Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Antec P-182: Mixed Blessing

When the time has come to build a new box, there were two primary considerations: one, I didn't want to rebuild an existing case, two, I got tired of "overpaying" (should've known better, but later about it), as was the case (or so I thought at the time) with Lian-Li V-Cool PC-V1200B.

Also, loud cases eventually got me tired, and a quiet case like this was probably the last straw.

So, after careful consideration, I decided to try Antec P-182.


Lian-Li cases remind me or Sir Henry Royce (yes, the Rolls-Royce Royce): The quality remains long after the price is forgotten. Even ancient (vintage of 2002) Lian-Li PC-60 would be a very good case today, if not for noisy 80mm fans (there is a 120mm version, but alas, it was manufactured later).

P-182, on the other hand... Every step of the way shows the cost cutting measures. More the pity because the design decisions are basically sound.

P-182 is not as big as reviews would like you to believe. 8800GTS cards do fit into the case, but forget about installing hard drives or extra fan into the middle bay cage - the cables get in the way.

Cable management is a nightmare. Despite the fact that P-182 is considered an improvement over P-180 (I dread to think how bad *that* was), cables don't really have much place to be hidden at, plastic doors bend and become difficult to close, cables routed in the lower compartment tend to interfere with fan blades - not fun at all.

Fans were the last straw.

I am very disappointed to have trusted the opinion expressed by Silent PC Review in their P-182 review. I guess they have based that opinion on medium or low speed setting on the fans, neither of which is really acceptable for a person on a low budget in the middle of Arizona summer.

Interestingly enough, a separate review TriCool fans were described as "definitely not quiet".

Setting the fans or medium or low speed, given the fact that the box had one of the hottest (no pun intended) motherboards on the market (ASUS Striker II Formula), ambient temperature about 30°C, disks heating up to 43°Cб was absolutely out of question.

Had to replace the stock fans.

Decided to trust Silent PC Review once again, and bought Scythe SY1225SL12M (used other Scythe product, S-FLEX SFF21D before, liked them a lot - but the flow would have not been sufficient for this case).

This brought the price of the caseto $200 - the price of a comparable feature set, but better manufactured Lian-Li.

Also, when I took the fans off, it turned out that the underside of fan grills is quite sharp and rough, creating turbulence and without doubt adding extra wind noise. Had this happened before the component installation, it would've been OK to smooth them over, but with the motherboard and power supply installed, and cables routed, I said the hell with it.

The very last straw - turned out that the plastic door has a razor sharp edge. Lost a quart of blood and about 2"x1/4" piece of skin - it was kinda unbelievable to cause such a wound with a piece of, mind you, soft plastic.

All in all, after all was said and done, I had issued the last expletive and promised myself not to buy new cases, ever, even if it means that I will have to make them out of wood.

Now that I'm done with the criticism...

The case is relatively quiet, and relatively cool (as in temperature, not as in appeal).

All the fans except the drive compartment one are under variable speed control provided by BIOS. The last fan is simply turned on at 70% speed.

Hard drive noise is very well contained. I simply don't hear them (Seagate Barracuda, not quite known for being quiet).

Even the 8800GTS SLI is not audible until their fans get up to about 50% speed, with the cards themselves not heating up above lazy 70°C (for comparison,
XFX GF7950GT PVT71JYHE9 is feeling just fine all the way up to 120°C).

The only noise left after fan replacement is a slight hum of the fans - mostly video card fans. Doesn't interfere with listening to the music. Doesn't interfere with work. Playing games? I don't think you'd notice anything at all. HVAC turning on absolutely drowns all the noise produced by the box.

Is it possible to make the case quieter? Yes, by using a cooler motherboard and hard drives (Western Digital drives seem to be the best in this context nowadays). You can also use even quieter S-FLEX fans, but that'll be tempting the fate.

Is it possible to make the case cooler? Absolutely - just set all the fans at 100% speed (after the fans have been replaced, of course). Even then the case is quite acceptable, albeit noticeable.

In other words, am I happy with the case? Well, after all the time and efforts spent on it, mostly yes - provided I don't have to get in often, the cables are really annoying to deal with.

Am I gonna buy a comparable case again? Hell no. Either another of my dozen leftover cases gets an extreme makeup, or I'm gonna buy another Lian-Li. I don't think that would be much more expensive, and know for sure that the quality would be better.


  1. I recently picked up the P-182 myself and when the 2 top fans are set to low, it is a reasonably quiet system.

    My system consists of a Gigabyte EP45-UD3R (great board) with E7300 CPU and a big fanned Sapphire ATI 4850 video card.

    In 20c ambient, idle temps are about 35c for the video card and system board, with the CPU running much cooler at 27c. I am only running the top two fans (I have no hard drives in the lower bay, so never bothered to plug that 3rd lower fan in).

    Unfortunately, in this configuration the system overheats and locks up when playing video games.

    Turning the fans to medium delays the lock up considerably, but it still locks up. Only when I set the fans to high, does the machine run perfect. Of course, at that point, the thing sounds like a jet engine.

    I am considering temp controlled fans, but given your experiences, I might just try the fans you recommend instead.

    BTW...I also considered the LIAN-LI, but was swayed away with suggestions that an all aluminum case might be too noisy.

    I concur the p-182 cabling is a bit funky, but managed to get everything routed ok. I was also a bit disapointed at the quality and heft of the P-182. The thing weighs nearly 50 pounds all loaded.

    Fortunately, I got the case for 100 bucks shipped to my door (newegg email special).

  2. Michael: Lian-Li cases that I have are indeed noisy (leaning a bit towards "very noisy"), but they are not the "quiet" types (there's a "V Cool" series, which I got, and "V Quiet", which I never had a chance to try). The workmanship is vastly superior, though.

    Temperature controlled fans are not a good idea, at least in my experience - they are usually more noisy than I care for, and substantially more expensive. I'd rather invest the money into a better motherboard which is able to perform temperature monitoring and fan control. Asus that I have does a perfect job. The only thing to watch out for is fans with high starting voltage - S-FLEX SFF21D, for example, is not suitable for this application because some instances of it just stall when ambient temperature gets colder.