Upon first glance there is very little that separates the Sonata II from its predecessor the Sonata. You will notice the same semi-glossy finish, same size, shape, and basic design, this is a good thing as the Sonata was a great case, and proved very popular among the DIY crowd.
Gone are the “Antec cutouts on the tops of both side panels. In fact, the Sonata II has no side venting at all. This caught my attention immediately as my biggest issue with the original was lack of cooling, and Antec’s entire 2005 line thus far as featured ducted cooling for the CPU. The side panel features the same thumb screw and latch assembly of the original, I find the latch assembly to be more than sufficient and have never used my thumb screws to secure the side panel.
Those of you that read my review of Antec’s Titan 550 and TX1050B enclosures know that I did not care for the plastic front bezel or door assembly. On a server case, which usually isn’t going to have its door opened and closed as much as a gamer’s mid tower, the plastic door is not much of an issue, but with me constantly switching out CDs and DVDs, my Sonata’s door lasted about a month, pity, as the rest of that case has remained flawless over the past year.
The Sonata II is prone to the same fate, although Antec did try to address the issue by using the same twin swivel door assembly found on their other 2005 cases. With the ability to open almost completely (the door allows a 270 degree swing), broken doors should not be too much of an issue if care is taken during handling. I think the door swivel is a unique concept, one that would work flawlessly, and the plastic door would be much less of an issue if Antec would simply use metal hinges and studs.
Moving down the front of the case, the Sonata II keeps the same smooth, pleasing look of the original, complete with a covered front I/O port with connections for !EEE 1394, USB 2.0, and audio jacks, nothing drastic here, and something that has become a must have feature with digital camera and USB keys being so widely used. To either side of the I/O port is lighting that kind of confuses me. Like the Sonata, the Sonata II has a clear plastic section on both sides of the I/O port, these plastic capsules house a very bright, very annoying, blue light that easily lights up a dark room. Why put something like this on such a subtle case? This can be overcome simply by not connecting the 4 pin molex running from the front panel to the inside of the case.
Just below the front I/O ports is the first noticeable difference with the Sonata II. To improve the case’s air flow, Antec’ widened and rounded the front inlet, allowing more cool air to be drawn in through the filter, over the HDD racks, and finally over the entire system. Though subtle, the change cannot help but make a significant difference in the case’s ambient temperature.
Moving to the rear of the case, the Sonata II keeps the same sturdy design of other Antec cases, no broken or bent PCI slot covers here. The second, and perhaps more significant change with the Sonata II comes into play as you look at the lower section of the case’s rear. Next to the PCI covers, is a rectangular grill.
While most cases draw cool air in from the front and exhaust warm air out the rear, Antec uses this as an air intake for their new ducting system that we’ll cover shortly in our interior impression.
The Sonata II is a very nice looking case, again, Antec uses a subtle, yet attractively sturdy design and it works. I had two issues while looking at the front of the case. First, I hate plastic doors, the sign of a high quality case is durability, and plastic case doors seem easily broken, as my original Sonata suffered that fate less than a month after purchase. I’d gladly pay an extra $5-10 if Antec would switch over to a metal door or hinge assembly. Second, as attractive as the Sonata II is, it’s impossible to handle without leaving finger prints or smudges all over it. If you are going to have this case, make sure you keep a smooth, clean rag handy.
That said, the Sonata II is every bit as beautiful and sturdy as the original. Let’s move on to the interior of the case.