Antec’s P380 case reviewed

Ahh, Antec. There was a time when the company’s P180 and Sonata enclosures were staples of our System Guide and the go-to cases for enthusiast builders. Like all things in the PC world, though, the case market doesn’t stand still. Enclosures from Corsair, Fractal Design, NZXT, and most recently Phanteks have superseded Antec’s classics.

Today, I’ve got Antec’s brand-new P380 flagship in my lab. Let’s see if this full tower is good enough to recapture some of the company’s past glory.

Antec certainly nailed the P380’s appearance. The front and top panels are formed from thick sheets of aluminum bent into a wraparound design. The semi-metallic gray paint on these panels, combined with their bare metal edges, lends the P380 an immediate air of class.

In a departure from Antec tradition, the case does away with a front door. The face also lacks external 5.25″ drive bays, ports, and switches that would otherwise break up the front panel’s clean lines. Instead, the USB and audio ports are tucked away under the top panel, while the power and reset buttons hide behind the front panel’s sweep of aluminum. Antec includes a set of power and reset buttons on both sides of the front panel, a nice touch.

Around back, we get a good look at some of the P380’s cooling provisions. There’s a single 120-mm fan on the back panel and a couple of hose grommets for custom water-cooling loops. A pair of 140-mm fans is hidden under the top panel. If this setup sounds a bit strange, that’s because it is: unlike typical towers, the P380 has no front fans.

With its top and rear fans configured as exhausts, the P380 is set up for negative-pressure airflow, meaning that dust or dander could get sucked in through any opening in the case. Thankfully, the front panel vents and the PSU intake are both covered by removable dust filters.

Also on tap are—count ’em—nine expansion slots. This is a full tower, after all. The P380 should be ready for as many expansion cards your motherboard can handle.

Here are the P380’s specifications in convenient tabular form:

  Antec P380
Case type ATX full tower
Dimensions (W x H x D) 8.8″ x 21.8″ x 21.9″  (224 x 555 x 557 mm)
Supported motherboards Mini-ITX, microATX, ATX, E-ATX, SSI CEB
2.5″/3.5″ combo bays 8
5.25″ drive bays 2 (internal only)

1 slim

Fan mounts 2 x 140 mm or 3 x 120 mm (top)

2 x 140 mm or 3 x 120 mm (front)

1 x 120 mm (rear)

Included fans 2 x Antec FDB 140 mm (top)

1 x Antec FDB 120 mm (rear)

Radiator mounts 1 x top mount, up to 360 mm long and 65mm thick (with fans)

1 x front mount, up to 360 mm long (with all drive cages removed)

Front panel I/O 2 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

Headphone

Microphone

Expansion slots 9
Max. graphics card length 13″ (310 mm) with drive cages installed

18.3″ (465 mm) with drive cages removed

Max. CPU cooler height 7″ (180 mm)
Gap behind motherboard 0.9″ (1.5″ behind hard drive cages)

The P380 isn’t available for purchase yet, but Antec expects the case to start selling around May 1. Although the suggested retail price is $229, Antec estimates the street price at $199. That price may seem high at first glance, but those thick aluminum outer panels are a distinctly high-end touch. Corsair’s Obsidian 650D mid-tower, which only features a brushed aluminum front panel, currently retails for $180 at Newegg, so Antec’s price isn’t unreasonable for a full tower with premium materials.

Let’s take a look inside the P380 now, and see whether there’s function to go along with all of that form.

 

Interior

Opening the P380 is painless. Antec uses a side-panel design similar to that of Fractal Design’s Define R5, which means that one need only remove a pair of thumbscrews and swing away the sides to get in. The side panels are insulated with sheets of foam to keep noise and vibration down.

As with most modern cases, the P380’s motherboard tray is surrounded by grommets that allow for behind-the-motherboard cable routing. Wider E-ATX boards will block access to some of those portals, which is true of many cases that support this larger form factor.

Despite the lack of 5.25″ openings at the front of the case, Antec does include a couple of jumbo bays inside. These internal 5.25″ bays won’t work with optical drives, but they could be used with some liquid-cooling reservoirs and pumps.

Behind the motherboard, there’s a large cut-out for CPU cooler backplates and copious tiedowns for cable management. The P380 lacks the 2.5″ drive mounts hiding behind the motherboard tray on some enclosures, such as Corsair’s Obisidian 450D and Fractal Design’s Define R5.

Antec includes a six-fan hub powered by a single Molex connector. The Molex source can’t tap into motherboard fan controls, so the hub seems best suited to fans with integrated speed control, like Antec’s pre-installed units. Unlike the built-in fan controllers in the Define R5 and Corsair’s Graphite Series 380T, where a single front-panel switch controls multiple fans, changing speeds in the P380 involves flipping individual switches on each fan. Those switches are only accessible from inside the case, making the process even more inconvenient.

With eight 2.5″/3.5″ combo sleds, the P380 can swallow copious amounts of storage. 3.5″ drives are secured to the plastic sleds with a grommet-and-screw system, while 2.5″ drives are screwed directly onto the sleds.

Those eight sleds are divided between three cages. Two of the cages hold three sleds each, while the topmost cage houses two. Each cage can be removed to make room for extra-long graphics cards or liquid cooling setups, but the process isn’t tool-free at all. The cages are held in place with what seems like a million tiny screws, and getting them all out requires removing the P380’s front and top panels, as well as the switch module for the twin power buttons. This design is a major pain in the rear compared to other modular drive cage implementations I’ve tested. Mark this section of the report card as “needs improvement.”

Removing the case’s front and top fascias is somewhat easier, at least. The top panel is secured with a pair of thumbscrews, while the front panel is held by six standard screws.

With these panels removed, we get a better look at the P380’s twin 140-mm exhaust fans up top, as well as its 120-mm fan at the rear. Curiously, there’s only room for two 140-mm fans in the top panel. Those willing to switch to smaller 120-mm fans can put three spinners up there, though. Liquid-cooling radiators up to 360 mm long can be installed here, too.

Since the fan mounts protrude from the top of the case, there’s plenty of room for thick radiators or push-pull fan setups. I measured 2.5″ (65 mm) of clearance from the top of the fan mounts to the top of the motherboard tray.

The front panel has mounts for an identical complement of fans or radiators, though all of the drive cages must be removed to accommodate a 360-mm radiator or a large reservoir like the one in this Thermaltake kit. That leaves builders in a bit of a lurch: since the P380 doesn’t have any other drive mounts, improvisation might be in order with extreme liquid-cooling setups. At least the front panel can take a 240-mm radiator without sacrificing the dual drive sleds in the top cage.

The P380 has a couple other tricks behind its front and top panels. For those who absolutely need optical storage, Antec provides a plastic bracket (seen on the left in the picture above) for slim optical drives, which then screws into the back of the front panel. Cable-routing holes are punched into the front of the case, too, so wiring a slim optical drive shouldn’t be a big deal.

The front dust filter slides in through the bottom of the front panel. This design choice is annoying, since it means that the case has to be tipped on its back or side in order to make the filter accessible. That might not be so easy with a complete system inside and a bundle of peripheral cables attached.

In keeping with the twin sets of power and reset buttons, the I/O port block can be unscrewed from the top panel and rotated to face either side of the case.

Now that I’ve field-stripped the P380, let’s put it back together and install my version of TR’s Casewarmer system inside.

 

The build

Building a system in the P380 is fairly straightforward. So straightforward, in fact, that I only have one major complaint.

Since this case is a full tower, a standard ATX motherboard looks kind of puny in there. The copious volume means there’s plenty of room for cables and extra-large components. I was afraid the cables of my Cooler Master V550 PSU would actually be too short to route behind the motherboard tray, but they turned out to be just long enough to reach all the major plugs on the motherboard. Keep the P380’s size in mind when selecting a PSU.

There’s just under an inch of clearance behind the motherboard tray, which is enough space to run thick cables like the 24-pin ATX connector without causing the side panel to bend outward. The hard drive cages offer 1.5″ of cable clearance, but there’s a big flange between the cages and the motherboard tray that cuts clearance down to half an inch. Builders with lots of storage will want to be aware of this bottleneck.

My one complaint with building in the P380 is the bargain-basement feel of its fan hub. One of the fan headers was loose out of the box, and the Molex power connector popped free of the circuit board when I connected it to the PSU (although the solder didn’t break). I was able to pop the connector back into place, and the fans worked fine, but the experience wasn’t confidence-inspiring. Remember, this is a $200 case.

Now that the Casewarmer is nestled into the P380, let’s run some benchmarks and see how the case handles the heat.

Our testing methods

Today, I’ll be testing the P380 with the following system inside:

Processor AMD A10-7850K
Motherboard Asus Crossblade Ranger
Memory 8GB AMD Entertainment Edition DDR3-1600
Graphics card Zotac Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti AMP! Edition
Storage Kingston HyperX 120GB SSD

Samsung Spinpoint F1 750GB HDD

Power supply Cooler Master V550
CPU cooler Cooler Master Hyper D92
OS Windows 8.1 Pro

A big thanks to AMD, Asus, Zotac, Kingston, Cooler Master, and Antec for providing the parts that made our testing possible.

I used the following applications in my tests:

Our case test cycle consists of the following phases:

  • 10 minutes idling at the Windows desktop
  • 10 minutes running the Prime95 Small FFTs CPU torture test
  • 10 minutes running Prime95 and the Unigine Heaven GPU benchmark
  • 10 minutes of cooldown time at the Windows desktop

I first tested the P380 with its fans connected to the built-in hub on their low and high settings. I then ran another test cycle with the fans hooked up to motherboard’s fan headers. Where releveant, comparative results are included from Fractal Design’s Define R5 and Corsair’s Obsidian Series 450D.

 

Turning up the heat

First, let’s examine the P380’s performance with its fans controlled by the motherboard. Here are the results of my cooling tests, plotted over time:


And here are some minimum and maximum temperatures from each test phase:


With the motherboard running the show, these cases are all pretty closely matched. There’s only a two or three degree margin between the best- and worst-performing cases in each test. “Worst” might be harsh, too, since none of the cases allow temperatures to get out of safe territory.

For those whose motherboards lack firmware fan control, here are the results from the P380 running with the fans controlled manually:


And here are the minimum and maximum temperatures from each test:


The P380 runs cooler than the Define R5 when each case’s fans are controlled by their built-in switches. Again, though, the differences are only a few degrees for the most part. Maybe one of these cases will distinguish itself from the pack in our noise tests.

Noise levels

Here are idle and load noise levels measured with Faber Acoustical’s SoundMeter iOS app. These measurements were taken 6″ from each side of the case.

First, let’s examine the P380’s acoustic performance under manual fan control:


With the P380’s fans controlled by their built-in speed switches, the noise levels are nothing to write home about at idle. In fact, the high-speed setting is exceptionally loud.

Under load, however, the low-speed P380 config is the quietest one by three to four dBA. That’s an impressive achievement given the fact that the Define R5 features a couple of sound-deadening features missing from the P380, like foam-lined front and top panels. That said, the P380 loses out to the Define R5 when both cases are spinning their fans at full speed.

Next, let’s look at noise levels with the motherboard in charge:


With the firmware dictating fan speeds, the P380’s idle noise levels fall between the Define R5 and the Obsidian 450D, and they improve when compared to the manual results. Under load, the P380 is the quietest case once again, beating out the already quiet Define R5. The P380 might be the quietest tower-style case I’ve tested under load, period. Bravo, Antec.

Those low dBA numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. To my ears, the P380’s top fans produce a distinctively identifiable pitched noise even at their low speed setting, and that problem only intensifies with the controller switched into high gear. The stock fans in Corsair and Fractal Design’s cases produce broader-spectrum noise that sounds better to me.

Controlling the P380’s fans with the motherboard can improve the case’s perceived noise levels. Antec states that the 120-mm rear fan runs at 600 RPM on its low setting, but the Crossblade Ranger’s firmware spins the fan as slowly as 476 RPM. I saw similar slowdowns with the top fans, which run at a minimum of 800 RPM with their built-in controllers and about 530 RPM when attached to the motherboard. These differences diminish the tonal character of the fans and make the P380 perceptibly quieter overall.

Also, I should add that my test rig’s mechanical hard drive occasionally causes the P380 to vibrate and buzz. Every other case I’ve tested has had problems keeping the buzz down, so the P380 isn’t unique in this regard. When the case isn’t buzzing, the insulated side panels and huge rubber feet do a good job of reducing hard-drive noise. I had to check whether the drive was running several times during my testing.

 

Conclusions

The P380 has a lot of expectations riding on it. Does it deliver?

The P380 has some quirks, like the difficult-to-access dust filter for the front panel. Other parts, like the included fan hub, just feel cheap. The individual switches on each fan aren’t the most convenient method of fan speed control. The P380 also lacks a lot of the tool-free niceties that I’ve come to expect in modern cases. Dedicated mounts for 2.5″ storage behind the motherboard tray would have been nice to see, and Antec’s included fans aren’t the best-sounding spinners that I’ve experienced.

It’s not all bad news, though. Antec really hit a home run with the P380’s styling: the solid aluminum fascia looks incredible under a desk. The duplicated power and reset buttons and the swappable I/O cluster are both thoughtful touches. This case is plenty spacious, so building a system inside is easy. The P380 is also good at cooling the system inside, and with the fan speeds managed by the motherboard, it delivered the lowest noise levels I’ve measured with these components.

If Antec had included better-sounding fans, a higher-quality fan hub, and more tool-free features, the P380 would be in the running with some of our favorite cases. For now, buyers will have to weigh the P380’s good looks and solid performance against its minor drawbacks and premium price.

Comments closed
    • hasseb64
    • 5 years ago

    Fulltowers are kind of back to the nineties, was cool back then, had a Sonata once, my first “real” expensive case, strong built case, like a Sherman tank: high, vulnerable(plastic door)
    Meh
    Lian Li is still my favorite, Silverstone will be my next victim.

    • fredsnotdead
    • 5 years ago

    I have an Antec case at work, vintage 2006, that has this same filter design where you have to tip the case to get the filter out. I have a Sonata case at home, vintage 2009 or so, that is pretty nice but you have to open up the side panel to remove the filter. I wonder if anyone who designs these cases actually uses them?

    Also, why are power supplies now always in the bottom of the case? Are people worried their cases are top-heavy and will tip over? Do they secretly have a BTX fetish? Have they forgotten that warm air rises and top-mounted power supplies will expel this warm air?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      They’re on the bottom so that they can get their own airflow, I think. Also, power supplies don’t vent out the top.

      • BillyBuerger
      • 5 years ago

      That’s the point. A top mounted PSU has to expel the warm air from the rest of the components. This means the PSU runs hotter which could have an affect on the lifetime. But I think it’s more because this will cause PSU fans to spin faster to keep the PSU cool and therefore make more noise. Putting them at the bottom means they generally get cooler air and don’t have to work as hard or make as much noise. Let the case fans to the work of getting rid of the hot air from the CPU/GPU.

        • hansmuff
        • 5 years ago

        .. leaving less cool air for the components above the PSU.

        When Antec did the P120, it kinda sorta made a little more sense because the PSU was in its own chamber and had its own fan. The top rest had another intake fan.

        But the mixed designs just rob Peter to pay Paul. But it’s a fad so we’ll just wait for top mounted to come back. ATX design makes more sense anyway since for top mounted the motherboard power cables don’t have to be as long.

          • Froz
          • 5 years ago

          I always thought in typical setup PSU in the bottom has its own air intake (it takes air from bottom and expel it outside of the case. So it does not take cool air from other components. This is also the setup used in this test, as seen here:

          [url<]https://techreport.com/r.x/antecp380a/builtleft.jpg[/url<] Of course you could also mount PSU upside-down with fan taking air from inside the case, but unless you keep your case on thick, hairy carpet, I don't see a point. Up until quite recently I had a case with top-mounted PSU and when I switched to my current case, the difference in sound level is just striking.

          • sluggo
          • 5 years ago

          A 90% efficient PSU delivering 360 watts is dissipating 40 watts, while the rest of the system is dissipating those 360 watts as heat.

          A 40 watt heat source or a 360 watt heat source – which one do you want on the bottom?

        • flip-mode
        • 5 years ago

        [quote<]A top mounted PSU has to expel the warm air from the rest of the components. [/quote<] Jeez, that's so inconvenient.

      • Krogoth
      • 5 years ago

      Not only does it improve audio and thermal management for chassis. It makes tidying and cable management a lot easier if the PSU is on the bottom of the chassis.

      BTX actually involved more than just moving the PSU to the bottom of the chassis. It was creating a wind tunnel for the CPU itself. It was a quick-fix that Intel did to deal with their Prescott chips when ATX form factor was having problems managing those toasters. Intel abandoned BTX when Conroe and its successors didn’t need it. It also made it problematic for integrated memory controllers on CPUs, because BTX increased the distance between the memory and CPU socket. It will have made intergrated memory on the CPU very difficult and expensive to work correctly especially with DDR3/DDR4. This was one of the AMD’s original criticism of BTX, since they moved the memory controller of the platforms onto the CPU with Athlon 64 and beyond. Intel only started doing it with Bloomfield and newer.

    • tootercomputer
    • 5 years ago

    I had a Antec Super Lanboy, bought it in 2004, and I only got rid of a year or so ago after being targeted one too many times by one of our cats. Right after I bought it, I needed a mobo speaker and actually got hold of someone on the phone at Antec who mailed it to me for free. I mean, that was awesome. Great service.

    I also bought an Antec Nine Hundred or something in that era, still use it, keeps my OCed Lynfield system on a Gigabyte mobo pretty cool, but not the easiest case to work on.

    Last summer, I replaced the Lanboy with a Fractal Define R4 with a window, and there was simply no comparison. The Fractal has been a dream to work on, easy to service, an enthusiast’s delight. Antec is a good company, though not perfect (I purchased one of their PSUs once and it sucked despite good reviews) but I always look at their products. It will be interesting to see if they can get back.

    • anotherengineer
    • 5 years ago

    Oh Antec, it seems you have gone nowhere since the sonata 3 & P182 came out long time ago,………………………………………………in a galaxy far, far away.

    • Shadin
    • 5 years ago

    I can’t really see paying $200 for a case like this again, when the Fractal Design Define R5 can be found for $100-110. I have the R4 and it’s one of the best cases I’ve ever owned.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 5 years ago

      Same here. The R5 is definitely what I’d be looking at if I was buying a case today. My R4 is so solid.

    • Thresher
    • 5 years ago

    I used to buy nothing but Antec cases, but moved over to Corsair when the 800D came out. Antec, for some reason, never really caught on that the market had changed. This looks like a good step towards catching up.

    However, what I truly want is a modernized Corsair 650D. Corsair is either not making them or not making them right now because they are really hard to find. The current model has front USB 3.0 cables that have to pass through the box and plug into ports on the back of the machine rather than just an internal USB 3.0 header plug. If Antec could make something like that, I’d buy it.

    • Anovoca
    • 5 years ago

    The grommets appear to be spaced too far away from the board leaving the cable travel length to be too long. In the end, the build you have pictured looks no better cable managed then an non-grommeted case with a modular PSU.

    Also, I am starting to grow tired of the brushed aluminum look. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it, its just that it is over done.

    • NeelyCam
    • 5 years ago

    Too tiny

    • TopHatKiller
    • 5 years ago

    Thanks very much for the review.
    There are far too few good sites performing proper, temp case tests.

    However: I realise this comment is problematic : adding additional tests by adding or moving case fans might solve the problem of how would the case perform [i<]if I added this fan, in that position[/i<] - but there are so many fan options on most cases these days, and TR would have to decide what fans to add, and where in each particular case, and the results would become insanely long. But. There are many instances when the cooling issues associated with a particular case might be rectifiable by the strategic addition of a fan or two. Without people like you, measuring and testing, the community has only to make good educated guesses about case cooling - rather than rely on independent solid reviews . I do appreciate your efforts though. As for the P380 though; as I've said earlier. It's yet another sad case of cost-cutting, pretty much in everything, and this case shows very dimly on Antec's excellent early reputation for case design. A sad sign of the times for enthusiast PCs. Incidentally, this case has two internal 5.25" bays: just no external openings for them. Whether Antec saw that other companies were dumping 5.25" bays and decided they could follow suite, or more likely their is another case Antec haven't announced that uses the same chassis and does have two 5.25" bays...? When this case was demoed, and I was so interested in it then, the front aluminum panel was a single folded piece 8mm thick [bit like some Silverstone designs] but that got cut-out for money reasons. The case is a real shame.

      • Chrispy_
      • 5 years ago

      I believe the two internal 5.25″ bays are for a reservoir or pump, not that I think this is a case watercooling folk would shortlist, but at least there’s that argument for why they exist in the P380

      I agree with your summary that the P380 is a cost-cutting excercise though, it does look like a budget case – say a Carbide 200R – with a fancy metal slab on the front.

      There are companies like NZXT, Fractal, Silverstone and Bitfenix constantly pushing the envelope so whilst Antec still don’t make [i<]bad[/i<] cases, it's hard to justify springing for one over the competition.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        Yes, a Carbide 200R at 4x the price.

    • thedosbox
    • 5 years ago

    Like the aesthetics, but I’d prefer a microATX version – if only to cut down on the weight of the thing (27lb!).

    • Captain Ned
    • 5 years ago

    Guess the P182 will soldier on to its 3rd build.

    • brucethemoose
    • 5 years ago

    I don’t see why I’d want this case over an NZXT H440, or any Fractal Design case.

      • hans
      • 5 years ago

      Or the P280.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 5 years ago

    Wow, it’s like my Corsair 650D, with tons less flexibility and a much higher price.

      • Tatsh
      • 5 years ago

      Exactly what I thought. I have the 750D.

      This Antec really reminds me of my Antec Twelve Hundred case, something I rarely want to touch. The drive bays are so annoying to use, and you cannot really remove the chassis for them, although it appears Antec now gets the message that cases need to be more flexible. Things need to be removable and easily put back if need be. But still, the drive bays in this case for 3.5″/2.5″ are kind of in the way of things inside to me.

      By contrast, in my Corsair 750D, I removed the 2 chassis for 3.5″ drives as I am only using SSDs which have a strange arrangement through the other side of the case but it does keep the case pretty open for good air flow. Also this part is very easy to reinstall. In the 750D I also like having multiple built-in slots for 2.5″ drives, rather than having to use adapters.

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