Antec Lanboy Air Review

airman - 2010-12-08 12:49:56 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: January 11, 2011
Price: $199.99

Introduction:

Antec has always been one of those manufacturers that just about everyone with even only a little experience in the world of computers has heard of. For almost 25 years, Antec has been developing and producing top quality cases, power supplies and other PC accessories and their quality has not decreased over the years. I have been an Antec fan since the early days of my own computer enthusiasm, and have been a regular user of their products. Antec has always had a large fan base for their computer cases as they always have great airflow, good looks, innovative features, and overall intelligent design.

The looks of someone's rig can be very important. To those who it isn't, typically you'll find their high end gaming rig in a $40 cheapo case, or better yet, strewn across their desk in no case at all. As we know, there is quite a market for the folks who care heavily for looks. Some of these products are low-end, flashy mid tower cases that have, for example "neat dragon design in the window and comes with two free 80mm red LED fans". On the opposite end, some people are okay with spending hundreds of dollars on the case of their choice that does everything that they could ever want, and has superb looks.

Antec has something for those who want just about everything, but not to spend hundreds of dollars. This offering is the Antec Lanboy Air. It is a fully customizable, nearly 100% modular mid tower case that can be configured in hundreds of different ways. I will go into a mass of detail about these customizations on the upcoming pages, so stay tuned. The Antec Lanboy Air is an open frame, mesh construction, mid tower computer case that is quite portable and looks damn good, just like the legend that the name of the Antec Lanboy implies. I am ecstatic to have my hands on this case. I remember seeing the unveil video from the CES2010 coverage, and have had my fingers crossed the entire year hoping to get my hands on it one day. Alas, that day has come, and it is time to start checking it out.

 

Closer Look:

The front of the box for the Lanboy Air has a fully exploded view of the case, showing the sheer modularity that this product offers. Literally every component can be stripped from the frame and be rearranged into different positions, potentially offering more convenience to the user over another position. I did not fully realize this by reading about it before launch, and I must say this picture is impressive. The right side of the case shows a picture of the Lanboy Air fully assembled, which may be one of the few pictures like it throughout this review! By now, I believe I have figured out I have the blue model as pictured all over the box. The rear of the box has nine icons showing certain features of the case with brief explanations in several different languages that describe each of these features. Each picture is bordered in either red, yellow, or blue, which are the three colors in which the Antec Lanboy Air is available. The left side of the case has a similar picture to that as the one on the right side of the case, but it has many red and blue arrows entering and exiting the case. Though they seem to be arranged randomly, the concept is there. There are many ways to configure the fans and cooling arrangements with the Lanboy Air, as nothing stands between the user and their preference but a few screws and a few minutes.

 

 

 

Like 99.999% of every other case out there, it is protected inside the exterior box by being the meat of the sandwich between two soft Styrofoam blocks and wrapped in plastic. This prevents it from being damaged from impacts, and the plastic wrap helps it stay scratch-free and clean during handling and packaging. On top of the case inside the box is the user's manual and a card with the link to Antec's survey page. I typically picture the case with all of the included accessories and hardware, but each require a little more explanation than usual so I will explore those later.

 

 

With the Lanboy Air out of the box, my anticipation for what this case has to offer is growing the more I look at it, so let's move on.

Closer Look

The front of the case has three drive covers and two 120mm fan assemblies. Even with everything in place from the factory, you can see about 12 more empty screw holes for when we start moving things around. That will be on the next page, so don't lose interest yet. Though hard to see in this picture, the two front 120mm fans have adjustable speed with a small knob in the bottom right of the fan assembly - just like the Antec DF-85 does.

The left side of the case makes it look nearly transparent, as most of the surfaces of the Lanboy Air are mesh. The two 120mm fans are configured to be in the middle out of the box, though as might be becoming more apparent, they certainly don't have to stay there. Towards the front of the side panel is a large door that flips open to access the hard drive area, and the large panel comes off as one piece with no hinging by removing the six thumb screws.

The rear of the case shows another 120mm fan, external water cooling loop grommets, an included (though probably useless) motherboard I/O plate, and the power supply housing. Underneath the rear 120mm fan is a two-speed fan control, also just like the DF-85. There is another spot next to this one that is empty, and will allow the user to purchase an identical fan which can be placed at the top of the case, and the speed control will fit perfectly in this area. It is even labeled "top". The right side panel of this case is just like the left side, though it does not have fans already attached to them. The front area of this panel also is a hinged door like the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom of the Lanboy Air is heavily perforated and allows for great airflow. It is not constructed of tiny circular holes like the rest of the case, but it is a metal sheet with a square pattern of holes stamped into it. This will help airflow and also help a bottom mounted power supply "breath" better. There are six rubber feet that help prevent the case from sliding around on hard floors, as well as decrease the amount of sound and vibrations transferred to the floor. The top of the case is a highly glossy plastic material with more holes cut into it for two more 120mm fans. These two spots do not have included fans, so I guess Antec felt like including five was enough to give the user a good start. There is a metallic inlay of the Antec logo on the very front portion that adds a nice accent to the look of the case. There are also two built-in, folding handles that assist the user in carrying their computer around, most likely to LAN parties as the name of the case implies!

 

 

The front I/O ports of the Lanboy Air include three USB ports (2x USB 2.0, 1x USB3.0), as well as standard audio ports - headphone and microphone. The reset button is to the left of these ports, and the power button to the right. The power and activity LEDs are positioned to the right of the reset button, and glow blue. All of the hardware required to use this case to its full potential is included in the toolbox located at the very bottom of the case. A toolbox has usually been included with the Antec Lanboy series, as it can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong and minor surgeries are needed while the computer is away from home. Even though I am calling it a toolbox, I did not find any tools in it. More appropriately, it could be called a screw box, but I didn't like the way that sounded. Inside this box are all of the typical screws, standoffs, and some oddball screws and rubber grommets for attaching more fans and for mounting 2.5" hard drives to the case.

 

 

 

I mentioned the individual fan controllers earlier, but did not provide a closer look at them. As I stated, the rear fan already has a two speed selector in place, with room for the same selector if a top fan is installed that has that feature. The front fans are individually controlled by knobs, which do not dim or increase the brightness of the built in LEDs. Many fan controllers adjust the power to the entire fan circuit, including the LEDs, but these on the Antec Lanboy Air only control the voltage going to the motor, and not the LEDs.

 

With the exterior of the case explored, it's now time to get into the nitty-gritty of the review. The next page will be an in depth, complete demonstration of the case's capabilities, features, and modularity.

Closer Look:

As a forewarning, there are hundreds of ways to configure the Antec Lanboy Air. I am only showing a few of them, and the rest is up to the user! Many possibilities are attainable with this case, and all it takes is a little imagination. Removing the six (yes, six) thumbscrews on each stationary panel and the one for the hinged door on each side, the Lanboy Air opens up and looks like it could take flight. Even though it is a mid-tower case by definition, there is a lot of real estate inside. When stripped to just the blue frame, it truly shows how open the Lanboy Air is. I have no problem saying this is the closest thing to being open that one could achieve without a tech station (a completely open case) or by straight up leaving the components on the desk. As it is packaged, the Lanboy Air is configured to have a bottom mounted power supply. Yes, that can be reconfigured, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom rear of the inside of the case shows the PSU housing, a view of the perforated, breathable bottom panel, eight(yes, eight) expansion slots, and the two water cooling grommets. A careful eye will see the holes for where the hard drives will hang at the front of the case, which I will demonstrate shortly. Turning to the top of the rear of the case will show that the high gloss plastic top is actually translucent, and is smoked acrylic. I say smoked because it is a dark, see-though color. This is probably the first case I've seen that has a panel that is fully acrylic, let alone having the illusion of being opaque from the outside under normal conditions while actually having some transparency under inspection. The motherboard plate does have a cutout to access the heatsink mounting holes, and we'll see if it works for this motherboard once I get the computer fully assembled at the end of this section.

Panning over to the front of the inside of the case, we can see the three rails for optical drives and other 5.25" devices, along with the I/O cables twist tied to the middle rail to keep them out of the way during shipping. A close look will show screw holes for these rails all of the way down this part of the frame. Which means, you guessed it, these can be repositioned individually in any way desired. Another close look will show that the holes for the hooks of the hard drive suspenders can be oriented side-to-side or front-to-back. This adds yet another dimension of flexibility to the Lanboy Air!

 

 

 

With everything being removable, it makes it easy to take pictures of each component and offering explanations to each of them. I'll start off with the motherboard tray, which clips into the back panel of the case, and when a motherboard and expansion cards are already installed, it stays as one piece upon removal. It slides along the rails on the right side of the case, which, surprise, are also moveable! By now I am already blown away with what can be changed on this case. It can literally be stripped down 100%, and rearranged in any way, which is very cool. The motherboard tray already has in place six of the standard nine stand-offs required for most motherboards, and the remaining ones can be found in the tool box, or rather, the screw box.

 

 

Another important, individual component is the power supply housing and the support bracket. The support bracket is pictured on the left in the picture of them separated, and the housing is to the right. They are equipped with rails that allow them to slide together and be secured, no matter what way they are oriented. The support bracket attaches to the outside panel of the rear of the case as well as to the top or the bottom of the frame, where the housing will slide into and be secured. This is obviously important for top and bottom mounted power supply configurations.

 

 

I'll now demonstrate one of the most important customizations that the Lanboy Air is capable of. Since the power supplies can be mounted at the bottom or the top, the entire motherboard and back panel assembly must be shifted up or down, respectively. This is achieved by removing the motherboard tray, back panel, and PSU housing/mounting bracket and repositioning the two rails on which the motherboard tray slides. Two screws on each rail must be removed. One thing that I haven't mentioned yet, and I will in my conclusion, is the heavy amount of screw-driving needed for simple position changes. There is an advantage to this, however, and is that it is much more reliable than pieces that snap together, but just more of a hassle since it takes some more time to find and remove all of the necessary screws, and then replace them. However, I prefer reliability over ease of use for something that may only be changed once and left there. Anyways, check this out.

 

 

 

Though I show everything in one step, it is quite clear what happened. The motherboard tray, back panel, and power supply mounting assembly are all removed. The rails are fastened to the other set of pre-tapped holes, and everything slides back together in the appropriate slot. Moving on, as I said earlier, the hard drives are suspended with the included, well, suspenders, and can be oriented front-to-back or side-to-side. This is important for users who want to orient their hard drives in a certain way to perhaps clear other components, to improve wire management, or simply as personal preference desires. The suspenders themselves have plastic pieces that mount to each side of the hard drive, and rubber tubing running through this plastic piece with hooks on each end. Two are required per hard drive.

 

 

The configuration of the front panel is also fully customizable. Since the hooks for the hard drive suspenders are available through the entire height of the case, hard drives can be installed at the top, middle or bottom, and above, below, or between the optical drives. The fans can be placed wherever they both fit, and the 5.25" bays can fill in the spaces between them. I pictured two different configurations where the 5.25" covers are kept together, but it is certainly possible to split them up in any way desired.

 

 

My first impression of the side panels is that each of the three sections were removable, though they are not. However, each side panel can accommodate up to four 120mm fans. I asked where the maximum number of fans this case can hold comes from, which is 15. I discovered that there are holes on the inside of the hinged doors, allowing up to three more fans on each side. So, two in the front, two on top, one in the rear, three on each of the hinged doors, and four on the left side panel. That adds up to fifteen! My guess is with that many fans, this case might actually have liftoff. The fans included with the Antec Lanboy Air are two blue LED 120mm intake fans with stepless speed adjustment, two blue LED 120mm side fans with two step controlling, and one more rear blue LED 120mm fan with two step controlling as well. I couldn't find any information about the amperage and noise/RPM of these fans, but I can say that at full speed they are audible not not terribly distracting. At low speed, they are hardly audible - considerably silent.

 

 

 

Not only can the power supply be mounted at the top or the bottom of the case, but it can also be oriented upwards or downwards inside of the PSU housing bracket. Pictured is the Antec Truepower 750W power supply for demonstration purposes, currently priced at about $120 at many vendors. The ability to orient the power supply two ways is another powerful way to control the cooling of the case depending on the fan placement inside of the power supply. Typically, the fan pulls in air from a large fan on the under side of the power supply, and exhausts it through another fan facing outwards in the rear of the power supply. Changing the orientation of the power supply changes where it pulls air from. For example, from underneath or through the top of the case, or from the inside of the case. Pulling from outside essentially closes off the cooling for the power supply, and doesn't affect the airflow of the rest of the case in any way. Pulling air from the inside of the case, however, can help pull out hot air from around the motherboard and exhaust it through the power supply. Negatively, however, this can increase the internal temperature of the power supply. So, trial and error here is the best way to handle this choice if there isn't a pre-existing personal preference.

 

 

The mounting of a hard drive is no daunting task. One of the suspenders is secured to each side with the included screws, and hooked into the appropriate holes in the front. Suspending the drives in this manner almost completely eliminates any vibrations from being transferred into the case, and protects them from any harmful influences to a hard drive in operation such as drops and sudden bumps. As I said earlier, these suspenders can be oriented either way, as I've pictured several paragraphs above.

 

 

To show how the motherboard tray, rear panel, and power supply bracket are removed, I've taken pictures of them as they are sliding out. Specifically, having this ability for the motherboard is nice to be able to remove it from the case without having to completely disassemble the case if close access is needed to the motherboard. The tray doesn't have to be removed from the case to install the motherboard, though the power supply should be installed in the housing bracket first before it is installed, as it can make it much easier - especially for larger power supplies. For larger power supplies, it may not even be possible to install the power supply from the inside of the case.

 

 

 

While getting everything installed, the typical measures I take for wire management were almost foiled by its design. I like to route wires behind the motherboard tray over to the hard drive area to clean up the look, but there is zero clearance between the side panel and the hard drive door on the back side of the motherboard. Only small wires, such as fan cables could be routed back here. Also, since the case is completely mesh, there aren't really any hiding spots to make bundles of cables completely disappear. Cleaning up the wires in this case could be a difficult task without thinking outside of the box, and even what I have pictured below could be improved. I didn't notice until this point, but there is an "Antec Design" badge on the very back rear corner of this side panel. I think this would be better placed on the other side of the case, but it adds a subtle accent to the look of the case. With everything installed and lit up, the blue LEDs on the five fans bring it to life. The green lights are from the motherboard and power supply. As you can see, I've switched from the Antec Truepower 750W to my standard Mushkin Joule 1000W power supply for testing purposes.

 

 

 

If it isn't obvious yet, the Antec Lanboy Air is the MOST customizable, modular case on the market. There is nothing else like it. I could spend days playing with configurations of this thing if I wanted to, but I only need to cover the basic possibilities that the Lanboy Air offers in this review. Moving on, the next page will feature the manufacturer list of specifications and features that the Antec Lanboy Air offers, followed by an in-depth performance analysis and temperature results compared to other cases currently on the market.

Specifications:

Dimensions
20.4" (H) x 8.7"(W) x 19.3"(D)
518mm (H) x 222mm (W) x 490mm (D)
Weight
20.3lb / 9.2kg
Material
Aluminum frame, plastic mesh walls
Drive bays
6 x internal 3.5"
3x internal 5.25"
2x internal bottom mounted 2.5"
Cooling system
2x variable-speed 120mm blue LED
1x rear 120mm TwoCool blue LED fan
2x side 120mm TwoCool blue LED fans
Up to 15 fans total
Water cooling support
Top 2x120 radiator fitting
Rear water cooling grommets
Expansion Slots
8
Motherboard compatibility
Mini-ITX, microATX, Standard ATX
Front ports
1x USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
ACE7 and HDA Compatible Audio (in/out)
Maximum CPU cooler height
150mm with side fan installed, 160mm without
Included power supply
No

 

Features:

 

Information provided courtesy of Antec @ http://www.antec.com

Testing:

To test the Antec Lanboy Air, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD Tune for one hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Catalyst Control Center after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. As stated earlier, the fan configuration for the Lanboy Air is 2x120mm front intake, 2x120mm side intake, and 1x120mm rear exhaust. The adjustable fans will be run at full speed for all tests.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow, what a mixed bag. The hard drive temperatures achieved by the Lanboy Air crushes all of the other cases, and has a pretty impressive GPU temperature result. The CPU and chipset temperatures were, for the most part, in the middle. I was hoping for a little bit better results, seeing as how the open frame should significantly improve airflow everywhere, but doesn't seem like it does to the chipset and CPU area of the motherboard. This isn't a terrible surprise, since the two side fans provide more airflow over the GPU than anywhere else. Adding two more fans to the top of the side here would certainly assist the chipset and CPU temperatures. That being said, the next page will feature my final thoughts and conclusion of this review.

Conclusion

The Antec Lanboy Air is a work of manufacturing and design art. It offers complete customizability and flexibility due to its highly modular design, and Antec's extensive thought process that went into its development. It allows 100% freedom of choice in just about every important aspect of case design, from hard drive placement, to power supply, fans, and even 5.25" device placement. Never before has a manufacturer gone this far in modularity, which makes the Lanboy Air the first of its kind. Retailing at up to and about $200, the Lanboy Air is not for the financially unsound. It offers what I will say is satisfactory cooling performance, but that's not the only goal behind the design of this case. Antec also wanted to have a case that could be considered a "sandbox", and design it so that nearly every feasible choice of component placement could be achieved.

At first, I didn't particularly like the look of the Lanboy Air. It looks rather complicated and has a lot of plastic pieces on it, making it seem kind of cheap. However, after exploring it and seeing what all it can do, a lot of the look is function as well. The aluminum frame is very rigid and really strengthens the case very well. The mesh construction is very neat and gives it a high-tech look, while nearing the cooling performance of an open air computer station. Though it kind of reminds me of something like an Erector set, it has about as many possibilities as one. Meaning, if you can ask yourself, "will a fan fit there?" or "can I put a hard drive there?", chances are that it will and that it can.

As I said, the cooling performance of the Lanboy Air is only satisfactory, and not superb. However, with a few extra strategically placed fans, we can expect the performance and cooling power of an open air tech station with the mobility and protection of an enclosed case. The Lanboy Air does not have fan filters, which may cause gripes for some, but for almost 100% mesh construction, there wouldn't be an easy way to keep all of the dust out. Fortunately, there isn't much difficulty in removing all important pieces quickly for when thorough cleanings are necessary.

Most of the Lanboy Air is toolless. That goes for the side panels, hard drives, and PSU cage, but other things such as the motherboard and optical drives will need a screwdriver to secure into place. One thing that I did not mention about the 5.25" bays is that they can also be oriented in different ways like that of the HDD suspenders. They can be oriented to the front as well as to the left, but not the right. Accessing these would require flipping the door on the left panel open. Antec does not supply an easy way to mount any external 3.5" devices like a fan controller or LCD panel, as no adapter is included to go from the 5.25" bay to a 3.5" device. Not a terrible deal for most, but could affect decisions for others.

Changing the configuration of the case, while there are many possibilities, takes time. There are many screws that need to be taken out and replaced to change a small thing. I also felt that there are too many screws on the side panel. Six (6) thumbscrews must be removed in order to even remove one side panel. These can easily be lost, and I don't believe any more than four are needed to keep the side panel secure. Even two might suffice. Having a hinge the back side of the large panels like that of the small doors at the front could cut down on the amount of screws required.

Having the handles on the top of the case is a nice addition as the case can easily top 35lbs with the right hardware. However, I did notice that the handles aren't failure free. I noticed that the only thing holding them in is a screw on each side, which can back itself out over time and movings (since the handles rotate every time you pick it up). Under the right circumstances, 10 or 15 cycles can significantly loosen one screw on each handle. This could have been avoided by some sort of bearing system, or maybe some sort of spacer/tube that is completely tightened down inside of the handle, letting the flexibility remain but securing the handles for good. I did also find that the access hole for the heatsink mounting holes is too low for the MSI board I'm using! It seems that at most, only 30% or 40% of cases I test got it right. I must be one of the few people who use this MSI board and run into this as often as I do!

The Antec Lanboy Air is certainly one of the most flexible and unique cases I have ever had the pleasure of working with. It is exactly my type of product because I love tinkering and having full control over my products, and having the ability to be different than someone else with the exact same case. Though it isn't silent, it wasn't meant to be. The fans can be turned down easily and significantly reduce the noise. The free-hanging hard drive mounting system is a great idea and I hope to see it in future Antec cases. The cable management possibilities are thin, but can be handled with a little bit of work. However, filling it up with six hard drives and 15 fans along with three graphics cards may make wire management in the case a tremendous amount of work! Even though I've found some improvements that Antec could maybe implement for, who knows, Lanboy Air V2, the possibilities with the Lanboy Air are endless and is a great recommendation for those in need of ultimate customizability.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: