Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Antec 300 Computer Case


Rating: 5 out of 5
Pros: A durable, well thought-out, well designed case at a bargain price
Cons: No external 3.5" bay, no case speaker

Unboxing

The Antec 300 arrived in a glossy black box instead of the plain brown that budget cases usually come in. The case itself was protected by the regular plastic bag and foam shell inside the box during transit, and arrived at my house in perfect condition from Newegg. The user's manual and 3 year warranty information page were included atop the case under the foam, while the supplied screws and motherboard standoffs were inside a small cardboard box inside the case itself.

The manual looked to be quite thick, but upon closer examination it was only 5 pages long; those 5 pages were just repeated in 7 different languages. In the rear of the manual there's an illustration of the case broken down into it's individual components and labeled for those who may need it.

The case is entirely black and semi-glossy, and has little specks of texture throughout the entire steel part of the case. They're hard to notice unless you're looking close, and if it wasn't so uniform you could almost mistake it for an imperfect paint job. It does not retain fingerprints very well, and is remarkably easy to clean.

The Antec 300 is just a hair taller and wider than my other case, the Centurion 534 by Cooler Master, but it's a whopping 6lbs lighter. It does not, however, sacrifice durability for it's lighter weight. The case is remarkably stable and well put together; you can tell Antec really put some thought into this one.

Inside mine...

I built this computer in April of 2009 so I could place my previous machine on the floor beside the entertainment center and hook it up to the television. It was a budget build to be used for moderate game playing and everyday usage. Other than the 10 days I was on vacation, it's probably been turned off for a total of 24 hours since then, and it's still going strong.

ASRock A780GXE/128M AM2+ 780G ATX Motherboard
AMD Athlon 64 X2 7750 2.7GHz Processor
Antec EarthWatts 650W 80 PLUS Certified Power Supply
A-DATA 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel RAM
2x Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4830 512MB PCIE 2.0 x16 Video Card
LG 22X SATA DVD+R DVD Burner w/LightScribe

Everything went together perfectly, the front panel connectors were well marked and were plenty long enough. There was more than enough room for everything to fit in well, and retain enough room for my hands to be in the case messing with stuff as well. Surprisingly, Antec even included enough thumb screws to put 4 in each of my hard drives, 2 in my video card, and still have 10 left. There were also extra finely threaded screws for optical drives, and a couple of extra motherboard standoffs.

My only two gripes upon putting the system together were the lack of a removable motherboard tray, and the lack of a system speaker anywhere in the case. The former I was aware of prior to purchase, and the latter thankfully hasn't been an issue yet; but I plan on keeping this case for a long time, so who knows.

Features

The Antec 300 supports motherboards with an ATX, MicroATX, or Mini-ITX form factor. It features 6 internal 3.5" drive bays, and 3 external 5.25" drive bays. It does not have any external 3.5" drive bays, which is one of the very few little things that I hold against it; my card reader fits in a 3.5" bay so I would need to use an adapter to place it into one of the available 5.25" drive bays instead if I were to use it in this case. The front of the case has 2 USB ports side-by-side at the top, along with microphone and headphone auto ports. The USB ports are spaced just far enough apart that I can plug my fat rubber coated flash drive into one and still use the other for my phone charger. There are no IEEE 1394 (Firewire) ports or eSATA (External Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) ports on this case.

The case does not come with a power supply, which is not a problem for me. In my experience, most power supplies that are included with cases are not very reliable, and rarely the type of power supply I would want in a computer system anyway. The separately purchased power supply mounts into the bottom of the case instead of the top. This helps with stability by transferring more of the weight to the bottom of the case. There are 7 expansion slots in the rear of the case for items such as video cards, sound cards or RAID controllers. One 120x25mm TriCool exhaust fan in the rear of the case and one 140x25mm TriCool exhaust fan mounted in the top of the case are included. Both fans have low, medium and high speed settings which are adjustable on a switch attached to each fan by a short cable.

The 140mm fan runs at 1500 RPM on high, 1100 RPM on medium, and 700 RPM on low; pushing 94.6 CFM, 66.8 CFM or 47 CFM of air at 31.8, 21.4 or 19.8 dBA. The 120mm fan runs at 2000 RPM on high, 1600 RPM on medium and 1200 RPM on low; pushing 79 CFM, 56 CFM or 39 CFM of air at 30, 28 or 25 dBA.

The great case design makes for terrific air flow to begin with, so I've found that leaving them on their preset setting of low is plenty of cooling for my system.

The Antec 300 can accommodate a video card up to 11" long, but that will block access to some of the 3.5" drive bays. My SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4830 is 9" long, and it sits exactly one inch from the back of the hard drive in front of it. That's another thing I like about the bottom mounted power supply; it sucks air in from the bottom of the case and exhausts it out the back, so it helps to cool my video card as well.

Construction

Length: 18.3" (46.5cm)
Width: 8.1" (20.5cm)
Height: 18.0" (45.8cm)
Weight: 15.9lbs (7.2kg)

The Antec 300 is made of thin but durable steel, except for the front bezel which is plastic with what appears to be perforated aluminum mesh over the front air intake area. The case is easily disassembled, having 2 included thumb screws holding each side on. The left side, which is used to access the bulk of the case's interior, has a perforated cut out for air flow that you can optionally mount a 120mm fan into. It also has a little tab sticking out the back that the side of the case slides over, which has a hole in it to add a small pad lock to.

The front bezel comes off easily as well. With the left side of the case off you can see three tabs along the front side that hold on the front bezel. These are extremely easy to use, and work extremely well. Unlike some cases where you practically have to break your finger nails pushing tabs into little tiny slots, these are over a half inch long and move with almost no effort. Usually I only have to push in the middle one, and the front bezel comes swinging open like a hinged door to the right. Open it further and you'll notice that thankfully it's not really hinged, it just has 3 plastic protrusions that slide in and out, making this by far the easiest front bezel I've ever come across.

Examining the front of the case closer with the bezel removed, the USB ports and audio ports are attached to the front of the case, as are the power and activity LEDs and the tiny little power and reset buttons. This means no short little wires running from the front of the case to the bezel to complicate things. The bezel has cut-outs for the USB and audio ports, and normal sized buttons that push in the little power and reset buttons on the front of the case.

The 3 external 5.25" drive bay covers are made of plastic and wrapped with a perforated aluminum to match the rest of the bezel, and are attached by two little tabs on each side. These are easy to pull out and put back in, so have no fear of breaking them. The metal inserts between the drive bays and the covers are metal, and are the only piece of the case that I found to be sharp at all, as the actual edges inside the case are rolled. They are attached by one point on each side near the top, and a quick upwards twist thankfully pulls them out without leaving any sharp burrs behind. There is also a small hole in the middle of each if you prefer to twist them out with a screwdriver instead.

In front of the internal 3.5" bays are two removable steel cages with perforated fronts, which are held on by two thumb screws each on the right and a sliding hinge on the left. These cages can each optionally hold a 120mm intake fan to suck air into the case across your hard drives, and you'd be silly not to use at least one. The 3.5" bays are slightly offset to the left side of the case, leaving a nice area on the right side for cable management. Finally, the bottom two-thirds of the bezel that goes over the aforementioned fan cages is made entirely of perforated aluminum, and features an easily removable (one tab and pull), washable mesh filter inside.

Final Thoughts

The Antec 300 is a beautiful and streamlined case. It doesn't have a clear side window or flashy neon lights all over it; it doesn't have vibrant colors or decals of fire-breathing dragons on it. What it does have is beauty in it's simplicity. It's well-made, sturdy, and very nice to look at whether it's in your home, office, or at a LAN party.

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