Behind the front panel bezel of the Antec Sonata Proto case, are the three 5.25″ bays and two 3.5″ bays. The panel doesn’t come off easily with the 3.5″ bay caddy still in so do yourself a favor and remove it prior to attempting to pull the panel off. Below the bays lies the washable air filter which is also removable.
The filter slides right out the bottom and doesn’t require removal of the front panel. Note that there are no mounts for an intake fan on the front and while we are at it, we’ll note that there are no other areas where a fan might be mounted on the case for intake. Even for a value series case, this design really puts a limit on your cooling options although you can place an optional fan inside the case to move air from the front to the back.
Four slot mounted 3.5″ hard drive bays reside in the front of the case and oriented such that the connectors are perpendicular to the case front. They each have four silicone grommet mounts for quiet, vibration-free operation which utilize the special screws provided with the accessory bundle. It’s best not to over-tighten the screws so that there is still some give in the grommets for the best performance.
Directly below the hard drive cage are four holes for mounting a 2.5″ SSD drive. Although you could, I wouldn’t recommend mounting a traditional platter drive here as there are no vibration dampeners and metal on metal is usually not a good combination for hard drive mounts. It’s nice to see this feature incorporated even if it is done frugally and we’d like to see more cases make allowances for SSD’s.
The external dual 3.5″ bay slides in an out on rails that are permanently attached. Drives just screw in without benefit of and vibration reduction material.
A nice design by Antec is their bay covers which discretely house the 5.25″ drive rails fitted snugly on the backside. The unfortunate part is that the bay covers don’t sit very tightly and can be knocked out of place if bumped. In fact, the case arrived with one of the bay covers already dislodged and rattling around inside the case. We all know how gently couriers treat their freight so it’s not all that surprising.
The backside of the left panel features the workings of the latch and lock. The lock simply pivots a plastic piece that prevents the slide latch from moving back to release the panel. Simple, yet effective.
The inside is primer gray which is ok if you don’t plan on modding the panels to incorporate a window. You might want to get out the spraypaint can if you do. There aren’t a lot of features to discuss once you head towards the back of the case. The two-speed fan is powered by a molex connector and has a small speed switch hanging off of a short wire. The rails for the PSU are ample enough to support most any power supply and there’s plenty of room for those with extra length. A few of the motherboard standoffs that are universal to all boards are pre-installed for you.
On the base of the inside there’s quite a bit of over-spray from where the exterior was painted which has no impact at all on the performance of the case but doesn’t give you that warm and fuzzy attention to detail feel. Then again, this isn’t a $200 performance case so concessions must be made for lower pricing.
The wires from the case that connect to the motherboard headers are clearly labeled and plenty long enough to reach any motherboard you may attempt to mount.
A closer look at the fan speed switch shows it’s a simple slide switch and is simply labeled “L” & “H”. I would prefer to see a switch like this mountable to where it can be accessed without having to open the case. While this isn’t difficult to mod, it would be nice to have it in that configuration by default.
The seven expansion slot covers are held in place by Phillips head screws. Nothing fancy here. Antec believes that tool-less designs are often noisy and don’t add as much value for non-enthusiast users who don’t upgrade or tinker with their PC on a regular basis. This makes good sense and helps make price of the case more affordable.
Let’s see how all of this comes together with the build step.