Antec Three Hundredby Christoph Katzer on September 11, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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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.