Antec Sonata Elite ReviewGeekspeak411 -
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Like just about every other case on the market, Antec keeps opening the sides simple by using two finger screws per panel. After screwing those off, sans screwdriver, you swing the door open on a very smooth hinge, which is simple but very effective, and you get your first look at what this case carries in its arsenal. The most obvious thing you'll notice is a brown box in the bottom corner of the case that mysteriously stayed exactly in place through shipping.
After closer inspection of the brown accessories box, we find that it is held in place by a very wide head screw attached to a flap at the top of the box; mystery solved. After unscrewing the box and opening it up, you'll find another white box inside.
Taking everything out of the brown accessories box, you have a thin white box, a clear bag that holds a ton of little screws and other small components, and a drive bay adapter protected by bubble wrap. Opening the white box reveals the much acclaimed 120mm blower fan with a three-speed controller switch built in, labeled H, M, and L, obviously for High, Medium, and Low. The power cord is neatly wrapped up next to it in the white box.
The next item in the brown box was a bag with all kinds of little screws, extra headers, zip-ties, keys for the front panel, and even a sticker for the indent on the front panel door if you don't have a custom one to insert. All the related screws and other accessories are sub-sorted into smaller bags, keeping them from mixing and becoming a huge pain to sort.
The last item in the brown accessories box is a 5.25" to a 3.5" drive bay converter, allowing you to mount a hard drive or a 3.5" memory stick reader in a 5.25" bay. It is pretty straight forward in style and function.
After digging through the accessories box, I am ready to look at the rest of the working innards. As I said before, the Sonata Elite brings back the locking front panel design with what seemed to be a fairly simple lock, but actually left me trying for an hour to pick it with no success. Right below the lock is the I/O panel that features two USB ports, an eSATA port, the power and HDD activity lights, and headphones and microphone ports. The lights were like everything else on the case; simple and unobtrusive, yet effective, glowing a bright blue. On the inside of the case you can see the ends of the beautifully routed cables that attach to your motherboard headers to activate the I/O panel and power buttons. The cable routing is seriously worth noting though because all the cords come out of a little oval hole between the two hard drive racks and are all the same length with enough room to reach their respective headers without difficulty, but not enough to leave you with a ton left over to do something with. This made it a little difficult to get a front panel shot, but there was enough slack to make do. The hard drive bays are really an obvious place that Antec wanted to cut noise levels. The Sonata Elite has two levels for your hard drives, both of which can hold two hard drives. To install a hard drive, all you have to do is remove the two brackets in the slot you wish to put your hard drive into and screw the attached screws in to your hard drive's holes. The screws are padded with a thick flexible silicone washer that allows your hard drive to shake and move around while still being secure and not vibrating the case, which is often a major contributor to noise noise. This actually turns out to be pretty cool because after I installed my hard drive I was able to wiggle the drive around like it had shocks. I think this has the added benefit of helping prolong the life of the drive by reducing vibrations drastically during moves or car rides.
Looking around the rest of the case, there is a 120mm normal exhaust fan with its own molex power adapter neatly wrapped up like its blower style counterpart. The fan also has a three-speed speed switch built into the back of the case again with the H, M, and L labels. Behind where the hard drives are installed is the main and only air intake slot, as you might have seen in the drive picture. The fact that it is passive is an impressive statement on Antec's part, and I am really interested to see what kind of temperatures this case achieves. As advertised on the display box, there is a dust filter over the intake that can be easily cleaned by simply pulling it out with the built in grips. The overall airflow model seems to be pretty straight forward in addressing a lot of other cases downfalls, as it uses the two exhaust fans to pull air in through the hard drive bays, keeping the drives cool then pulling it towards the graphics cards and over the RAM and CPU coolers. In some situations, people who have large bottom intake fans on their PSUs will also get a bonus, as it will suck out all of the hot air in the case that rises to the top as well.
After everything was fairly, uneventfully installed, I was able to power up and try the Sonata Elite out. Notice how tight the graphics card is though; anything bigger than the GTX 280 reference design and you will be SOL pretty quick.
This is looking like another quality bid from Antec, so let's take a look at what the designers want to point out.