In and Around the Antec P280

Just from looking at it, you can tell an awful lot has changed from the P183 to the P280. Antec kept the gunmetal gray finish for the door along with the double-hinge that allows you to keep it open, but everything else has moved, and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what's changed internally.

But for starters, Antec's updated their port cluster. I'm not going to cry big buckets of tears over USB 3.0 gradually usurping eSATA as the port of choice for high speed data transfer, and Antec wisely places two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports at the top of the enclosure, above and outside of the door. Recognizing that users were also tired of having to open the front door just to power the enclosure on, their engineers also moved the power and reset buttons to the top of the case. The net result? Almost everything you need is still on the outside, while the door remains in place to muffle noise and hide the 5.25" drive bays.

One thing I'm not as happy to see is the pair of 120mm exhaust fans on the top of the enclosure, but I recognize this as a concession for 240mm radiators and for what it's worth, Antec includes a copious amount of space inside the enclosure for exactly that purpose. The "spoiler" from the P182 is gone (having fallen by the wayside with the P183), and instead are just two exhaust fans wired to speed switches on the back of the enclosure.

When you get to the back, you'll see a very healthy nine expansion slots; the P280 supports XL-ATX motherboards, but honestly I'm a big fan of having these slots available in the first place. For larger multi-GPU configurations these can help space out the video cards better, and given the opportunity I'd definitely use the lion's share of them. There are the two usual rubber-lined grommet holes for the increasingly rarefied external liquid cooling radiator, but at the top there are also three switches for the Antec TwoCool fans installed in the exhaust positions as well as an opening for the switch for a fourth fan. Each of the fans functions in both a low and a high speed, and the P280 was tested with both fan speeds.

Pop the P280 open, though, and you may find yourself stunned at just how much has changed. The P180s are fantastic cases, but they're notoriously difficult to actually assemble. The P280, on the other hand, inherits a lot of the nicer features of Corsair's line and is geared towards being as easy to work with as possible. Toolless locking mechanisms for the 5.25" drive bays are in place, as well as six drive trays that can support both 3.5" and 2.5" drives, with silicone grommets for the 3.5" drives to minimize vibration. Above them is a small cage designed to toollessly mount a pair of 2.5" SSDs.

Where things have really changed is in the motherboard tray. There's now a massive cutout in the tray to maximize compatibility with aftermarket cooling, and rubber-lined holes surround the tray for routing cables to the back (where Antec has substantially increased the amount of space over the P180 line.)

Where the P280 excels is in the details. One of the two more interesting innovations is a molex-powered set of four 3-pin fan headers at the top and back of the case. While some users may be more inclined to use the on-board fan control of their non-Gigabyte motherboards (seriously Gigabyte, get with the program), this was actually a nice touch for the included TwoCool fans which have their own controls.

The other is a pair of internal 120mm fan mounts behind the drive cage. The idea is that by placing these mounts behind the cage, they're kept further away from the opening (and thus their sound is muffled more) while still being able to pull air in through the front ventilation. End users can employ either this pair or the outer pair on the other side of the drive cage, or even both for a push-pull configuration. It's a slick idea.

Gallery: Antec P280

Finally, Antec opted to employ foam padding on the inside of the door but use a polycarbonate in the side panels. The result is an enclosure that maintains some of the acoustic dampening qualities of the P180 line while moving things forward a bit.

I'll be candid: I was more than a little psyched to test out the P280 after the Antec reps showed it to me and walked me through the design. This is a major departure from what I'm used to seeing from Antec, but it's a major departure in all the right ways. While some people may be a little peeved at losing the dual chamber design of the P180 line, I'm not particularly bothered by it. That dual chamber design is part of what made assembling the P180 series such a nightmare and I'm not sure it's even necessary anymore, but we'll see.

Introducing the Antec P280 Assembling the Antec P280
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  • fatpat268 - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    "While some people may be a little peeved at losing the dual chamber design of the P180 line, I'm not particularly bothered by it."

    I'm not. The dual chambered design is the main reason why I want to get rid of my P182. In my experience, the dual chambers have little effect compared to a standard design, but it makes it twice as difficult to assemble.

    I'm currently looking at new cases right now, and I'm glad that Antec ditched that design.
    Reply
  • Strunf - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I share the same feeling about the dual chamber design (at least on the P182), it's quite a pain to work on the lower chamber, everything is cramped and you have to be extra careful to not let the cables touch the fan that is in-between the hard drives and the PSU.
    If there was a easy way to remove the piece of steel separating both chambers I would do it in a heart beat, the case would be much better then...
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Yep - getting the hard drive cables to not touch the fan can be tricky in the P-182. I still love it, though, just for how quiet it is. I can passively cool my HD4890 using only one case fan (and the hard drive fan) for an almost completely silent system. Glad to see the improvements, though. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    After some time I removed the fan in the lower chamber. I've got only one HDD and the PSU is 80+ Gold (now), so I don't it any more. Still cramped, but much easier.

    MrS
    Reply
  • TeachPA - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I kind of liked my dual chamber 180. It was pain but once my cables were secure it didn't cause any problems. Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Look at the Define XL by Fractal Design.
    I just bought one and it's great. It has two chambers too, but done right without a fan in the way. And it doesn't have the fans in the top so it's quieter - much better as long as you don't want watercooling or manual fan control. I don't.
    The one thing that the Antec has that I want is the double hinged door. Otherwise the Define XL is nicer and it has plenty of cooling with two additional fans. Enough to overclock the heck out of a Bulldozer with a NH-D14 anyway and it's still quiet.
    Reply
  • kasakka - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    I've got the Define R3 and it has some issues like hard to close side plate, side plate screws not mounted on the plate itself (like they were on the Antec P150), too small reset button and a bit fiddly cable routing.

    It's not a bad case but not a great one either. Personally I really loved the Antec P150 except it had a poor quality power/reset button (easily breaking plastic) and couldn't fit full length graphics cards without taking a hacksaw to some parts.
    Reply
  • geniekid - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I wonder a little bit about the CPU cooler. Would a cooler with a different configuration work better with some of these cases?

    I understand it's important to keep things consistent across different cases, but I can't help but think that cases that do such a good job of ambient cooling (R3, P280) should have no problem with a CPU that has it's OWN cooler attached to it already. It makes me think the CPU cooler isn't doing it's job properly.
    Reply
  • geniekid - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    "It makes me think the CPU cooler isn't doing it's job properly." Or, alternatively, that the case may have been designed with another CPU cooler in mind. Reply
  • Dribble - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Looking at the case it looks like cool air comes in at the front + bottom, turns 90 degrees gets heated by the gpu and then probably wants to exit mostly out the top which is blowing accross the cpu a bit. Another design of cooler might take a degree or two off.

    That said the gpu gets lots of cool air, and being as these days that's the hottest thing in the pc you could argue that it's now more important to cool then the cpu.
    Reply

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