Antec New Solution NSK 3480 MicroATX Tower Review

ccokeman - 2007-10-22 19:24:41 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: December 4, 2007
Price: $89.99

 

Introduction:

Choosing a case for a new build means different things for different individuals. An enthusiast, most likely, will want the latest and greatest mid to full size tower with plenty of cooling capacity, so temperatures of the internal components stay nice and cool. There is the silent PC group that will give up some cooling capacity to not hear the computer run. As long as temperatures are within specs it's fine. Then there is the average Joe who just wants a nice looking case, that does what a case is supposed to do. That would be housing the components purchased for the build. Cost, as well as the size of the enclosure, are both priorities for the average user. In today's environment of ever increasing energy costs, what is becoming a major selling point on new builds? Power consumption of course!

The Antec NSK 3480 MicroATX is an upgrade from the Antec NSK 3400. The upgrade is in the form of the 380watt 80 plus certified power supply. What does 80 plus mean you ask? It means that at any time the power supply is under a load from 20 to 100%, the power supply runs at at least 80% efficiency. The NSK 3480 offers dual chamber construction to isolate the power supply from the operating component, four drive bays, four expansion slots, and a 120mm three speed fan for cooling this enclosure. Could this be the case for your next build? Let's find out!

 

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Antec NSK 3480 illustrates the case on the front panel.The rear panel shows additional case views and the specifications of the enclosure. The side panels give additional information in different languages so the information is available not just in English. RoHS compliance and power efficiency are highlights of the text on the package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The box was surprisingly heavy for such a small enclosure. The Antec NSK 3480 is wrapped in plastic and inserted into cardboard blocks to prevent any damage during transit. The instruction manual is included on the plastic sheeting around the Antec NSK 3480.

 

Closer Look:

The Case:

Once the case is unpacked it can be examined in greater detail. The front of the case features three drive bays. Two 5.25" and one 3.5" to house the optical drives and a floppy drive. The left side of the case features a fan opening that is directly over the CPU heatsink to draw cool air directly into it. The rear of the case features a 120mm fan and an additional vent for the expansion card area. The right side of the case is featureless, just a clean basic design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NSK 3480 opens up a little differently than most tower style cases. This one opens from the top allowing the side panels to slide straight up to remove them. Once the top is removed the power supply is visible along with the included power cord. The fit is a little snug already.

 

Pull up on the side panels to remove them. Once inside the dual chamber construction is clearly seen. The accessories sent with this enclosure are secured inside the lower compartment as well as a moisture absorbent treated piece of paper. The opening in the upper wall is for the cables from the power supply and drives that are installed in the upper compartment. The hole size is adjustable to help keep the two compartments isolated from each other.

 

Removal of the front bezel shows the air intake for the lower compartment of the NSK 3480. The cables on the bezel are long enough to easily reach anywhere inside the enclosure. The front bezel has a unique design that allows adequate airflow through it and into the front intake of the case through a slotted grill on the side of it.

 

Closer Look:

Working Components:

Hard drives can be mounted in several areas in the Antec NSK 3480. There are two dedicated areas that feature silicon vibration dampeners to isolate the hard drives to reduce any noise from them. One is available in the upper compartment and will take up the space of one 5.25" bay. The other is on the floor of the enclosure and is similarly attached. If a floppy drive will not be used, this area can house another drive if need be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The side panel air intake features an adjustable duct to bring fresh cool air directly into the CPU heatsink. Shown, are the fully extended and retracted positions. This gives a fair amount of adjustability to work with the heatsinks on the market. In this case the stock AMD heatsink was used.

 

To ventilate the upper chamber of the dual chamber design, Antec has used the power supply as the sole means of moving air through this area. In the lower chamber, Antec has used a three speed 120mm fan in the rear with the option of adding two 92mm fans on the front of the case. The 120mm fan is not self adjusting based on temperature, but by a three position switch with each "stop" marked with the speed.

 

Case connectivity is for the most part standard fare. The front panel connections include front panel audio and microphone, two USB, and one Firewire port. The connections for the switches include a power L.E.D., Hdd L.E.D., and power and reset switches.

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Last but not least, are the power supply cord, hardware kit, and documentation. The documentation includes information about the warranty, manual, pin assignments for the case wiring, and of course the Antec case sticker.

 

 

Closer Look:

Power Supply:

The power supply supplied with the Antec NSK 3480 is an RoHS compliant and energy efficient 380 watt unit. Opening the power supply is not something I would recommend you do for any number of reasons, but the two main reasons are safety and warranty. Just so you, the reader, won't have to open one up to see what components are inside, I will open this one up for inspection.

The included power supply features dual 12volt rails rated at 16 amps each. The 3.3 volt and 5 volt rails are 25 amps each. The model number is SU-380 and features universal input voltage and active PFC. This power supply is not a modular design. This would have been a big plus when it came time to hide the excess wiring.

 

 

 

 

The power supply uses an 80mm fan to pull air through the power supply and ventilate the upper chamber of the case.

 

Looking at the inside of the power supply, two large heatsinks are used to cool the power circuits.

 

The power supply features a wide variety of connections to meet todays needs. 24 pin ATX power, 4 pin Auxillary power, and 6 pin PCIE connections are included, as well as the standard 4 pin molex,SATA, and floppy connections.

 

 

Installation:

Installation of the components into a micro case presents its own unique challenges. Namely, getting everything to fit properly. I started off with running the wiring that was needed in the lower chamber through the supplied hole. Next up, was mounting the hard drive in the upper chamber. First, remove the hard drive mount and position the hard drive in the mount and use the supplied screws to attach the drive to the mount. Attach the wiring to the drive and screw the hard drive bracket back down in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slide the optical drive into the bay. Attach the power and interface cables, and secure it as you would in any other case. A word of caution about the drives you purchase. Make sure that the drive you select will fit after attaching the wiring to the drive.

 

Once the drives are in place, it is time to get the rest of the system in place. Start with the I/O panel specific to the motherboard you are using. Install the motherboard standoffs and you are ready to install the motherboard. Slip the board into place and secure it onto the standoffs with the supplied screws.

 

Make all of the wire connections, install the system memory, install the video card, tidy up the wiring, and you are ready to close up the case and fire it up.

 

Specifications:

Type
MicroATX Mid Tower
Color
Black/ Silver
Case Material
0.8mm cold-rolled steel construction
Power Supply
380W
Motherboard compatibility
MicroATX

External 5.25" Drive Bays

2

External 3.5" Drive Bays

1

Internal 3.5" Drive Bays

1 x 3.5" (or 2 x 3.5" with one in 5.25" bay)

Front Ports
4
120mm Fans
1 x 120mm 3-speed Rear Fan
Dimensions
14" x 7.8" x 13.8"
Side Air duct
No

Features:


***This Data taken directly from Antec's specifications page.

Testing:

To verify the cooling capabilities of this case, I will be subjecting it to several tests to see how well it performs in a real world environment. Temperatures that will be checked are the Cpu, Gpu, Chipset, and hard drive. To put as much heat into the case as possible I will load test the Cpu and memory with OCCT, the Gpu with 3DMark06 looped at a 1880x1440 resolution, and put the hard drive to work with a disk defrag, all simultaneously. In addition, I will be using my Kestral 4100 airflow meter to measure the airflow through the case, on the three fan speed settings. This case is sold with a 380 watt power supply. I will test the 12volt, 3.3 volt, and 5 volt rails to see if the power supply is up to the challenge of powering the system that I have installed in the Antec NSK 3480.

Testing Setup:

 

Testing Tools:

 

I will be comparing the Antec NSK 3480 to The Apevia X-Qpack2, to see which of the two cases give the better cooling performance. The Apevia offering is a small form factor LAN box, while the Antec offering is more suited to the office environment. Both are small and come with a 120mm cooling fan, so the comparison should prove interesting. The three speed fan is set to hi for this test since the Apevia offering only has a single speed fan. The Apevia offering used on board video so there is no comparison data. All temperatures are in degrees Celsius. Lower Temperatures, of course, are better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned earlier in this review the Antec NSK 3480 features a three speed fan.

 

 

Testing:

This case is sold with a 380 watt power supply. I will test the 12volt, 3.3 volt, and 5 volt rails to see if the power supply is up to the challenge of powering the system that I have installed in the Antec NSK 3480. It is by no means a world beater, but a fair representation of what might be installed for a home office or multimedia PC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The power supply included with the Antec NSK 3480 does well enough to keep you out of trouble with a sensible system.

Conclusion:

What is my impression of this case? With the modest system that was installed into it it cooled well, and had ample room to install additional expansion cards and drives(within reason). Upgrades to the cooling capacity can be accomplished by adding two 92mm fans in the front of the case. The load temperatures with this case were well within what would be considered normal for Joe average in a workstation environment. The load temperature on the CPU in the Antec NSK 3480 were better by three degrees Celsius, while the hard drive and chipset temperatures were higher. Locating the hard drive in the upper chamber, with only the power supply providing ventilation, contributed to the higher temperatures. With no change in temperature from idle to load, the chipset temperatures favored the Apevia offering, based on the lower temperatures. The power supply kept the voltages within five percent of the rated voltage on all three voltages. While the price may seem steep for such a small enclosure, it seems like a bargain if you factor in the cost for a power supply and case.

The only real downside I experienced with the NSK 3480 is the location of the hard drive in the upper chamber. The hard drive ran warmer just because of the location of the drive. Overall, the case is easy to work with. Installing a modest system, that will not tax the power supply that is included, should not present any problems. Is this case for the all out enthusiast? Probably not! Would it work as a LAN case? Sure it would! The basic design would look great in any work station or home office. If you need a small form factor case that is quiet and cools well, you should get the Antec NSK3480.

Pros:

Cons: