The Internals - A cornucopia of brilliant little ideas. And one or two that aren't.
The first thing that you notice inside the case is that all that space which appears to be contained on the outside suddenly isn't so spacious. There are compartments everywhere, and though most of them are very accessible, the space is clearly broken up, and there is no range of configuration options. The power supply sits in the lower rear chamber, hard drives in the lower front or upper front (the only configuration option at all, actually).
The giant black thing holding the drive rails is actually a "VGA card duct," something that I thought might almost be a neat feature. That was until I started removing it, where I realized that it was not crafted with quite the same care as other parts of the case. It's actually a hollow shaft meant to accommodate a 60mm fan, which theoretically will sit right near your GPU and suck hot air out immediately. There are two problems with this.
Firstly, we're dealing with a case that is designed for near silence, and a 60mm fan does not cut the mustard here, volt modded or not. Secondly, the duct actually hindered cooling in my testing. My GPU ran hotter for having it there, my assumption is that it prevents free airflow around the card. So, this will be removed during install and not replaced again. That's good, because it's actually a great annoyance to both attach and remove. It's plastic, but does not have grips for the screws, which I found strip easily. We know we are not the only ones who have experienced this problem, which does not bode well for the regular joe customer. The duct is attached with two screws underneath it inside, and four screws on the back.
With the duct removed, the inside starts to look a little cleaner. You can see a sliding plastic door in the middle of the case separating the upper and lower chambers. This door isolates each chamber, keeping the heat and noise from the PSU and HDDs away from the CPU and GPU. The system works amazingly well. So much, in fact, that I hope to see other case makers get the hint. It's a simple solution that wouldn't cost any more to implement...just a little bit of thinking, plenty of which was put into this case.
Again you can see the two Tri-Cool fans in the upper rear corner. The beauty of the Tri-Cools is that they're already volt modded for you with a little white switch that runs at three speeds (the lowest being around 7 volts). There is another, fatter one in the center of the lower chamber, drawing air from the front of the case, over the hard drives, and out the rear by the PSU. The sealing off of the chambers keeps this air from mingling with the rest of the case.
The PSU chamber is separated from the hard drive chamber by a thicker version of the 120mm Tri-Cool fans. It has what could be called a "frame" surrounding the spot for the PSU, but that is only the start of the novelty. When you remove the frame (screwed on with two screws per side, this does require removal of the right-side panel), you'll see pads of silicon lining the metal on which the power supply rests. This metal is suspended above the floor of the chamber, so as to provide minimal contact between the PSU and the case body. It has a hole cut for a fan, so you can use your power supply flipped either way you choose.
The frame itself also has these silicon strips, and fits very snugly around your ATX PSU. With this method, the PSU is almost perfectly isolated from the system, providing almost no vibration. Another wonderful move by Antec.
The hard drive racks themselves are things of beauty. Both of them are on sliding plastic rails that click into place, and are secured with a thumbscrew. The rails keep the drive bays from being metal on metal, thus reducing noise, as well as being a convenient way to slide the bays in and out. They have rings to pull them out, and actual clips to hold the rings when not in use. This prevents extra vibration when the drives are in use, and goes to further silence the unit.
With either bay removed, you can see space and mounting holes for another 120mm fan, corresponding with the slats on the front, mentioned earlier. I did not find this addition necessary, but it is a nice bonus. These mounting areas have a filter over them already to protect the system from excess dust.
The lower bay puts the drives in a vertical position, and the drives are affixed via their side screw holes. You can see in the picture that each hole already comes with a soft silicon grommet to assist in noise dampening.
The upper bay comes with two features. First, the drives individually clip into the bay using removable trays. These trays screw to the drive from the underside, and contain silicon pads to reduce vibration. Also, on the right side of the bay is a little black box that opens to reveal all the screws, spare grommets, keys, etc. A nifty and very handy extra, to be sure. And again, one must wonder why other manufacturers do not take the time to do such silly little things. . . these little extras do a lot to set one case apart from another.
Two other things are of note on the internals; one is good, one less good. Firstly, the motherboard tray is not removable. For some, this will be an issue but honestly, unless you regularly swap out your motherboard, better to benefit from the lower cost of manufacture of a fixed tray.
The other quite unexpected bonus with the P180 is the fact that the USB / Firewire cables for the front ports use a single connector each rather than a mess of nine individual pins. The latter guaranteed universal compatibility in an age when motherboards used varied pin-out configurations for the internal header.
, case manufacturers are starting to realise that every motherboard company has used the same layout now since USB 1.1. As another nice extra, Antec makes sure to throw in a couple of wire harnesses that you can attach anywhere in the case. Now if only that helped...