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Antec P280: Performance One Refresh

The P280 is a new variant of the Antec Performance One series of ATX towers. The overhauled design features USB 3.0, better ventilation, improved fans, the removal of the power supply compartment, and a host of other changes to make it competitive with modern enthusiast cases.

November 21, 2011 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Antec P280
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
MSRP
US$139

The P280 is a new member of the Antec Performance One series, with the distinctive aluminum finish on the front panel / door that’s been a hallmark of the P180 series. At first glance the only changes from the popular P180 series are the addition of USB 3.0, and the front panel ports and switches repositioned to the top of the case. Antec seems to have realized that most users would prefer to put a 21″ tower on the floor rather than atop their desk. Other than that, it has a similar visage as the P180/182/183… but first impressions can be deceiving.

The P280 is substantially lighter, weighing about 22 lb compared to the 31 lb of its predecessors. The build quality of enthusiast cases has been trending down for some time, but the drastic weight loss is mostly due to interior design changes. Most of the internals have been altered or tweaked to give it a more modern feel. The P180 and subsequent updates embodied qualities that appealed to those seeking both silence and performance. The P280 is a somewhat different beast altogether, despite first appearances. Antec says that, at least for the moment, the P280 is not meant to replace that P183.


The P280 looks familar at first glance, but it is a bit wider and deeper than the P183, with the front door a little narrower than the rest of the case.

Recently Antec released the Solo II, a long awaited sequel to one of our favorite silence-oriented cases. It was a necessary update to a classic that was showing its age when pitted against the current crop of competition. Solo II fixed many of the problems we had with the original, and added better cable management features and USB 3.0, things that have become common place in today’s market. Concessions were also made to make it more suitable for higher-end hardware like better fan support and extra clearance for long graphics cards. Despite all these changes, anyone familiar with the original could not deny that at its heart, it was still a Solo. The new Solo II is a success in that it is unlikely to alienate previous fans yet win new ones over with its modernized design. With the P280, it is less about updating the original and more about building on the strengths of the P180 series and expanding into the gaming market.


Aside from a brief manual, a bag of screws, and a few plastic zip-ties, there are no accessories to speak of. Everything you need is inside the case.

 

Specifications: Antec P280
(from the
product web page
)
Model P280
Case Type Super Mid Tower
Cooling System • 2 x 120 mm top TwoCool™ exhaust fans
• 1 x 120 mm rear TwoCool™ exhaust fan
• 2 x 120 mm internal intake fans (optional)
• 2 x 120 mm front intake fans (optional)
• Fan power hub allows you to connect four 3-pin fans to a single Molex for improved cable management
Drive Bays • 3 x 5.25” tool-less drive bays
• 2 x 2.5” drive bays (dedicated)
• 6 x 3.5” / 2.5” drive trays
Front Ports 2 x USB 3.0 with internal motherboard connector
2 x USB 2.0
Audio In/Out
Expansion Slots / video card size • 9 expansion slots
• Maximum video card size: 13” / 330 mm
Maximum CPU Cooler Height 6.7″ / 170 mm
PSU No power supply included
Motherboard Support XL-ATX [13.6” x 10.3” (345 mm x 262 mm)], Standard ATX, microATX, Mini-ITX
CPU Cutout Enlarged CPU cutout
Cable Management 30 mm of cable routing space behind motherboard tray
Side panel features None
Dimensions • Unit Dimensions:
– 526 mm (H) x 231 mm (W) x 562 mm (D)
-20.7” (H) x 9.1” (W) x 22.1” (D)
• Package Dimensions:
-575 mm (H) x 290 mm (W) x 630 mm (D)
-22.6” (H) x 11.4” (W) x 24.8” (D)
Weight • Net Weight: 22.3 lbs / 10.2 kg
• Gross Weight: 26.5 lbs / 12.0 kg

EXTERIOR

The P280 measures 23.1 x 52.6 x 56.2 cm or 9.1 x 20.7 x 22.1 inches (W x H x D) for a total case volume of 68.3 L. It’s a bit more spacious being two inches deeper and one inch wider than P180 variants, though the height is about the same.


The P280 retains the unvented panels of its predecessors but the easily accessible side-sliding air filter clashes against the clean lines of the rest of the chassis. Another notable difference from the P180 series is the huge gaps around the periphery of the door, which only qualifies as such because of the hinges. This move maximizes airflow, but looks a bit odd.


The door is made of the same layered composite panel (aluminum/plastic) , is that on the P180 series, and covered with foam on the interior. It has the same 270 degree turning ability to fold flush against the left side panel. The easily removable front fan filter gives access to two 120 mm fan placements.


For extra cooling power, a second 120 mm fan placement has been added. Our sample had three fans in total, two at the top and one in the back. Note: After the first production run sells through, the screws on the top panel will be changed from the current silver to a less obtrusive black.


The focus on ventilation is obvious. Aside from the wide open gap around the door, most of the back is dotted with extra holes, including the expansion slot covers. Above the exhaust fan is a panel holding the speed switches for the three included fans, while the fourth slot remains conspicuously empty.


The side panels are not made of the multi-ply composite materials as the P180 series, but plain staeel 0.8 mm thick, weighted down with a sheet of polycarbonate boinded to the inside for resistance against vibration. Each side panel weights slightly over 4 lbs, and they account for more than a third of the P280’s total weight.


Also present are the same soft vibration dampening silicon feet of the P280’s predecessors.

INTERIOR

The P280 has a much more spacious interior due to the increased depth, the switch to side mounted hard drives, and the absence of the power supply partition. It has a whopping nine expansion slots (for quad SLI/CrossFire configurations), six 3.5″/2.5″ drive trays, two dedicated 2.5″ drive bays, three tool-less 5.25″ bays, and support for up to five 120 mm fans.


Looking inside it’s easy to see why the P280 is so much lighter than older Performance One cases. The steel panel that separated the case into two zones and the hefty removable hard drive cages of the P180 series are gone. There’s also a very large cutout for CPU heatsink backplate mounting.


The included fans are TwoCools, which as you can guess have two speeds to choose from rather than the three of the TriCools. The fans have short 3-pin cables that plug into what Antec calls a “fan hub,” a small circuit board with four 3-pin fan headers powered by a single molex connector.


The power supply vent is fairly open and there’s a good gap above the floor.


Among the internal connectors is a proper 20-pin USB plug.


The drive trays are made of a soft plastic material rather than the rigid metal ones found in previous Antec cases. They may handle vibration better but don’t generate the same satisfying snap when locked into place. The separation between drives is approximately 17mm, which is not too bad for airflow. 2.5″ drives can be installed here as well but there are two dedicated mounts at the top as well.


The 5.25″ drive rails have been ditched in favor of a tool-less retention mechanism. It’s fairly secure, but like most of these systems, there is nothing on the other side of the drive holding it down.


The P280 has a the cable management system. There are several large, grommetted holes around the edges of the motherboard tray and a number of hooks for slipping in zip-ties and twist-ties.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system in the P280 is straight forward. Our test system consists of an Asus 790GX motherboard, a ZEROtherm FZ120 heatsink with a Nexus 120 mm fan, a WD Caviar hard drive and a Cooler Master 700W modular power supply.


Like the steel trays of old, the plastic hard drive caddy are attach under the drive. We noticed no noticeable vibration from the hard drive to the rest of the case during testing.


The motherboard tray cutout had a corner in the middle that just barely accommodated our AM3 backplate.


There is an ample 3.2 cm of space behind the tray.


Our only complaint about the layout is the fan hub located above the rear exhaust fan. It’s incredibly inconvenient having to drag a single molex connector to the upper back corner of the case to power the fans. One could possibly relocate it to another area of the case, but the stock fan cables are very short so extension cables would be required.


Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system, fully installed. There was 10.9 cm of space to the right of the graphics cards, making the total clearance about 35.0 cm (13.8 inches). There was a 1.6 cm gap above our FZ120 CPU cooler, making heatsink clearance 17.2 cm (6.8 inches).


With plenty of routing holes, cabling proved to be a breeze.


Powered on, the P280 has but two subdued blue LEDs, one indicating power, the other hard drive activity.

TESTING

System Configuration:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

System temperatures and noise levels were recorded with SpeedFan and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using CPUBurn (K7 setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Baseline Noise


Antec TwoCool fan.

The P280 shipped with three of 120 mm models of Antec’s cleverly named TwoCool fans which are rated for 1500 RPM on high speed and 900 RPM on low. This new model appears to have a more contemporary design than the TriCool with larger, longer, more sharply angled blades and a substantially smaller hub. In free air, the stock fan had a much improved noise character compared to the TriCool. It emitted a slight hum evident at close range, but was otherwise impressively smooth both on low and high speed.


A close look at the side panel catches.

The result of a quick noise test revealed an unusual quirk — the case was actually quieter with the side panel off. It turns out the side panels on our case sample were too loose, amplifying the vibrations of the fans. Some of catches on each panel, which grip onto the frame of the front of the chassis, were not straight but rather angled noticeably outward resulting in a sloppy fit. We ended up using a mallet to straighten them out — not a particularly classy mod, but it did lower the measured noise level audibly.

Stock Fan Noise Level
Fan
SPL @1m (dBA)
Low
High
Top #1 (rear)
17~18
29~30
Top #2 (center)
20
33
Rear
12
18
Front
13
22~23
Combined
(Top #1, Rear, Front)
19~20
31
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The top-mounted fans were easily the loudest, with the one closer to the center being worse than the one located at the back corner. We attribute this to the lack of structural support on the top panel. It’s the only portion of the chassis that felt a bit weak, and pushing down or placing weight on the center placement improved the noise level slightly. For testing we decided to move the more troublesome center fan to the front to improve the overall acoustics.


The top center fan mounted in the front, secured with two bolts (there are two plastic nubs providing support for the other two screw holes).


Our baseline noise level for the P280’s was 19~20 dBA@1m with all fans on low speed.

Though our side panel mod helped considerably, the fan interaction with the case still created a hum at ~ 250 Hz about 5 dB higher than most other cases.

Test Results: Radeon HD 4870


HD 4870 test system.

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
Fan Speed
Low
CPU Temp
29°C
45°C
SB Temp
46°C
52°C
HD Temp
28°C
28°C
GPU Temp
76°C
85°C
GPU Fan Speed
870 RPM
1950 RPM
SPL@1m
21 dBA
27 dBA
System Power
118W
316W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

At idle our HD 4870 configuration inside the P280 produced a fairly low 21 dBA@1m. The CPU and hard drive rested comfortable with temperatures just below 30°C, while the graphics card settled at 76°C with its fan spinning under 900 RPM. On load, the GPU fan speed approached 2000 RPM causing a 6 dB increase in noise, but as the HD 4870 stock cooler is among the better sounding blower fan models, much of the noise consisted of a soft, bearable hissing type sound. Temperature increases were modest, 16°C for the CPU, 11°C for the GPU, and just 6°C for the Southbridge chip sitting directly beside the graphics card fan.


Our HD 4870 test system measured 21 dBA@1m when idle and 27 dBA@1m on load.

HD 4870 Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
Fractal Define R2
Antec P280
Antec Solo II
NZXT H2
System Fan Speeds
rear, front, side @12V
top, rear, front @low
rear, front @12V*
rear, front @medium
CPU Temp
48°C
45°C
45°C
53°C
SB Temp
45°C
52°C
47°C
52°C
HD Temp
34°C
28°C
34°C
33°C
GPU Temp
84°C
85°C
82°C
87°C
GPU Fan
Speed
1710 RPM
1950 RPM
1880 RPM
2110 RPM
SPL@1m
26~27 dBA
27 dBA
27~28 dBA
28 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.
*Nexus 120 mm fan added as bottom intake.

In our single graphics card configuration, the P280 was about on par with the Solo II, producing slightly higher GPU and Southbridge temperatures but at a slightly lower noise level. It stacked up well against the Fractal Define R2. The R2, with a side fan blowing over the video card required a lower GPU fan speed, but the noise level wasn’t much better Also note that the side fan is not included in retail models of the R2/R3.

Test Results: 2 x ATI Radeon HD 4870 (CrossFireX)


2 x HD 4870 CrossFireX test system.

System Measurements
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
Low
Low
High
CPU Temp
32°C
45°C
42°C
SB Temp
55°C
64°C
62°C
HD Temp
28°C
28°C
28°C
GPU #1 Temp
78°C
89°C
88°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1130 RPM
2440 RPM
2440 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
71°C
84°C
83°C
GPU #2 Speed
1010 RPM
1950 RPM
1920 RPM
SPL@1m
22 dBA
32~33 dBA
34 dBA
System Power
193W
525W
525W
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

The presence of a second HD 4870 had little impact on the system when idle, both thermally and acoustically. The main differences were an increased Southbridge temperature (9°C) and the noise level going up a single dB due to the second GPU fan and higher GPU fan speeds. On load, most of the extra heat from the CrossFireX setup was dealt with by the higher fan speeds pushing it out the rear of the case. Neither the CPU or hard drive ran any hotter than in our single HD 4870 configuration, though the Southbridge heated up significantly due to its unfortunate location beside both cards. The noise level jumped to a loud 32~33 dBA@1m, though the acoustic character was still similar, just with more volume and a slightly higher pitch. Cranking up the stock fans to high delivered marginally better cooling that wasn’t worth the +1~2 dBA cost in noise.


Our HD 4870 CrossFireX test system measured 22 dBA@1m when idle and 32~33 dBA@1m on load.

CrossFireX Configuration Comparison (Load)
Case
In Win Dragon Rider
In Win BUC
Antec P280
LanCool PC-K59
Fans Speeds
top, rear, sides @9V, front @5V
top, rear, front @9V
top, rear, front @low
top, rear, front @9V
CPU Temp
35°C
46°C
45°C
46°C
SB Temp
46°C
63°C
64°C
63°C
HD Temp
31°C
30°C
28°C
28°C
GPU #1 Temp
85°C
89°C
89°C
89°C
GPU #1 Fan
Speed
1890 RPM
2050 RPM
2440 RPM
2300 RPM
GPU #2 Temp
82°C
85°C
84°C
83°C
GPU #2 Fan
Speed
1680 RPM
1780 RPM
1950 RPM
1810 RPM
SPL@1m
32 dBA
32~33 dBA
32~33 dBA
33 dBA
CPU fan set to 100% speed.
All temperature results adjusted to 22°C ambient.

Even without the extra side panel vent of enthusiast style cases like the In Win Dragon Rider and BUC, the P280 still managed to hold its own, producing temperatures comparable to the BUC. We saw lower GPU fan speeds with the BUC so it was better cooled, yet the P280 was no worse in the noise department. The lack of a side panel vent made for a hotter environment for the GPUs, but more of the noise was muffled.

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The newest Performance One is about a third lighter than the P183 without sacrificing much in structural integrity. The P280 feels a bit less substantial overall as a result, but still quite sturdy against its competitors. Some of the features left behind in the P183, like the partition separating the power supply and the big removable drive cages, won’t be missed. The top panel seems a bit weak, creating some unfortunate acoustic side effects, but this is an issue with most cases with two fan holes in the top. The dampened side panels have a slimmer profile than the ones on the P183, but our real issue with our sample was poor fit, a result of the catches on the inside being bent. It’s an easy fix and the problem might be isolated to our review sample.

Airflow is excellent throughout, with more vents in the back and the big gap around the periphery of the door. The relatively noisy TriCool fans have been replaced by the much smoother sounding TwoCools, an improvement we’ve been awaiting for five years now. The new fans have just two speeds rather than three, and the fan hub they connect to has been placed in a remote location. A molex chain has to be stretched all the way to the top corner to power it and it’s too far away from a potential fourth fan at the front.

Working inside the P280 is pain-free, thanks to the luxuriously spacious interior, good clearance for the various components and, of course, folded metal edges. Cable management is great, with lots of twist/zip-tie hooks and routing holes placed around the motherboard tray. The tool-less locking mechanism for optical drives is a welcome change as 5.25″ drive rails are a pain to line up with the front bezel and leave ugly holes on both sides. Moving to a side-mounting hard drive cage made drive access quicker, and the plastic caddies seem to limit vibration well. Even getting at the air filters and front fans is easier.

The end result is a user-friendly product that competes well against modest silence-oriented cases like the Fractal Define R2/R3 and Antec Solo II, but also more performance-oriented enthusiast cases. It’s not in the same league as over-the-top cases with crazy cooling like the In Win Dragon Rider, but performs comparably to the In Win BUC and LanCool PC-K59. Like the Solo II, the P280 is significantly improved without losing the special identity of is predecessors. With quiet and dignified on one side, and well-cooled and user-friendly on the other, the P280 walks the fine line between them.

Antec P280
PROS

* Good performance with both low and high configurations
* Stock fans have improved acoustics, fan speed switches
* Spacious, plenty of clearance for heatsinks, video cards, etc.
* Great cable management
* Front USB 3.0 with internal header
* Solid construction
* Dampened side panels

CONS

* Top mounted fans unusually loud, particularly at the center
* Possible issues with side panel fit
* Inconvenient fan hub location

Our thanks to Antec for the P280 case sample.


The Antec P280 is Recommended by SPCR.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest
Antec Solo II: The Legacy Lives On
SilverStone Temjin TJ08-E: MicroATX Evolved
Cooler Master Silencio 550 Quiet ATX Tower
In Win Dragon Rider Enthusiast/Gaming Tower
LanCool PC-K59 Midtower Case
In Win BUC ATX Tower Case

* * *

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