Introduction

The Antec P180

Back in January I wrote a short piece about my experiences at CES 2005 here in Las Vegas. One of the topics I covered in that piece was about Antec's 2005 cases, and how I thought the P-180 would end up being the "Case Of The Year". Today we finish up our in depth look at Antec's 2005 enclosure line with a look at that very same P180 Super Mid-Tower. Has our impression of this case changed in the six months that have passed?

After looking at Antec's 1050B and 640B server cases, as well as their new Sonata II, I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the P180. As much as I enjoyed the previous three cases (I still use all three), the P180 is Antec's new flagship case. Antec has high hopes that the P180 will vault them to the very pinnacle of the enclosure market.

Before we get too far along, let's look at the specs and some key features to keep in mind as we take a long look at Antec's P180 Super Mid-Tower enclosure. 

The Features

P180 Interior view

The Specs

 

Model

P180

Drive Bays

  • Front Accessible
  • Internal

       11

  • 4
  • 7
Expansion Slots         7
Cooling System
  • 1 rear (standard) 120mm TriCool Fan with 3-speed switch control
  • 1 top (standard) 120mm TriCool Fan
  • 1 lower chamber (standard) 120mm x 38mm (thick) TriCool Fan
  • 1 front (optional) 120mm fan
  • 1 (optional) 80mm case fan in the Air Duct over the graphics card
Main Board Size 12"(W)x9.6"(L)
Weight (net/gross)  31/36 lbs
 14.1/16.3 K
 Motherboards Standard ATX
Special Features
  • Internal mounts with rubber grommets
  • Upper and lower chamber structure
  • Three-layer side panel
  • Front USB/FireWire Ports
Package Includes
  • 1 Tower Case
  • 1 set of screws and motherboard standoffs
  • 1 Installation manual 
Price $125 (without PSU)

Exterior Impression

Those of you who don't care for Antec's flat black cases will be happy to see the P180 is a break from typical Antec cases. Looking something like a kitchen appliance, the P180 is in my opinion an extremely attractive case. < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Front side view 

The P180 is also heavy enough to actually be a kitchen appliance,, weighing in at just over 31 pounds! Definitely not your typical LAN party case! Aesthetically, the P180 should be happy in any environment, the brushed aluminum is subtle enough to not annoy people who don't care for flair, yet attractive enough to actually be part of your decor.

The exterior is constructed using a three layer system, A heavy duty, vibration and sound dampening plastic is sandwiched between two pieces of aluminum. Besides suppressing your systems sound, the three layered approach also adds a great deal of durability to this case.

Front View

Antec decided to use a metal door for the P180, complete with a magnetic door clasp. While the thick metal door is very nice, the P180 is hampered by something that has bothered a lot of people about their 2005 line of cases, namely a plastic hinge assembly that is not very sturdy. Regardless, this system ismuch nicer and more durable than typical cases. The double hinged assembly allows the door to be completely opened and folded back alongside the case. 

Front View 

A very subtle design feature is the intake grill running the entire heigth of the case along both sides of the case. This allows fresh cool air to be drawn over the twin 120mm fan grills placed at the middle and bottom of the case.. while the overall design is different from past antec cases, Antec uses the same plastic drive bay covers as their other cases.

Front I/O ports

Antec indented the door slightly toward the middle, leaving the front I/O ports exposed, a nice touch that allows you to use the 1394, USB, headphone, and microphone jacks without having to open the door. Where other Antec cases caused some headaches with their front door latch, the P180 uses a very nice magnetic door clask which keeps the door secured nicely without you having to fight to open it. i found the locking mechanism to work work very well without binding or being too difficult.

Rear side view

the rest of the case is of typical Antec construction, extremely sturdy. Both side panels are removeable, the left side by a pair of thumb screws, the right by a pair of phillips head screws. I was really impressed in handling this case, it would take a bit of effort to dent or bend either side panel, and as much as I don't care for the plastic hinge system , it works well and should be fine as the ability to fully open the door should reduce the chance of breaking it.

The rear of the case gives a hint as to the internal layout, with the power supply being seated at the bottom, Other than that, the rear of the case is pretty standard, with a 120mm exhaust fan and Antec's ducting system. 

Rear view

Removing the front cover shows the four 5.25 drive bays and single 3.25 drive bay seperated by a 120mm fan grill. some may complain about a single 3.25 drive bay, but we'll touch on that a bit more when we get to the internal look.

Front View removed

Antec uses a pair of 120mm fan grills mounted directly over your internal HDD cages  While the fans are not included, and might not be necessary, the placement of these grills, coupled with the side grills on the cover, should draw plenty of cool air into your case while doing a good job of reducing your HDD temperatures.

Front filters

The grills themselves are covered by a pair of washable filters that are easily removed and cleaned. Though not small enoufgh to catch every dust particle, these filters are great for catching pet hair and most dust found in every day life

Front Filters removed     

On the top of the case, Antec placed yet another 120mm fan ( Thats up to four internal 120mm fans). this one is for exhausting warm air that builds up in the top of most cases. Coupled with the PSU moved to the bottom of the case, Antec definitely wants to limit the warm air build up in the top section of the P180. The grill covering the top 120mm fan is removeable, so if the P180 is a tight fit under your desk, you can save a couple inches by simply removing it.

Top exhaust fan 

Instead of folding feet or wheels (which I really would have liked to see with this case, if for no other reason than its shear weight) Antec uses silicon feet, which should do a good job of reducing overall case vibration.

bottom

Overall, the exterior is as close to flawless as any I've seen. Besides being a very good looking case, the four 120mm fans should provide great airflow without excessive noise. Couple the fans with a three layered external shell, and quiet cooling is obviously the goal of the P180. 

Interior Impression

Opening the P180's side panel I was blown away by how much time, effort, and thought went into the production of this case. The interior is divided into two distinct sections. Behind the P180's ducting system for the CPU, the top section houses the motherboard, Optical drive bays, and one of the two 3.25 drive cages.

This areas, housing the most heat sensitive componets, is cooled by one of the front 120mm fans as well as the top and rear exhaust 120mm fans. I love the concept of removing the PSU from the motherboard area. By sectioning the case and isolating the motherboard, Antec is minimizing the heat buildup around the motherboard itself.

Interior without duct system

Removing the duct system and HDD cages shows a wide open case with great air flow. While the motherboard is a tad cramped (where have all the removeable trays gone?), the sectioned case, along with the amount of air moved by the fans should create as close to an "open bench" enviroment for your components as possible.

Interior View

While the PSU is seperated from the motherboard and components, there is an adjustable cover assembly for routing your PSU wiring through. Antec recommends using their NeoPower 480W or Phantom 500W PSUs with this case, my guess is that they have longer power cables and are overall optimized for the case's configuration

P180 motherboard tray

As with the ducting on other Antec cases, I think it is a good idea in theory, but not necessarily practice as the ducting is limiting in its size (92mm fan attachment) as well as the inability to move vertically or adjust depth. Those who plan on using a stock cooling might benefit from the ducting, however those who plan on using any of numerous cooling solutions will probably end up removing the ducting.

PCI slots

Like the rest of their 2005 line, Antec bypassed the "tool-less" design implemented by most other companies. I have never cared for "tool-less", as after switching video cards or other devices in and out, they tend to break after a couple of changes.

5.25 Drive bays

When it came to the 5.25 and external 3.5 drive bays, Antec also stuck to what has worked for them. Instead of the plastic rails with plastic tabs, Antec instead secures theiors to the drives with screws, meaning the user is going to have to spend a few minutes assembling their drive configuration, but it also means these rails are going to last a lot longer.

HDD drive cages

The P180s HDD cages are in my eyes the finest I have ever seen. Secured by thumb screws and a very nice track system, there is nothing cheap about these cages. The top cage features the removable trays found on the Sonata II, with individual removable trays and vibration dampening silicon plugs.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Drive cage area

Removing the 3.5 drive bays exposes the rail system holding them in place, as well as the 120mm fan spaces. The drive bays are held in place by thumb screws which do a great job, yet are easy enough to remove without issue. Antec also included a ring attached to the side of the bays for removing them quickly and easily.

HDD drive tray    

While the bottom HDD cage mounts the drives sideways and doesn't allow for individual removal, the top cage is much like that of the Sonata II, each drive sits in an individual tray within the cage. All drives are secured by screws as well as silicon grommets that reduce vibration and sound. 

One problem i have is after assembling a system, I always end up misplacing screws, or leaving them on the floor, usually to be found early in the morning by a very unhappy barefooted wife. The P180's top HDD cage features a nifty little storage compartment where you can easily stash your extra screws once you are finished installing your components.

 storage compartment

While I personally don't care for the ducting system, others might actually use it. Then again it is easily enough removed without destroying the airflow or layout of the case.

While the P180 features many of the same characteristics that have made their previous cases such a success, it also introduces an entirely new look and some very nice features of its own. Heres hoping that their future cases build upon the very strong foundation laid by the P180.

Conclusion

The Antec P180 Retail box

Final Thoughts:

Undoubtedly the finest case I've seen so far this year. The P180 features every positive characteristic of Antec's 2005 product line, then goes a bit further by giving you the best of both worlds, cooling performance and sound suppression.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

I also very much like the aesthetics of the P180, While a big fan of the subdued look of the Sonata II and TX640B, the P180 will look fine everywhere. The brushed metal finish is attractive, but also won't show fingerprints or scratches quite as easily as the other Antec cases I've looked at this year.

While the P180 is definitely marketed as an air cooled solution, to which I'd say there is no equal right now, I think it would have no trouble housing a moderate water cooling kit like Corsair's Cool or Cooler Master's Aquagate Mini. That being said, users would have to be extremely careful in using water cooling with this kit as the PSU is sitting on the bottom of the case.

Overall, I found exactly one flaw with the P180 which bothered me, the door hinge assembly. While Antec finally moved from the plastic door found on their other cases, they didn't replace the plastic hinge assembly. To be honest, I'd rather see Antec use a metal hinge and a plastic door as the hinge takes all the pressure and abuse.

Antec P180 interior view

The Legit Bottom Line

In the end, the P180 is one of the finest cases I've ever seen. With a heavy emphasis placed on sound suppression and cooling, the P180 should be the case to that all others will be judged against until we finally see what BTX has to offer. All of this for around $125 (without PSU) makes the P180 a great choice for those of you in the market for a new case.