inside the CD/HD-cage, 3 hard disks and 1 5,25" drive can be placed. For the hard disks, thermal pads are installed to remove the heat.
Removing the cage reveals what's underneath: lot's of cables. Especially those from the PSU. They come out at the bottom of the PSU and lie down on the floor. They are rather short though. It is a little case, but I could imagine them to be impossible to install to a hard disk that would be hanging vertically. There also is a fan connector (for the PSU fan), with two wires. One for RPM-monitoring and one ground.
Then there are two boxes. On with a slot cooler like this one. The other box had some screws, a rounded IDE-cable (very welcome) and a power cable in it.
The installation isn't very easy. Because of the little space and all the PSU cables are in the way when placing the motherboard. Installing the cooler must be done outside the case. Otherwise it's absolutely impossible. (I've tried to put the fancable of the CPU-fan in the header with the motherboard installed. I did it, but it wasn't easy at all.) Other note about the CPU-cooler. There's little room between the motherboard and the PSU for a heatsink, about 65mm. Way to little for like a Mini Ninja.
Placing the motherboard isn't easy too, because of the power cables hanging over the bottom. You have to constantly lift them to enable installation. After the motherboard is in the case (and under the cables, it's pretty easy. Antec has placed 4 hooks and 2 standoff's to place the motherboard. The hooks are great. You push the motherboard underneath the hooks, place the screws in the standoff's and you're done.
Installing the DVD-drive is very straightforward. You take the cage, shove it in, and tighten it with 4 screws. You have to do it before placing vertical hard disks though, otherwise you can't reach the screws.
Then the hard disks, I didn't use the horizontal place but instead used two vertical. I used the screws with the rubbers around them. They are supposed to remove vibrations from the hard disks. But, they didn't totally fit through the holes. (The result was that the upper panel didn't fit anymore and I scratched it a bit.) I probably should have used the other screws, but I didn't, so I took a drill and made the holes a little larger (Note the holes on the right, where the upper and lower one are bigger.). Then it all fit and installation continued.
After everything is connected to the motherboard what's probably the worst part begins: installing the cage in the case. Or more specificly: the cables to the hard disks and the player. You don't have any room at all to put the cables in the drives. When you lift the cage a little (for more room) the power cables are almost too short to reach the drives. But if you manage that and after some bloodloss, you're done.
Done installing the components that is. Inside your little case it's a mess. The cables from the PSU are everywhere. And there is very little room for improvement because the cables are too short to put them elsewhere. Also because the molex and SATA cables have to reach to your drives.
Then the great moment arrived: starting the little cube. Because I used a stock cooler and a lousy, old hard drive, noise was quite high. All right, way too high. After installing XP and copying all the data from the old hard drive I removed that one and it was a great progress. The old hard drive could almost be used as a vibrator and that was noticable. The whole CD/HD-cage shaked when you put your hand on it. Moreover, the whole table shaked. The anti-vibration rubber wasn't doing it's job quite well. But the Samsung generally couldn't be heard. Not above the stock fan that is.
After disabling the AMD-cooler with SpeedFan the only noise left was the 120mm power supply fan. I think it's a generic TriCool fan without the switch. It runs at 930RPM according to SpeedFan. It's clearly audible, not very annoying, it's the whoosh you hear.
With the slot cooler on the noise certainly increases. But the airflow out of the case is a lot higher too. The cooler runs from a molex at 12V. It sounded like you added a second TriCool fan but at a higher voltage. The slot cooler also had a little clicking. It wasn't an improvement at all.
I didn't use it in the set-up (did put it in there though, but not connected), because the temps were low enough.
The noise on load was the same, thanks to the low-power processor I used. The fan didn't ramp up (Fortunately, else it would have been very fast.).
The temperatures were good, due to the low power setup. I didn't test it very thoroughly and wasn't interested much in load temps. I did try to run it fanless and it worked very well, but that stopped when I put the CPU under load (with Prime95). The temperature kept rising until it reached 55 degrees. Then the screen began to flicker and I stopped Prime95 and started the fan.
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Temperatures CPU ~25 (with fan, idle) CPU ~33 (fanless, idle) MB ~24 HDD1 ~32 (Samsung, writing) HDD2 ~44 (old Maxtor, reading)
+ Slot cooler provided
- Noise of (optional) slot cooler
- Very though to install
- Cabling is a mess
- Heatsink can't be higher than 65mm
- Rubbers on screws don't work too well
Is it such a bad case, because of all the negatives and the little positives? Not at all. It just has many little shortcomings. Added up it isn't the best choice. But it isn't the worst choice either. The stock fan isn't too quiet and the rubbers remove some vibration.
I don't think the NSK1380 is a very good case for SPCR enthousiasts. The stock fans are too loud and hard to replace. The 120mm fan is placed inside the PSU and the PSU has to be opened to replace it, thus voiding your warranty.
I do think it's a good case for your run-of-the-mill family that types something and does a little internet surfing, like my brother. It's easy enough to cool the things needed for this and the noise is low enough. And that's probably the only thing it's good enough for, I wouldn't buy it for a HTPC due to the low airflow. But if I ever needed a low power rig (maybe a light file server) with a low power CPU I would certainly look for this one and consider it after swapping the PSU fan to a quieter Scythe fan.
Edit: I was planning to try and install a duct, but eventually I didn't, because the heatsink wasn't aligned with the PSU enough for exhaust. That's why I just used SpeedFan to disable the CPU-fan when the CPU temperature is below 40 degrees. (Which will probably be always.) Now the pc is pretty quiet with only the stock Antec TriCoolish fan, not silent, but very acceptable.
Also added a few things to the summary.