In May of 2010 I took my first look at a self contained liquid cooling system and declared then that they would soon be replacing the traditional air coolers for the DIY crowd. Since then we have seen a steady growth of sales in this market and also a steady growth of companies entering this market. Today most major CPU cooler makers have now brought a model to the market and even Intel and AMD have jumped on the bandwagon, both have branded their own models. So it only made sense that Thermaltake would also jump on the bandwagon.
In the world of these self contained systems there is essentially three levels, the basic model, a double width radiator model and the 240mm single width radiator model. The reason for these basic models can be found in design limitation put on these by the current case designs and the fact that everyone is using the same actual cooler manufacturers. You see these companies are not actually making these coolers they are buying them made for them from one of two companies, Asetek or Coolit. Thermaltake decided that for it’s LCS system it was going to work with Asetek to bring us their Water 2.0 lineup.
At CES, Doug and I got to see the two basic models, the Pro and the Performer. The Performer is the lowest cost model and uses what appears to be the traditional Asetek design with the slim radiator and the Pro is looks like the base design with the double width radiator. I commented that it was cool to see Thermaltake using the base Asetek designs that work so well. Ramsom however was quick to inform me that these we not the base designed, Thermaltake had worked with Asetek to have these tweaked so they had better performance.
Well we could not let a claim like that go without verifying it for our listeners so for the purposes of this review I put the Pro and the Performer in a head to head comparison with Antec’s H2O 620 and 920, both Asetek designed coolers.
- Intel i7 3820 @ 4.0 GHz
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Kingston HyperX 1600 RAM
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD
- Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case
- Thermaltake Toughpower 850
- Sapphire HD 7950
Since this is a CPU test we did our temperature testing on the CPU after running Prime 95 for 30 minutes. The case fans were all set for low in every test and the room temperature was controlled at 75F. Many places spend time looking at the idle temps cooler deliver, these are meaningless as all but complete junk should be able to keep a system cool at idle, we are looking for how these coolers perform under load and so put on some load to see what we got. For temperature readings I used the Core Temp program. For sound testing I used my own hearing as well as a sound meter app on my Droid X2 with the phone position right in front of my face at the position I sit at when using the computer.
Now you might have noticed that above I have given a lot more testing info than we normally give. The reason is I have had many question what we use for testing methods in some of the reviews we have done so this time I wanted to show our methodology.
Looking first at the Performer model we see the basic Asetek design but out of the box there is a twist, the cooler comes with two fans for a push pull design instead of the single fan everyone else uses. Now people get caught up in fans by how much air they move, as we discussed last week. In the case of a cooler like this the second fan is not about the air volume but rather the air pressure., The second fan basically helps to overcome the resistance the radiator has to airflow. True this increases the air volume that moves but the key here is the pressure it creates to overcome the resistance.
The kits has a splitter for the PWM fans to allow both of them to be connected to the CPU fan header. First let me say thank you to Thermaltake for doing this. A lot of the Thermaltake coolers I have seen of late have those in the case speed controllers that I loathe. The simple splitter to the header approach is something I have been begging them to do with their traditional designs, nice to see it finally appearing. I also like this better than the design on the 620 (the cooler we are comparing to) which has the fan connecting to the pump and being controlled not by the CPU temp but rather the fluid temps within the cooler.
This is not the only tweak however we see in this model. The Antec cooler had a small annoyance with it in that it would occasionally give off a gurgling sound. This was not really a problem, it was just the system working some air out of the lines. It was not all the time and would disappear after a little bit. Thermaltake however wanted it gone so they worked with Asetek and found that simple increase in the pump speed, about 8% was enough to remove this issue. I can say that in all my testing I never once heard a gurgle from the Water 2.0 systems were I did in the Antec models. The added benefit of this tweak is the fluid is moving a little quicker within the loop and we see a small drop in load temps because of it.
The result of these tweaks was clear once we put down the numbers from testing. The Water 2.0 Performer delivered temps about 4C lower than the 620 every time. Now this might not seem like a large drop but considering these are both at the same price point any drop is a great thing. Under load neither system was audible to my ear when ramping up in a quiet room and my sound meter showed only a 1 decibel difference at my normal seated position with the second fan on the Pro adding a little noise.
Next we come to the Pro, which is using the double width radiator design that we also see in the 920 from Antec. The same two fans are included with this model and again include a splitter for use on the CPU header. This time the only tweak that seems to exist is the extra speed in the pump.
The results of our test runs show the Water 2.0 Pro out performing the 920 by 1.5C on average. This is a much tighter comparison that the Performer but then we are using the same number of fans and this time the only tweak for Thermaltake to show is the pump. The sound dynamic of of the Pro was right in line with that of the 920 with no difference found. Again however we are talking about a cooler within the same price point, so even that small difference in temperature performance is worth noting.
Something else I observed during testing of these two models is the fact the fan speed ramped quicker than the Antec models. What I mean is as the CPU heated up the fans on the Water 2.0 responded faster in increasing speed and as it cooled they slowed quicker. The reason for this is the fact the fan speeds are based on the temp of the CPU and not the liquid in the cooler. You see as the CPU heats up in the Thermaltake design the fans respond to the CPU temp. However the liquid in the system does not heat up as fast, there is a lag as it were. This is simple physics, go to a pond after a cold winter and one week of hot summer, the water temp just does not move as fast as everything around it. I really like this design better than basing the temp off the fluid system.
Finally we come to the Extreme, this model makes use of a single width radiator that is 240mm long. Again we see our two fans however this time Thermaltake has returned to the traditional method of allowing the cooler itself to control the fan speeds. However this time it makes sense since the pump also attaches to a USB header and allows you control of the pump and fan through software. This model is really a hardware enthusiast model and this extra control is something that segment wants.
This is the first 240mm solution I have seen from an Asetek design, the only other 240mm cooler we have seen is based off a design by Coolit so the direct comparison for me does not work as well. As with the other two models this design has the increase in pump speed and delivered a solid performance. When compared to the Corsair H100, the other 240 cooler we have seen it performed in pretty much a dead tie. Bother coolers offered excellent results and either would make an enthusiast happy.
Both however offer different feature sets so the key is to find the feature set you want. The H100 has direct connect support for up to 4 fans, the Water 2.0 Extreme has only for two. The H100 has a hardware speed setting that is limited to three choices and must be done in the case. The Water 2.0 uses a software solution that can be changed via software at any time and offers presets as well as the ability to create a custom ramping of the performance. The key is to decide which feature set is what you want.
In comparison of these three models again each other I got pretty much what we and Thermaltake expected. The Extreme was best in cooling with numbers around 5C lower than the Performer. The Pro delivered better numbers as well but only about 1.5C on average lower than that of the Performer. Now the good news is that even the Performer was able to keep the CPU cool, under the torture testing we did the highest CPU temp recorded for the Pro was 70C. This is actually a very safe temp for the chip being overclocked and under a pressure testing.
Of the three models the one that impressed me the most I have to say is the Performer. While the other models are great I am just a fan of finding bang for the buck. The double width radiator does a solid job of cooling no doubt and if you are going to push your overclock a bit is a worthy buy however for the price difference I think the Performer is just a better deal for most of us. If you are uber overclocker then the Extreme is for you but again for the majority of us that level of cooling is not needed.
With the Water 2.0 lineup Thermaltake has entered the world of the self contained liquid coolers very strong this round. While they were there before with their Bigwater system it never took off. It is good to see a more budget minded and easier to install offering from them. The Water 2.0 system brings the excellent Asetek design that others are using but tweaks it in a way that puts it a step above others using the same design. The Water 2.0 is a great cooling system and offers three levels for the level of cooling you will need. For me however the big winner here is the Water 2.0 Pro, with a solid entry price point and an extra fan for a push pull configuration out of the box this is a deal that is hard to beat.
Review segment as aired live 11 August 2012
With vacation starting next week I have kind of put a lot of projects on hold. You know how it is, you get started and find out it is not going to work the way you think and then you have to change plans mid stream to make things work. This always means it takes longer than you planned. So the stuff I have recently gotten in the look at and the various articles I had planned to write are kind of on the back burner until I return.
However over the last few weeks I have had a chance to get m,y hands on a few items that where not on the shows radar. In each case I actually purchased these items myself from stores so these are not typical review fare.
We will begin with the Coolermaster Hyper N620, a value priced CPU cooler. I had a build I was doing for a friend and he needed a little nicer cooler as he planned to overclock. The chip we used was a Phenom II 970 and the system was built in an Antec Three Hundred case with both of the front fans installed.
Priced at $23 this cooler looks like a steal, using a large heatpipe system with dual fans in an offset push/pull configuration. The fans have a nice blue lighting and the top of the heatsink has a sharp looking plate on it giving this heatsink a bit of bling. All this plus the Coolermaster name and reputation when it comes to coolers meant this was an easy purchase decision.
Opening the box I was impressed with the size of this heatsink. Usually at the $20 price point you get these small units that are usually nothing more than a glorified stock cooler. Reading the installation directions I was however a bit surprised at the mounting system. Now a back plate system for mounting is not all that new but at this price point is is not the norm. The real surprise though was the system is a bottom mount style, meaning the work of mounting is done under the motherboard.
When you are dealing with this price point the cases are only now beginning to get the cutouts that are needed for using these big third party heatsinks easily. The Antec Three Hundred has such a cutout but the AMD board is layout so that the top two mount points are still not open. This means you need to install the heatsink before going into the case. Not really that big of a deal but the bottom mount system like this is not one I think works easily.
Using Artic Silver compound we fired the brute up and began installing the OS. The fans where very quiet and this made it a perfect match for the near silent performance of the Three Hundred. The blue glow was softly visible in the room when dark through the top and side vents on the case and just barely through the front fans, the effect was very subtle and nice.
Once the OS was installed we fired up AMD Overdrive to run some stability testing and see how the temps where going to work out. I have to say the temps we got surprised me. In fact they did not much that we actually swapped out for a stock cooler to see if the numbers we where getting where real.
At idle the stock cooler was running at 34C when the system was idle. The computer was configured for Cool-n-Quiet operation so we left it idle for about 10 minutes to make sure we where getting true idle temps. The N620 was running at 31C when idle, a drop of three degrees. While this is about right for the price point I must say seeing a cooler with 6 heat pipes and dual fans I expected more.
Next we fired up the stability test to see what the CPU would get under load. We ran the test for 1 hour before we recorded any temps. The stock cooler was at 52C, warmer than I would like but stable. The N620 was at 49C, again cooler than the stock but still a lot warmer than I would have thought based on the design.
While the cost is reasonable the performance about where you would expect for the price point I must say I was disappointed. I thought we where getting this great value and the truth is we got a heat sink with just mediocre performance. Since there was a plan to overclock this chip we decided after this testing to go a different direction. Luckily we found the Corsair H50 on sale for $40 and snagged one. The difference was well worth the cost with the idle temp dumping to 24C (ambient room temp) and under load never breaking 40C.
Now don’t get me wrong there are some solid heatsinks you can buy for around $20 that get the job done and the Hyper N620 does get the job done. But for the massive size and pain in the butt installation I did not feel that the N620 was the steal I first thought it was.
Next up I found the other day that Staples now carries in store the Antec Bias Lighting Kit. The idea behind this kit is that when you use your monitor in a dark room it can cause eye strain, by simply adding a bit of white ambient light in the form of a soft glow behind the monitor you can not only reduce eye strain but actually improve the way your display looks.
The kit is very simple with 6 LEDs run long a strip of tape to hold them to the back of your monitor. At the end of the strip is a USB connection to give the lights power. The kit is rated for monitors 24” or less in size.
Now for this to be effective you need to be using your computer in a dark environment, we tried this in a well lit room and darker room and only in the darker room could you really tell any difference.
The lights did their job as advertised, giving my monitor a soft white halo around it. The effect was very pleasing but I will need more time to see if it actually reduces eye strain. There was however something I did not like, the lack of a power control.
A lot of the modern motherboards are starting to sue the recharge style features in the USB ports first introduced by Gigabyte. This means that in sleep mode or even powered off the lighting stayed on. The glow is soft enough that it is not really a big deal but for some people it could be an issue.
With a price of around $13 at local Staples this is a very in-expensive product so cost is not a big deal. As for how useful this is, that will be up to the individual. For me I like my computer gaming in a darker environment, hence I use lit keyboards and enjoy some nice case lighting. The ambient lighting this creates was to me a very welcome addition to my desk area. For someone in a well lit area this would not be useful in my opinion, the lights are just to dim for a well lit room to allow them to have effect.
With a low cost and subtle effect this is a pure personal choice type item, my personal choice however is that if you use your computer in a dark work area then this is a great deal.
Now for the next two week I will be on vacation and so the blog might go silent as well as the show. Do not worry we will back full tilt on June 3rd. I will try to get some blog entries done over the next two weeks but I will be sans-computer during this time and so can make no promises. In the mean time go out and enjoy the nice weather, I will be.
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
Almost a year ago we took a look at two different self contained liquid cooling systems. Corsair was the first to catch my attention with their H50 and then CoolIt caught my eye with their ECO. At the end of the day I chose the ECO because of the ease of install, as far as performance was concerned they where a dead heat. When Antec announced they where entering this market I was not all that excited. Don’t get me wrong I have come over the years to expect a quality product from Antec but I was firmly convinced this would be just like the other two as far as performance.
When I got the box, it was the same colorful style we have come to expect from Antec. I did notice from the box that the actually water block looked smaller than the H50 or ECO and on the side of the box was a chart that said this system was more effective than “1st Generation” liquid coolers.
As stated on the front of the box the Khuler has mounting systems for every current system you can imagine. A look at the mounting system reminded me of the H50 system from Corsair, well it should. Just like Corsair, Antec teamed up with Asetek to create this unit. The water block is substantially smaller than the H50 or ECO, in fact it is less than a 3rd the height of the block on the H50. It is obvious this is a new design from Asetek.
After noticing the more diminutive size, the next thing I noticed was the way the tubing was constructed. Both the ECO and the H50 have a plastic shroud covering the tubing. The H2O has a think rubber tube with no shroud, this make the tubes more flexible and easier to position.
Finally, unlike the other two models, this unit has two wires leaving the water block area, one to hook to the motherboard and one to allow the connection of the exhaust fan. The pump actually has control of the fan based on the temperature of the cooling solution. Coolit introduced a similar system in it’s Vantage cooler that was controlled by software, the H2) does not allow user control using this system.
I am in the process of doing some work on a system in the Antec Six Hundred v2 we saw last week and so decided to do my testing their. The the sake of this testing I used an AMD Phenom II 1100T. I then setup the system with stock cooling, the H50, ECO and H2O as well as a Thermaltake Frio, with the fans that came with them as well as in the orientation suggested by each manufacturer. Since cooling numbers will vary from many factors from user to user I will post variances here instead of hard numbers. The numbers where achieved by running SMP Folding on the system for 8 hours and then measuring the temp.
|Cooler||Difference from base|
|Stock Cooling (baseline)||0|
While I expected the H2O to be near the numbers of the ECO and H50 it surprised me completely by dipping much lower in temperatures. So much lower in fact that it was head to head with a much larger dual fan cooling system that was sounding like 747 on final approach to achieve it’s temperatures. Without a doubt the H2O lives up to it’s boast of out cooling the first generation runs of this type of cooler. I considered toying with setting up a push pull system to see how it works but with these temperatures why?
The system installation was simple to do and as with all of these self contained units, the real joy is the fact that you have room to work in your case. As you can see there is nothing restricting the RAM and the mounting system can be easily gotten to inside the case, no need to remove the motherboard to make a processor change.
I have to admit that I still prefer the ECO mounting system over this one. To mount the unit you first put in the mounting bracket and loosely connect 4 screws. Then you put the water block in and rotate it to match the locking mechanism and then tighten down the screws. This is a bit more cumbersome than the ECO/Vantage thumbscrew system, but if you are not often swapping CPUs this should not be a big deal.
With better cooling power, quite operation and a smaller size than it’s competition the Khuler H20 620 enters the market strong and hard. With a suggested retail price of around $70 this places the H20 at the same price point as it’s direct competition and in the same ball park as higher end air coolers.
Every time I talk about these self contained liquid coolers I have said the same thing, the cost for me is offset by the fact they are easier to work with when in the PC. This is still a big concern for me as even the worst of these coolers is more than enough to easily keep a PC cool. Add to this the fact that they achieve these cooling levels with less fans and less noise and they are a pure win in my book.
With the better cooling and same price point the Khuler H2O 620 has passed the ECO as my choice for use. While the ECO still has the easier mounting system the cooling potential of the Khuler is enough to make up for a little more work. If you are a DIYer then the Khuler H2O 620 is a must buy!
Segment Aired 13 March 2011
The Antec Gaming Enclosure lineup has become quite full over the years. It began back in the day with the introduction of the Antec Nine Hundred. The case was a bit ahead of it’s time in the raw cooling power it offered and it’s design went on to inspire many other cases from many companies. Over the years Antec has taken that design and adjusted it for some styling and cost factors providing an entire lineup across the price range to give just about anyone a case from this group. There has also been a slow movement to evolve this design and progress it.
The original Antec Six Hundred was a gap filler in the lineup. Antec already had it’s revision of the Nine Hundred doing well at around the $125 price point and the Three Hundred which was their budget entry was claiming awards at that $60. This left a pretty big gap and Antec saw a marketing opportunity to fill it. The design work for this was pretty straight forward, take the interior of the Three Hundred design and beef up the chimney fan to the Big Boy 200 that the Nine Hundred Design uses. The design from the Three Hundred interior makes it easy to add dual 120mm to the front then wrap all of this in a case with a different cosmetic style and you have a new case design that is marketed at around $95, the Antec Six Hundred.
As with all the Antec designs, and this BTW is a great reason to like Antec, they are not content to let a design sit and then start from scratch every new case year. Instead they go back, look at consumer and reviewer feedback and tweak a design to make it better, enter the Six Hundred Version 2.
The box is typical Antec sporting a nice picture of the case as well as talking about features they want you to see. The case claims it is SSD ready as well as sports a 2.5” hot swap bay and goes on to state that this is the Ultimate Gaming Case, we shall see. The box design for the Six Hundred v2 is nicer than the old brown box design that the original Six Hundred was put in.
Opening the box we found the typical foam end pieces and clear plastic cover that is standard fair, the case made it to my shop with no scratches or dings on it on.
On first appearance you can see Antec wanted to separate the looks of this case from it’s others in the Gaming lineup. Borrowing a bit from the Skeleton design the case is accented in a dark gray with arms holding aloft the 200MM chimney fan. The paint on the case is actually pretty good, there are no obvious blemishes or drips and it took us using a flashlight and a minute level inspection to find any real flaws in the paint. The color choice of the grey accent is perfect, blending in well and creating enough of a color standoff to be noticeable but not enough to draw attention to it in a cheap manner.
The side panels are actually pretty standard fair with the left panel having a large window in it and the right panel being a blank piece. The left panels windows is single piece meaning it should be easily modded if you choose and has an area on the window for mounting a 120mm side fan. In a quick check the two side panels are interchangeable by simply bending in the lock piece on the left. This means that for around $25 you can order the right side panel from Antec and get rid of the window or get a true blank piece to cut out your own custom design, giving this case some nice modding potential.
Looking at the top of the case we see the arms that accent back to the 200mm fan as well as a moon roof. The concept of the moon roof escapes me to be honest. If an optical drive is mounted in the top bay then this window is blocked. In fact unless you pretty much put specific lighting in place for it there is no purpose and even then that light would likely be lost from the glow off the 200 mm fan or the lit front fans if they are used. However we started looking at the way it is mounted and found a different use for it. The moon roof is held in with six screws and is easily removed, this means it can be replaced easily with something else, a modders open door as it where.
One feature at the top that I love is the angle to the front access panel. I do not see many other companies do this and Antec even slipped back from this with it’s Dark Fleet series. This little bit of angle on the front panel makes it among the easiest I have seen for putting in USB devices. Think about it, the typical flat front mount when sitting at your desk is a crap shoot for a first try and require people that use the port less often to bend over and see where the port is. The straight up mount works okay provide it is not fully under the desk where it can be hard to reach. This little thoughtful angle that helps with REAL LIFE issues is a great feature that everyone should offer.
The front panel offers three USB ports. Making a break for the standard fair of using a ESATA or Firewire for the thrid port of a front panel. The majority of people no longer use these connections and there is little to no need especially in a case at this price point. You have your standard fare of power and reset buttons as well as power and HD activity lights, plus the headphone and mic plugs. However here is where this perfect front panel falls, the headphone and mic jack are not marked in any way.
Opening the case you can see the heritage of the Three Hundred in this case design.. The back area has no room for cable management and so it must all be done in the cubby hole created by the HD bay. There is a fair size cutout for the CPU back panel for easy access to heatsink changes. At this price point I would have really liked to have seen the interior painted and also the back area opened up for cable management but at the end of the day neither of these things really detract from the good solid functionality this case offers.
This case makes use of a bottom mount for the PSU but forces the fan to pull air from the inside of the case. I have often wondered if this design causes the PSU and GPU fans to fight for cool air and so with this design I would personally look to use a PSU that has a rear mounted 80 MM fan. That however is a purely personal observation and has no testing to back it up as a better option.
The bottom of the drive bay area has four mounting holes to mount an SSD drive. While having the SSD mount is nice I HATE this simple approach of just drilling holes and saying the case is SSD ready. If you want to make a case SSD ready then just put in a conversion kit, the quick fix hole drilling to me feels cheap.
The front panel of the case opens easily from three tabs on the inside, I mean really easily, no real pressue was needed to open the front. The filter is a simple wire mesh that is easy to take out for cleaning. Inside the front panel is a plastic mounting system for inserting 2x120mm fans for intake. With these inserted the case can come very close to the raw cooling power of the Nine Hundred series thanks to the 200mm fan on the top. In fact I would go so far as to say I like this design a little better as the filter is easier to access than those on the Nine Hundred Two.
At the front of the case is a 3.5” bay area which is filled stock with a 2.5” hotswap bay. I said this with the Dark Fleet and I will say it here, what are these people thinking? I mean seriously how many people swap out 2.5” drives enough to need this as standard fair? I use SSDs almost exclusively in my own PCs and I have NEVER had the need for a hotswap. Now I am sure there are people out there that like this feature but they are a huge minority in actually using it. The money for getting the swap bay would have been better used in the base construction with making the Moon Roof a nice little tray for holding USB keys or even painting the cases interior.
Now all this said the Antec Six Hundred is actually a good case. The style has a nice SciFi look to it that I enjoy. Doug and I actually talked about this. Cases today, those not of the pure plain box design tend to come in two flavors of styling, Military, Industrial and Scifi, I lean toward the Scifi look. I know people that hate this design and others that love it, for me it is more of a love thing.
While the case comes with a distinctive look already I get the impression Antec was thinking case mod at the same time. The easy to interchange side panels allows for a nice blank slate if desired. The entire arm set at the top is fairly easy tio take off to allow anything as simple as painting it a different color to completely tooling a replacement top.
All however is not good with this case. For it’s price point it is missing some pretty standard features. For example the lack of behind the back cable management is pretty glaring considering the size of the side window they put in. This also makes the fact the interior is unfinished seem a bigger deal.
For the price point the Antec Six Hundred is the wallflower of the DIY market. It has a distinctive look to it that can be appealing but dresses it base features that fell well below it’s price point. It then uses cheap cosmetic jewelry like the moon roof and 2.5” swap to make it look like the bell of the ball and just comes off looking mediocre.
The Six Hundred V2 is a GOOD case, it does it’s job well and it’s style can be an appealing factor but when put up against the rest of the market it just sits in the middle of the pack, unnoticed. For the price point I think a simple addition of two front fans as standard would make this case a better value. If you like the cases looks or see some great mods in it, then the case is a solid buy. Otherwise I would suggest exploring your choices.
Well after a few weeks of playing it is time to talk about Project X-Ray. As any of you that are here often know I am the champion of the everyday computer builder. I look at budget as much as performance and seek a computing experience that is great not high benchmark numbers. However even I sometimes look longingly at some of the amazing parts that exist within the enthusiast segment of computing. You know what I mean those $200+ dollar motherboards, or the monster cases. I see those wonderful lights, and side windows and a part of my cries out, go for it.
So when I was given a chance to look at the ATI HD 5870 and the new Phenom II X6 1090T I decided that maybe it was time to indulge my inner enthusiast. I started calling around and put forward my build idea to a few companies to see what we could get in the way of higher end components for this build. Once I had everything I began the adventure of an enthusiast build, join me now as I describe my journey.
Every computer has to start somewhere and so we began this journey with the case we would use. I called up my friend Ramsom at Thermaltake and told him what I had planned. He laughed and said I have the perfect case for you, a few days later the Thermaltake Spedo showed up at my door.
This case is a BRUTE. A full tower design this thing is huge, barely fitting under my computer desk with clearances of mere fractions of an inch. The case has a stylized front bevel and a large easy to find power button. The front of the case is mesh and very open allowing for great air flow.
In the center of the front is a 140mm intake fan that has a red led in it. This creates a nice red color effect against the silver and black of the case, something I intend to take advantage of as you will see.
The front is lined with foam filtering and this is not easy to remove. However it does allow for you to run the vacuum over the front every few weeks and keep the dust count low, well at least that was the plan.
Above the fan on the front we have 4 bays for 5.25” drives to be mounted, the area the fan is in holds quick release bays for up to six 3.5” drives and then the lower three bays allow for 3 more 5.25” drives.
Now before we get to the rest of the outset let me take a moment here to explain a design flaw I found right away. The Spedo uses a tool less design to make installed the varies drives easy and it does work however for easy access the HD bays are installed across the bay, this creates a wind block for the 140 mm fan. I have comment on cases in the past that while I understand the ease of access this design is dumb because it reduces the very thing these cases are bought for, air flow.
Now the picture I have is a bit fuzzy, but I think it can make the point. Two of these are sitting in the exact angle I am picturing here directly in front of the 140mm fan. As you can see there is going to be SERIOUS airflow restriction.
The good news is that these bays can be removed and Thermaltake thought ahead and included adapters to mount these HD bays into the 5.25” bays. If you fully make the move this will leave you only a single 5.25” bay for use but then again who uses more than a single optical drive anymore? Not me, we are not using one at all on this build.
Getting back to the rest of the case you can see the right side of the case has a couple of vented areas. The front one opens to the area where the drive bays are originally. With the bays moved it opens a nice big area for easy air flow into the case. The smaller one to the rear can be used to mount a 120mm fan to cool the backside of the motherboard. Not sure how useful that is and frankly did not see a need.
Moving to the business side of the case we see the same front vented area as on the right. In this picture you can see the drive bays in their original position through the front vent, those are right in front of the 140mm fan.
You will also notice the large windows area and the 230mm fan than dominates it. This fan like the side fan in the Element G we reviewed, uses a no plug power system. This makes it really easy to get in and out of the case. The fan has no lots on it at all and provides a ton of air over the entire motherboard area.
The back of the case has dual 120mm fans for exhaust as well as water cooling cutouts in place. The PSU is bottom mount and has an opening at the case bottom for an air intake. This intake is filtered and the feet give enough rise to allow decent air intake for the PSU.
Finally we come to the top of the case which has a 230mm fan mounted at the back for exhaust and the front area is opened to allow air intake as needed. You then of course have your standard fair of 2xUSB, 1 ESATA and the Headphone and Mic jacks.
Now I screwed up with my pictures and did not take inside pics of the case until I had mounted some of the first round components for testing. However I can tell you the case is VERY roomy. The Crosshair is a full sized motherboard and at no time did I feel cramp or pressed for space.
The case also comes with a number of plastic pieces to compartmentalize the heat in the case. In this pic of the first configuration run you can see the compartment modules in place. This is with the Crosshair in place, look at the room at the top and the right of the motherboard. The grilled section is covering the video card and expansion slots and the bottom is covering the PSU.
In this shot you can see that I have moved the HD brackets and put them in the 5.25” bays. This creates a nice open area to allow that 140mm intake fan to work for full effect.
The case includes some thoughtful extra’s as well such as an extension cable for a 24 pin and 8 pin motherboard power connector. Also the back of the case comes with 4 easy to use plastic covers. These fit over the cabling you route to the back of the base and clean it up nicely and are super easy to use.
The Spedo case was a pure joy to build in. It has a ton of open room in the case meaning just about any configuration you can imagine can be put in. The open ventilation design gives impressive air flow meaning the cooling your enthusiast level PC should be no issue. The extras with the case just take it up a notch.
On the downside the basic case design has a serious flaw in my opinion with the basic HD placement. However a conversation with Thermaltake revealed they are aware of this and that everyone they have spoken with has done as I have and moved the bays. Hopefully this will mean that the next generation of this case will fix this issue. The filtering in the front seems like a great idea until you realize the side fan has no filter. This means all that effort to cut dust intake is essentially wasted. The fans on this case have no speed control so they run at a set speed all the time. This means the case is louder than some others. However the noise level it creates is subjective. In my home with the family awake the case was so quiet I could not hear it. When it was just me up in the wee hours of the morning the noise was noticeable.
Overall however I have to say the Spedo is a fun build. It is priced right with many other enthusiast level cases is comparable in features and function. While it might be a tight fit under my desk it does fit and the ease with which I can work on the parts if needed make this an awesome case.
I thought I would round out this review with the PSU we are using in the build. I spoke with Antec about this project and they figured I could use some more power than my usual Antec favorite Earthwatt series. So they sent me a Truepower New Blue 750 watt PSU.
If you are thinking I am going to give a long review of this PSU here then you will be in for a surprise. There is a simple truth about the Antec PSUs I have used over the years, they just work.
The TP series is an outstanding PSU that has hybrid modular cabling and is rated as 80Plus Bronze. The 750 watts easily provides all the power I need for the X-ray, the only thing I did not like was the blue light. (What is it with the PC industry and blue lights?)
It is a testament to the reliability of Antec PSUs in the fact that I got it, mounted it and threw out the packaging before I realized what I had done. No pictures, not worrying about needing to RAM, just put it in and go. This is why Antec has been the PSU I have recommended to people for years.
Okay so we have the PSU and the Case, next entry we will look at our cooling solution and begin putting this beast together.