[Computer Ed: With the show growing the time has come for me to get some help and Doug is jumping in with both feet. I am letting him develop his own style so if this material seems formatted differently that is the reason. Give him time and he will be an old pro at this.]
The products are well boxed and upon opening the boxes we find that the Keyboard and mouse are as expected, wrapped in plastic and accompanied by the data cables which are very heavy and reinforced. The cable for the keyboard is surprisingly detachable! As with all of the pproducts I have seen from Tt esports there is a soft black carrying case with a Velcro closure included for each item. Those who travel with their PCs to LAN parties will no doubt appreciate this attention to detail which helps protect their investment.
The keyboard is moderately thin, angular in design and finished in mat black. A mat black finish will look good on most desks and will not show finger prints. It comes with 10 programmable macro keys (five on each end). There are multimedia keys above the number pad and a few others for adjusting the backlight brightness and changing profiles. It has a good heft to it, feeling solid and well built.
The mouse is finished to match of course, mat black and angular without being too angular, it matches the keyboard very well. It is fairly large as mice go which should be nice as I have trouble finding a mouse that feels comfortable in my hand. Also it has a nice heft giving it an overall feel of being well built and substantial.
Hookup and Setup:
The Challenger Pro connects to the PC via a very heavy 6 foot long, reinforced USB cable which surprisingly to me is detachable. This adds to the portability since you don’t have to do the usual trick of wrapping the cable around the keyboard 10 times and hope it does not come unwrapped while you are carrying it out to the car. This also means that in the event the cable is damaged you can simply replace it without the need to buy a new keyboard. Everyone who has had to buy an entire new device because a pet chewed on a cable will cheer this feature.
A small separate bag contains a key puller and replacement red keys that you can easily install in place of the most popular movement keys used in most games. I chose not to install these as I seldom glance at the keyboard during game play. Also there are dummy replacement keys to disable the windows start menu keys that have killed so many gamers over the years. This feature alone would make me love this keyboard. There is nothing like the sinking feeling of seeing your game minimize and the desktop appear in the middle of an epic battle, and knowing that by the time you tab back in your character will be little more than a smoking hole in the ground and the rest of your team will be yelling “Dude! What are you doing?!”
Lastly there is a CD containing software to allow you to setup multiple profiles for a custom fit in many different programs and games.
The Black mouse is likewise equipped with a generously long and hefty data cable. Strong yet not too stiff, this is nice as stiff cables on mice tend to push them across the desk when not in hand.
The wheel and Tt logo, back lit in red complement the Challenger Pro keyboard to a tee. On the side there are two thumb buttons and two resolution buttons on the top. A rubberized texture and large button areas with high shoulders should insure that fingers don’t miss a click even in the most rigorous gaming session.
As with the keyboard, the visual presentation is well thought out, red and matt black are a nice combination. The Black mouse is angular enough to match the keyboard without feeling blocky in the hand. The overall visual appearance is beefy but not bulky.
How do they work?:
Quiet, solid keys on the keyboard are nice in a room full of gamers and the Challenger Pro does not disappoint here. I can hear my own breathing over the sound of the keys. The keyboard is backlit in red, the brightness of which can be adjusted with the included interface software, or simply changed on the fly with a brightness key in the upper right. It is not infinitely adjustable but with four settings ranging from off to 100% there is adequate adjustment for most people. Additionally the Tt logo is separately backlit at the bottom of the Challenger and can be turned off independent of the rest of the backlighting. A person who plays in a dark environment will like this since the logo can be distractingly bright at times.
The single most unique feature with the Challenger is the cooling fan that is included with it. This at first glance seems a bit gimmicky and I was honestly skeptical. The fan is about the size of a silver dollar and stores in a compartment on the top edge of the keyboard. It can be plugged into either of two power slots at the top on either side and creates a light breeze across the keys. Initially it does not seem like much of a feature. However after a few hours of use with it on I removed it and soon found myself missing the cool breeze across my hands. Odd how you don’t know you like something until you remove it. I now find that I use it almost constantly.
There are two USB 2.0 ports along the top edge if you need to attach a mouse, headphones or the like to them. I have never found a good use for USB ports on a keyboard. I just seem to get tangled up in the additional wires that inevitably find their way on top of the keyboard. But so many companies put these on that I must be missing something.
The profile software is fairly straight forward and easy to use. It allows you to quickly convert the Challenger Pro for a completely custom fit no matter how many games or applications you switch between.
The Black mouse likewise offers quiet solid performance. As predicted the rubberized texture and large button areas allow for a wide range of finger placement while still offering dependable button clicks. The top buttons allow for on the fly resolution adjustment all the way up to 4000 DPI and the rough thumb pad area helps offer positive reinforcement that keeps my thumb from wandering far from where it belongs.
The thumb buttons on the Black are within easy reach and are generously sized front to back so that I don’t miss hitting them. Thumb buttons found on some other mice are easily missed because they are too small.
Operation of the Black is flawless. Over 2 week of use has not produced any false or double clicks and for me that is saying something as I tend be heavy handed and have a lot of unintended clicks. I have gamed and worked for 5 hours at a time and had no fatigue from use. The rubberized texture performed great, my hand never slipped and I never missed a click.
The heft of the mouse is provided by several 4.5g weights which are easily and quickly removable one at a time for a custom weight to accommodate the pickiest user. I left them all in. As I said I like a hefty mouse.
After early skepticism I was impressed with the fan feature and became quite a . . . . well, a fan! It’s nice to see innovation like this.
The removable cord is nice and come in a generous length to accommodate most setups without having to add an extension cable. It’s heft is considerable, more stout than any other I have seen, and sure to with stand no end of abuse. I honestly think I could swing from the thing.
The layout which places the macro keys at each end gives you speed and flexibility I much prefer this layout than cluttering them at the top of the keyboard like many others do.
They keys are a bit shallow for my touch, whether gaming or typing I find my fingers drifting and hitting the wrong keys way too often. As a touch typist, I found myself wishing the keys were more indented or that the raised dots on the J and F were more pronounced. Anything to keep my fingers from drifting out of place would be welcome.
The overall brightness of the backlighting could be a little higher. I work and game in an area with a lot of natural light and during the day, even on 100% the backlighting was too subdued. I’m not sure if the lights should be brighter or the letters in the keys larger or more transparent. In the evening with less natural light, it was fine, but a bit more at maximum would have been nice for daytime.
Great size and heft make this a dream to work with for those with medium and large hands. The rubberized texture and large button areas do a great job of keeping your fingers on target. The Phillips laser resulted in outstanding tracking on a multitude of surfaces. I used the Black on wood and plastic desktops, rough grained vinyl and several cloth mouse pads and it never stuttered once. The wheel has a notched rubber band running down its middle which gives great non-slip function to the wheel despite it being a hard plastic to accommodate the backlighting.
It’s hard to find anything about this mouse that I don’t like, but it’s my job so I will try.
Despite its largish size I would like it even better if the right side went out a bit farther. I would like a bit of a shoulder starting at the right edge of the right button and continuing out far enough to rest a finger or two on. I have noticed with virtually every mouse I use that my ring and pinky fingers have a choice of being dragged along beside the mouse or being curled up beside the mouse. After a couple hours of this they tend to get cramps. Having a place for them to ride along would be nice.
I suppose we should be able to turn off the backlighting to match the Challenger keyboard since in every other way they are a matched pair.
There that will have to do for criticism. I really like this mouse and it has become my favorite over the Razer that I normally use.
Overall I give the Challenger Pro high marks. Thermaltake has put a lot of thought into what both gamers, and everyday users want and need in a keyboard.
They have not skimped on quality or features, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye, and should appeal to a large demographic.
The result is a solid keyboard that is feature packed and is both functional and stylish. The price is about right too, in fact it is lower than many that offer no more and often substantially less.
This is a nice, well thought out keyboard. A credit to the Thermaltake reputation and it shows that they are a serious player in the world of E-sports.
I will have no reservations recommending the Challenger Pro to those I know. In fact I already have.
The Black Mouse is a great compliment to the keyboard but should not be considered just that. It stands on its own as one of the best mice I have ever used for gaming or work. Like the keyboard the product shows a great deal of thought about real world use and solid, no compromise construction designed to offer thousands of hours of dependable and enjoyable use.
It’s always nice to review items like these that are not only functional but a pleasure to look at and use, keyboards and mice are our physical interface with our PC and should when possible make that interface not only efficient but enjoyable. These two products from Thermaltake do just that.
Review as aired 24 April 2011
It is easy to get caught up in the race for the biggest, baddest video card. If the luxury level high end is not your cup of tea maybe you are excited about the mainstream performance lineup. For gamers this is where the excitement typically ends. I mean budget video cards, seriously? Yes seriously and this time out the game has changed.
Typically card in the $100 or less price point fall into one of two categories, budget lower powered cards of the new generation or really old cards from previous generations that need to be moved. These card are usually thought of as a way to add better TV playback to a system with integrated graphics. This use is still in the fore front without a doubt but AMD seems to have decided to push the bar a bit.
Today AMD is announcing the HD 6670 ($99 msrp) and the HD 6570 ($79 msrp). These card fall fully into what would be categorized as a budget card solution. We had sent to our show both cards in reference design by AMD and Sapphire provided us a 6570 retail model to compare. Now I am sure if you browse the net today you will see all sorts of sites showing benchmarks and telling you how those numbers mean something. The truth is though to the target audience for this price point those numbers are worse than meaningless.
At this price point you are going to see the vast majority of these cards purchased by people with cookie cutter machines from Dell or HP. These are gamers that are classified as casual or even light gamers looking to add a bit more graphics power to their budget computer purchases. With this in mind I thought a great way to test these cards was to put them in the hands of this target audience. So my wife became an unwitting test subject.
My wife is a light gamer in ever definition of the word. She plays Wizards 101, LOTRO as well as Civilization and a few older titles such as Warhammer. Her system is using an Athlon II 640 with 4 Gigs of RAM, a WD Green 1 TB HD and a 24” LG Monitor. Her current video card is a Sapphire 6850 and all of her games are set at 1080 for resolution.
The other day while she was at work I swapped out her 6850 and put in the 6670. I left all the settings as she had them and put the system back together before she got home. Over the next couple of days she gamed away and at no time noticed a change in her gaming experience. Oh I can already hear the enthusiasts on the web crying BS on this but it is true.
You see we that deal with higher end equipment daily tend to forget a simple truth, the REAL WORLD is not as fascinated with high frame rates and benchmarks as we are. They do not need uber detail levels to enjoy their games. After a few days of her running the card I told her what I had done to get her impression. Other than a few times that LOTRO seemed to hiccup she had not noticed the change at all. The hiccups were so minor she figured they where just bandwidth issues with the game.
Today a package from Sapphire arrived with their 6570 product so I decided to use it for testing instead of the engineering sample I had gotten in. While the wife was picking up the kids I again pulled a switch on her. She came in and her and the kinds launched into a 3 hours session of Wizards 101. Again there was no change in the game play experience for her. When she switched over to LOTRO however the card began to stumble quite a bit. We dropped the resolution down to 1600×900 and it again delivered a game play experience she could enjoy. The same had to be done for Civilization V.
Now the rest of the tech community might cry crap at my testing methods I think I have shown something that needs to be looked at. You see at the end of the day benchmark numbers are a clinical study to specific point in time under set circumstances. While that might sound good it is meaningless in the real world since those conditions are seldom if ever met in real life. At the end of the day the experience of using the computer is ALWAYS more important than the benchmark numbers, even more so in the area of budget computing.
With the 6670 and 6570 AMD has a solid swing that will not be a home run but is a definite base hit. These cards use very little power so even the stock PSUs in your Dell or HP can handle the upgrade. The engineering samples where capable of low profile design which means we should see some models using that form soon. This is great news for some of the smaller computer designs.
If you are a budget home user that is looking to wade into the world of computer gaming then both of these designs are a perfect fit for you. When we looked at the Fusion a few weeks ago I mentioned that putting a low cost card on the system would allow for some solid game performance at the 720 resolution, well for $80 you can get that kind of card.
The Sapphire model is a nice step up from the reference design with a better cooling solution, we did some quick tests and found it was running a full 7C lower at load than the reference design and was much quieter.
Neither of these cards are what a serious gamer will consider in their system. If you are building a custom system I would say these are both cards that would only be considered at the most budget levels. However if you are just starting in the world of computer gaming and have been using onboard graphics then these two cards offer a great budget alternative to move into a new level of gaming experience.
For the $20 price difference I would normally say to ignore the 6570. However in todays reality $20 can be a bigger deal than it used to be. If you have a 19” monitor or smaller with that budget computer the 6570 is a solid choice to take a step up in the gaming experience. Both cards deliver solidly in the range they are targeted at and are great buys. While most releases over the next few days will stick to the base design I would say your best bet is to look toward Sapphire first. They are the premier partner for AMD products and with good reason.
Segment Aired 1 May 2011
Due to a technical glitch at the station this week we where unable to get a recording of this show to post on the site. We apologies to anyone trying to listen to this weeks show and hope the station will have this all resolved for next week. We will be leaving up last weeks show on the site for now.
You know this show usually has it’s focus squarely set on mainstream products. However we sometimes get the opportunity to take a peek at the other side of the tracks as it where, the luxury end of the PC world. When we approached Gigabyte about getting a board to explore the world of the Intel Sandybridge they where happy to help but then Intel issued a recall. Gigabyte told me to be patient that they would get me one of the new boards as soon as possible and they rewarded that patience with the P67A-UD4.
At $190 this is not the most expensive board out there but it is definitely in the luxury category on pricing. Based on the P67 chipset, this board is designed to use discrete video and opens up the overclocking options of the Sandybridge processor lineup. As the box cover shows the board comes featured packed with Gigabytes Ultra Durable 3 design, 12 Phase power, a 3 year warranty and Gigabytes 3x USB power which allows for their On/Off Charge system.
Opening the box we are greeted bay a beautiful black schemed motherboard. Gone is the baby or powder blue design of the typical Gigabyte board design. The black board is highlighted nicely with an anodized grey on the various heat sinks and a metallic blue accent.
There are 3x PCIe x1 slots, 2 PCIe slots (x16/x8) and two standard PCI slots. The spacing on the PCIe slots is nice, using the X1 slots to open the area a bit if you plan to use dual video cards.
Gone are any kinds of connectors for old school floppy of PATA storage, these are not missed. However for some reason an old school COM port connection is available using an optional expansion slot cover. The traditional USB headers are present as well as the red one denoting the front USB On/Off powered ports. An interesting addition between the USB 2 and the front panel connection is a connection labeled for USB3. This is the first internal USB connection I have seen and have feelers out to see if this means new cases will not feature a real USB 3 hook up rather than the rigged out the back cabling.
There are six SATA connections, the two white ones are the SATA III and the 4 black the SATA II. Since this is a B3 series board that means the Intel glitch with the SATA III connectors has been fixed and these can be used without worry. Finally note the 4xDDR3 slots and 24 pin and 8 pin power connectors.
Moving around to the back we see the expected connectors. We have 8 USB2 ports, 2 USB3 ports, 3 ESATA, unversal PS2 and various sound connections. The USB ports all are active using On/Off Charging which means in any power state these ports can provide power to recharge devices.
The overall build is pretty typical fair but just upped a notch in quality. The extra features with the exception of the On/Off are mostly hidden in the quality of the build. The board comes with a standard BIOS that has been modified for 3TB and bigger drives. While this might not be as exciting as the new graphical systems it has the advantage of being a comfortable design and is easy to use.
Besides the hardware this board comes with some nice software. Xpress Recovery 2 is a backup program that makes it easy to image your system once you have a solid base install. Since it is built into the BIOS there is no need for a recovery disk. Easy Tune 6 is a great program to take the guess work out of your overclocking. In just a second I was able to quickly take an i5 2400 to 3.6Ghz. The nice thing is that ET6 sets everything in BIOS so after a reboot you are all set and can even remove the software and retain your overclock. Smart 6 is a multi-tool utility that allows for easy backup, a method to store important dates and password in BIOS and a few other tricks.
All of this does not matter however if your CP does not work so we fired this beats up using an i5 2400 to see what it could offer. For cooling we are using an Antec Khuler 620 and the case is a One Hundred. Memory was Kingston 8 Gig (2×4) 1600 and an EVGA GTX 460 for video.
Build was flawless from the start, no stability issues or strange quirks as I did the build and OS install. Stability was outstanding, not just at stock speeds but with some overclocking as well. Using the ET6 program I was able to quickly take the i5 to 3.6GHz and with a quick BIOS tweak I was at 3.9 GHz without changing any settings except the multiplier. Not a single hiccup or twitch was found after hours of running as hard as I could push the system. The heat sinks on the board did their job well, being cool to the touch after hours of heavy running.
Based on the pricing this is obvious a luxury level board meant for the overclocker or power user. The build quality on this board is outstanding and the layout plus feature set a definite plus. It does everything I asked it to do and never once faltered, what more can you ask for?
Well how about we throw on the Bacos and mention that only is it an outstanding board with great features but it is drop dead sexy. The ONLY real complaint I have had with Gigabyte over the years is the baby blue look they tend to use. This move to black is elegant and just really attractive. If you have a side windowed case you will appreciate this board, especially if your case has a black interior. As I was building this system up for testing I found myself stopping to admire how nice the board looked in the case.
Great features, super quality, stable as a rock and a drop dead sexy look. THIS is what a luxury board should be. If you are going the Intel route with your build and want to put on the ritz inside your PC, this is the board I would choose.
I did an article back in January about how I thought the future of CPUs was being seen in the Fusion design that AMD was introducing. So when Gigabyte and AMD offered me a chance to see Fusion in action on our test bench I could no resist.
The E350N-USB3 is Gigabyte’s release using the AMD E-350 APU and comes fully equipped with features we see on better motherboards. The APU is not socketed so this is sold as an all in one. We find full USB 3 support, SATA 6Gb, On/Off Charging as well as Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable treatment which includes all solid capacitors and 2x the copper in the PCB.
The board is targeted for DIYers looking to build a small form factor media center PC . To meet this goal the onboard video, using a HD 6310 in the core of the APC, is designed to handle Blu-Ray and high def playback through an HDMI connector.
The system supports up to 8 Gigs of DDR3, has 4 SATA connections as well as 2 internal USB 2.0 Connections. On the 2 internal connections, the White connection is the On/Off Charge enabled for the front USB ports. There is also a PCIe slot that works at 4x speeds. The power hookup is pretty standard fare with the 24 pin and 4 pin power connections being used.
Moving to the back of the board we find 4x USB2 slots and 2x USB3 slots. We have a PS2 multi-slot as well as the various sound connections and finally we have a VGA, DVI and HDI connection set. This allows for dual video output in a few different configurations, it is limited to 2 outputs but the combinations are very open.
To say this board is small is an understatement. The board is in a mini-ITX design which means it is only a little over 6.5” square. To put this into perspective here is a picture of this board on the tray of Thermaltake’s Armor A90 case, a tray for mini ATX boards. When I first saw I described it to Doug as cute.
With the board in hand it was time to see what it could do. When I look at this board I see more than something for playing movies, I see a general purpose low cost PC, one for a family that is not heavy into their computer use or a business needing a solid work station for word-processing, maybe keep books or use the internet.
With that in mind I built up a system with 4 Gigs of RAM and a nice little HD, in this case I used a WD Scorpio Black 320 Gig. The 2.5” size means it would be a perfect fit for a small form factor build and it is one of the faster spindle drives in this form factor for use. And SSD would have been a great choice as well but a budget build for an family means we need a bit of space and the SSD just does not fit the criteria.
With all this in place we hooked the system up to a 1080 display and started testing. Why a 1080 display? Well this build begs use on an HD TV so a 1080 makes the most sense. In general use this little critter was snappy and very responsive. I would have no issues at all using this as a day to day PC for light work and surfing. For the family style testing I threw some photo editing at it. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it handled the basic editing. In fact when I handed it to my daughter to play with, she is studying photography, she was quite happy with the snappy response it had.
Next up we hooked the Fusion to Hulu and Netflix, the playback at 1080 was very sharp and smooth. I also loved that fact that since this was a full PC instead of just a console I could use a wireless keyboard and mouse to surf the entire internet from the couch on the big screen.
Finally what good is a family system that cannot do some gaming. Now I am fully aware this is not meant to be a gaming rig but AMD has been pushing how powerful these graphics are. So with that in mind I set a realistic expectation and fired up some MMOs at 720. The reason I chose 720 is the same reason I chose 1080, this is a standard HD TV setup. So at 720 I fired up LOTRO at stock settings and set about playing. While I was not engaging in PVP I was in the first section outside the Humans starter area. There was a lot of player activity and I made sure to get into some serious fights. The game play was smooth and looked good. I pushed the graphics to the High preset and the play stayed very smooth. WoW gave me an identical experience. EVE provided some solid performance but I would not try to PVP in it, plus the defaults where all it could handle. When I tried STO the poor little fella faltered and was not playable.
However I think my results brought out an interesting point. Some of the more often played titles did fine at 720 resolution with the stock build. If you need more gaming power your case could be the limiting factor. In a true small form factor build you might be stuck looking for half height cards. Our test build however used the Armor A30 case (review in two weeks) and it allows for full height cards. For this I used a Sapphire 6850 and gave our games round 2. As expected all performed better and even up to 1080 for most. Of the MMO testing however STO was still not liking what it was getting. Also while we could game with the discrete card at 1080 the numbers where no where near those of a bigger system.
One other factor I wanted to look at with this little brute was it’s heat and power consumption. The heat was not what I expected but then again the chip is called Fusion, not could Fusion. Under full load I have seen temps as high at 55C. Which this might seem a bit hot it is not really that bad when you consider that these temps where done in a small form factor case that is not designed to move air. As for power consumption this thing SIPS electricity. Using folding at home to push the CPU and GPU portions at the same time I was only able to get the full system build to pull 50 watts. That is not a typo, the full system build only pulled 50 watts and that was under load. At idle the system dropped to 39 watts. That means at full load this build only used as much power as a normal build with cool-n-quiet fully engaged and then dropping another 20 watts. That is some serious power consumption savings. During gaming with LOTRO the system never peaked beyond 45 watts.
Overall I am really impressed with this little package. It delivers solid performance for all ranges of basic computer use and does so in the price range of a good CPU ( still would need a motherboard). Additionally it has the ability to do basic MMO play at a reasonable resolution. Think how fun it would be for the kids to Play Wizards on the big screen. Well at least until Dad kicked them off to play LOTRO. When you realize you can build this general purpose budget family system WITH a Blu-Ray player for around $300 in parts or $400 for a higher quality build you get a win for the budget DIYer.
As for the E350N-USB, Gigabyte has a great little board. The quality and feature set are what you find on better quality boards and while you might pay a premium for this quality it is definitely worth it. Sure there are less expensive options when looking to build around the E-350 APU, but you get what you pay for and Gigabyte delivered the goods.
If you are looking to build a decent media system for the family, wanting a small business machine or perhaps the grand parents just need a basic system for email and seeing the kids on Skype. THIS is the platform you want to build on!
Segment as aired live 10 April 2011
When we started our build a PC series this year Doug went out on a limb and picked a case he had not seen except in pictures, the Antec One Hundred. Priced at around $50 this case sits squarely at the bottom of Antec’s Gamer lineup. It’s price point puts it below the Two Hundred and the Three Hundred at suggested prices but right with them in the real world. According to it’s publicist the One Hundred is, “More Features, Less Funds” for gamers, lets find out.
The box as you can see is typical Antec in it’s design with a lot of information on the box about the case you are getting. Prominently displayed on the front of the box is the large tray at the top front of the case as well as the front panel showing 4 USB ports.
I think a bit of history is in order before we begin. When the Three Hundred was released I was one of the first to review it and I fell in love. A $50 case that offered great cooling and was well made, what more could we ask for? Since it’s release I have been firm in my belief that the Antec Three Hundred was one of the best value cases on the market.
So when I saw the pictures of the One Hundred I could not help but see how it resembled the Three Hundred in style. Opening the box I was even more convinced this was a Three Hundred with some new clothes.
From the front it is easy to see that the Three Hundred played a large part in this design. The case has three 5.25” bays for optical drives at the top as well as adding a 3.5” bay between it and the lower bays for hard drives as well as the mounting of two 120mm fans for air intake. While the 3.5” bay is new the real think to first grab my attention is the addition to the top.
Gone is the flat top of the Three Hundred with it’s straight out facing front panel. In it’s place is a riser that holds a beautiful and very functional tray area. This is one the features I have loved from back with the Nine Hundred. While it might not be the sexiest tech or make the case cool better, it does have the advantage of being a feature that is used every day in the real world. I use my PC as a Phone charger, Nook charger as well as use the tray to hold various USB keys I need access to quickly so an easy access tray at the top of my PC case is a god send. This new tray is designed much better than the ones on the Nine Hundred and Twelve Hundred, a nice soft interior cover and raised sides makes it great for change, wallets and keys if need be, a real world useful feature like I said.
Another change that caught my eye is slight angling of the front access panel, a feature we have seen in the Nine Hundred, Twelve Hundred and Six Hundred. While this might not seem like a big deal it is a small change that makes a huge difference in everyday use. The light angle makes it much easier to put in USB devices if you are using this case on the floor as it is intended. Again, this might not be impressive tech but it shows an attention to real world functionality that is thoughtful and very helpful. This access has been enhanced with 4 USB ports as well as the clearly color coded headphone and mic jacks, no hard to read etchings here. While it does not have a USB 3 port the extra USB 2 ports are a welcome addition.
Opening the side panel you can see how more the the Three Hundred’s influence on this cases design. The picture at the right is a Three Hundred and One Hundred side by side. The first change most will notice is the painting of the cases interior, not really a performance changer but it shows an attention to detail You will also notice the massive CPU back plate cutout, this is huge, seriously the largest I have seen in any kind of budget case.
A closer look shows that the case uses a hybrid approach to cable management. The PSU cables can be routed behind the tray or they can use the area created next to the HD bay, like the design of the Three Hundred.
I want you to look closely at the cables we have pushed up through the PSU cable hole. Those are the front panel cables. As you can see I routed them through the top behind the tray area and out the bottom and still had enough cable to EASILY reach the connections on most ATX Boards. This is really nice as all to often in budget cases these cables seem to barely reach if ran straight down.
There is however one aspect to this interior I did not like. Notice in the picture on the right, the mounts for the motherboard are too close to the 140mm exhaust fan at the top. This narrow area will make mounting a motherboard a bit tougher as you need a long and narrow shaft screw driver to get into the space effectively. We looked at the interior vs. the Three Hundred and it has a lot more room in this spot, the cases are basically identical in height taking off the tray area so I am not sure why this part of the case would have such a tight fit.
The top and rear fans are both 2 speed fans using the newer Antec fan design. This new design has cut almost a full half inch of diameter off the center hub meaning more blade area for air flow. The front of the case allows the addition of two 120mm fans for air intake as well as one 120mm fan can be mounted in the side panel. The Three Hundred had two drive cages on the front of the case for these fans, where as the One Hundred removes the cages and mounts the fans directly to the front bevel. This results in a less open area at the case front than the Three Hundred when you compare the front covers. However this also removes the grid work built into those cages which created obstructions to air flow, meaning the new design actually should see better airflow.
The cases promotional material says it comes with washable filtering, this is only true in the rawest sense of the word. The 5.25” and 3.5” covers have a foam piece in them that could be considered a filter. Notice I said could be, the reason is these are not great at letting air through and are so dense that they will clog with dust near instantly. They are held in place by folded metal clips which means after being removed a few times the clips will likely break. Additionallly none of these “filters” are in a position to actually filter the air intake from the two optional fans. The simple fact is this case does not have any filtering, despite claiming it does. In place of the filters Antec has made the grill work finer than on it’s other cases of this line, this will reduce the dust a little by catching some as it passes but is not in anyway a filter.
The rear of the case is pretty basic with the 120mm exhaust as well as the speed controls for the top and rear fan. The expansion covers are the popout type which is disappointing but to be expected at this price point. There is also the expected water cooling cutouts.
The Antec One Hundred is not a flashy or gimmicky case. It is a solid, functional case with simple looks and features that are useful in not just the computer build and use but in the everyday life of the PC user. The plain looks however are actually a feature for some. The basic design means this case is a blank canvas for anyone that wants to mod it. This might not sound like a selling point but speaking to some case modders I have met this is a big deal to them. The fact they do not need to work around a lot of features is worth a lot to them, as is the low cost. After all working on a case mod and having it go wrong, ruining the case is easier to swallow when the case costs $50 than when it cost $150.
For the price this case is a great buy. It has some excellent features and the real world functionality is just Bac-O’s. The lack of the filter and the narrow top area are definite dings to rating this case. However condiering the cases price and the other great features these can be worked around.
Since it came out the Three Hundred has been my go to budget gamer case however with the One Hundred the Three Hundred has been retired. The One Hundred has a great feature set, nice improvements over the Three Hundred and costs less money.
At the beginning of this article we quoted the tag line Antec has for this case, ““More Features, Less Funds”. This is definitely true, the One Hundred is a great budget gaming case.
Antec One Hundred Review Segment Aired Live 3 April 2011