Today we’re taking a quick look at the Antec Sonata III Mid Tower Quiet Case.
The Sonata III was bought as a replacement for the Sonata Piano Finish case. It’s actually very similar, although it doesn’t have quite the same piano-finish look to it. There have been improvements in other areas though, and they’ll be mentioned below (you can check out the video or scroll down to read the written review).
Antec Sonata III video review. Click to watch, or scroll down to read the written review.
Starting at the front, you’ll notice the ports are flush with the case. The older version had the ports hidden away under a silver “door”. While I suppose the old version probably blended in better if you actually had it sitting beside your grand piano, it’s wasn’t the best in terms of functionality. Even when open, the door made it impossible to see the ports from above resulting in a lot of fumbling around if you were trying to plug something in. When the door was open, that section also became an “intake” resulting in a lot of dust getting sucked in as well. Having a flush mount with the Sonata 3 should definitely help to alleviate both these issues. Another change that should serve to help is that the lower intake’s on the left and right are a little larger. Offering less constriction there should help ensure that most of the intake air is pulled from the bottom and passes the filter.
The front panel remains similar, although the Sonata 3 has been double-hinged, making it open a little wider, and keeping it from bouncing back when flung open. A couple issues still exist with this design – first of all, I guarantee that at some point or another (this will happen to you!), a CD burning program’s going to pop the drive open when the door’s closed – probably not the greatest thing for the tray motor, but it happens. The other thing is that when the front panel is open, it becomes an unfiltered intake. Arguably, this is something that would be tough to design around without sacrificing the asthetics the front panel offers. The final addition is a front E-SATA port instead of the firewire port in the previous model.
The rear of the case is virtually identical to the previous model, with a long rectangular fan vent in the lower right as opposed to the tiny square that previously existed. The biggest downside here is that you’ll be hard-pressed to actually find the exhaust fan that fits this non-standard size. Assuming you don’t find/use one, you may want to tape over this section with some masking or duct tape. Yes, it’s an ugly way to do things (marginally less ugly if you tape from the inside), but if you don’t you’ll have warm exhaust air being sucked back in.
The interior is virtually the same as before. The side panel has a handle that you pull to unlatch/remove it – really easy, and if you open your case often you’ll come to love the simplicity. A couple thumb-screws are included surprisingly enough, you may as well toss em (unless you’ve got a toddler in the house in which case you should probably use the thumbscrews as extra insurance that they won’t get the panel off and get hurt on the interior/fans). The included power supply bumps up to the Antec Earthwatts 500W PSU, and the 12cm fan now has a 3-speed switch. The 3.5″ hard drive bays are a little tougher to push/snap into place than before (I have no idea why), and the silicon hard drive mounts are now a little thicker and should do an even better job of reducing vibration. Where the internal fan mounts, small non-standard long screws are now used. If you used to use silicon fan grommets instead of metal screws, you can’t use them on the interior anymore. That said, the long screws make it very easy to mount/replace an internal fan even with the motherboard, hard drives, and everything else installed – though you might want to use a small thin screwdriver to do so. The 5.25″ drive bay covers still contain/store the sliders. Really, not much changed with the interior, just a few tweaks here and there.
One thing to note for those who haven’t owned a similar Antec case before is that buying/installing an internal 12cm fan is a *very* good idea. It pulls air over the hard drives (and installing it with hard drives already in is now easier). It’s an even better idea if you have more than 1 hard drive – these things can get very hot, and the fan reduces those temperatures dramatically. The other side-benefit is that the position tends to blow air over the bottom 1/2 of the RAM in most motherboard layouts. You may even get some residual air going over the northbridge (and possibly southbridge), helping airflow/cooling in those areas. The one hiccup it can present though is that it may interfere with long video or add-in cards. If you don’t have a full-size card, or have other PCI/PCI-E ports lower down on the motherboard you can use, this shouldn’t be a major issue though. Unfortunately, there’s nothing Antec can really do to improve this without either increasing the case size, or sacrificing cooling to the hard drives, neither of which is a good option.
The bottom of the case includes the best feature – the plastic filter. Assuming you haven’t left any gaping “holes” in the system (remember my tape idea!), 90% of the air should be coming in from the lower front intake, and this little plastic filter will catch the majority of the dust. To clean it, just tip the case on it’s side, pop it out, wash it off, and put it back in. If you’re used to opening a side panel only to find dust in every crevice of the system just waiting to give someone an asthma attack, this is the feature for you. Very rarely will you have to use an air compressor to clean out the system with this thing installed – it’s so simple, but it works so well. You’d be surprised.
All-in-all, Antec’s done a very good job with the Sonata III. There certainly aren’t enough changes to warrant upgrading your old piano-finish case, but if you’re replacing it anyway, you’re bound to appreciate some of the minor improvements. For anyone using a generic $40 case, if you’re looking to upgrade to something that’s quieter, looks nice, is easier to use, doesn’t fill with dust, and has some pretty decent air-flow characteristics, Antec’s Sonata 3 is definitely worth a look.