Antec Micro Fusion 350 Review

RHKCommander959 - 2008-10-09 19:24:30 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: October 22, 2008
Price: $199.99

Introduction:

Ever think of creating your very own home theater? Perhaps your current media mediums are too bland or basic for your desires? Well with your own home theater PC you can play movies, music, and watch or record television! Thus this device would save space – where you would otherwise have to have a stereo for music, a DVD or Blu-ray player for movies, and a DVR to record television. You can also surf the Internet, play games, and do other tasks that you would otherwise reserve for a regular computer. The Antec Micro Fusion 350 is a Home Theater PC case that supports micro-ATX motherboards, and comes bundled with a remote control and high efficiency power supply. Now users have the ability to build their own custom media center. I will be running this case through some arduous testing to see what it is capable of!

Closer Look:

Upon receipt of the case, I was rather worried – the shipping box was fairly dinged up on the edges. Once the shipping box was opened and the case box revealed, it too was damaged slightly, since the only packing material were ‘Fill-Air’ packets (plastic bags of air). However the case inside was unharmed, thanks to foam blocks that kept it spaced away from the edges and corners. I also found a smooth protective cover protecting the case from dust, dirt, and scratches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance at the actual case box, I was surprised by how large it was - since it's supposed to be in a home theater. However, like I said, the blocks took up quite a bit of space. The front cover depicts the case at a slight angle, with a picture of the remote. The design is elegant, but not too loud and busy like some covers I have seen. It also states that it is 80-Plus certified, and also states “Quiet computing” in the corner. Both sides of the case are different, but both basically list a few facts about the contents (80-Plus 350w power supply, 3x80mm TriCool fans, IR receiver) and what the Micro Fusion 350 is targeting (home theater computing). The sides also have the same information in French and Spanish. The backside explains in greater detail what the 80-Plus Certification means, and displays a three-year warranty sticker, RoHS Compliance sticker, and recyclable sticker. It lists the same information that the sides contained – elaborated more in French and Spanish as well.

 

 

Let's get this case out and take a look!

Closer Look:

With the case finally removed from the box, I found that all of the accessories were inside the case! The remote and some screws were located inside a white box, which was sitting on the manual and driver CD for the remote. All the fans were preinstalled and everything was ready and waiting for my hardware.The only discouraging features are the low profile expansion slots – they greatly limit the field of upgrades possible. However, it should be noted that the expansion slots had to be sacrificed to keep the case shorter on height, and that there are low profile video/sound cards available. Also, the case has a loop that runs through the side panel so that users may lock it, which is a nice security feature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The case looks like a trendy DVD-player, and the semi-gloss black paint looks great. The only downfall is that fingerprints or any residue or oil will easily appear on this finish. However, the colors work well together - silver and black. The feet are sturdy and large, the front being metallic, while the back feet are rubber. The height at which the feet bring the case appears to be plenty of room for ventilation if it were to be set upon another device like a stereo, DVD-player, etc. The peripherals included are: CD for remote driver/software, manual, Antec 3 year warranty fold out, standard motherboard backplate, four black linkable air guides, case hardware (various screws, standoffs, etc), remote, and remote battery.

 

 

 

Closer Look

Once inside, I found that there is neoprene along the top of the edges inside the case, and a support bracket reaches over the motherboard area – no doubt adding to the feel of the sturdy top. The power supply cables seem long enough to reach most motherboard connections, as I had several inches of slack. Also, the wires were not sleeved, but were coated in a thick, flexible insulation that felt like a good quality material. There are also reusable ties to help keep the wires managed, although I found everything to still get a little cluttered from all the excess. However, everything still fit with room to spare, but one fan did get close to the wires. The 5.25” drive bay slides out easily, with no tools required, as it snaps into place and fits my Asus DVD-ROM well. The bay should be removed to ease the access to the front panel wires, and also to install a drive. There are also four expansion slots, but  as already mentioned, they are low profile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Underneath the drive bay, I found the front panel audio (which had both high-definition and AC ’97 audio connectors), the front USB headers, SATA to eSATA cable, and restart/power button headers. The blue cables attach directly to the motherboard and the red power cable plugs into the LCD panel. Also included is a USB to 4-pin USB header cable, which is required for the LCD/IR to operate.

 

 

 

Installation was rather straightforward, and the manual was there to pick me up along the way. Patience is key, as it was a breeze to install the components when I didn’t rush it. The confines of a small case like this require a more careful hand – although the edges are rounded so you won’t likely get cut! The only difficult part is dealing with the power supply wires. While Antec provides some cable wraps inside the case to help, they do not completely alleviate the problem. In the second picture are the motherboard and LCD power connectors. Two black and one white cable tie are all that are available for cable management. Neoprene was also included near the power supply vent to allow for a better seal with the fan - helping keep the power supply cool with fresh air.

 

 

 

 

The power supply provided appears to be built well for a 350 watt. The heat sinks are as large as some found in power supplies that claim to deliver a higher output. The fan used is an ADDA DC Brushless model ad0812hb-d70, 12V by 0.18A 80mm x15mm fan, with 29.9cfm airflow. The impeller is narrower and straighter than most 80mm fans. The three case fans are Antec TriCool fans with three variable speed settings, adjustable by switches connected to each fan:

Fan Specifications
Low
Medium
High
RPM
1500
2000
2600
Input Current
0.1A
0.15A
0.2A
Airflow
20 CFM
26 CFM
34 CFM
Acoustical Noise
18.05 dBA
24.3 dBA
30 dBA

 

 

 

 

 

The LCD/IR Panel must be removed to install a hard drive into the 3.5" hard drive bay. To remove the panel, you must squeeze the latches together, and pull up on the tab. There is also a screw that bolts the hard drive rack to the chassis, and a handle to pull the rack out with. The rack also uses rubber grommets to absorb any vibration the hard drive could emit. The panel hooks up to the power supply with the three-wired connection, the motherboard with the USB, and the two-wired cord to the motherboard power-on pins. From the front USB panel, the power cable plugs into the open pins located on the LCD Panel.

 

 

 

 

The included remote is petite, but works well from a far distance. It has a power switch to turn the computer on or off, and all of the other buttons are programmable, although they already work well with MCE. A 3v CR2025 battery is included with the remote, and is inserted into a sliding tray in the back.

 

 

Specifications:

Case:

Brand
Antec
Model
Micro Fusion 350
Style
HTPC
Dimensions
4.5"(H)x15.1"(W)x16.1"(D)
Motherboard Compatibility
Micro ATX (9.6" x 9.6")
Power Supply
350W TFX
External 5.25" Bays
1
External 3.5" Bays
0
Internal 3.5" Bays
1
Expansion slots
4 - Low profile
Cooling system
3x80mm Fans + 1x80mm Power supply fan
Front Panel
2xUSB, Audio In/Out, 1xeSATA

 

Power supply:

3.3v
20a
5v
20a
12v1
18a
12v2
18a
-12v
0.8a
5vsb
2a

 

 

Features:

 

 

Features Information provided by Antec @ http://www.antec.com/usa/productDetails.php?lan=us&id=15737

 

Testing:

I will be testing the heat-dispersal capability of the Micro Fusion 350. Prime95 (with Small FFT’s) was used to stress the processor. All temperatures recorded were taken from the source manually with a temperature probe, and all temperatures are to be read in Celsius. Idle temperatures were taken 15 minutes after booting into windows, load temperatures were then taken after 30 minutes of Prime95, while the hard disk defragmented. The tests were based upon the hard drive, chipset, and CPU temperatures.

Comparison Case:

 

 

 

 

 

In most of the testing, the Antec came out ahead with the fans set to high. Set to low however, the case becomes near silent – and still able to keep temperatures well within a safe range. The Antec did well overall when compared to the larger and more spacious PowerUp case, only really being beaten in chipset temperature. However, the PowerUp case has a fan next to the chipset, and a large 120mm fan blowing near the hard drive. The anomaly in the CPU Idle Temperature chart can likely be explained by how energy efficient an idle processor is – the more space or airflow, the better. However in CPU Load the PowerUp cases’ inferior cooling design causes heat to linger inside. All in all, the fans and chambers do their job, and they do them well. I would suggest a combination of low and moderate settings for silence and performance.

Conclusion:

Overall I was pleased to work with this case. Hardware installation was straight forward, although a little time intensive. All temperatures were well within safe ranges, even on low fan speeds, which kept the case nearly inaudible up close. The look of the Antec Micro Fusion 350 would fit in well with any home theater, and the cooling capabilities along with reinforced top panel allow for it to be stacked with other devices. Vents located on the top panel allow the processor heat sink fan to suck in fresh air, while the bottom panel helps cool the motherboard. The remote control is small, simple, and works well even across the room. Also, the front panel LCD display will scroll news gathered online while it is not being used for media purposes, and will display the name of any media being used – movie names, music titles, even the time and date. It is very nice to have an included remote, as it would be a hassle to purchase one separately. The design of the air chambers ensures that all of the components stay relatively cool, even when the fans are set to low. The vents located on the top and bottom panels also help keep things running cool, as the CPU heat sink sucked fresh air in through the vent. The top side panel is also rather sturdy, reinforced by neoprene located along most of the structural components within, allowing for the case to be stackable with other appliances.

The only real bad thing to say about it, is that there is no room for the extra slack from the power supply, although it should be able to accommodate any motherboard with the reach of the cords. However, the cords do not impede performance, and since there are no windows, the good looks are still there. It is a double-edged sword, but I am overstating the cable length as a problem – it really wasn’t. Also, the lack of a 3.5” bay means that users cannot install a floppy drive or any other 3.5” devices. This would be problematic for a user who needed to flash the BIOS using a floppy drive. The sleekness of the case requires users to install low profile add-on cards, which is only a minor nuisance.

I would suggest this case to anyone interested in a sturdy, well ventilated, attractive home theater PC.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: