Saturday, February 9, 2008

What does a $100 dollar case get you??? Heaven

For those of you who build your own computers from components - the so called enthusiast segment of the PC market - the case is a common element, that most people simply try to buy the cheapest that fits their needs.

8 years ago or more, cases were vanilla, the main differences were really just if they actually rolled the edges of the metal so you wouldn't cut yourself.. if they were flimsy or not.. and really just size. They were dirt cheap, typically $30 or more would get you the upper echeleon of what you need.

Then the LED/window phase hit. Cases started getting gizmo'd out. Every type of connector would be on the outside of the case, LEDs on everything, and more exotic materials. The all-aluminum cases were probably the tipping point. Case makers started offering high-end aluminum cases in place of steel. These cases were expensive.. upwards of $150. I think the industry realized the price point didn't turn people off.. and the days of the $10-$30 cases seemed numbered. Adding to that the needs of the power supply were increasing, driving their prices up as well. So that $100-$150 case didn't even include a power supply!

The super tricked out case phase has seemed to subsided - but windows on cases are still pretty common - but more conservative designs are around again - but the old price points are not. There are really cheap cases available - but not typically with the feature sets you are after. A good enthusiast case can be $50-$100 easy.

So what do these high end cases really get you? Are they worth so much more then your bargin case? Well this week I finally upgraded my system and I really wanted a quality, QUIET system to replace my old one.

I was told by a friend the Antec P180 was a primo case. I hope so .. it costs $115 or more... but the current model is a ugly mirror finish. There is a newer model, the P182 which is a nicer gunmetal finish. Well, with a sale price, promo coupon and a mail in rebate going on.. the case could be had for actually had for $59 - quite reasonable. So I took the plunge.

So what does a $100 case really get you?

First off.. this case is INSANE. It's nothing like your old bargin case. Newegg has photos here but I really need to highlight some insane things. I bought this case because it's supposed to be quiet. How do they do it?

- Triple layer side panels - The panels are actually plastic and metal sandwiched together instead of just a sheet of metal like a traditional case.

- Isolation . Anywhere there is metal to metal that could vibrate there is actually felt or silicon pads to isolate. Look at this photo - see that grey strip above the Antec logo on the right side? And the other pad along the edge of the divider between the upper and lower sections of the case.

The power supply is to be mounted down at the bottom. See that? A CAGE that holds the power supply.. and that cage, all lined with silicon pads for total isolation.

See those hard drive cages? 2 of 'em! Not only cages, but nice rings to make them easy to pull out. But here's the little things that make the case... see those black plates below the rings? Clips to hold the ring so it doesn't vibrate!

Speaking of hard drive cages - this one has two of them. The lower one is intended to mount 3.5 drives vertically - check it out

But check out the HD mounts - silicon grommets! All 3.5" drives are actually mounted on silicon grommets to prevent vibration - and the case includes all the longer screws with wide heads to work with the grommets.

Check out the upper drive cage.
So not only a removable cage with slide out HD rails.. but full sleds.. and they too have the grommet mounts! Just awesome attention to detail

If that wasn't enough.. for the fine touches... don't forget the toolbox inside the case so you don't lose those screws
Let's not forget what makes this case stand out.. quiet cooling. I'll spare you the Antec brochure on separate chambers, air tunnels, etc.. but check out these monster fans. 2 x 120mm fans at the rear of the case. There is another 120mm fan behind the lower HD cage

The fans are tri-speed fans - not too uncommon in high end cases. The fans can be set to run at one of three speeds. At low speed, they are virtually SILENT. But again.. why is this case different? Not only tri-speed, but the controls for 2 of them are actually on the outside of the case so you can control them
Another sign of quality? Both sides of the case come off for the best access. But how do you take that even further? Cable management holes that allow you to run cables on the other side of the case so not everything is stuffed in one cramped area. How do you take that even FURTHER? You put cable ties all along the motherboard tray and include the reusable cable ties to make it all happen

Of course a case of this quality comes with a box full of bits including cable ties, screws, all the drive rails (for the 5.25" bays), extra grommets, etc.

So what does this case look like from the front? Well behind the magnetically latched door you have this clean look

Standard USB, firewire, and audio ports.. but the audio ports are pre-wired for HD or AC97 use.. Those grilles? Air filter doors. Do they pop-out? No, this is a high-end case so you have spring latches that you simply press and the door pops open to access the removable, washable, air filters.


Out of control isn't it? These cases just aren't $$ to be fancy - they really do have all the details to make it worth their price. However, remember still price doesn't mean quality. Check out this other Antec 900 case. It looks like a tin bucket compared to the photos you just saw

Later I'll post up some 'finished product' photos - but for those of you who think "I'll never spend that much for a case".. I hope this shows you why it can really be worth it. It's case heaven

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