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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  • gevorg - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    "I also think Antec is having the same problem with the Solo II they had with the Sonata IV: it's priced right out of competition. At $129 it just doesn't make sense."

    It makes sense to people who value silent computing. With the right part selection you can have a powerful computer that is also very quiet and that what makes Solo superb even at $200 price point. Comparing Solo to Sonata is like comparing apple to an orange. Key word: part selection. A proper review with anechoic chamber measurements would show a clearer picture.
    Reply
  • zero2dash - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    @ $120 the Solo II is (IMHO) grossly overpriced.
    @ $200 it's highway robbery and anyone who would buy a Solo at that price point deserves to get ripped off.

    If I have $200 and it HAS to be spent on an Antec case, I'd get one of the 18x variants. Otherwise, I'd go with another brand name.
    Reply
  • knedle - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I agree, I have Antec NSK2480 for years and I didn't buy it because it was fancy, featured some neat mounting system or whatever else.
    I bought it because it looked simple, and was made of thick steel, that helps to make my computer quiet.
    Nothing else counts for me, and that enclosure is doing great job for me... Oh wait, I had to turn off all the blue LEDs on it, because I hate them. ;)
    Reply
  • pvdw - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Anandtech just doesn't have the facilities for a proper sound related review of hardware. For that SPCR is a better place to go. If quietness is a priority then that's the place to go for reviews. I've found that their case reviews are better than those here. I'm sure they'll review this case and I look forward to hearing their input.

    BTW, I have the Solo, and it's a great case! It has it's little foibles, but it's significantly cut down on noise in my office.

    As far as tool-less design is concerned, remember that a case like the Solo is geared towards noise reduction. It's possible that some of the tool-less designs lead to extra vibration. Or maybe Antec were just cutting corners.The suspension straps are just the best at reducing HDD vibration transfer.
    Reply
  • gevorg - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    "Anandtech just doesn't have the facilities for a proper sound related review of hardware. For that SPCR is a better place to go."

    If Anandtech can't do a proper review, they shouldn't jump to silly conclusions that Solo "at $129 it just doesn't make sense". Not everything is made for overclockers, storage servers and HTPC.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I stand by my conclusions.

    Just because we can't invest in a custom built anechoic chamber that produces noise level results which border on academic for 90% of end users, I'm somehow not qualified to be doing these?
    Reply
  • davegravy - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Acoustic Engineer here.

    Results can be significantly skewed by not measuring in an anechoic environment due to room modes. We're talking on the order of several dB.

    Your measurements may still be useful for comparison purposes, provided your transducer location and the location of equipment under test is EXACTLY the same for each measurement. In this case, one should not compare Anantech's results with other published results.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    That's basically it. I'm confident that my results are comparable within their own ranks. Reply
  • dhanson8652 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I think this is a fair review. I have no major problem with this review and I've been a SPCR regular for almost a decade.

    Suspension was a big deal with traditional 7200 RPM drives back in the day. With SSDs taking over it becomes less and less of an issue. I'd be fine with suspension taken out of the Solo if it dropped the cost and that was reflected in a lower price for the consumer.

    The biggest negative you didn't mention is the power button / reset switch is pretty cheaply made. See the picture in page two of this thread http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewtopic.php... I've seen ham-fisted users bust the power button on a Solo and I've had to fix them so it's not an issue I'll quickly forget.

    The one thing that I didn't know before reading this review is that the support bar is removable. There have been some on SPCR that have cut the bar away in the original Solo so having it easily removed/replaced without damaging the cases resale value is a plus.

    On the topic of intake the lack of intake fan, considering Yate Loon 120mm fans are only $3 retail (less for someone like Antec to buy in bulk) It'd be very easy to up the included fan count by one if they are going to keep the price that high. As is die hard SPCR types don't use front fans.
    Reply
  • leoc - Saturday, December 28, 2013 - link

    The really important difference between this review and the SPCR one isn't the precision of the noise recordings. It's that when SPCR found the stock Solo II struggling under load with a mid-range GPU they went ahead, put in a 120mm intake fan and retested. Apparently the Solo II was not only much cooler but quieter with the second fan while under load. Now it would be very fair to slate the expense of what's arguably a $15 hidden extra on the price of a $130 case, but it's faintly absurd not to confirm that the case works well in a two-fan configuration. I understand the desire to review the item as delivered and not to consider esoteric modifications, but throwing in a 120mm Nexus is not exactly drilling holes: it's a ridiculously straightforward and obvious option when self-building a desktop PC for superior noise *or* cooling performance. Reply

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