You don't always need an expensive chassis for high-end components. Some people might think high-end hardware requires a nice, huge, aluminum chassis, but that's not always the case. Large cases often end up providing inferior airflow since the interior is just too roomy. Instead of good airflow, you get eddies and "whirlpools" where the cooling is less than ideal. That's one of the reasons (EMI being another) that running PCs without a case doesn't actually guarantee better cooling and/or overclocking. Smaller cases have the advantage that hardware can guide the air through the case easier, which in most cases produces better airflow resulting in lower system temperatures.

We've seen nice cases from Antec before, like the P182 and P160. Now we have the Twelve Hundred, Nine Hundred (a little older), and the Three Hundred - in order of decreasing size. The Three Hundred is the modern replacement for old favorites like the SLK3000 series. I wanted to provide a quick look at the Three Hundred since I've been using it for several months now. It's only after a lengthier period of daily use that one begins to truly notice the pros and cons of any particular case.

The chassis is made of steel and comes with a plastic front bezel, like most inexpensive (and even some expensive) offerings. The Antec Three Hundred comes with two mounting frames for 120mm fans that can be installed directly in the front panel. Above the fans are three 5.25" drive bays for optical drives. At the top of the front are the main switch, reset button, two USB ports, and headset/mic jacks. The left side shows a perforated area where another 120mm fan can be installed. On the top in the back area is a preinstalled 140mm fan that exhausts air. The backside carries an additional preinstalled 120mm exhaust fan that sits behind the CPU cooler. Like the other Antec Hundred Series case, the power supply mounts in the bottom area under the motherboard.

To open the case you only need to remove the two thumbscrews in the back and swing the side panel open. The inside is a plain steel chassis that can store six hard drives in the front right behind the two optional 120mm fans. There are three optical drive bays at the top as mentioned. Since Antec doesn't ship the case with the two front fans, you'll need to purchase them separately; installation starts with detaching the front panel. The whole front is perforated to let the air into the case. Antec has a simple filter installed to block some of the dust that inevitably gets sucked into PCs. Unfortunately the fan in the side panel has no such filter. Once the front panel is out of the way, installation of the fans is fairly easy.

Installing something like our test system in such a small case is not easy but neither is it impossible. The space is much smaller so you should install the motherboard first - preferably with the HSF and CPU preinstalled as well. After that you need to consider how many hard drives you want to install, since we had problems with six hard drives and the large NVIDIA 8800 Ultra graphics cards. It is impossible to use all of the upper HDD bays if you want to install more than one large graphics card. In fact, with our setup we could only install two hard drives in the bottom, in front of the power supply. Once everything is in place, the case looks very cool and seems more than just overloaded.

During the time on my stone floor, the case kept out most dust due to the installed filters. There was still dust of course, as is always the case, but at least the filters blocked larger dust particles (which we could see hanging on the front panel, proving the filters are helping). The buttons and USB ports in the top area make sense and are a great help if the case stays on the floor under a desk/table like in my place. The preinstalled fans are adjustable speed, so they can be very quiet at the lowest setting, which would be great for entry-level to midrange systems. Prices start as low as $50 shipped in the US, with many companies selling the case for under $70; prices in Europe start at €40. Overall, there's a lot to like with the Three Hundred, making this case a real bargain and worth buying for anything from entry-level to high-end setups. Just make sure your graphics cards will fit.

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  • gemsurf - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I haven't tried one of these yet but my own system is in a nine hundred for the past year. I like it but I agree with the comments about the top USB Ports being on top. I did put a 4 port front panel USB on it so the top one rarely get used in my case because it resides on my bench. Great for the floor though!

    Why is it, that with all the USB items everyone wants to plug in, that we struggle to find cases with more than 2 USB ports? I am selling the crap out of systems to business because I put 4 USB port 3.5" front bay panels. I believe I give my customers many reasons to buy from me, but this seems to be the biggest buying trigger I have!

    Not sure who or how the case manufacturers do market studies, but this can't be slipping past them so easily.
    Reply
  • walk2k - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    I just built a new pc with this case, upgraded from a 5-6 year old Antec case.

    The panels are a little thinner, yes. Honestly I don't see it as a problem if you aren't the type to open your case up frequently (I'm not). However if you intend to tote this case around (LAN parties, whatever) it may not be the case for you. Mine was delivered in perfect condition, no dents etc.. and the paint job is perfect.

    The HD bay isn't removeable and the door doesn't have nice latch like my last Antec, but again if you aren't popping it open and moving drives around every week I don't see it as a problem.

    What is nice are the 140mm and 120mm fans (old one only had 80mm) which makes the case much quieter, and cooler too. The dust filter in the front is nice, but I added a piece of foam to the side vent since it doesn't have a filter there. May also add another 120mm fan there, depending on how things go.
    Reply
  • Zap - Friday, September 12, 2008 - link

    I was under the impression that the replacement to the SLK3000 series were the New Solutions NSK series. Reply
  • basbrian - Friday, September 12, 2008 - link

    Every case has its strengths and weaknesses. Personally, I have an old Cooler Master ATCS aluminum that I never plan to get rid of. Recently, I built a box using the 900 and was very impressed. The build quality is only slightly above average. Yes, it weighs a ton. No, it is not the easiest system to install components (but most of us will only make major changes once every year or more... so who really cares?!). ...and oh is she a noisy bugger. But I'll be darned if she isn't the best designed case I have seen for cooling. I am sure you can get better, but not without liquid cooling (at least that I have seen).

    In short, it is good to hear that Antec stays true to this paradigm with the 300. I always love seeing "value" enthusiast parts (ATI 4850), but then again, the enthusiast market isn't about buying the best... more making it perform the best (ahh memories of my old AMD 5x86 133 @ 200 smoking Pentiums). I will likely build my next linux box on one of the 300s. Great review.
    Reply
  • JohnMD1022 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    A good friend is a master auto mechanic. He always says that every design engineer should have a mechanic with a folded newspaper behind him, and every time he makes a poor choice, the mechanic whacks him with the paper. "Bad engineer!!"

    So...

    1. Doors. Ever catch one with your elbow while walking by?

    2. Tray-style optical drives. See #1. Why are slot drives so rare?

    3. Top mounted ports and buttons. They may be great for those who have their PC sitting on the floor, but if yours happens to be sitting on the floor, but, if it happens to reside on top of a 36 inch high bench (as in my shop/office) it can be difficult to see where anything goes without a ladder.

    We use a lot of Centurion 5 cases for custom builds. Cheap and attractive.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, September 12, 2008 - link

    Umm, where do you see doors? And I hate slot-loading drives - have seen too many transport mechanisms fail. With a tray load the motor can go and it is still functional, you just need to leave a paperclip in the eject hole.

    I like the top-mounted forward facing buttons and ports of the 300. Good compromise for different locations. The Centurion 5 (I've used several) can be difficult to reach the USB ports if the system is near floor level.
    Reply
  • rallycobra - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I would spend a few bucks more and get a Cooler Master. Much better internals with easy drive access. Better ventilation too. Reply
  • faster - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I bought this case about three months ago. I love it. I have it with a single 4850 X2 and four hard drives in RAID 5 on a controller card. The system runs cool and relatively quiet. I had to purchase extra fans as only two were included.

    The biggest drawback was no external 3.5 bay. Since nearly every computer nowdays needs a media reader and nearly every media reader is 3.5 external, make sure you buy one with an adapter bracket.

    Oh also, I don't use the fan on the side without the filter. The airflow with just two front fans, a top fan and a rear fan is more than sufficient. The side fan only really serves to bypass the dust filter system without adding that much additional cooling.

    The two front fans (not included) blow air right over the bank of hard drives keeping them cool. Really a good case at a great price.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I built a system for my brother-in-law in one of these. I liked it overall, had more areas to hide excess wires in than most cases in this price range I have used. Also liked that they included a spare fan to replace the possibly broken one with (the one I got indeed did not start on low speed). Did not like that some of the front panel cables were too short to connect to the motherboard I used without running right across the face of the motherboard. Also, the reset button is really small. I couldn't press it far enough with a finger to trigger a reset, I had to use a pen or other smaller implement. Also wish they had included the fans with connectors to motherboard fan headers. I had to use 4-pin connectors on the power supply just to run the included fans, as the rest of the system was SATA connectors. Overall I liked the case though. Reply
  • gmoney7771 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I just started using this case for the computers I build for the place I work. They are relatively cheap for some of the features they come with. My main concern was good airflow with filtration, since I don't have time to make it around to all the computers to clean all the dust out of them each year. So far I haven't had one problem, other than it would be nice if it was a bit smaller but oh well. Reply

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