Antec P280 Midtower
No matter the age or skill level there is a handful of brand names that any user that has built a system will know. Fairly high on that list, if not top, would be Antec. Antec has been making cases since 1986 and since has had several cases that are very popular, like the Gaming series Ninehundred. Some were instant love/hate scenarios like the latest Dark Fleet series. Antec also has cases for enthusiasts who want a case that can perform, but not be decked out with lights and flashy looks. For those users Antec has the Performance One series. It has classy outer looks and quiet operation, but the space to hold even the largest of system parts.
Lately, Antec has been having an issue designing a case with proper cable management. The last several of cases from Antec had very little room to run cabling behind the motherboard tray. Antec has said with the P280 chassis they have fixed this, and boy did they. The P280 sports a whopping 1-inch of clearance between the side panel and the motherboard tray.
With the Performance One series one of running complaints was the power and reset buttons were behind the door on the front of the case. Antec has fixed this as well. They moved the power and reset buttons from the front to the top of the case. Now the only reason to open the door will be when you will need access to the 5.25" bay devices or to clean the front intake filter.
Antec has also updated the internal layout of the P280. Gone is the thermal chamber separation the past Performance One cases had. This is changed to a more open design. This gets a simpler internal layout, no complicated drive cages, and lowers the overall weight of the case a touch as well. With the old style drive cages gone Antec moved to a drive tray setup that can accept either 2.5" or 3.5" drives.
Antec says the P280 will carry an MSRP of $139.95. Now if that is a little too much, or you prefer the Gamer series, no worries. Antec will soon be releasing the Eleven Hundred for the Gamer Series. The Eleven Hundred is based on the same internal structure as the P280l. We first got a glimpse of both cases back at BlizzCon 2011.
Let's take a look at the features and specifications of the Performance One P280, then on to the P280 itself.
Features of the Antec P280
- Supports up to XL-ATX motherboards (10.3” x 13.6”)
- 9 thumbscrew expansion slots
- Easy-to-remove air filters
- 6 total cable routing holes (4 that are grommet-lined) with 30 mm space behind motherboard
- HDD trays with silicone grommets / dual compatibility with 2.5” drives
- Maximum-sized CPU cutout
- Tool-less 5.25” drive bays
- 3 included 120 mm TwoCool exhaust fans with fan power hub
- 4 optional intake fans (2 in front, 2 internal)
- 2 front panel USB 3.0 ports with internal connector (USB 3.0-to-2.0 adapter available for $2.50)
- 3 year warranty
Specifications of the Antec P280
- Case Type: Super Mid Tower
- Motherboard: XL-ATX (10.3” x 13.6” / 262 mm x 345 mm), Standard ATX, microATX, Mini-ITX
- Drive Bays
- External:3 x 5.25” (tool-less)
- 6 x 3.5” / 2.5” using tray mounts
- 2 x 2.5” (dedicated)
- 2 x top 120 mm TwoCool exhaust fans with 2-speed switch (standard)
- 1 x rear 120 mm TwoCool exhaust fan with 2-speed switch (standard)
- 2 x front 120 mm intake fans (optional)
- 2 x internal 120 mm intake fans (optional)
Unboxing the Antec P280
The box for the P280 is sturdy; on the front is a nice image of the case.
One end has a nice image of the inside of the P280.
Other side has another overall image from another angle.
Top has the specifications list in various languages.
Back has images of the features with a small description of each.
The case comes wrapped in plastic and cradled in foam end caps.
External Impressions of the Antec P280
The P280 looks like the Performance One cases of the past. It has clean sides with an anodized aluminum door. Unlike the case before it, the power and reset buttons are on top the case. No more having to open the door to turn the system on.
With the power and reset buttons on the top of the case there is less need to open and close the door all the time. The front I/O panel is also accessible without opening the door. The front I/O panel consists of HD Audio ports, two USB2, and two USB3 ports.
When you do need to open it, the door can swing completely around to the side. The door is held open and closed with magnets. On the inside of the door is foam sound damping material.
Below the 5.25" bays is the front intake filter. Behind the filter are spots to mount two 120mm fans.
With the door closed there is about 1/2" gap for air to be pulled in from the sides of the door.
At the very top are two 120mm Antec TwoCool fans setup as exhaust fans. Our P280 has silver screws on the top fans, but this will be changing to black based on the feedback of Legit Reviews to Antec.
The sides of the P280 are both solid with no windows or fans, but there is something different.
The lower vent screen for the power supply slides out the side of the case, not the rear. Depending on how your case sets in/on your desk this could be good or bad. For me, the way I have the case on my desk, it's a good thing. No more having to slide the case out or tip in and up to pull the screen out the back of the case.
Round back the P280 has a single 120mm rear exhaust fan, just above that is the individual speed controls for the top and rear fans.
The P280 sports 9 vented expansion slots, and also has two water cooling tube pass though holes. There is also a large vent that runs the entire height of the right side of the case. This is to the space behind the motherboard.
Looking at the bottom of the case there are four case feet and the single vent for the power supply.
Each of the case feet snap into the case frame, and have a white silicon insert glued into it. The silicon takes up vibrations from the system and also helps prevent the case from sliding around.
Moving Inside the Antec P280
Those familiar with the previous Performance One cases will notice the rather drastic layout change. Gone is the separate thermo chamber design to a more open layout. The layout gets a couple things I like, a less complicated drive cage arrangement and 9 expansion slots.
There are 4 tool-less 5.25" bays, 2 dedicated 2.5" drive bays, and 6 drive trays that can hold either 2.5" or 3.5" drives.
On the inside of side of the drive cage are tool-less fan mounting spots for an additional pair of 120mm fans.
In the lower back is the power supply area. The vent screen is inside the case. Its guide rails are what the power supply rests on.
Above the power supply are the expansion slot covers. The covers are held in with thumbscrews.
At the top and back are three TwoCool 120mm fans, with individual speed controls.
A little different from Antec cases in the past, there is a power distribution block that powers all the fans from a single molex connector.
The front panel wiring has a change or two as well. The P280 has USB3 on the front panel. If your board doesn't have USB3, for an additional charge of $2.50 you can get a USB3 to USB2 converter cable. There is also only HD audio connecton for the front panel audio connections. This could be an annoyance for someone moving an older system with AC97 audio to a new case.
Moving around to the right side, there are 4 grommeted wire routing holes down the side and bottom of the motherboard and 2 open wire routing holes at the top. Antec also provided many places for wire ties to help keep things tidy. The CPU cutout in the motherboard tray is massive; there should be no issues getting to the back of CPU sockets.
From the tray to the side panel is 1", absolutely cavern-like compared to past Antec cases. Plenty of room for even the beefiest power supplies' main 24pin cable.
There is over 2" in the hard drive cage area -- plenty of space for connections and wires.
The side panels have a layer of polycarbonate that acts as a sound barrier.
Installing parts into the Antec P280
Antec provides a bag of hardware, a sheet to point out parts, and a couple of wire ties.
In the hardware bag is an assortment of items needed to mount the motherboard, hard drives, and fans.
The hard drive tray has both 2.5 and 3.5 mounting points. The 2.5" mounts are solid to the cage. The 3.5" have silicon vibration isolators.
Since I'm using an SSD, I chose to use the dedicated 2.5" cage. The drive does stick out a little, but no further than the drive trays. There is a positive stop to keep the drive from going too far in. There are pressure fingers in the slot that hold the drive nicely, but you can also secure the drive in place with a screw.
The overall install was quick and I only found one issue and a small annoyance.
Both are in regards to the front panel wires. The power, reset, LED activity lights could stand to be a couple inches longer. No matter how I routed the wires I could not get the HDD activity LED wire to the connections on the board. Not so much an issue for me, as I don't hook it up, but others do. So, if your motherboard front panel connections are low and to the rear like mine are on the Intel DX58SO motherboard you may have some issues. As you can see in the image I used one of the holes created for the wire tie tab to run the switch wires through, and I ran the front USB cable wires between the board and the tray. Another wire routing hole in place of that one wire tie tab would be very nice.
There was a TON of room to run wire behind the tray. I had no issues back here with anything.
If using the dedicated 2.5" bays I would suggest hooking them up first before putting any dives in the trays. To get my hand in far enough to hook up the cables I had to take the top tray out.
The wire routing holes at the top of the tray made it easy to get a cable up to the power distribution block for the fans.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Antec set out to right the ship, so to speak, and fix a couple of the main issues a lot of users had with the last couple cases. I think they hit the mark. The Performance One P280 has all the looks that the Performance One series is known for, and with the updates to the design makes for one nice case.
With Antec moving away from the separated thermo chamber design it may make some users that liked the design mad, but I think it will be a small number. The new layout works well. There is space for long video cards, six 3.5” and two 2.5” drives, or eight 2.5” drives. With the dual 120mm fans at the top there is a place to mount water cooling units like the Corsair H100 without mods or running into the clearance issues with the rear exhaust. Same for mounting Antec's own Kuhler 920 to the rear exhaust and not having clearance issues with the top exhaust fans.
The drive trays are not tool-less, but not a deal breaker for me. When I build a system for personal use I’m not constantly changing parts out like I would for a test system. So a couple of minutes extra to install a couple of screws is not a big deal. Same goes for expansion cards. Now Antec did put in thumb screws for the expansion cards so it is slightly tool-less, and you can pull a card to clean it without tools if you had to.
The change that I think will make the most users happy is the increase of space between the motherboard tray and side panel. The extra space made all the difference running cables.
The only issue I ran into running cables was with the front panel switch wires being a tad short to reach the motherboard connections. Mileage may vary depending on the placement of the connections on your motherboard.
Now if you are a gamer or just prefer the look of the gamer line over the performance series, the Eleven Hundred is coming. It will bring with it an updated design as well. So sit tight, gamers will get some love soon.
Antec says that the Performance One P280 will carry an MSRP of $139.95. This is not too out of line for the Performance One series cases. Price-wise the Antec P280 falls in-between the P193 and P183. So, if you are in the market for a classy looking case with the room inside for high-end parts, give the P280 a good look.
Legit Bottom Line: Antec set out to update the Performance One series based on customer feedback, but keep the style that is the Performance One series. They did just that, and released a nice case in the process.