Antec P180 Review, Part 2: The Whole Nine Yards@ 2005/07/07
# AOpen i915Ga-PLF motherboard
# Intel 660 3.6 GHz processor, rated 115W TDP by Intel with a calculated Maximum Power of 148W; overclocked to 3.8 GHz
# 1 GB OCZ Gold PC4000 DDR SDRAM (2 x 512 MB sticks)
# Scythe Ninja CPU heatsink
# AOpen Aeolus 6800GT DVD256MV VGA card, thanks to AOpen
# Western Digital Raptor 74GB hard drive
# Samsung CD-RW drive
# Seasonic S12-430 430W power supply
* AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (Winchester core)
* DFI LanParty UT nF4-D motherboard
* 2 x 512mb OCZ PC4000 DDRAM
* Arctic Cooling Silencer 64 Ultra TC heatsink/fan
* AOpen Aeolus 6600GT-DV128 PCIe video card
* Nexus 80 fan at 12V on Zalman fan bracket over VGA card
* Antec Phantom 350 fanless power supply
* 2 x Maxtor Diamondmax 10 300G drives in RAID 0, mounted in lower HDD cage
* Nexus 120 fan at 7V in PSU chamber
* Antec P180 case
The Antec P180 is designed for quiet computing, and based on this criterion alone, it delivers handsomely. The separate PSU/HDD chamber works very well, and ensures that most power supplies will not ramp up except with exceptionally powerful systems under very high loads. This feature is unique, and allows a much wider variety of power supplies to be used for a quiet system. Any power supply that is quiet at idle but ramps up too quickly under load can probably remain very quiet in the P180.
Antec's silicone grommets are soft enough to reduce HDD vibration greatly, and the composite panel construction ensures that any remaining vibration is unlikely to cause resonance. These features make hard drive suspension unnecessary in the P180, making it much easier to build a quiet system and increasing the range of hard drives that can be used. As you should have heard in one of the sound recordings above, even the loud seeks of the WD Raptor stayed well-muted in the P180.
Last but not least, the dual fan configuration at the rear of the case provides CPU cooling at least as good as any conventional case for any system that locates the CPU socket near the top rear corner of the board — most of them. There probably aren't many cases capable of cooling a 3.8 GHz Prescott processor passively, even with a heatsink as capable as the Scythe Ninja. The bulk of the testing in the P180 was done with just one of the provided 120mm TriCool fans on Low, with very good results. One can imagine the level of cooling that is available if both fans are brought into play at mid or high speed, although this configuration would not be quiet.
The VGA duct does not provide very good cooling to the VGA card. Even without the duct this area of the case doesn't seem to "breathe" as well as the SLK3000B. The VGA duct does not match the rest of the case: The complexity of its installation is at odds with the smooth sliding drive cages, and its tendency to resonate disrupts the copious attention paid to noise-reduction everywhere else. I cannot think of any configuration where I would not remove the duct entirely. Anyone planning to build a quiet gaming rig should find — or mod — a VGA card that is quiet in its own right. Any VGA card would probably be best served by using a Zalman fan bracket with a quiet 80mm or 120mm fan instead of the duct.
The other drawbacks of the P180 are easier to handle. The difficult cable management that results from the unusual position of the power supply is well compensated by the benefits of isolating the power supply from the rest of the system and is a requirement of the design rather than an engineering oversight. Likewise, the complexity of the installation is due to the dual-chamber layout of the case.
The P180 is not a beginner's case. In the right hands, it has the potential to outdo almost any other case on the market in terms of noise and thermals, but some knowledge of thermodynamics and acoustics is necessary to get the most out of it. A beginner may be luckier with the P180 than another case because the choice of hard drive and power supply are less crucial, but the cable installation will take a fair bit of time.
To conclude: The P180 has more potential for silencing than any other case I have ever encountered. Although some benefits, such as the damped panels, can be appreciated by anybody, the true power of this case will be felt most by the experienced user who knows how to take advantage of its many unique features. About the only thing you might add to a quiet build in this case is a bit of acoustic damping foam to cut the last bit of sonic reflections inside the case. No doubt the hardcore silencers will still find ways to modify and improve this case, but the average user will find that this case provides a quality of noise that is unachievable in any other case without modification.