Antec Mini P180 Micro-ATX Case Review

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Introduction

Antec’s Performance One chassis range has evolved greatly over the years from the original P180 which has then taken on a series of updates, revisions and improvements with the latest edition being the P183.

Due to these cases being compatible with all form factor motherboards up to and including ATX, the chassis are understandably large and spacious. With this in mind, Antec created the mini P180 aimed at the more niche market – users with micro-ATX rigs.

Featuring a similar, yet smaller, layout to the larger chassis’ in the range, the mini P180 is marketed as being an excellent gaming enclosure as well as easy to transport. On paper everything sounds rosy so let’s see how it shapes up as we look a little closer….

Antec’s Take on Mini P180

The reliability, performance, and versatility of the Antec Performance One series is now available in a stylishly small enclosure, perfect for gamers on the move. The Mini P180 boasts a heat-reducing dual chamber design with room for your microATX motherboard, power supply, and up to 5 hard drives. Sound-deadening multi-layer side panels and silicone grommets ensure quiet computing, while 120 mm and 200 mm fans provide optimal cooling. Top it off with a sleek interior black finish and front USB, audio, and eSATA ports, and you won’t believe the quality we’ve fit into this petite portable case.

Features

  • Unique upper and lower chamber structure: the power supply resides in a separate chamber to isolate heat from the system and lower system noise.
  • Stylish black interior
  • No power supply included: to optimize the performance of your Mini P180, your choice of power supply is crucial. Antec strongly recommends choosing from our Signature or TruePower series.
  • Configurable to accommodate graphics cards with full length PCBs
  • 8 Drive Bays• External 3 x 5.25″; 1 x 3.5″• Internal 5 x 3.5″ for HDD
  • Cable organization for added convenience and better airflow
  • Innovative three-layer side panel (aluminium, plastic, aluminium) dampens system generated noise, making this one of the quietest cases available
  • Cooling System:• 1 rear (standard) 120mm x 25mm TriCool Fan• 1 top (standard) 200mm x 25mm TriCool fan• 2 front chamber (optional) 120mm Fan• Exterior speed control switches
  • Compatible Motherboards: up to microATX
  • 4 Expansion Slots
  • Double hinge door designed to open up to 270°
  • Front ports:• 2 x USB 2.0• 1 x eSATA• Audio In and Out (AC’ 97 and HDA)
  • 0.8mm cold rolled steel for durability through the majority of chassis
  • Unit dimensions:• 17.1″(H) x 8.3″(W) x 17.2″(D)• 43.5cm(H) x 21.2cm(W) x 43.6cm(D)
  • Package dimensions:• 20″(H) x 11.1″(W) x 20.3″(D)• 51.0cm(H) x 28.3cm(W) x 51.5cm(D)
  • Weight:• Net: 20.9 lbs / 9.5 kg• Gross: 24.4 lbs / 11.1 kg

Contents & Packaging

The Antec packaging is immaculately designed with the diagonal slots replicating those on the front panel of the mini P180 case and displaying a different image in each so as to show off some of the features. The colour scheme too is similar to that of the enclosure which adorns the front of the box but of course it wouldn’t be complete without Antec’s logo emblazoned at the top along with their trademark logo – ‘The Power of You’.

The back looks pretty similar but contains different images as well as a large picture of the internal layout of the chassis. A short blurb and a few translations complete this side.

Finally, one of the sides shows off the front panel of the case along with some more translations but it’s fair to say that if the case itself is anything like the quality of the packaging, it’s going to be a sure fire hit.

The accessories are found inside a brown cardboard box contained inside the enclosure and there are a fair few included:

  • Bag of screws
  • 5.25″ to 3.5″ drive bay adapter and front plate
  • Drive rails (for 5.25” drives)
  • Large Cable ties
  • User’s Manual

The large cable ties are a definite improvement on the small ones and should be able to hold thick bundles of cables behind the motherboard tray to keep everything tidy.

Externals

The mini P180, and other members of the Performance One series, are clad in gun-metal grey panels with black edges. The styling is actually quite conservative compared to some of Antec’s other enclosures, for example, the Nine Hundred Two which incorporates a large side panel window and plenty of blue lighting from numerous LEDs.

With the door closed, the ports are still visible though and this is a good move as having to open the door every time you need to plug in a USB drive or a microphone would soon get very laborious. The usual dual USB 2.0’s, microphone and headphone jacks are supplied along with an eSATA connection which will certainly please users with external data storage as the eSATA connection is far superior to its USB counterpart.

A closer look behind the door reveals a total of three 5.25” drive bays: one at the bottom and a couple at the bottom. In between two vents, complete with dust filters, are fitted behind which optional 120mm fans can be mounted to supplement airflow. Washable dust filters are fitted too to help prevent excessive amounts of dust from infiltrating the case via the intake fans.

With the side panels left untampered, the only other real styling of note comes on the top of the case in the form of an arrow shaped vent. The vent doesn’t stick up above the surface but is integrated into the panel with a large 200m TriCool exhaust fan situated below.

Moving to the back of the mini P180, we can see a second exhaust fan, this time a 120mm version and a fan switch with three settings to adjust the fan speed – this just allows a quick adjustment without having to set the fan speed in the BIOS or a utility.

A basic I/O plate and 4 PCI expansion slots are also included; a bottom-mounted PSU slot for power supplies up to and including ATX size concludes the rear – unfortunately Antec’s new CPX farm factor units are not compatible, well unless you’re into case modding.

Noise dampening is dealt with by both the thick silicon rubber feet and more importantly the multi-layered side panel design constructed from both plastic and aluminium to help not only insulate the case (to contain the noise) but also avoid vibrations from amplifying.

Internals

The black interior is probably the first thing you will notice – a refreshing change from grey metal. The main chamber for the microATX motherboard seems spacious enough but not overly so and the power supply chamber below is just about large enough to fit a full ATX unit into; note the rubber pads for the unit to sit on which just help to dampen vibrations.

The concept of the dual chamber design is to keep the heat produced by the PSU away from the key components – the motherboard and CPU.

A series of cut outs in the motherboard allows the majority of the cabling from the power supply unit to be routed along the back and then fed back into the main chamber. However a divider between the two chambers is in place that can be adjusted to allow some cables to be fed straight through.

A total of five 2.5” hard drives can be installed into the mini P180 in two different cages. Sliding each cage out just involves the removal of a single thumbscrew; silicon grommets are fitted to dampen vibrations and a small compartment is attached to one of the brackets for storing screws or other small items.

As I mentioned before 120mm intake fans can be installed in front of these HDD cages but this is optional and so unfortunately the fans are not included.

The fans included in the main chamber consists of a 120mm and 200mm exhaust fans which should pull the hot air out of the case and create negative pressure inside the case to encourage cold air to flow in.

Evidently, Antec have taken just as much car with the internals as with the exterior and it certainly looks the part so far.

Installation

The Test Setup:

Processor Intel C2Q Q9450 Quad Core 2.66GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte S-Series GA-73PVM-S2H
Graphics Card XFX 256MB 8600GT
Memory Corsair XMS2 PC6400 (2x 1GB)
Hard Drive Hitachi HDT7250 (250GB)
Power Supply OCZ Fatal1ty 550W
Enclosure Antec Mini P180
OS Windows Vista 64-bit

Starting with the CD drive, the first job is attaching the rails which a few screws take care of. The drive then slots into place (after removing the plastic bay cover).

The HDD again requires screws but this time attaches to a tray and slots into the cage. Again it’s not tool-less but it does keep the drive very secure and the silicon mounts should dampen any vibrations.

The rest of the installation follows a similar pattern to that of most cases; the PCI slots do require a bracket be removed first though in order to put in a graphics card or other PCI device.

The cages do mean that there’s not a great deal of room to plug in all the cables and it can be a little fiddly at times but if you’re only using a couple of 3.5” drives, then you are better off removing one HDD cage altogether and having extra room to tuck away unused cables. For larger graphics cards, a cage might have to be removed too as there isn’t a great deal of space and if there are PCI-e connections on the end, some of the newer cards tend to be pretty big.

Clearly, the installation isn’t the most innovative but it’s very well thought out and ensures everything is safe and secure.

Testing

Methodology

Cases are interesting pieces of hardware to test in that there are no set benchmarks to test an enclosure’s “performance”. Therefore, to test cases here at Verdis Reviews we test a wide range of factors to ensure they are fully put to the test. These include: strength, cooling, cable management, ease of installation, noise and cost.

Please note that some areas of testing, the aesthetics for one, are very subjective and so are down to the reviewer’s personal preferences.

Results

StrengthThe case it pretty compact and its hard outer shell makes it very robust. Perhaps the door is the weak link in this department as it could be considered a little flimsy; the 270 degree hinging though does allow it to fold back out of the way.

The solid nature of the enclosure and compactness should make it ideal for transporting to say a LAN party – a definite plus point.

CoolingA total of three fans are utilised in the design: a single 200m intake and two exhaust fans. However, there is great expandability in the design with room for extra intake fans to be installed at the front.

The fan switch at the back is a useful control to quickly drop down the noise levels or up the ante in terms of cooling. Perhaps the only place an additional fan could have been mounting was the side panel but in all truth there’s not really room for it.

NoiseAt full throttle, the fans do create quite a racket but the medium and especially low settings drop the noise levels down a lot if you’re overly concerned about the sound.

Overall, it’s not too bad though and the larger 200mm fans can spin much slower and yet still pump out a fair airflow.With the side panels on though the noise levels are much lower with the sound dampening working very well and I must admit I didn’t notice any vibrations at all.

Cable ManagementThe cut-outs in the motherboard tray are very useful for routing cables through but there’s not a whole load of room to tuck away unused cables except for any unused driver bays. If you don’t require the second HDD cage I would definitely recommend removing it though as its gives a lot more space for manoeuvring cables.

CostThe Mini P180 retails at about £60 which is a very reasonable price especially considering some of the larger members of the Performance One Series are over £100.

Conclusion

The Mini P180 is able to continue the excellent reputation of the Performance One series with its impressive architecture and layout; although the MATX market is quite specialist, it’s good to see Antec building a case specifically for these users as the larger chassis, like the P183, are really much bigger than they need to be for Micro-ATX motherboards.

The gun-metal grey exterior doesn’t scream in your face as some gaming cases tend to with an array of LEDs and stylistic features. Instead, the mini P180, without the gimmicks so often associated with gaming cases is much classier with its sort of “brushed” panelling.

It can be a little cramped trying to plug in some cables and there are some possible mounting issues with larger video cards but these are the only real criticisms that spring to mind.

Therefore, the Mini P180 comes fully recommended from Verdis Reviews for MicroATX gamers after a high performance yet not too “loud” enclosure that is straight out of the top draw.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Classy styling
  • Great noise dampening features
  • Good price point

Cons

  • Mounting issues with large graphics cards

[RH_ELEMENTOR id=”3090″]

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