Antec P280 Review: When Enthusiasts Are Engineersby Dustin Sklavos on November 15, 2011 10:20 AM EST
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.