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Computex 2008: Antec's Skeleton, P183 & Sonata Elite cases

June 3, 2008 by Mike Chin

After several years of attendance, I decided to skip Computex in Taipei this year to focus on work closer to home. Namely, the project to build SPCR's own anechoic chamber and upgrade our acoustic test equipment. I would miss renewing friendships among IT company contacts and international tech journalists, the excitement of the show, the food & drink. The din of Taipei, the jetlag and lack of sleep, and the constant rain that soaks Taiwan in early June every year (without fail for the whole week of Computex) would not be missed.

However, during my recent visit to the SF Bay Area for the annual Electronics and the Environment summit, I visited Antec in Fremont, and managed to obtain detailed previews of some products currently being unveiled at Computex.

Antec has been busy with all kinds of new developments, including several new lines of power supplies, but the single most eye-catching item at their Taipei hotel display suite will surely be the Skeleton chassis.



Antec's new Skeleton
chassis is meant for gamers and perpetual tinkerers. The motherboard sits on the upper level. One the lower level, a power supply, two optical drives and two hard drives can be fitted.


The ~220mm fan blows down onto the motherboard and creates enough airflow to keep everything well cooled. It has three speeds, and a unique LED feature.



Multiple LEDs in the fan display a swirling, changing mix of rainbow colors. The color can also be fixed with a switch. Yeah, it's a disco fan! Note: The camera and its fixed mic was positioned above the fan (set at med speed) about 2.5 feet away.



The outer frame is made mostly of plastic. The steel component tray slides out easily for access. The PSU tray also slides out similarly. The motherboard tray can also be removed from the main tray. A bar across the side between the component tray and the fan is meant to screw down the video card and PCI slot boards.


A system was hastily assembled into the Skeleton. The drives slide and lock easily into place. This is the front side of the Skeleton, complete with the usual complement of power and reset switches, and USB, Firewire, eSATA and audio connectors.


The Zerotherm tower heatsink was a very tight squeeze but it just happened to be on this motherboard. A fan-on-top CPU cooler is strongly recommended, probably without the fan. Because of the right spacing, a typical 120mm fan PSU does not appear to be a good fit. The in-line airflow design of a classic 80mm fan PSU appears to be more suitable. Note: These details may change by the time the Skeleton is available for purchase, in September.

There is indeed a Skeleton sample at SPCR right now. Its close to a final production version, but not quite there yet. When we have word from Antec about the final version, and received any new parts that are part of the final version, we will conduct a formal review. It seems clear that cooling will not be much of an issue, but noise may, due to the the openness of the chassis. WAF will probably be a serious issue for some potential buyers.

Antec also sent over some photos from their display suite at the Grand Hyatt in Taipei. They show a smaller version of the Skeleton, dubbed the Mini-Skeleton. It's designed for a mini-ITX platform.



Mini-Skeleton and Skeleton.

News about Antec's P183 and Sonata Elite cases overleaf.

P180, P180B, P182... NOW, P183

SPCR readers have been well-informed about the P180 series of cases from Antec since its introduction nearly three years ago, which is not surprising as I worked on its core design. The current P182 is actually its third iteration, following the P180 and P180B. There are also different size variants, the Extended ATX P190 and Micro ATX Mini P180. A refresh of the main ATX design is in the works, as the following photos of the P183 from Computex show.



The facia (front door) of the P183 gets four new intake vents and brings its overall look closer to the Mini P180, the last model in the P180 series to be released. There have been rumblings from users about reduced airflow when the door is closed; this i probably a direct response.



The no-airflow-restriction theme continues behind the front door. The grill covers over the two main intake vents have been dramatically opened, and even the optical drive covers have been given the same treatment. The perimeter grill between the bezel and the front door, which is part of the airflow intake path when the door is closed, is also much more open than before. Now, it would appear there's every reason to keep the door closed (as intake airflow will be essentially unrestricted anyway), and no reason to keep it open (as there's no blocking of internal noise).



There are three changes inside: 1) The position of the intake fan for the lower chamber has been moved to the front in order to accommodate longer power supplies, 2) the mounting platform for the PSU has been lowered (for reasons that cannot be divulged at this time), and 3) the top 120mm fan vent from the Mini )180 has been adopted.

It's not clear exactly when the P183 will be generally available in the marketplace. If we look to the transitions between earlier interations of this case, the pattern has been a running change — as distributors and retailers reorder to repenish stocks, the old model becomes unavailable, and the new model takes its place. Even without these modifications, the P182 is selling very well. Those chiming for the changes represent a small but vocal portion of buyers... who are often the ones most likely to make successful DIY modifications. SPCR will be there with a review of the P183 when it's launched.

SONATA ELITE

The Antec Sonata dates back some six years. (It was the subject of our very first case review.) Sonata began with a single case, the first by a major case maker to be marketed specifically as quiet, and evolved over time into a whole series of cases. In the past year, the P150 has been folded into the Sonata family with a new "designer" range of colored bezels; the Solo (no PSU), Sonata Designer 500 and Sonata Plus 550 are all variants of the P150. The Sonata III 500 is the case which most closely resembles the original Sonata. Here are photos from Computex Taipei 2008 of a new Sonata that will appear some time soon in the future.



At first glance, the Sonata Elite looks little changed from the Sonata III 500.



The other side of the case reveals a big change: A large vent that opens into the hard drive area. This is reminiscent of Silverstone's TJ09 and TJ10 cases.



Inside is an unusual HDD mounting arrangement: They are in their own cavity, and the side vent is the main intake for the whole case. The 120mm exhaust fan and the blower fan (for the VGA card) have nowhere else to pull air into the case from. In drawing the intake air from the side vent, air flows naturally around the four HDDs that can be installed. Note Antec's usual soft silicone rubber grommets for HDD mounting.

The HDD mounting arrangement in the original Sonata was also innovative and unusual. The arrangement in the new Sonata Elite eliminates the need for any vent opening in the front panel. It would make sense to position the case on the right of the user, to ensure that there is no direct sound path between user and vent opening. It's an interesting design we may be examining in a review some time later this year.

Much thanks to Antec for the Skeleton chassis and additional photos.

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