In and Around the Antec Solo II

Antec has a wonderful tendency to keep most of their enclosures looking fairly classy and understated. Aesthetics have proven time and time again to be a major sticking point with many of you in our readership and it's understandable. For my personal system I had to choose between Thermaltake's Level 10 GT and SilverStone's FT02; the Level 10 GT may have slightly better thermals, but the FT02 is, at least in my eyes, much nicer to look at.

Gallery: Antec Solo II

The extremely minimalistic design of the Solo II doesn't leave us much to talk about in terms of the exterior, though. It has a glossy black finish that isn't too bad at picking up fingerprints, and Antec has reduced the number of 5.25" drive bays from four in the Solo to just two. The market segment this case is geared towards shouldn't have any issues with this; I personally need three (two optical drives and a card reader), but two is still plenty for the overwhelming majority of users. The column of ports has been expanded to include two USB 3.0 ports above the two USB 2.0 ports, and these ports are connected with a motherboard header instead of a routing cable. Air is brought in through ventilation on the left and right sides of the front panel, similar to how Antec's P182/P183 have operated.

The rest of the enclosure is extremely spare, although the first sign of change is a vent at the top of the enclosure. Instead of using the power supply's bottom-mounted fan as an additional exhaust (as seen in older ATX case designs), Antec quietly suggests inverting the power supply and cooling it separately. The benefit to this design is that it takes the power supply's cooling out of the equation for the rest of the case. Though mounting the PSU to the top of an enclosure has fallen increasingly out of vogue, SilverStone's TJ-08E got a lot of mileage out of this design choice, as it allows you to mount the motherboard lower in the enclosure; the optical drive bays hang out in roughly the same space as the power supply, allowing for an intake directly in front of the CPU cooler.

If you take a look at the back, you'll see everything is business as usual, but Antec has swapped out their traditional TriCool fan in favor of their new "TrueQuiet" fan. The TrueQuiet has a fan speed switch mounted just below it that can be set to either low or high. We're down one setting from the TriCool but somehow I just know we'll manage.

When you open the Solo II is where things start to get a little bit wild. One of the first major changes is that there's a small dedicated space behind the motherboard tray, something sorely lacking from the Sonata IV. It's a very small space, but Antec has still essentially allocated space for cable management. There are also cutouts in the motherboard tray both for mounting cooling and routing cables. Finally, there's clean space able to accommodate large video cards. Everything is mostly cordoned off and orderly.

The drive cage is an odd duck, though. Antec includes three drive sleds and two "suspension" mounts, and I have to be honest, I'm just not a fan of the suspension mounts. With the drive sleds in there (complete with sound-reducing silicon grommets) I have to wonder why these mounts were included at all; removing them could've snagged us space for an additional drive sled, bringing us up to a healthy four instead of the three we have. Behind the drive cage is the reason why it's not a lateral design: there are four sets of hooks designed to minimize cable clutter.

Introducing the Antec Solo II Assembling the Antec Solo II
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  • lwatcdr - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - link

    Which is funny because from SPCR "Our biggest concern is not physical, but fiscal — the Solo II's MSRP price of US$129 is substantially more than its competitors which offer more drive support, fans, and features."
    In other words that sight that you feel does a better job found the same thing.
  • CloudFire - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I can't really seem to get excited over any of Antec's cases lately, I've had a 900 years ago before they had much competition on the market. I don't see how this can compete with the Corsair Carbide 500R at the same MSRP, or even the 400R at the 99$ mark. Not to mention the NZXT Phantom w/same MSRP which provides much more room, fan controller, aesthetics (personal preference of course), and impeccable cable management options. 129$ seems way too expensive for a case like this imo.
  • earthrace57 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I kind of think Antec is eating its own lunch with this case. The P183 or even P193 are similarly priced, but you get much better performance with similar acoustics.
  • zero2dash - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Try to get an R3 for review so people can see what a real $100 case can give you; silence AND cooling with better internal cable management and better general configuration. I'd put my Arctic White R3 up there with the higher end Lian Li's I've owned (including the V1000 BW Plus II) as the nicest case out there.

    I love my Three Hundred but I can't even consider or recommend anything Antec does for $100+ when there are Lian Li's and several Fractal Designs (including the R3) at the same price point. Antec is the case to beat at sub-$100 (the Three Hundred), but as for $100+, no thanks.
  • int9 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Can't be repeated enough. Define Mini would be another interesting choice... mid-tower cases are feeling quite boring these days IMO.
  • Samus - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    wow, this is a complete copy of the Silverstone FT02. damn Antec, three years late, and you didn't even consider a larger, single intake fan?

    i don't get it, at $129, its priced between something equivilent in quietness and cooling, and something that is exceptionally higher quality. i think most people are going to pick a sub-$100 case that is basically an equal to this, or a $200 case that is everything this isn't.
  • Exodite - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Does the USB 3.0 front panel connector use the standardized motherboard header or rely on external connectors, like Lian-Li uses?

    The first would be much preferable.

    Anwyay, some points off the top of my head.

    * The top vent means that I could actually use this case with my fanless PSU, since it has to be mounted with vents upward for convection to work.
    * Space for longer graphics cards is appreciated.
    * While I enjoy the suspension mount system in theory the reality is that the bands dry up and wear out very quickly and the noise suppression characteristic is negligible beyond what the silicone grommet mount already allows.
    * I'd rather see just the two USB 3.0 ports on the front panel and replace the two 2.0 ones with powered eSATA and/or a card reader.
    * Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the use of the same power and reset key as the original invalidates every improvement made to the chassis. You'd be using a pen to rummage around inside the front panel to start and reset your computer in a couple of months anyway.
  • Malih - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    it's a bit frustrating that from the latest case reviews there's not a single Coolermaster case, I'm curious whether they send any case for review.

    Anyways, thank you for this review, After reading the review I finally figured the type of case that I'm going to buy for my upcoming build: something silent, although not necessarily the Sonata.

    I'm gonna have to look through other reviews for best silent cases.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Unfortunately they don't. I've been trying to get one of the HAF enclosures in, but no luck. I'll keep pressing them, but I have to wonder if they were unhappy about my review of the Storm Enforcer.
  • FH123 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    As the happy owner of an Antec Solo, I'm dubious about this update, mainly because they've shrunk the drive cage. I understand the need to accomodate longer graphics cards, but you pay a lot for that. I run a Core 2 Quad Q9650 and stock Radeon 5850 as a gaming and multimedia rig in my living room. Neither cooling nor the length of that graphics card is an issue with the original case. As someone else said, parts selection is probably important. I am able to run my system with a single Noctua fan at 900RPM (slower than the original), which is connected to a tower CPU heatsink via a rubber fan duct. There is no separate CPU fan, yet the CPU will run at stock speed, undervolted, and merely hit 55C under StressPrime. Alternatively stock voltage allows a moderate overclock from 3.0 to 3.6GHz and a top temperature of 68C under StressPrime, with the fan ramped to 1300RPM. The stock Radeon 5850 mostly vents out the back. Admittedly this is probably the limit of what the case will do with such limited airflow.

    I strongly disagree about the suspension mounting. Among the drives I've had were some Seagates that had a loud seek noise and Samsungs with a quieter seek noise, but a much higher rumble. The suspension mounting completely eliminates the rumble of the Samsungs and transforms them into the quietest drives I've had. The rubber grommets, while no doubt better than nothing, are unable to do this. The downside of the suspension mounting is that you shouldn't tilt the case while carrying. By the way, the suspension mounts in my case are made from elasticated fabric. I've owned it for 4 years. These do not dry up. I believe there were problems only with early Antec Solos, which had rubber bands instead.

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