I recently grabbed the Antec 300 for the 6-core AMD machine. I had a pile of fans in the old standard beige case, and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
In the past, I’ve used an Antec Sonata III (review here), and I had the Sonata Piano finish before that. Overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with Antec cases.
I skipped out on the Sonata this time around and went with the 300, because massive cooling potential was the goal this time around. While the Sonata’s do cool very well, I was looking for something to push more airflow.
I’ve taken some pictures with the Antec 300 pulled apart, with a few comments attached to each to give you an idea as to my thoughts on this case.
Here you see can see the front panel when removed. It’s fairly easy to get off, although you’ll only need to remove it when adding front case fans (a couple 12cm fans are supported), or when removing the screen filter for cleaning. To remove it, you pop off the side panel, and then push in the black clips that hold it on – basically the same way you’d remove a front panel on a standard case. There aren’t any wires or anything attached (unlike cases that have the buttons/leds integrated with the panel), meaning that once it’s pulled you can bring it to the counter without having it tied to the case.
The filter is a bit of a pain to remove. Looking at the image, there are 4 clips along the left side, and unless you’re fortunate enough to have 4 hands, you have to pull up on the screen’s frame while pushing back each clip. Once the screen’s removed, you can clean it easily enough, although putting it back in is actually tougher than pulling it out – it doesn’t snap in very quickly/easily, and really requires a lot of force, leading to concern that either the frame might crack or the clips may break.
This is in contrast to the Sonata’s filter, where you simply tip the case on it’s side to access the bottom, squeeze 2 clips, and slide the thing right out, and back in again.
Fortunately, you probably won’t be pulling the filter more than once a year or so, but it’s still something that should be easier. Thinking you might break something is never good.
Moving on to the 12cm fan cages, they’re pretty awesome.
You can just make them out, but at the bottom (of the picture), you’ll see 4 thumbscrews – 2 for each cage. Unscrew them, swivel the cage up, and it comes right out. You can then install the fan into the cage without having to work around the constraints of the case. Once you’ve got the fan screwed into the cage, the cage just latches on, swivels back down, and you reattach the thumb screws.
It’s really that easy, and even though it’s something you only tend to do *once* (unless a fan starts buzzing), it’s a very well-thought-out design. A+ here.
Now we start delving into the case. You’ll notice I’ve already got the motherboard + CPU cooler installed.
The Antec 300 has both a rear and a top exhaust port. The rear is a standard 12cm fan (comes with the case), and the top is a 14cm fan (also comes with the case). Both fans have speed switches with Low/Medium/High so that you can choose the balance you want between noise and airflow.
One thing to note is that due to the position of the 14cm top fan (and the size), you’re actually going to get some airflow over the MOSFETS on the motherboard (just to the left of the CPU cooler). This is a pretty big plus – there often isn’t much airflow over these components unless you’ve got certain CPU coolers that pass airflow over them. Because the rear fan is always elevated above the motherboard level (necessary due to all the rear ports), it’s never able to pass airflow directly over the motherboard. The large top exhaust fan remedies this issue. Depending on the orientation of your CPU cooler, the top fan can also aid in keeping your CPU heatsink cool (and as you can see, this applies to the Noctua cooler I’m using).
I’ll mention briefly that top/rear fans should almost always be exhaust fans, except in extremely rare circumstances. In the default orientation, these are.
Here’s a larger shot with a little more. I probably should have spun the orientation, so for those who may not be completely familiar with case layouts, “up” is the left side, and “down” is the right side.
You’ll see the power supply mounts at the bottom of the case (bottom-right in the pic). There’s a bit of clearance between the bottom of the PSU and the case, which is good because an awful lot of PSU’s have bottom-side intakes, and blocking that off would definitely result in overheated PSU’s. Well designed here.
In other cases that mount the PSU at the top, I’ve often used/considered the PSU to be simply another exhaust fan, and initially I was a little leery on going with a bottom-mount design. However, I can certainly see the benefits. With the PSU at the bottom, it’s not sucking in any warm air, which means if you really load the PSU, it won’t have to deal with the additional case heat being pulled through it. Remember, in a top-mount design, if you have a CPU that’s pumping out piles of heat, the PSU is always sucking in some of that heat – and that’s before adding it’s own heat.
This really is a better design. The PSU gets it’s own cool air, and it’s still spitting it’s heat out the back, away from the other components.
Next, you’ll notice the drive bays are the standard screw-it-in style. I’m not a big fan of the screw-it-in style (I prefer methods to mount the drives quickly). However, with the motherboard mounted high up, there’s ample room for a number of hard drives, without worrying about them hitting motherboard components when you’re trying to put them in.
Note that the front grille (and 2 12cm fans should you choose to install them) is directly in front of the 3.5″ drive bay. Hard drives tend to cook, so having the intake start here is definitely the best solution, and if you do add intake fans your hard drives should stay quite cool indeed.
Finally, a shot with the side panel (almost) on. It’s not a flaw, I was just working in the case still and didn’t snap it down since I’ve usually got wires dangling out.
There’s room for a 12mm fan on the side panel, and you’ll see I’ve used the 2nd Noctua fan here as an intake.
This is one area I’m not thrilled about due to the lack of a filter. You’ve got a filter on the front, but the side panel’s going to be blowing in dusty/linty air. Filtering half the air doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but unless you construct your own filter of sorts for the side, that’s how it’s going to be.
You could just *tape* over the side, but it’s kinda ugly. You’re also missing out on airflow over the video card and lower chipset area (possibly catching the southbridge) if you tape it off.
The other option is to use it as an exhaust port, but that makes about 0 sense. If you use it as an exhaust, you’ll have 4 exhaust fans (including the PSU), and only a max of 2 intakes. Unless you went to huge lengths to balance the airflow (high speed intakes, low speed exhausts), you’d probably end up with a lot of unfiltered air being pulled through all the seams/nooks/crannies of the case (which ends up filling those seams/nooks/crannies with dust). Even if you balanced the airflow though, it would still be useless. You’d be exhausting air that hasn’t cooled anything but the hard drives, and that warmish hard drive air would still be passed through the rest of the case anyway.
It’s an unfiltered intake. That’s about all their is to it. You can tape it off, lower the fan speed to reduce the air pulled from it, create a filter, or… most likely… just deal with it.
Really, for a low price case (well under $100), the Antec 300’s a pretty solid purchase. You do get a filter, a couple free speed-adjustable fans (one of which is a whopping 140 mm), and a very decent design in terms of airflow. The biggest shortcoming is the unfiltered side port, and that’s really quite minor all things considered. It would be nice if the front filter was more easily removed/re-installed, but for something I’ll do once every 1-2 years, I can’t really complain – I’m just glad it’s there.