As a reviewer of PC hardware products, I find I have the most fun at my job when I get to take a look at a product that does things differently. Who wants to live in a world of cookie-cutter PC components and accessories? It’s much more refreshing to see new approaches to solving engineering problems, and novel solutions that push the envelope of performance. In the world of enthusiast PC cases, though, there seems to be a formula that every manufacturer follows. Front case fan, back case fan, PSU at the top rear corner of the case, and so on. Sometimes an extra case fan will be added on the side, or on the top of the case.
There are few manufacturers that seem to be willing to experiment with new design techniques to improve upon that formula, which is why the chief means of differentiating computer case products from each other seems to be in varying their external appearance.
One PC case manufacturer that has shown considerable initiative as of late in advancing the technical side of case design is Antec. When their P180 burst onto the scene in 2005, its innovative multi-chamber design turned more than a few heads, placing the power supply and hard drives in a separate tunnel beneath the motherboard compartment, among other unique features.
Designing the P180 with separate thermal zones allowed the variable-speed fans in each zone to run only as quickly as needed to deal with the heat load in that particular zone, similar to the thermal design of the Apple Power Mac G5 and Mac Pro, in order to minimize operating noise. The Antec P180 was Antec’s first â€œQuiet Computing” product, as part of an initiative to bring low-noise technology to the enthusiast market.
When Antec released the NSK2400 case in 2006 to address the growing Home Theater PC (HTPC) market, they followed the same design philosophy, translating the P180’s multi-chambered design to a horizontal form factor. Noise is a significant concern in HTPCs, which must not only operate reliably, but quietly as well. In addition to assessing the NSK2400’s aesthetics and ease of use, this review will delve into the technical side of things, examining the various ways that this case deviates from the old school of case design, and how these new ideas advance the state of the art in thermal design.
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