When Antec sent us their P180 case for review, we applauded the elegant construction combined with ultra quiet operation, but were ultimately put off by the user-UNfriendly cable management system. We described the experience as a tedious "time-sink," leaving us frustratingly disappointed with a case we wanted to love, but just couldn't embrace in its current state.
Some companies don't respond well to this kind of criticism from the DIY community. Instead of addressing the complaints voiced by consumers and reviewers, they instead poke their fingers in their ears and yell "La-la-la-la-la!," leaving users to choose between putting up with a product's flaws, or finding an alternative selection. But every once in awhile, a company actually listens to their userbase (imagine that!), and attempts to address the complaints in a future revision. That's exactly what Antec has done, with their new P182 chassis sporting some improvements that they hope will pick up where the P180 left off. Have they done it, or does this younger sibling share too many bad habits with it's older enclosure?
| Drive Bays|
| Main Board Size|
| Expansion Slots|
| Front I/O|
Astute readers will notice the P180B marking on the user's manual, but rest assured, the case we're reviewing today is the P182 model. Apparently, there's not enough difference between the two enclosures to warrant a separate manual, or we simply received the wrong one. The rest of the bundle includes a large plastic grill (spoiler) for the top fan mount, a baggie of several assorted screws, keys for locking/unlocking the chassis (particularly handy for those that store pricey jewelry or expensive rookie cards inside their case), optical drive rails, four black zip ties for cable management, and a wire bracket for an optional middle mounted fan (not included).
Externally the P182 looks identical to the P180 and P180B, save for a slightly lighter color scheme. Antec calls it Gun Metal Black, which sounds sexier than saying light black or smoky gray. For added bling, Antec also offers this case in a reflective mirror finish (P182SE) using Japanese steel, a special edition chassis we saw in person earlier this year at CES.
Also like the previous models, the P182 eschews a lightweight design in favor of added bulk. The side panels and front door sport three layers (aluminum, plastic, aluminum) to help dampen system noise, resulting in a truly quiet chassis. Construction feels solid overall, marred only by the heavy use of plastic trim around the exterior, particularly the top panel and a grooved grip at the bottom of the front panel, which doesn't give us that warm and fuzzy feeling that it wouldn't ever snap.
The front panel makes excellent use of magnets, providing enough pull to keep the door shut, while remaining very easy to open. And with the ability to rotate up to 270 degrees, the door can wrap all the way around to sit flush with the side panel and out of harm's way. Behind the panel sit four 5.25" drive bays, a 3.5" bay, and two ventilation spots covered by doors. Pushing the doors on the right side snap them open, revealing a dust filter behind each one, a must-have feature for anyone with pets or located in a dusty environment. The dust filters can be removed, but the plastic clips holding them in place aren't going to withstand frequent bending (required to remove them). Instead, we recommend getting acquainted with a vacuum hose attachment along with a can of compressed air.
Running along the side are the power and reset buttons, a key lock, and the front mounted I/O ports. These include two USB, one Firewire, and both a mic and headphone jack. We'd like to see a future revision move these ports to the top for more convenient access, and we'd gladly trade the Firewire port for eSATA.
Most cases leave little to get excited about when looking at the rear, but the P182 boasts two features that get us giddy. First, you'll notice two rubber padded holes. These serve as In/Outlets for water cooling setups, negating the need to use a PCI slot or physically modding your own holes for the tubing. And secondly, two fan control switches sit at the top left corner. These control the rear and top mounted TriCool exhaust fans, making it easy to switch between low, medium, and high speed.
Whisking away the side panel reveals a two chamber structure, just as with previous P18x iterations. The bottom section houses your power supply and up to four 3.5" hard drives, separated by a 120mm TriCool fan in the middle. Two more TriCool fans are found on the top and rear, both taking on exhaust duties, and there's room for another to act as a front intake fan (not included).
The top section holds another HDD cage with room for two more hard drives (six in all), or you can use the provided wire clips to mount an optional 120mm fan for additional cooling. Incidentally, the top cage also contains a small storage compartment on the left for storing, well, whatever items you don't care to have easy access to (ideal for hiding petty cash away from the Missis!). Above the HDD cage sits the 5.25" drive assembly, the only cage that's not removable. Also not removable, the motherboard tray comes pre-installed with standoffs for standard ATX motherboards (additional standoffs are included), making installation a drop and screw affair. There's not a lot of elbow room inside the P182, quickly reminding us that this is a mid-tower.
NVidia's 8xxx series brought DirectX 10 capabilities to gamers, and in the case of the 8800GTX/Ultra GPUs, they also brought a few extra inches (insert Enzyte joke here), rendering them incompatible with more than a few enclosures. These GPUs run 10.5" long, making them just long enough to pose a problem in the P182 at stock. The workaround for anyone running four or less hard drives is to remove the middle HDD cage, which then gives you ample room to install a pair of elongated 8800GTX/Ultra videocards.
The bottom HDD cage stays tucked away with a single thumb screw. Oddly, Antec chose a small stature thumb screw instead of the typical size, causing us to yank out the screwdriver instead of using our beefy fingers. Once removed, the cage slides right out with the aid of a pull-ring, and can accommodate up to four hard drives. Sound and vibration dampening grommets are provided on each side, along with special screws for installing the hard drive. No tool-less installation for you!
Don't put away that screwdriver just yet little Johnny, you'll need it for your optical drives, too. Antec provides enough drive rails for each of the four 5.25" bays, and two more for good measure. Rather than snap into place, the rails must be screwed down. Sounds simple, right? It is, for the most part, but let's do the math. The rails come with three orientation holes, and most opticals ship with a two sets of holes on each side (top row and bottom row). You'll have to guess which row to install the rails on, and then guess how far back or forward they should be oriented, giving you a one in six chance of getting it correct the first time. The manual offers little help in this regard (so no emails to 'RTFM' please), so let us give you the skinny - they install on the top row and in the rail's last hole, with the metal tab pushed as far forward as it will go. Putting the rail in the bottom row will prevent you from being able to slide the optical into place, and orienting the rail too far back will cause the drive to protrude from the front panel.
We're a bit perplexed by the continued inclusion of a 120mm fan directly in front of the PSU bay. Most power supplies come with adequate cooling and ventilation already incorporated, making the lower chamber fan an arbitrary addition. Even worse, the damn thing gets in the way of cabling, and can negate the benefit of owning a modular unit. There wasn't enough room to plug our cables into our Silverstone DA750 while it was inside the case, so we opted to do it outside instead. But by doing so, we had to muster all of our Herculean strength to get the power supply shoved back into the compartment, with the wires nestled uncomfortably close to the fan blades. The solution? Remove the fan, which shouldn't be there in the first place. Just be sure to push in the clips circled above, lest you snap one of the other retention clips trying to pry them loose (like we did).
Further adding to our PSU installation woes is the requirement to remove BOTH side panels. You need to do this in order to unscrew the PSU retaining cage. Lined with rubber strips, it's purpose is to absorb any vibration (and subsequent noise) coming from your power supply.
Above the PSU compartment rests the cable routing mechanism. Held down by thumbscrews, you can snake as many or as little cabling as needed, and then close the plastic doorway for a cleaner appearance.
Cable management gurus will love the spacing provided behind the back panel for routing cables. This reminds us of how we used to sweep our toys under our bed as children when our mother would ask us to clean our room, and we take the same guilty pleasure now as we did back then. Antec makes the process even more convenient by including six notched zip ties, with enough metal tabs on the back panel to hold them all. Grooves and holes abound too, allowing you to create that wiring masterpiece you've never been able to accomplish on other enclosures.
To take advantage of all this cabling convenience, you'll need long enough cables to route throughout the case. This wasn't a problem with our SATA and molex connectors, but both our main ATX and supplementary 4/8-pin power cables were too short to snake behind the side panel. In fact, because the PSU sits at the bottom of the case, we couldn't do much of any snaking with those two cables. We can live with the trade off though, because they're not going to inhibit airflow by themselves, and with no side window, they won't even affect the aesthetics.
|Build Quality (durability & construction)||17/20|
|Aesthetics / Appearance||18/20|
|Internal Layout & Installation||16/20|
|Performance (sound & cooling)||8/10|
|Warranty & Support||10/10|
|Price / Value||7/10|
Our RecommendationFirst and foremost, the Antec P182 strives to be a quiet case, and mostly succeeds. The included TriCool fans are nearly inaudible at low speed, and only slightly louder at medium. It's not until you set them to high that you'll really notice the whir, at which point you'd probably be engrossed in an epic battle against some XBox 360 poseur anyway. The solid construction, three layer panels, and vibration absorbing rubber grommets all add to the P182's acoustic properties, making this one of the quietest cases on the block.
Antec also hoped to improve upon the cable management characteristics of the P182 over previous P18x models, as users complained (rightly so) that routing cables had become a time consuming exercise in frustration. To address the issue, Antec provides a space behind the motherboard tray to hide cables out of sight, and even installed six clips on the tray to attach the included zip ties. Combined with some intelligent grooves and holes around the interior, we had little problem hiding wires out view and, more importantly, out of the way of that all-important airflow.
Dampening our enthusiasm are a few flaws that prevent the P182 from reaching righteous status. There's a lot of plastic throughout the exterior, including the top panel, which would bow when gripping it to lift the heavy enclosure. We also don't like having to reach down to plug in our USB devices, since the front mounted I/O ports aren't on the top. And where's the eSATA port? Internally, the fan in front of the PSU bay caused more problems than it purports to solve, obstructing cables and generally taking up space. And when it comes time to route the main ATX and supplementary 4/8-pin PSU connectors, there's a good chance you'll lack the length needed to go behind the motherboard tray, forcing you to shoot them right up the middle. Overall, we found the attention to detail lacking for a high priced mid-tower, such as no thumbscrews on the PCI expansion slots, undersized thumbscrews on the drive cages, no tool-less installation, somewhat cramped worked environment, inadequate spacing for 8800GTX cards before taking out the top HDD cage, and the need to remove both side panels when installing a power supply.
Even with the above flaws, we're not totally soured with this new revision. If your first priority for your new build is noise management, the Antec P182 deserves consideration. It remains a solid choice with some clever cable routing options and speed adjustable fans, setting the bar for low noise enclosures. And if you pick up the P182SE with a reflective mirror finish and painted interior, you'll have jaw-dropping looks to boot. But those looking for a bang/buck enclosure, more attention to detail, or high cooling prowess can do better in the mid-tower arena.
Other Reviews of NoteIt's always nice to have more than one opinion on a component before you spend your hard earned money. For one, We may see something others missed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic, we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out some reviews from some other great sites around the web.