The Antec Skeleton PC Chassis
An Antec case could be considered the gold standard for a case that can take a beating. When an enthusiast hears the Antec name they tend to think heavy and built like a tank. Well, the newest offering from Antec, the Skeleton, is not your normal Antec case. In fact it is nothing like what we are used to seeing from Antec; it more closely resembles a test bench with a little flair than a traditional case. With the open air design the Skeleton is a complete 180 degree turn from what one would consider to be a case for a “daily driver” system. We first saw the Antec Skeleton in person at NVISION 08, so if you have seen it on the site in the past you are not going crazy. Before I get too far let's take a look at the specifications and features for the Skeleton.
- 4 Drive Bays
- External 2 x 5.25”
- Internal 2 x 3.5”
- Optional 4 x 3.5” side panel mounted drive trays
- 1 top 250mm TriCool 3-speed multi color customizable LED Fan
- 1 front 92mm HD cooling fan
- 13”(H) x 14.8”(W) x 16.5”(D)
- 33 cm(H) x 37.6 cm(W) x 41.9 cm(D)
- 15.74"(H) x 18.11"(W) x 18.89"(D)
- 40 cm(H) x 46 cm(W) x 48 cm(D)
The Skeleton comes packed in normal Antec style: heavy duty cardboard box with an image of the case with dramatic lighting on the sides.
Inside the box we can see the Skeleton is packed quite nicely in foam and wrapped in plastic.
Now with the Skeleton out of the box and on the table I was shocked at the sheer size of the case. It’s a lot bigger than it looks; it is basically about a 17” cube. Overall it is very nice looking and most definitely different -- from the color changing 250mm top fan (more on this in a second) to the arch shaped frame.
Looking at the front of the Skeleton we can see the front IO ports and power and rest buttons, as well as the power and hard drive activity LEDs. The lower part of the Skeleton is the 5.25” and 3.5” bays.
Looking from the side we can see the mesh side panels. These do two things: help hide the power supply wires and also give you the space to mount hard drives (more on this later). The side screens/panels are also removable to give you more room to work, or air flow if you don’t need them.
Looking at the back we can get a good look at the expansion card support rail, the clear plastic piece. The power supply mounts in a removable caddy that slides into the lower half and is held in place with a spring clip.
The thing that will get most people's attention is the big fan on the top of the case and its color changing LEDs. The fan has several settings to change color automatically between no color, blue, red, green, and combinations of, or you can cycle through the settings to a certain one you want. There are two switches for the fan. A speed switch for low/med/high and the light switch for setting the color style you like. There is no off switch for the fan itself, so it is always on. On the low setting the fan is not noticeable at all, on high you could get annoyed.
At the bottom of the arch legs are soft rubber pads for the case feet.
Installing Parts into the Skeleton
Accessories for the Skeleton are pretty slim, but it’s all you need. Antec provides 4 hard drive caddies, cooling fan for the 3.5” drive bay, mounting hardware, and a couple wire ties. What is missing is a manual -- that’s right, no manual. You do, however, get a sheet that has a technical type drawing of the case that tells you what each part is, but you're left to your own imagination on how to go about working on it.
After I scratched my head for a minute (or 30) and looking all the parts and the case over, I started in on assembling the test system into the Skeleton. Your first step is to slide out the lower tray so you can get to the motherboard tray. To do this you have to loosen 2 retaining screws on the back.
With the lower tray slid out and the side panels off you now have more room to work. To remove the motherboard tray there are 3 screws that hold it in place, 2 in the rear corners and one front center.
With the tray out you can install the standoffs and the motherboard.
The cutouts in the tray allow you to run wires through and have access to the CPU backplate.
When I put the tray back into the system I found my first oops. The cooler I had installed in the test system was the Cooler Master V8 and it is a very tall cooler. The cooler looked like it would fit under the fan, but I failed to pay attention to the shroud around the fan. So your choice of cooler for the Skeleton will be VERY limited. If the cooler you have is taller than the video card, it will not work with the Skeleton.
Annoyed at having to take the cooler off and find one in my stock that was short enough to fit, I moved on to installing the optical drive. The 5.25” and 3.5” bays have a somewhat tool-less retention system. I say somewhat as you need a screwdriver to install the retaining stud on the device prior to installing it into the Skeleton. Now if you don’t move the system around a lot then this will be enough. Otherwise, you need to remove the side cover and install a case screw to hold the drive more firmly.
Installing Hard Drives
The Skeleton gives you the option to mount your hard drives in one of two (or both) places. In the 3.5” bay you can also have an auxiliary fan to cool the drives. Now, if you’re like me and your power supply has a ton of connections on it you're going to have to use the alternate mounting spot for the hard drives -- the case side.
That’s right: the sides of the case, where anything can smack it while it's humming away. I will admit four Raptor drives with the windows would be pretty trick looking.
To do this you first mount the drive to the caddy with two screws. Then the hooks on the caddy lock into the side panel and the rubber strips keep the vibrations down.
With the drive caddy on the side panel you then screw through the side panel into the hard drive.
With the power supply, DVD ROM, and hard drive mounted I turn my attention back to the motherboard. I changed coolers to the Noctua NH-C12P. With a cooler that would now fit I went to install the video card and realized that I need to remove the support rail. This was easily done by removing two screws (one each side).
With the system completely installed several things become very apparent. First, a modular power supply is a must; there simply is no place to stash power wires and still use the 3.5” bays. Second, you will need to research your choice of CPU cooler in order to make sure it will fit when it comes to the height of the cooling tower. This is an issue due to clearance given by the 250mm fan that sits above the motherboard area. Our measurements show that anything over 92mm in height will give you some issues, so this means that you will have to use a shorter third-party cooler or the retail boxed cooler that comes with Intel and AMD processors. The last thing that you need to know is that it is advised to block out the afternoon to install your system into the Antec Skeleton. Since this case is so open you’re going to want to take your time to run the wires and tuck everything out of the way. It can be done, but it will take time and the right hardware.
If you plan on hauling the Skeleton anywhere then the above is very important. You’re not going to want to haul the case to a LAN party with your drive hanging off the side. SATA connectors get broken all the time while protected inside a standard a case, let alone sticking out in the air for anything to hit. You can see how this is something to keep an eye on in the picture above.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions:
I spent a good solid afternoon with the Skeleton installing parts and what not, and a couple days using it. In the process this case got more people sticking their heads in my office and asking “what in the world is that?” than any other case I have ever reviewed. The Antec Skeleton is a good conversation piece and will make you the talk of the water cooler for sure!
When I first found out about the Skeleton I thought it was cool and even cooler when I got word I was going to review it. After spending an afternoon with the Skeleton I became very frustrated with it. This, I think, was mainly due to the hardware I was trying to fit into it, lack of documentation, and lack of space to hide things. With parts properly selected for the Skeleton the afternoon would have gone a lot smoother, but using what I had made things interesting to say the least.
The Skeleton can be found online for as little as $164 plus shipping; for that money you get a sharp looking case that will be guaranteed to turn heads. Overall I have mixed feelings about the Skeleton. The geek in me loves it; the dad in me is scared of it. As a father of two under the age of 10 there is more then one occasion that something will go flying across the room. Even in my office I was leery of people around the system that were holding drinks and leaning over the case. Those that have pets at home might also want to think twice as a cat on catnip might find the 250mm disco fan a little too interesting.
Bottom Line: The Antec Skeleton is a very unique and innovative case, but with anything radical it will not be perfect for everyone.