Date: March 1, 2007
Author(s): Greg King
Antec has launched a gamers case that they tout as being the “most versatile ever”. It also takes on a huge task of keeping your components cool with it’s 200mm fan. We are taking a thorough tour of the case to see if it’s worth your time.
With any gaming PC, careful consideration must be given to each and every component that will be used. From high end graphics cards to multi-core CPUs, the hardware options are almost limited by the amount you want to spend on the build itself. With everything in mind, one piece that is often overlooked is the case. While the argument can be made that a case plays no vital role in the performance of the PC as a whole, it is the face of your computer.
Regardless of the GPU you are running in your rig, whether itâ€™s a Radeon 9800 Pro or a GeForce 8800 GTX, the first impression people are going to get from your PC is from its outward appearance. I suppose you can also make the point that many people donâ€™t even need a PC case. I personally have an entire rig setup on my bench solely for testing hardware.
Long gone though are the days of the beige box under the desk, having been replaced with stylish black and brushed aluminum works of art. A stylish case today can easily set you back between $100 and $250 and this might not even include a power supply. Regardless of what you are looking for in a case, one company that comes to mind more often than not is Antec. Having been in the chassis game for quite some time, 11 years to be exact, Antec has long been the pioneer in not only stylish cases, but cases that produce as little noise as possible. Having divided their lineup into different classifications, we are taking a look at their latest offering to the gaming community, the Nine-Hundred.
Having been a favorite of gamers for years, Antec has finally taken the time to design a case that addresses one of the greatest concerns gamers, heat. A large majority of gamers use simple air cooling to keep their system temps in check. This is either to reduce the overall cost of their rig, or because water can be a real hassle. Regardless of the reasons for using air cooling, it is somewhat limited in the temperatures it can provide when compared to more exotic forms of cooling.
The single greatest need in an air cooled PC is airflow. Proper cable management and plenty of fans are vital to provide your component coolers the cool air they need to do their jobs. This is something that Antec clearly had in mind when they released the Nine-Hundred. Armed with 3 tri-cool blue LED 120mm fans, the Nine-Hundred can certainly move the air. If this wasnâ€™t enough, on the top of the case is the Nine-Hundredâ€™s most noticeable featureâ€¦ its incredible 200mm tri-cool fan. With so many fans, itâ€™s a fair assumption that the Nine-Hundred can certainly move the air so now my concern moves to noise. How will the Nine-Hundred perform using Intel stock cooling in our tests? Letâ€™s find out.
The Antec Nine-Hundred came to us shipped in its retail packaging. In a stylish black box with a picture of the caseâ€™s most notable feature, the 200mm top mounted fan. Providing plenty of information about the case, the packaging is what we have come to expect from Antec.
Once opened, we see the Nine-Hundred and to be honest, itâ€™s a bit smaller than I had anticipated. Standing roughly six inches shorter than the previous case we took a look at, the Thermaltake Kandalf; the Antec surprised me to say the least.
From the side, we can see the large clear side panel. To protect this window, Antec ships the Nine-Hundred with a clear piece of plastic stuck to the side which once removed, clearly did its job well. Also notice that behind the window, a good part of the side panel is perforated with mounts on the inside for another 120mm fan (not included).
Moving around to the front of the case, we see the Nine-Hundred continue the theme of airflow. The entire front of the tower is perforated. There are nine bays running down the front allowing for numerous different combinations of fans, optical drives and fans. Behind the bottom six bays sit a pair of 120mm fans, allowing the three remaining bays on the top to be used for whatever you choose to use them for. Notice how the drive bays appear to be indented in, behind the sides of the case. I like this look.
On the top of the chassis, we see the standard I/O panel consisting of a pair of USB ports, one Firewire port, headphone and microphone jacks, a hard drive activity LED and a pair of buttons for power and resetting the machine.
Just behind the top mounted I/O panel, there are two notable areas to point out. One being the ridiculously large 200mm fan that pretty well defines this case, and the other being a small recessed area top place virtually anything you need to keep close. This does not include soda, beer, Makerâ€™s Mark, Red Bull or Monster and should you decide to set anything not securely closed, you need to keep in mind there is a large 200mm opening right behind this area. Please do not store anything on top of your case that can potentially destroy your PC. With that said, letâ€™s take a look at this handy little storage area.
Included in with the Nine-Hundred is a small rubber pad to place inside the opening to help keep loose items from slipping around.
Finally on top, we see the Nine-Hundredâ€™s defining feature, the large, very large, 200mm fan. With large holes in the fan guard, there should be little restriction of the air that this fan moves.
On the back of the case, we see the opening for the power supply is at the bottom of the case, as opposed to the traditional area at the top. This is obviously to allow the Nine-Hundred to use the large fan to the best of its abilities. On the left, there is the I/O shield with the 120mm exhaust fan opening to the right. Below them are the PCI slots.
Let’s take a look at the insides!
Shifting out attention to the inside of the case, the first thing that stand out to me, aside from the bottom mounted PSU, is the lackluster look of the inside. On the right, you have the drive bays and on the left you have nothing really. This isnâ€™t anything to get to particularly upset about, the slot loaded hard drive bays found in the P180 have been something that I have come to love. This however you defeat the purpose of having the front 120mm fans and would restrict too much airflow.
Speaking of the drive bays, the bottom six drive bays are separated into two sets of three with 120mm fans on the front of both. They are removable and the top one has a large plastic mount to allow the attachment of yet another 120mm fan to blow across your GPU. I found this to be rather cumbersome and removed the plastic mounting piece.
Notice the four screws on the side to secure the drive cages in place. This is repeated on the other side of the case for a total of eight thumb screws for each drive cage. Thatâ€™s a decent amount of needless work but at least you know itâ€™s secure.
We can get a better view of the drive cages once they are outside of the case. As stated earlier, each cage can hold up to three drives and has one 120mm on the front of the case. These can be slid out either from the front or the back of the chassis.
Back on the inside of the case, Antec has used four round rubber pads for the power supply to sit on, helping to reduce the vibrations caused by the power supply fan when in motion. There is also a flat piece of metal sticking out to secure the power supply against the rubber pads.
On the back of the Nine-Hundred, there is one of the three included 120mm tri-cool blue LED fans. For those of you that might not know, the Antec tri-cool fans are named this way because with a small attached switch that allows you to pick between low, medium and high rotation speeds.
On the side panel itself, there is mounting brackets to hold on an additional 120mm fan should you choose to do so. This will pull cool air from outside the case and blow it directly onto your video card.
To connect the front USB, Firewire and audio connectors to the motherboard, pin plugs are used. This is a welcome addition and allows quick installation of the cables. Notice on the audio cord, there is the pin plug but also loose pins to accommodate motherboard that donâ€™t use the standard pin scheme. For those of you that donâ€™t care for the look of loose pin cables, these can be snipped off with no ill effects.
Also included in the case was a small box containing a 5.25" to 3.5" converter as well as a 3.5" faceplate for those of you who still might like to keep a floppy or ZIP drive. Also included are the screws needed to mount the motherboard and power supply.
Let’s wrap up the review with installation and testing!
Installation of hardware into the Nine-Hundred can be a bit difficult due to the cramped nature of the case, but ultimately went off without any significant problems. The hardware used in this review will be:
While nothing particularly spectacular with this goods being used, it does represent a fairly mainstream PC that most anyone could use. First we installed the motherboard. This was easy and without anything else in the case, was a quick procedure.
Once everything is installed, we see one downside to mounting the PSU in the bottom of the case. This is mainly up to the positioning of the power connector on the motherboard, and ultimately the boardâ€™s manufacturer, but we can see the 8-pin power cable having to run up and across the middle of the motherboard. This can be problematic because if the case is bumped, the cable could fall into the CPU fan and stop it. I only warn of this because it happened to me.
To test out the cooling capabilities of the Nine-Hundred, temperatures of the E6600 will be recorded at an idle state and at full load. This will be repeated with the system overclocked to 3.2GHz at 1.35 VCore.
41° / 48°
47° / 55°
39° / 44°
45° / 53°
32° / 40°
36° / 43°
28° / 35°
34° / 41°
Our conclusions are somewhat of a mixed bag. While I personally loved the design of the case itself, there are a few things that we feel that Antec could work on and easily improve. The first is the cable lengths. We were unable to connect all of the USB cables to the motherboard because they were just too short. If another inch or two was added to the overall length, the cables would be perfect. Granted, we were running it around a PhysX card, but all motherboards have a low PCI slot and more often than not, it will be populated.
Another complaint is the bottom mounted power supply. While there isnâ€™t really anything that Antec can do about this because all motherboards are different, I do not personally care for a cable running so close to my partially exposed CPU fan. This not only blocks some airflow, but also can stop the fan entirely. Not entirely Antecâ€™s fault, but something that we feel should be pointed out.
One last complaint is the flimsy feel to the side panel. With the panel off, it was easily flexed and bent. This isnâ€™t anything that canâ€™t easily be fixed but in our opinion, Antec really shouldnâ€™t have used such thin metal for a side panel with a window in the middle. I know that the window takes quite a bit of structural strength away from the side and thus, a little bit thicker material should be considered in the future.
With those two gripes out of the way, we can get to the good stuff. We loved the exterior look of the Nine-Hundred. The front and top was well done and the airflow cannot be questioned. I would not hesitate to recommend this case to LAN party attendees because the size is right and in a crowded room, you can set the fans on high and more than likely, not hear them at all. The window on the side allows all to see your PCâ€™s internals, even though the cramped area inside the case doesnâ€™t allow for the best of cable management.
All in all, I am walking away from the Antec Nine-Hundred a bit underwhelmed. But I also have to keep in mind who and what this case what designed for. All of the things that I do not care for in this case, aside from the weak side panel and the short cables are what make this case so perfect for gamers and ultimately that is the crowd that Antec is going for with the case. I personally like classier designs and for me, I am going to stick with my P180 but to show off a water cooled PC at a LAN party, I canâ€™t think of many other cases that I would rather have my PC housed in. Taking this all into consideration, the Antec Nine-Hundred earns an 8 out of 10. Itâ€™s not perfect for all, but for the gamers, this is a sure bet.
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