Conclusion: A Matter of Time and Preference

It was probably unreasonable to expect better thermals out of the Antec P280. The enclosure isn't a homerun, at least not in its stock configuration, but it's most definitely a strong base hit. While competing with Corsair's Carbide 500R and Obsidian 650D means taking a look at what your priorities are, it really invites direct comparison to Fractal Design's Define R3, an enclosure that many enthusiasts found themselves recommending over the incumbent P180 series.

That comparison is a tough one. The Fractal Design enclosure is cheaper, has more room for 3.5" drives, and I'm frankly more enamored with the acoustic dampening in it than I am with Antec's P280. Having those internally covered mounts is a nice touch, giving the end user more flexibility with how they want to configure the R3. On the other hand, I like the looks of the P280 more. The enclosure is bigger and easier to work in, and has more room for expanding the system inside. There's plenty of space for mounting a good, thick 240mm radiator at the top, cable routing is slightly better, and the two internal fan mounts invite experimentation. Antec's P280 also has better ventilation in the front for taking in fresh air. Test results suggest a close match up, but I just get a better feeling from the P280. It's a situation where I can easily see some users going for the Define R3 and some users going for the P280; if it were my money, I'd personally spend the extra dosh on the P280, but I wouldn't dream of faulting anyone for choosing the Define R3 instead.

Antec's engineers made an awful lot of changes when they designed the P280, and it's fantastic to see the kind of innovation here that I used to expect fairly regularly from them. They took a lot of the best ideas from existing designs and applied some of their own, and the result is an enclosure that in many ways feels like a grand experiment. If you like tinkering with your system, I probably couldn't recommend the P280 enough. If you were in the market for a silent performance case in the sub-$200 range, either the Define R3 or P280 would serve you well (going north of $200 means picking up my personal favorite, the SilverStone FT02.)

The P180 saw two important revisions in its lifetime, with the P182 and P183 both improving somewhat on their predecessor's designs. I think the P280 is an excellent first draft that I could happily recommend, but what I'm really curious to see is where Antec opts to revise the design. There are a lot of good ideas here and the more adventurous users will probably have a lot of fun with it. I'm not entirely certain this was the enclosure you were waiting for, but it's definitely a strong step forward and certainly worth considering.

Noise and Thermal Testing, Overclocked
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  • tzhu07 - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I agree. I would only buy full ATX if I was going Crossfire or SLI. Since I don't, microATX covers everything I need. Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    it's still nice to have a large case, even if you don't have any expansion cards. I have a P-183 just for low noise. It can easily passively cool my HD4890, and I even have a few of the internal fans turned off. If you want a real quiet (but high performance) system, it easier to do with a full ATX system. The room has to be dead quiet to hear any noise from my system. Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I have a microATX board, and thought it was enough. I thought wrong. Between leaving a slot (preferably two) open next to the gfx card, and a sound card, there's only 1 other slot left. This is frequently slot 0, or right between the gfx and cpu. Non optimal.

    My next buy would be a ATX board. To be honest, I think the best place for the GPU is the very last slot, so that there's plenty of space for the oversized cooler and some clearance, while not blocking any other slots.

    Sound card
    TV Tuner card (for kicks)
    SATA / HW Raid Card or two. This case support 8 storage drives + optical drives. Your recent Intel chipset doesn't.
    Additional nic cards
    Serial/Parallel card for tinkering with microcontrollers (Thanks Intel)
    Extra Firewire, USB
    Reply
  • danjw - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Not so much. There are X79 boards that are coming with 8 memory slots. You aren't fitting that on a Micro ATX case. It looks like they may be working on a mini P183, that should satisfy you. Reply
  • rum - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Not really, especially when it comes to cable management and the such. A bigger case allows you more room to put cables in their place, and when it comes time to upgrading components, you don't have to worry if your case is "big enough" to accomodate that new extra long video card.

    Not saying this is the right size for everyone, but not everyone has small hands and dainty fingers that makes working with a small case easy.
    Reply
  • kevith - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I'm almost sure, that if you added two front intake fans, the case would be very much cooler. It's only fair to review the case out of the box, but two additional fans is a relatively small cost. In my Antec Sonata 3 that made a very big difference.

    In a Zalman 100 GS I had, I reversed the two top fans to intake fans instead, and turned over my Arctic Freezer 90 degrees so the CPU fan was blowing downwards. That took 4-5 degrees off overall.

    I think the possibilities for different configs makes this a better choice than the Fractal.

    And I think it was a good idea with a comparison to the 182/183 as well.
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I also wonder why they used 120 mm fans on top. With a case this wide they could have gone for at least 140 mm, maybe even larger.

    MrS
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    6x 3.5" internally just still doesn't cut it for me. Especially on a case of this size. I'd rather lose one of the 3x 5.25" and get at least 8x 3.5" Reply
  • rrohbeck - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Define XL FTW: 10x 3.5". I just built with one.
    Similar looks, design and price but bigger and better features.
    Reply
  • emgarf - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Congrats on an informative review, although it unfortunately doesn't help those of us using a P182/183 decide whether the P280 is acceptably quiet in comparison. It does certainly seem more convenient to work with. Reply

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