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Antec's Sonata ATX case

A symphony of silence

Price (Street)$100

I'M GETTING OLD. Very old. I know this because my tastes in computers are changing in ways I never could have anticipated—ways that are scary to a guy like me. And let me be clear, I am the guy who always has to have the fastest computer possible for anything close to a sane amount of money. I'm the prototypical overclocker, the guy who gets a kick both out of going fast and out of having saved a buck in the process. I want my computer to impress people in a way that is slightly menacing. Back in the day, my dual Celeron 300A rig was overclocked to 504MHz and had—count 'em—fourteen fans going full tilt all the time, inside a giant tower case that could have easily housed a family of four. We didn't have brushed aluminum cases or neon yet, but I made sure I had as much cooling power as CPU power.

Over time, fourteen fans came to seem a little excessive, and I found I could get a killer-fast PC into a mid-tower case with just a few well-placed cooling fans and have plenty of headroom for overclocking my Athlon XP.

But nowadays, I am thinking scary thoughts. Terrible thoughts. I am, at times, almost completely absorbed by the thought of making my computers quieter, whatever the cost. Those Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processors? Not for me; too hot. Maybe I could go for a dually system—the holy grail of those desiring creamy smooth PC performance—but what about the noise? Two CPUs generate lots of heat. Maybe I won't.

At times, I think my Centrino-based laptop has become my favorite computer. I mean, I really, really like it, more than a guy should like a computer with yesterday's performance and virtually zero expandability. And I like it especially because it's almost completely silent.

Next thing you know, it's time for dentures and Depends, and I'm drooling into the keyboard of a Macintosh G5. Fortunately, Antec has brewed up a concoction to soothe the ears of geezers like me in the form of the Sonata case. This deep black mini-tower ATX enclosure has the style to make a young man excited and the serenity to make an old man weep for joy.

What does a Sonata look like?
Antec decks out the Sonata in what it calls a "piano black" finish. To my eye, it looks more like a black automotive paint job, but whatever you call it, it looks good.

The Sonata's "piano black" finish gives it a unique style

Open the front door panel, and...'ll find three 5.25" external drive bays and two 3.5" bays, neatly covered when the door's closed to prevent leftover beige peripherals from spoiling the effect. I've heard several complaints about the sturdiness of the door itself, though. Whack the door real good on accident, and the hinges tend to break. This may be one of the Sonata's biggest weaknesses. Fortunately, Antec sells replacement front doors via its website for seven bucks.

Rails nestled cleverly in the drive bay cover

The Sonata's front drive bays use a rail mechanism for mounting 5.25" drives, and rails are provided. These are screw-on rails, not the goofy tension-based types that are always popping off of the drive, and I happen to think they are the way to mount 5.25" drives—a much superior alternative to taking off both sides of the case and reaching a screwdriver into a drive cage, that's for sure.

A single, slide-out metal cage houses both 3.5" drives. This custom bit of kit works just as expected, without too much hassle or fuss. The fit is solid. You will, however, have to disconnect cabling to both devices in order to swap one of them out.