Introduction

Even though micro-ATX motherboards have been in rather widespread use for a while now, the small form factor PC is still relatively new to most people. Show an average PC user a no-holds-barred system roughly the size of a bowling ball and they will most likely be impressed... even if they already know about Mac Minis and Shuttle PCs. This is not to say that the market isn't growing, however. Indeed the computer industry as a whole will probably never cease to try to miniaturize even the most powerful of machines, even if there are already computers smaller than a C battery.

Smaller contraptions containing more processing power pose real thermo-dynamic challenges though, and without good enclosures systems built in these compact sizes will be prone to all sorts of problems stemming from the high heat levels. Unfortunately, the only way most manufacturers deal with heat problems is by compensating with more noisy fans, which ironically defeats a primary purpose of the small form factor PC - simply being a less noticeable computer.

Worse yet, even if a case company happens to get the heat and noise issues of a small PC enclosure handled admirably, they might make the case so impossibly difficult to work in that no one would ever want to put up with the headache of installing parts in it. Extrapolating this mentality brings us to an even worse scenario, where a company would choose to use the case to build a mass quantity of miniaturized computers and they could lose all sorts of revenue simply to lost time spent futzing with poor construction.

As usual with our evaluation of computer cases we have decided it is most beneficial to view several models at once to see how different manufacturers choose to handle the design challenges. We'll compare these techniques to give an overview of not only what we think about these particular models, but the ideas and methodology used to design these units and how they might be improved.

From a mile-high perspective, here's how the three cases we are looking at in this article 'stack up'.


(TL: Tool-less, TS: Thumbscrews, SS: Standard Screws, TR: Tool-less rails, SR: Screwed rails)

Antec Aria - Exterior
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  • chucky2 - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    :) Just asking... Reply
  • AlexWade - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Dear Anandtech staff:

    Please do more case reviews.

    Signed,

    Everyone
    Reply
  • microAmp - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    I'd like to see them do a review using video instead of text & pictures. I saw one other website do that and it's make a world of difference. Wish I could remember what site it was. :( Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Besides placing an excruciating load on the web servers, I think highly-detailed pictures are better than videos at least in terms of seeing exactly how things look. It's hard to get colors just right in videos, and resolution is normally low enough that some fine details are lost.. I can see where you're coming from though and we'll definitely consider it.. actually seeing things in motion can help get a better feel for some things. Reply
  • mino - Thursday, January 04, 2007 - link

    Maybe host them on YouTube ? and consider them just a bonus to regular review... Reply
  • JoshuaBuss - Tuesday, January 02, 2007 - link

    Copy that.. ;)

    In all seriousness, you can expect this section to get a lot hotter soon.. I just finished my last semester of coursework.. w00t.
    Reply
  • SonixSquad - Wednesday, September 07, 2011 - link

    Just wanted to post my experience having built my girlfriend a system about 5 years ago using the Antec Aria case.
    I remember it being a pain as it was so cramped and my first (and only) sff build but I got there and it was adequate. I managed to install the board without removing the PSU.

    Once I started to monitor temps (was only using stock cpu cooler at the time) I realised it would need some sort of additional cooling intake and the supplied blower was a bit too loud for our liking.
    Eventually I found the best air intake solution (without actually modding the case) was to just put a 120mm fan sitting next to the graphics card pulling air in from the rear.

    Anyway, back to today 2011 and she still likes the case but the system needs an upgrade so I was looking at parts and having come across this article and seen the Zalman in there snugly fitting with a few mm clear of the PSU I decided to get the newer Zalman CNPS8000A which is low profile and supposedly quiet. I'll post back if it doesn't fit but I think I am going to have to remove the PSU this time around as this cooler needs to be fitted via backplate so it will have to go on before the board is in the case.

    This time round she is getting an i3 2100 cpu which should run a lot cooler than the last AMD x2 one and so I'm hoping it will run a lot quieter aswell.

    My criticisms about the case would be the same as noted by others. Very cramped and with a lack of decent routing the air circulation is bad. I would have appreciated some thought given to front air intake even if they didn't supply a fan but just somewhere to put one.
    Also the PSU only comes with one SATA connector so I will have to get a molex to sata converter so I can power 2 sata devices.I also had some issues with the front audio inputs, at some point they stopped working properly and I still don't know why.
    Reply

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