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bit-tech vs. the Antec 900

Posted on 6th Feb 2009 at 10:10 by Harry Butler with 13 comments

Harry Butler
Here at bit-tech we like to think of ourselves as connoisseurs of cases, the site’s modding heritage only adding to our cultured palette for all that is aluminium and shiny. Even in our busy offices, the excitement of unboxing of a newly arrived chassis is always something that gets people up from their desks to come and have a look.

We make no excuses for our preference for smooth, stylish lines in case design over industrial or military looks, and to us cooling performance isn’t everything – what’s the point of strapping dozens of high RPM cooling fans into a case when the noise it makes infuriates anyone within a twenty foot radius? Good design needs to reach a compromise.

For us a chassis needs to be the complete package – great looking, easy to use, well cooled and easy on the ears – to garner an excellence award, something that only two cases, the Antec P182 and Coolermaster ATCS 840, have been able to achieve.

Enter the Antec 900 – one of the most controversial cases amongst the editorial team here at bit-tech. When ex-editor Wil Harris originally reviewed it, he wasn’t exactly taken by it. In fact, he hated it, citing its looks, its ease of use and its wind tunnel-esque noise levels in what was a thoroughly negative review.

But it didn’t make a blind bit of difference, as the Antec 900 went onto become one of the most successful cases ever to grace e-tailers. With such a hugely capable cooling setup and a price tag below £100, amateur system builders and gamers flocked to a well made case that came with a window, LED fans and more cooling than you can shake a wind tunnel at.

bit-tech vs. the Antec 900 bit-tech VS the Antec 900
The Antec 900 is back as the 902

A quick look round any LAN party in the last few years and you’d be amazed at the number of Antec 900s (and more recently the smaller Antec 300 and larger Antec 1200) on display. No one seemed to care about the overly industrial aggressive looks, or the huge amount of noise generated by the single speed 120mm fans, or the woeful lack of dust filters. Despite the flaws that Wil (and many others) found with the case, the Antec 900 has become ludicrously popular.

This leaves us worried we're perhaps a little out of touch. We're the first to admit that sometimes we can be a little over critical but then that's what we're supposed to be. I'm paid to spot the flaws in products, to find those annoying problems and oversights that'll cause annoyance and disappointment. To just accept a chassis as flawed but still recommend it would mean I wasn't doing a very good job at the whole "reviewing" thing.

Which leaves us at today, when the follow up to the Antec 900 - the Antec 902 - arrived in our offices. Boasting a number of improvements following what must have been a huge amount of customer feedback, will the Antec 902 divide our opinions in the same way that the 900 did? Watch out for a review in the coming weeks to find out, but be assured if there are any flaws, we'll let you know about them.

13 Comments

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kt3946 6th February 2009, 17:54 Quote
Honestly guys, I *expect* you to be over critical... in fact, I demand it. As a intelligent consumer, I can make rational decisions of convenience based upon an estimation of your comments. In other words, I'm smart enough to tell when something may annoy *you* but be perfectly acceptable to me.

However, what I expect of a reviewer is to identify every flaw they find in a product, so that I have the information in hand to even make that determination. Otherwise, if you skip over something, I won't know at all and might make a purchase decision based on flawed data. If that makes you over-critical in the eyes of some individuals... so be it. I'd rather have a nit-picker over someone tagging every case that comes through as "90% - GOOD c4as3 4 u man!"

However, I think where you missed on the original 900 review was the combination of the following factors:

1. Availability - the 900 was *everywhere*, some cases, regardless of how good, are just fricking hard to find.
2. Price - it had a very attractive price at many retailers, with discounts sales, etc.
3. Options - it's design led to a number of options for drives, cards, etc. there were few overall limitations to the unit.
4. Airflow - while some case manufacturers are rolling into more directed airflow designs, this case style allowed for the user to make their own decisions based upon the components in the system, as opposed to a fixed layout. Which made it somewhat more 'flexible' than the others. This flexibility is a critical component in my cases, since the case might go through 3 or 4 motherboards before I finally toss it, with each board and design having different difficulties for airflow and hot-spots...

So, I think your original review was spot-on with regard to flaws. But that doesn't necessarily make it a market failure. Often times, good enough is all it takes to win.

These aspects (availability and price) are difficult if not impossible to follow through with a review.

It was a combination of these factors that likely made it so popular. Jack of all trades sort of bit, but master of none.
Psytek 6th February 2009, 18:15 Quote
I have the old version 900 and it doesn't have single speed fans, they are all 3-speed...
wuyanxu 6th February 2009, 20:03 Quote
you are not out of touch, it's because those people don't have a sense of elegance. (im going to get flamed in other forum for saying this)

Antec p18* is the example where elegance meets usefulness. it's quiet, well designed and great looking. like a well designed car, where functionality and performance goes hand in hand with beauty. Aston Martin or Jag anyone?

Antec 900 or any other windowed, LED shinning, loud case on the other hand, are just like a standard block of flats that only serves the purpose, it isn't very easy on the eyes, but it's very functional. American muscle car?


example: my housemate have a Thermaltake Kandalf, the doors look okay. but it's too bight, too loud and too big. when one looks at it, it is seen as a monster instead of a piece of modern electronic engineering. the front door even rattles some time.
mclintox 7th February 2009, 01:10 Quote
"Austin Martin" ?
Elton 7th February 2009, 05:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wuyanxu
you are not out of touch, it's because those people don't have a sense of elegance. (im going to get flamed in other forum for saying this)

Antec p18* is the example where elegance meets usefulness. it's quiet, well designed and great looking. like a well designed car, where functionality and performance goes hand in hand with beauty. Aston Martin or Jag anyone?

Antec 900 or any other windowed, LED shinning, loud case on the other hand, are just like a standard block of flats that only serves the purpose, it isn't very easy on the eyes, but it's very functional. American muscle car?


example: my housemate have a Thermaltake Kandalf, the doors look okay. but it's too bight, too loud and too big. when one looks at it, it is seen as a monster instead of a piece of modern electronic engineering. the front door even rattles some time.

I agree with this, most people like cheaper cases that "look" flashy. I'm still a fan of the Cosmos, ATCS 840 and P182.. Now though the P182 is cheap and i really hope people will start getting that..
naokaji 7th February 2009, 11:54 Quote
Just because you realize the lack of dustfilters and a lot of noise doesn't get you higher scores in games doesn't mean you are out of touch.
wuyanxu 8th February 2009, 12:30 Quote
have you guys seen the P183? the same old elegance of P18* series has gone out of the window for the exterior.

inside, the only change is the moving of lower chamber fan to the font, which is welcoming.
Pookeyhead 8th February 2009, 12:58 Quote
Cases must be the hardest thing to review in my opinion. They're so much more than the sum of their parts. In a way, if you allow me to draw an analogy, cases are like cars: You can impart the facts, opine about why it's great, or terrible, and people will ignore you, and buy it (or not) anyway. Why? Because cases are the part of the rig that allow personalisation. One GTX280 looks like another... your P6T is a twin to everyone else's etc.... but the case? Ahhh.. yes.. that's where you put your stamp of personality on your rig.


Don't worry Bit Tech... Carry on reviewing cases exactly as you are... but don't get upset when everyone ignores you :) That sounds stupid I know, but it's not. Those that buy the Antec 900 or others like it, don't care that it's noisy, or ugly... so long as it makes their mates go, "Woah, that's cool". However, they are still buying it with the knowledge that it has issues, and they're still making a rational choice however irrational it seems to others.

Conversely, most people I know think my choice in "traditional" Lian Li cases is so arch-conservative they expect me to give them a funny handshake, but I don't care.

Just carry on doing what you do :)
[PUNK] crompers 8th February 2009, 13:47 Quote
I think though that looking at the way case design is generally headed we're going to be seeing a lot more bit-tech reviews of flashy ugly cases.
Dreaming 8th February 2009, 14:51 Quote
I used to have a p180, but gave it up because it was too cumbersome, wire management was difficult because of the lack of internal space, and airflow whilst adequate wasn't the best. I did have 5 hard disks in that one though.

I have since moved to a Lian Li PC A05B and just two hard disks, and find it much nicer. Easier to move, more discrete, excellent cooling. But everyone is different. I *had* to mod the A05 in order to remove the 'hot spot' at the top where the GPU creates lot of heat without any way to remove it.

I think the P180 for me was too much of a compromise. As for the 900, I hate the way it looks so wouldn't have one, so I guess that goes to show that it is completely subjective depending who is looking at it!
pistol_pete 11th February 2009, 21:31 Quote
I've had my Nine Hundred a year and a half now. Prior to that my case was a beige box from 1999, so having features like thumbscrews, front USBs, individually removable side panels, and 120mm fans was mind blowing - let alone a 200mm fan!

It has a lot of positive features - it's got immense cooling, it's fairly robust, and it's cheap. When Custom PC did thermal testing a couple of months ago, it was the cheapest case to pass the test. With the tri-cool fans on low (1000rpm) and the optional side intake, mine is wolfing down 120cfm, whilst being fairly quiet. Features like HDD damping, thicker side panels, and posh Noctuas or Scythes would help a few dB, but the noise coming off of mine is just the low woosh of a lot of air moving, I certainly wouldn't call it intrusive. What's more, it can cope with a lot of heat with the fans on their lowest setting. I can get my Q6600 to 3.6Ghz with happy temps on low fans. The GPU is helped a lot by adding the side fan.


The LEDs, the industrial looks, the big grills - it's styling. There are uglier cases out there - I think the 1200 is horrid, and the 902 makes the original look refined. Not everybody has the budget to buy a TJ07 or a big Lian Li they don't need.

Ofcourse, there are days I wish I bought a P182. It'd be marginally quieter, it has dust filters, it looks slick (if arguably dull). Though it's the wrong side of £100, I've managed to make dust filters for my nine hundred, and with a bit of I've probably got better cable management than the P182.

Remember the Nine Hundred is getting on a bit now. Compared against modern cases, it's missed out some features like a removable mobo and tool-less, but tbh I don't loose sleep over this.

The thing people love to hate about the Nine Hundred is simply the looks. People can choose a distinctive case if they want, otherwise case designers might have well stopped at the Lian-Li PC-60, which is black, aluminium, discrete and well build - that's all there is to a case, right? Comparing something like a Lian-Li PC-X2000 with the Nine Hundred is a bit like comparing the Katy Perry with the Fourth Rail Bridge. The bridge still has it's own big steel charms.

Ofcourse I rarely look at mine, it lives under my desk and I think only 6 people other than me have ever seen my case. And none of them asked "is it a fridge?".

I think the Nine Hundred is not stylish and sleek, but it is distinctive, and it'll live on in infamy and it'll bring back fond memories for a lot of people. The 902 seems to solve some of it's issues but brings a whole new level of fuggly.



And am I only the one (presume: yes) that thinks the ATCS isn't that great looking. It seems like the designers took a simple, clean box then added a daft bit to the front and couldn't think of a nice way to blend the fans in the top so just put some mesh ontop and hoped the problem would go away. The "feng shui" is all wrong.
Xir 17th February 2009, 14:22 Quote
Dare I say it?
...
Welll...okay.

I got myself a "gaming" case once. (Still have it)
Looked silly, (still does) it's a :
http://www.chenbro.com/corporatesite/news_release_det.php?serno=2
only mine's blue without a window.

On second thought though:
it has 100% filters
is 100% srcrewless
still works like a charm
is near silent when equipped with proper fan's
was cheap!
Still looks silly though ;-)

So these ideas of yours: checking looks, ease of use, ease of clean (filters) and noise.
Your checks should still hit the nail on the head, no matter how many people don't care how loud their case is. ;-)
pistol_pete 17th February 2009, 21:48 Quote
I agree, I don't think you should change your reviews to base them around l33t-ness. People will always make up their own minds on the visuals. We want to know if a case has major flaws. We also want to know if it has dust filters, removable mobo tray, etc, but those things aren't the end of the world.
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