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Antec's P160 ATX Case

Light as the breeze

Price (street)$114

ANTEC CASES AND I GO BACK a long way. I purchased their KS-188 full tower back in January of 1999, and since then I've always housed my main machine in an Antec case. Currently, I'm using an SX-1030 to house my components.

Needless to say, it didn't take much convincing to get me to look at one of Antec's latest offerings, the P160. The sleek lines and aluminum construction are a nice start, but does this new case have the features and innovation that we've come to expect from Antec? We'll soon find out.

Looking outside the box
We'll start off with a nice overall view of the case.

The P160 is a study in silver, with its aluminum panels highlighted by a front bezel with a chrome finish on the borders. If you saw this design on a classic beige computer case, you might think it looked boxy, but the aluminum panels complement the design. The result is a package that says "function before fashion" yet still manages to look good in an understated way.

The two circles near the top of the left panel are the latches that secure the panel. To remove the panel, grab the two vertical handles in the circle and turn them a quarter turn clockwise, then pull the top of the panel out and lift it off.

Look closely at the rear latch, and you'll see a small circle in the middle of the handle. This is the keyhole for the case lock. It's a small thing, but the "circle within a circle" design is a nice touch.

Let's look at the front and back of the case.

Two of the 5.25" bays have special covers designed to hide optical drives. Anyone who's ever seen an aluminum case with a beige CD-ROM drive will appreciate these. We'll look at the operation of these covers in more detail later on. In the same vein, one of the external 3.5" bays has a cover designed to hide a floppy drive. At the bottom of the case, there are several large openings for fresh air intake. A blue LED is mounted at the top of each of these openings to provide an indirect lighting effect. Later on, we'll see what it looks like.

The first thing you'll notice when looking at the back of the case is the gaping hole where a power supply should be. Antec does not ship the P160 with a power supply unit. The good and bad sides of this arrangement are obvious: You can choose whatever power supply you'd like to use, but you have to purchase it separately. Obviously, Antec is targeting the P160 at the type of consumer who wants to handpick every component that goes into his system. For review purposes, Antec thoughtfully shipped us one of their TrueBlue 480 PSUs.

The second thing you'll notice on the back of the case is the very large mounting point for a very large fan. Because it was designed with quiet in mind, the P160 uses 120mm fan ports. The larger 120mm fans can move more air while spinning at a slower speed than their 80mm counterparts, allowing for good cooling with significantly reduced noise.

This is a close-up of the top of the front bezel. (I apologize for the hotspots; taking pictures of chrome finishes is no fun.) There is a Firewire port on the far left, then two USB 2.0 ports and the reset button. It's impossible to see in the photo, but just to the right of the reset button is an LED temperature display. I'll show you a picture of the display in operation later on. To the right of the LED display are microphone in and headphone out ports, followed finally by the power button. Barely visible between the headphone jack and the power button are a red LED to indicate hard drive access, and a green LED to indicate system power.

If you look to the far left of the picture, you'll see a small button. You'll also see that the ports and the like are actually mounted on a cylinder. This cylinder rotates from a position that places the ports parallel with the front of the case to one that has them facing up at a 45 degree angle. The cylinder locks into place at either end of its travel, and the button releases it. The end result is that you can have the ports face straight out if you have the case on top of your desk, or face up if you have the case on the floor.