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Antec P183: The P182 Gets More Air

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The Antec P183 is an update of the iconic P182. At first glance, the two cases look very similar, but the P183 has much improved intake ventilation and a redesigned bottom chamber to accommodate Antec’s new proprietary CP line of power supplies (as well as longer ATX units).

Antec P183: The P182 Gets Some Air

May 17, 2009 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Antec P183
Advanced Super Mid Tower Case
Manufacturer
Market Price

Having taken part in its design, we have a soft spot for the Antec P180 which
first debuted in 2005 — it was a very capable, versatile, and quiet case.
Two years later, its successor, the P182,
armed with a few solid improvements, really took the case to the next level.
In our view, the P182 is iconic, the only case of its class truly designed with
silent computing in mind. Now in 2009 comes the P183, which has the unfortunate
task of trying to outdo its well-accomplished siblings.


The P183 ships in a large back box with yellow accents.

The P183.

Like the P182, the P183, at least on the outside, looks more or less the same
as its predecessor. Obviously it would be foolish of Antec to simply throw the
core of the design away, so we weren’t expecting it to look dramatically different.
Most of the improvements are behind the door and side panels anyway. The most
notable feature change is compatibility with Antec’s new line of proprietary
power supplies.


Antec CP-850 power supply.

"The CP-850 features a unique design with an advanced
cooling system, exclusively compatible with some of Antec’s most cutting-edge
Gamer and Performance One enclosures, including the Twelve Hundred, P183 and
P193. By breaking the mold of standardized power supply size restrictions, the
CP-850 design is able to provide an excellent price-to-performance ratio. A
silent rear 120mm Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) fan and dual PCB layout also
ensure optimal cooling performance and reliability.
"

Specification Comparison
FeatureP182P183
Compatible power suppliesATXATX, Antec CP series
Drive bays– External 4 x 5.25";
1 x 3.5"
– Internal 6 x 3.5"
– External 4 x 5.25";
1 x 3.5"
– Internal 6 x 3.5"
Cooling system– 1 rear 120mm TriCool™
Fan (standard)
– 1 top 120mm TriCool™ fan (standard)
– 1 lower chamber 120mm TriCool™ Fan (standard)
– 1 upper front chamber – 120mm fan (optional)
– 1 middle chamber – 120mm fan (optional)
– 1 rear 120mm TriCool™
Fan (standard)
– 1 top 120mm TriCool™ fan (standard)
– 1 lower front chamber – 120mm fan (optional)
– 1 upper front chamber – 120mm fan (optional)
– 1 middle chamber – 120mm fan (optional)
Front-mounted ports– 2 x USB 2.0
1x IEEE 1394 (FireWire®, i.Link®)
– Audio In/Out (HDA & AC’97)
– 2 x USB 2.0
1 x eSATA
– Audio In and Out (HDA and AC’97 compatible)
Expansion slots77
Construction0.8mm cold rolled steel
chassis for durability
0.8mm cold rolled steel
chassis for durability
Compatible MotherboardsMini-ITX, microATX, Standard
ATX
Mini-ITX, microATX, Standard
ATX
Case dimensions21.3" (H)
x 8.1" (W) x 19.9" (D)
52cm (H) x 21cm (W) x 51cm (D)
20.25"(H)
x 8.1"(W) x 19.9"(D)
514 mm (H) x 205 mm (W) x 507 mm (D)
Net weight 30.9lbs / 14kg30.9 lbs / 14 kg

THE EXTERIOR


The P183 uses the same double-hinged door as its predecessors, though
this time around Antec added some vents down the right side. They have
also replaced the FireWire port at the front with an eSATA connector.


With the door open it is evident that improved airflow was high on Antec’s
priority list for the P183. All the plastic optical bay covers on the front are
well ventilated. The P180/P182 used more restrictive filters and the
bay covers were completely solid. Unlike the earlier models, the dust filters are thoughtfully integrated with the hinged covers over the fan intakes. All the vented external drive bay covers also have integrated dust filters.


Even the holes at the sides of the door have been enlarged to create
allow more intake.


The back of the case is almost identical to the P182, with the notable
exception of the power supply compartment. A metal cover sits at the
bottom with the outline of an ATX power supply cut into it. The cover
can be removed to enlarge the opening and allow for the installation
of an Antec CP series power supply. More on that later.


Instead of using the traditional hexagon honeycomb design, Antec
has enlarged and stylized the top fan grill.

THE INTERIOR


On the inside, all the changes to the P183 are in the bottom chamber.
Gone is the "cage" for the power supply as well as the center
divider and fan placement. Antec instead added the option of putting
a fan in front of the second hard drive cage.


On the other side of the case interior, nothing has changed as far
as we can tell.



The front of the case with drive cages removed. Note how even the metal
drive bay protectors are heavily ventilated.


One oddity we came across was the set of nine standoffs on the motherboard
tray that came pre-installed — this is the first time we’ve seen
completely round standoffs.


Some padding is provided for the bottom of the power supply to
dampen vibration.

CP SERIES POWER SUPPLY

For this review we will be using the Antec CP-850, a modular 850 watt
power supply. Compared to the Antec Signature 850, it is 1" narrower,
1.3" taller and 0.8" deeper (mainly due to the external 120mm
fan).


The CP series is a proprietary design that offers some serious thermal,
and therefore acoustic advantages. The interior components are split between
two circuit boards, one on the top and one on the bottom. This gives the
various components plenty of breathing room. In addition, the 120mm fan
has a direct path to the outside which is huge advantage over units with
bottom-mounted fans.


To accommodate the larger CP power supply, the back of the power supply
mount needs to be enlarged by removing a metal cover.


Power supply mounted.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • CPUBurn
    K7

    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • GPU-Z to
    monitor GPU temperatures and fan speed.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and fan speeds.
  • Seasonic
    Power Angel
    AC power meter, used to measure the power consumption
    of the system.

Stock Fan Measurements

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan Speed
Rear
Top
High
33 dBA
40 dBA
Medium
27 dBA
33 dBA
Low
17 dBA
22 dBA

The P183 shipped with two 120mm Antec TriCool fans installed in the rear and
top placements with manual 3-speed switches attached to the back of the case.
When we turned them on we noticed immediately how much louder the top fan was.
The top-mounted fan measured 5 dB higher when set to low and medium speed, and
7 dB higher at high speed — the rear fan was completely drowned out. When
the two fans were removed and allowed to spin in free air, they sounded identical,
so it was clear the problem lay in the fan mount.


Top fan placement from the inside.

At the top of the case, cutouts in the metal allow air to pass through. We believe the remaining metal outline of
the fan hub and struts is the reason the top fan sounds so much worse when mounted
compared to the rear fan. As a result, the top of the case vibrates heavily
when a fan is mounted in this position. Why a complete
circle wasn’t cut instead is a mystery — there is absolutely no reason to leave a metal
tracing of the fan structure. In addition, as the top panel of the case cannot
be removed, and there is little clearance between the metal and the plastic
grill above it, cutting this piece out will prove problematic. Decoupling the
fan would certainly help, but this is also no easy task, as only one side
of the fan is secured with screws. The other side has two metal tabs that keep
the fan flush against the metal surface. This is an odd annoyance in an otherwise well evolved case.

Baseline Noise

Noise measurements were made of the case with the two supplied 120mm fans at standard switch settings and configurations we think most silence-oriented users will try. The air cavity resonances inside a case amplify fan noise, as do any vibrations transferred from the fans into the case, so these measurements can be regarded as the baseline SPL levels for the P183 with the stock fans. Changing the fans is a very simple option, as a huge variety of 120x25mm fans are available in the marketplace; it should be easy to obtain ~2 dBA improvements in any of these configurations with better fans.

Antec P183 Baseline SPL
The back exhaust fan was a constant; the other fan was positioned either on the top panel as an exhaust or at the front as an intake. L=low spedd; M=medium speed. Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front of case.
back exhaust
top exhaust
front intake
SPL
L
15 dBA
L
L
17 dBA
L
L
21 dBA
M
25 dBA
M
L
28 dBA

The perceived noise is low and smooth with all configurations when both fans are set to Low. Turning any of the fans to Medium pushed the SPL too high for us to consider acceptable in a quiet PC. With both fans set to Low, the quietest configuration was back panel exhaust and front panel intake, which measured 17 dBA, a significant 4 dBA lower than when the front fan was moved to the top. Removing the front fan dropped the SPL by 2 dBA, which was clearly audible in the anechoic from a meter away, but perhaps it would not be as plainly audible in a room with higher ambient noise. Depending on exact case positioning vis-a-vis the user/listener, closing up the top vent could effect a slight reduction in noise, but as that vent actually plays some role in bringing cooler outside air to the CPU area, cooling might be affected. As with the earlier versions of the case, experimentation with fan configuration for your particular setup is worthwhile if you seek the very best results.

Test Results – Configuration #1 (IGP)


Case with test system installed (integrated graphics).

For our IGP test configuration we left only the rear system fan on low speed.

System Measurements (IGP)
State
Idle
Full CPU + GPU Load
CPU / Rear
Fan Speed
70%* / Low
Noise Level
19~20 dBA@1m
CPU Temp
30°C
50°C
SB Temp
35°C
38°C
HD Temp
36°C
37°C
*70% speed is equivalent to 8~9V
Ambient temperature: 22°C

Housing a system with a 125W CPU, quality CPU cooler, and integrated graphics,
the P183 did very well even with a single exhaust fan. Southbridge and hard
drive temperatures were both below 40°C, and barely increased with load.
The CPU fan was run at 70% as doing so increased the noise level slightly. The
CPU temperature increased by 20°C when the system was stressed.

The noise level of the system measured between 19 and 20 dBA, and was very
benign and smooth. The multi-layered panels do a good job of helping to damp and soften the internal component noise. Antec would do well to decrease the speed of their TriCool fans, however, as
their medium and high speed settings are much too loud. The Antec CP-850 power
supply performed well, not adding any perceivable noise to the system.

Test Results – Configuration #2 (CrossFireX)

For our second test configuration we added two Radeon HD 4870’s in CrossFireX.
As this increased the overall noise level, we felt it prudent to move the fan
at the top of the case to the front of the hard drive cage directly adjacent
to the graphics cards. This provides the system with some extra intake airflow
to the video card area while generating no extra noise.

System Measurements (CrossFireX)
State
Idle
CPU + 1 GPU Load
CPU + 2 GPU Load
CPU / System
Fan Speeds
70%* / Low
100% / Low
100% / Low
Noise
23 dBA
27~28 dBA
35 dBA
CPU Temp
38°C
51°C
58°C
SB Temp
61°C
62°C
69°C
HD Temp
39°C
39°C
39°C
GPU #1 Temp
79°C
89°C
99°C
GPU #1
Fan Speed
1100 RPM
2170 RPM
3030 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
79°C
78°C
89°C
GPU #2
Fan Speed
1150 RPM
1130 RPM
2400 RPM
*70% speed is equivalent to 8~9V
Ambient temperature: 22°C

The addition of two, high-end graphics cards made a noticeable
impact on system noise and temperatures. At idle, the noise level increased
by 4 dBA, and the heat radiating off the graphics cards made the CPU temperature jump
an additional 8°C. The most drastic thermal effect was on southbridge
temperature, which increased by 25°C. Not only did the cards themselves generate
more heat in the southbridge area, they also cut off airflow around the southbridge
heatsink, making it the meat in a CrossFire sandwich.

When load was applied to the system, we increased the CPU fan
speed to 100% as it did not generate any additional noise, being easily masked
by the video card fans. With the CPU and a single GPU being stressed, the CPU
heated up by only 13°C, while the southbridge and hard drive temperatures
remained virtually unchanged. The temperature of the stressed GPU went up 10°C
and the fan ramped up by almost 1100 RPM, resulting in system noise increased
by 3~4 dBA.

With both GPU’s stressed, things started to get ugly. The noise
level increased by 7 dBA, and the CPU and southbridge temperatures went up by
an additional 7°C. The cooler on the 4870 occupying the top PCI-E slot was
having difficulty keeping its GPU cool. Spinning at just over 3000 RPM, it struggled
to keep to keep the GPU temperature under 100°C. No doubt this was due to
the heat radiating off its twin in the position below it, which
ran much cooler, measuring 10°C lower with its fan spinning at 2400
RPM. It should also be noted that the system power draw increased from 620W
when we began stressing the system to 636W when the temperatures had finally
stabilized. As the cards got progressively hotter, increased inefficiency resulted
in higher power consumption.

Despite the high temperatures all-around in the CrossFire setup,
the system was perfectly stable. That’s not to say we would recommend such a
configuration — it just barely handled it, and noise level was unbearably
high by SPCR standards. We would recommend either using aftermarket coolers for both graphics
cards, or a case with a side fan that can blow directly over them.

 

Comparison

Antec P183 vs. Silverstone Raven
(CPU + 1 GPU Load)
State
Antec P183
Silverstone Raven
CPU Fan
Speed
100%
70%*
100%
Front Fan
Speed(s)
Low
70%*, 70%*
100%, 100%
Rear Fan
Speed
Low
N/A
Noise
27~28 dBA
27 dBA
29 dBA
CPU Temp
51°C
59°C
56°C
SB Temp
62°C
60°C
HD Temp
39°C
32°C
30°C
GPU #1 Temp
89°C
87°C
86°C
GPU #1
Fan Speed
2170 RPM
2160 RPM
2060 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
78°C
GPU #2
Fan Speed
1130 RPM
960 RPM
920 RPM
*70% speed is equivalent to 8~9V
Ambient temperature: 22°C

Compared to the Silverstone
Raven
at similar noise levels, the P183 delivered better CPU temperature,
probably due to its rear exhaust fan (the Raven’s 120mm rear fan was too loud
for our liking, so we removed it during testing). The Raven’s two 180mm interior
fans and its bottom-to-top airflow design resulted in slightly better
GPU and southbridge temperatures as well as lower GPU fan speeds, and a significant
improvement in hard drive cooling. Though we did not test the Raven with both
GPUs fully stressed, we believe the cooling performance difference would’ve widened more.

If we consider just the Baseline Noise measurements, the Raven’s two 180mm fans at 9V match the P183’s two 120mm front and back fans at Low — both measured 17 dBA@1m. In those configurations, which is ideal for the mid/low thermal systems most silent PC enthusiasts build, the cooling of the Raven has to be superior. Its larger fans are probably moving double the volume of air of the Antec’s 120mm fans.

The Antec CP-850 power supply performed well. Efficiency as measured
from the wall was similar to the Coolermaster Silent Pro we
used to power the test configuration in the Silverstone Raven. The PSU air
exhaust was warm, but not overly so, even as the
system’s AC power draw increased past 600W. Look for our full review of the
CP-850 in the near future.

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 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.

  • SilverStone
    Raven at 1m

    — idle, CPU and system fans @ 70% (20 dBA@1m)
    — CPU and 1 GPU load, CPU and system fans @ 70% (27 dBA@1m)
    — CPU and 1 GPU load CPU and system fans @ 100% (29 dBA@1m)

FINAL THOUGHTS

Like the P182, the
P183 is not a drastic redesign of its predecessors. Everything we loved about
the P180/P182 remains — the segregated power supply compartment, sound-damping multi-ply panels, easily
accessible soft-mounted drive cages, removable filters, and elegant exterior
appearance. In a nutshell, Antec has reorganize the bottom chamber
and improve intake ventilation on the front panel.

The metal frame for the power supply and center divider has been removed to
make space for longer power supplies and the fan placement has been moved in
front of the bottom hard drive cage. We don’t feel strongly either way about
these alterations — it’s why these changes were implemented that really
excites us. Most of these moves have been made specifically to allow the use
of Antec’s CP line of power supplies. The CP’s open airflow design has substantial
thermal and acoustic advantages, and if you want to use one, an Antec case is a requirement.

The more open filters and ventilated drive bay covers ease the passage of air
flowing from the front of the case to the back. As the door still muffles a
lot of system noise, punching the front panel full of holes hasn’t made the
case any louder. The one thing they did mess up is the top fan placement. The
metal that sits flush against the struts and hub of the fan greatly increases
the noise level of the system, and isn’t easy to get around, although any experience case modder will find ways to cut the offending metal away. Worse still, this
is a new "feature" that was added to seemingly serve no purpose other
than to annoy. A smaller quibble is that it’s unfortunate Antec still has not seen fit to improve the noise performance of the included fans or at least changed the setting so that more than just the Low setting is usable for quiet oritented customers.

Like the P182, the P183 is easy to work with, and has the fundamentals necessary
for a silent PC. The increased ventilation is a welcome addition, though airflow
for the video cards probably isn’t quite good enough for a gaming systems with a couple of high-end ATI graphics
cards in CrossFire, at least not on stock cooling. But then again, what case
is? Certainly nothing equivalent to the P183’s size or noise level. For a more
typical system with a fast CPU and a single graphics card, the P183 is more
than sufficient. Ignoring the top vent and using only the front and back fans provides a good cooling with very low noise. Finally, current market pricing at $140~180 is quite modest for a unique high performance case. The P183 will surely extend the series’ already long successful run.

Our thanks to Antec
Inc.
for the P183
and CP-850 samples.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Cases: Basics & Recommendations

Silverstone Raven EATX Tower Case
Coolermaster’s
Fanless TC-100 mini-ITX case

Apex MI-008: A Cheap Quiet mini-ITX Case?
Computex 2008: Antec’s Skeleton,
P183 & Sonata Elite cases

Antec Mini P180: A micro-ATX
P182

Antec P182 Advanced Super Midtower
Case: P180 v.2


Recommended by SPCR

* * *

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