Antec Sonata PC Case SLK3700BQE

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, January 2005, send e-mail
Manufactured by: Antec, go to the web site
Requires: The urge to build a new PC, the need for quiet computing
MSRP: US$99.00

Antec has many strengths. The company designs and manufactures power supplies, cooling fans, rackmounts, external Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI) drive enclosures and most important, computer cases. Catering to gamers, general home users, business users, servers and system builders, the varied Antec line of cases is divided into seven categories. The well-known Sonata is the best of the Lifestyle models. If you're building a new system or replacing an old case, an Antec model should always be on your list of considerations. The Sonata is designed and marketed as a high quality mid-size case which features very quiet operation.

I needed a new case. The Sonata is a great looking choice, jet black with a semi-gloss finish, and the Antec logo drilled into the upper portion of the side access panel. The Sonata is supplied with a full complement of hardware findings as well as cable extensions for all front panel controls and ports. The case is also supplied with a very quiet Antec 350W power supply (380W maximum), rear mounted 80mm case exhaust fan, front panel air filter and lots of vibration isolated drives bays. I had decided to build (yet another) test machine for my own use (later to be repurposed as an upgrade for one of my kids). I like loading up test machines with nice, stable motherboards, zippy processors, lots of RAM, lots of add-in cards and lots of drives. So I populated the Antec Sonata case with the following:

  • 2 Western Digital 1200JB (120GB) drives
  • 1 Seagate 80GB SATA drive
  • 1 Lite-On 16x DVD/RW
  • 1 Yamaha CD-RW
  • 1 ATI Radeon 9000 All-In-Wonder video card
  • 1 Creative Audigy 2 sound card
  • 1 D-Link Firewire PCI card
  • 1 US Robotics 56K PCI Fax/Modem
  • 1 Intel Pentium 4/2.8GHz CPU
  • 2 512MB sticks of OCZ DDR 333MHz RAM
  • 1 floppy drive
  • 1 Asus P4S8X motherboard

Installation of all that hardware was a breeze. The Sonata has some friendly installation features in addition to its so-called quiet technology. In particular, installing hard drives is especially easy because they are mounted in slide out trays which are inserted sideways into the case. Attaching power and ribbon or SATA cables is easy because the rear of the drives faces outward when the side access panel is removed. Jumper positions are obviously easy to see as well. The drive trays feature thick rubber or neoprene grommets which effectively dampen all vibrations emanating from the hard drives. Predrilled mounts for ATX motherboards are perfectly threaded and positioned. All of the interior metalwork is burr-free and easy on the knuckles. Mind you, working inside this mid-size case was never particularly difficult because there's plenty of room between the optical drive bays and the back of the power supply. In addition, with side-firing hard drive bays, you're never at war with the back ends of PCI cards, RAM sticks and cables.

A complete set of plastic rails with steel spring clips is supplied for mounting optical drives. Fit is very good and assembly is easy. You'll find that even cranky optical drives seem noticeably quieter when running in the Sonata. The tolerances of the guide slots are tight enough to isolate whatever is mounted between the rails. The plastic rail material is a very smooth compound and seems to slide quite easily in and out of the guide slots.

The rear mounted case fan is made by Antec of course and is also extremely quiet in operation. The fan uses sealed ball bearings rather than bushings and can be hooked up to a fan speed controller. The fan is almost silent.

The lower front section of the case has a hidden panel containing a washable and reuseable air filter. It's a good idea and all the best cases have a front panel filter. This one seems to work quite well for coarse dust, lint, hair, fibers and other airborne junk. Removing the filter for cleaning requires that you engage in the apparently simple process of squeezing two tabs on the bottom of the filter, under the lower front panel opening at the bottom of the case. Unfortunately, the tab release does not allow the filter to slide out easily. I fiddled with the thing for several minutes before accidentally breaking one tab. That made the filter easier to remove! After cleaning the filter, I replaced it and was surprised to find that it still fit snugly without any noticeable rattles or problems locking it in place despite the absence of one tab.

The optical and floppy drive bays are accessed via a swing-out upper panel door. When closed, the door creates a clean looking, almost seamless front panel. The accessory bay, located an inch below the upper panel door, features blue LEDs on either side of a chromed roll-up door. Front air intake vents are located in slots recessed into the sides of the lower front panel.

In use over a period of two months, the case proved to be a complete joy. Drives operate much quieter than in competing non-damped cases. Case construction is very good, with no loose aluminum members or steel fittings. The unit frame is very stiff too, and combined with the neoprene or rubber isolation dampers premounted in the hard drive trays, creates a very quiet case. The side access panel is secured and released by means of two knurled thumbscrews and a spring-loaded latch. The fit of the panel is excellent. Removing and replacing it over two dozen times has not revealed any looseness or change in tolerances. Nice stuff—well made, using good quality materials.

Cons: We could wish for a 450W power supply. The 380 watt (maximum) power supply ran out of horsepower after we added an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card to the system. This card requires a separate power lead and as far as we can tell it topped out the Antec power supply in the fully loaded case. Considering how heavily we loaded the power supply (even with the older Radeon 9000 All-In-Wonder card), we're surprised the power supply lasted as long as it did. The only real complaint we have about the case is that the front mounted air filter is too difficult to release and remove from the case for periodic cleaning. It's a small bit of poor design in an otherwise excellent case.

Pros: Case includes a very quiet 380 watt Antec power supply. Side-lit front panel accessory port. Fully rubber-damped, side-firing hard drive bays and an almost completely silent case fan teamed with an almost completely silent and stable Antec power supply, provide an unbeatable combination at this price. Competing manufacturers take note: Antec has set the standard of quality & features vs. price and it's a tough act to follow. Good looking case, with clean lines, excellent construction and front panel accessory port with USB, Firewire and audio ports. Fits well in almost any environment. Thumbscrews and quick release latch on access panel. Whether you're building a new system or replacing an old case, the Sonata is an excellent choice. Highly recommended.

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