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Antec P100 Case: Performance One on a Budget

The Antec P100 is a slimmed down, budget version of the P280, an attempt to bring Performance One to the US$70 price-point.

June 2, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Antec P100
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$70

Antec was one of the first manufacturers to make a serious attempt at merging quiet and performance case design. A collaboration with SPCR editor Mike Chin culminated in the P180, which I consider the most influential ATX case model of all time. Even a decade after its release, elements from the P180’s design can be seen in practically every tower available today. Through the years, Antec has produced several revisions, but they stayed more or less true to the original layout except for the P280 which introduced a completely open front vent scheme, a non-removable drive cage, and abandoned the separate power supply compartment.


The Antec P100.

The P100 is currently the only low cost variant of the Performance One line, a trimmed down version of the P280 that does a fairly nice job passing as its bigger, better equipped brother. From the outside, this US$70 model looks remarkably similar. It has the recognizable solid aesthetic, open front air vents, dual fan placement on the top, and exposed front ports over a shimmering front facia. The door is actually plastic with a smooth glossy layer that could easily pass as aluminum. Being a budget model, its not as well built, with thinner construction just about everywhere. The P100 is also smaller, being slightly narrower and about 4 cm shorter and shallower than the P280.

Having lost some height, the P100 also discards a couple of expansion slots bringing the total down to seven, and loses a 5.25 inch bay, leaving two behind, which should be sufficient for the vast majority of users. Instead of three stock fans, you only get two, but they’ve added plastic covers on the top keeping them dust free when not in use and preventing noise from leaking out of the ceiling. Larger 140 mm fans at the top and front are now an option if you prefer. Furthermore, the noise-deadening polycarbonate sheets on the side panels have been swapped out for a cheaper, less dense foam. Other than that, the two cases are quite similar.


Unboxed.


Accessories.

The accessories are jammed into a plastic bag tied to one of the 5.25 inch bays inside. Antec provides a very basic product overview, a handful of zip-ties, screws and standoffs, and a pair of 3-pin to 4-pin molex adapters for the included fans.

Relevant Specifications: Antec P100
(from the
product web page
)
Case type ATX Case
Color(s) Black
Drive bays 9 Drive Bays:
• 2 x 5.25″ tool-less drive bays
• 7 x 3.5″ / 2.5″ drive trays
Motherboard support Mini-ITX, microATX, Standard ATX
Expansion slots 7
Maximum graphics card size 12.5″ (317.5 mm)
Maximum graphics card size 6.7″ (170 mm)
Cooling system • 1 x 120 mm front intake fan
• 1 x 120 mm rear exhaust fan
• 2 x 120 / 140 mm top exhaust fan (optional)
• 1 x 120 / 140 mm front intake fans (optional)
Water cooling support rear water cooling grommets
Enlarged CPU cutout Yes
Front ports • 2 x USB 3.0
• 2 x USB 2.0
• Audio In/Out
PSU mount Standard ATX
Unit dimensions • 484 mm (H) x 220 mm (W) x 523 mm (D)
• 19″ (H) x 8.7″ (W) x 20.6″ (D)

EXTERIOR

The Antec P100 is a mostly steel case with a plastic front door and bezel. It measures 48.4 x 22.0 x 52.3 cm or 19.1 x 8.7 x 20.6 inches (H x W x D), for a total volume of 55.7 Liters, making it about 18% smaller than the P280, and somewhat modest for an ATX case by current standards.


The control panel offers the same functionality as the P280 which includes mic and headphone jacks, and both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports. The power and reset buttons are on the right side but are basically just stiff flaps rather than true buttons. A pair of tiny blue power/HDD LEDs bookend the arrangement.


Taking a page out of Fractal’s playbook, the top fan 120/140 mm placements are blocked off with removable plastic panels lined with foam on the inside.


A large gap on each side of the front bezel allows fresh air to enter unimpeded. The door is an anemic approximation of the original. It has the same double-hinge design that allows it to open all the way (flush with the side panel) but the door itself is quite thin. The surface has a pleasant faux aluminum gloss finish that looks great.


The door is loosely secured with a weak magnet and lined with a layer of soft, light foam. Inside, there are two 5.25 inch bays, two 120/140 mm fan mounts with one 120 mm fan pre-installed, and a large removable dust filter with a somewhat loose fit.


The rear is basically identical to the P280 except there’s no spot to mount the included fans’ controllers, something common on older Antec models. The stock fans have a dongle with a high/low speed switch that can’t be accessed externally.


The underside appears the same as the P280 as well except the feet are rubber rather than silicone, and the loose-fitting power supply dust filter pulls out from the back instead of the side.

INTERIOR

The metal panels of the P100 are fairly thin compared to previous Performance One cases but about as good as one could expect from a US$70 model. Having a non-removable drive cage running from ceiling to floor certainly helps with structural integrity.


The side panels use the same hinge-style mounting design as the P280 but at 0.7 mm thick, they are thinner. And instead of polycarbonate sheets bonded to the interior, it’s lined with the same light foam as the door. (Editor’s Note: We know from long experience that this thin foam has literally NO audible effect on the acoustics of any computer. The polycarbonate also does nothing to airborne acoustics, per se, but it increases the mass and acoustic blocking quality of the panels, which means it contains the noise within better, and is more resistant to vibration.)


The interior is basically the same as the P280. The rigid fixed drive cage is notable as most modern towers have at least one removable drive cage to accommodate long graphics cards, which ironically is a feature on the older P18x models. There is one little surprise in the bundles of wiring in that the USB 3.0 header has an alternate USB 2.0 header for users with older motherboards.


Most competing cases also ventilate each individual drive bay to allow more airflow through every unused slot but in the P100, they’re mostly solid. The drive trays are the same as those used in the P280 with thick but soft silicone grommets that isolate the drive from below.


Padding is provided on the floor of the case to elevate and limit vibration from the power supply and a very open honeycomb grill is used to feed its fan.


The ceiling fan covers are lined with the same low density foam as the door and side panels. In keeping with the budget, the covers are made of weak plastic that bends with little effort. The ceiling position is great for thicker dual fan radiators as there is 6.5 cm of clearance above the top edge of the motherboard.


The back of the motherboard tray has a similar old school design to the P280 with fewer cable tie-down points along the cable routing holes but more below the CPU cutout. There are no modern niceties like dedicated 2.5 inch drive mounts or velcro straps.

ASSEMBLY

The assembly process is uncomplicated as all the components install using typical methods. The interior isn’t as spacious as most ATX towers though due to the non-removable drive cage that occupies the front third of the case.


Four bolts are used to secure 3.5 inch drives to the provided the trays.


The bolts are actually longer than necessary, so while the drive is effectively isolated from the tray, it’s not fully secured. The tray produces a satisfying snapping sound when locked into place but you can wiggle it a bit from side to side.


Our test system fully assembled. As the GPU is the focus of our cooling efforts the front fan has been moved up in position to blow over the video card. Our SSHD is placed away from the path of the intake fan in the lowest bay which should be the coolest location in the case without direct airflow. According to my measurements, the drive cage limits video card length to 32.3 cm (12.7 in) or 31.5 cm (12.4 in) if the card is more than 13.3 cm (5.2 in) wide at the tail-end.


CPU heatsink height clearance is approximately 16.9 cm if you don’t mind the 3 mm thick foam on the side panel being compressed.


The cables at the back are easily tidied up.


There’s a generous 29 mm of space available so you can bundle thicker cables without any problems.

TESTING

System Configuration:


Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

Testing Procedures

The system is placed in two states: idle, and load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application. Throughout testing, system temperatures, noise levels, and power consumption are recorded. During the load test, the system and GPU fans speeds are adjusted to various levels in an attempt to find an optimal balance between cooling and noise while maintaining a GPU temperature of 80°C (assuming an ambient temperature of 22°C).

Baseline Noise

For our baseline noise tests, the system is left idle, the CPU fan is set to its minimum speed under PWM control (400 RPM), and the GPU fans are off by default. The system fans are connected to controllable fan headers and are set to a variety of speeds using SpeedFan. This gives us a good idea of what the stock fans sound like at different speeds with minimal interference from other sources.

Baseline Noise Level
(Idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, GPU fans off)
Fan Speed Setting
Avg. Fan Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
15 dBA
40%
480 RPM
16 dBA
60% (Low)
760 RPM
19 dBA
80%
980 RPM
22 dBA
100% (High)
1140 RPM
25 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

The P100 ships with two 120 mm TwoCool fans which sport a standard 3-pin connector (a pair of optional 4-pin molex adapter are provided if you prefer) and a two speed switch. The ones that shipped with our sample appear to be the same as the retail model which has a specified speed of 1200 RPM. The low and high speed settings correspond to 60% and 100% when running on motherboard fan control, producing average speeds of 760 and 1140 RPM respectively. Together, the stock fans output a moderate noise level of 25 dBA at full speed, while I would classify 800 RPM and lower as quiet by my standards.

The included fans produce relatively inoffensive acoustics but they don’t sound as smooth or soft as some of the better fans on the market. They are still above average in terms of noise quality however, to the point where you don’t really notice them when combined with the noise generated by the other components.

The sound produced by the hard drive inside the case is interesting. From about a foot away, the hum of the hard drive is audible but as the drive is well isolated, no noticeable vibrations are passed to the rest of the case. The way the drive is mounted also causes its seeks to sound duller, so it thumps rather than clicks. I’m not entirely comfortable with the drive not being totally secured but I can’t deny it’s a very quiet solution.

TEST RESULTS

System Measurements (80°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
CPU Fan Speed
400 RPM (Min)
800 RPM
(60%)
Avg. System Fan Speed
480 RPM
(40%)
760 RPM
(60%)
980 RPM
(80%)
1140 RPM
(100%)
GPU Fan Speed*
Off
1680 RPM
(55%)
1530 RPM
(51%)
1390 RPM
(48%)
CPU Temp
29°C
64°C
60°C
57°C
MB Temp
36°C
46°C
44°C
42°C
SSHD Temp
33°C
32°C
32°C
32°C
GPU Temp
38°C
80°C
80°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
48W
355W
354W
353W
SPL@1m
16 dBA
26 dBA
25~26 dBA
27 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The results of our load tests show that the 80% fan speed setting is the sweet spot, at least in terms of overall noise. Of greater interest is the sizable cooling improvement as the system fan speeds are increased with the CPU temperature dropping 4°C going from 60% to 80%, with another 3°C reduction at 100%. A 1~2°C decrease is more typical with ATX towers, even with models with more than two fans. However, the GPU fan speeds required to achieve the target temperature are fairly high at each level.

All together, this suggests that the P100 would benefit from having an additional fan, and that the exhaust fan may be more effective than the intake fan, due to the fixed drive cage getting in the way. I later found that removing the front filter had no effect on performance (incredibly rare!), confirming that the front intake vents aren’t the issue. The open sides behind the door are a great way to feed fresh air into the system.

On load, the effect of a higher CPU fan speed and the GPU fans spinning up, doesn’t affect the overall sound quality greatly. The video card fans give the machine a rougher character but the system doesn’t sound at all unpleasant, aside from the actual volume.

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(CPU + GPU Load, 80°C GPU Temp)
Case
Fractal Define S
SilverStone KL05
Corsair 500R
Zalman Z11 Neo
Antec P100
Avg. System Fan Speed
630 RPM
(2 x 80%)
840 RPM
(1+1 x 60%)
550 RPM
(4 x 40%)
960 RPM
(3 x 70%)
980 RPM
(2 x 80%)
GPU Fan Speed*
1120 RPM
1070 RPM
1090 RPM
1180 RPM
1530 RPM
CPU Temp
60°C
57°C
57°C
61°C
60°C
MB Temp
45°C
43°C
38°C
45°C
44°C
SSHD Temp
35°C
34°C
30°C
36°C
32°C
System Power (AC)
350W
351W
348W
356W
354W
SPL@1m
23 dBA
24 dBA
25 dBA
25 dBA
25~26 dBA
Price (USD)
$90
$70
$110
$75
$70
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature.
CPU fan at 800 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

Compared to previously tested budget cases, the P100 generates middling temperatures at a slightly higher noise level. For our system configuration, it’s not efficient as the SilverStone KL05 or the Fractal Define S. It’s notable that every other case tested had an open space at the front directly next to the video card which obviously allows for better airflow, suggesting again, that the impedance of the P100’s fixed cage is the likely cause for its somewhat higher temperatures.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

  • SPCR ATX Test System in Antec P100
    — idle, CPU fan at 400 RPM, system fans at 40%, GPU fans off (16 dBA@1m)
    — load, CPU fan at 800 RPM, system fans at 80%, GPU fans at 51% (25~26 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

To produce this more affordable version of the P280, Antec has made several changes resulting in a lower cost but also lower quality tower. The P100 is thinner all around, the door is plastic, the buttons cheaper, and the dampening sheets are less dense. Instead of three fans, you get two, and their speed switches are only accessible from inside. However, for a budget chassis, none of these downgrades sound unreasonable.

The build quality actually looks pretty good compared to the anorexic SilverStone KL05, which occupies the same US$70 price-point. The P100 is more attractive as well, as the semi-reflective brush finish mimics aluminum convincingly, giving it a splash of elegance. And while not 100% secure, the hard drive mounting system isolates the drives so well that it effectively eliminates vibration completely. It also offers a few benefits over the P280, as it supports 140 mm fans, and includes plastic panels to cover the top fan positions when not in use.

When I examined the P280 back in 2011, I had mostly positive comments, but by contemporary standards, the P100’s layout is subpar. The fixed drive cage restricts the front intake airflow and limits the length of the graphics card. The older P18x series and most modern cases use removable drive cages, resulting in both superior versatility and performance. That being said, the P100 is still a pretty solid option for a budget case, especially for a server that takes advantage of all those non-removable drive bays. However, its core design limits how well it can deal with hot, power hungry configurations.

Our thanks to Antec
for the P100 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Fractal Design Define S Tower Case
Zalman Z11 Neo ATX Case
Corsair Carbide 500R Performance Midtower
BitFenix Pandora MicroATX Case
Be Quiet! Silent Base 800 ATX Tower
Cooler Master Silencio 652S Tower Case

* * *

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