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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  • 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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