Antec Sonata Elite Review

Geekspeak411 - 2009-01-06 09:28:27 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: Geekspeak411   
Reviewed on: February 11, 2009
Price: $120

Introduction:

As the new year rolls around so does a new line of products from every company bidding for their place in the new year's market. Antec has long been a trusted company to provide reliable parts to all its customers, whether it be cases, power supplies, or some other peripheral. With Antec's new Sonata Elite, the company refreshes its line of quiet, reliable workstation cases, promising elegant silence. The companies flyers show a picture of the interior with an interesting feature installed; a 120mm blower-style fan. It mounts right next to where your video cards are installed, acting as a vent while not actually opening up the side, keeping the look very streamlined and professional. I am very interested to see how this mid-tower case stacks up to the likes of other more enthusiast-oriented cases, especially sound wise. Imagine, this could be the answer to having a silent gaming rig! Antec's slogan has me hopeful; Believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

Antec pays special attention to the Sonata Elite's packaging, putting the whole display box within an additional brown shipping box, keeping the display box in pristine condition. You can see right from the get go that Antec has put a lot of thought into how it wants this case to be presented and seen. Spending more for the sake of the customer's satisfaction seems to be a dieing value in most companies today, so it is pleasing to see Antec still putting the customer's experience first. When you open up the flaps of the brown shipping box, you can see the display case peering up at you.

 

 

 

Once you slide it out of the shipping box, you see a white and blue themed box with a yellow strip along one side that flows together nicely, showing a large picture of the case as if it was floating on water. Looking at the front of the box, the front top right corner contains a Quiet Computing symbol, while on the top left is the Antec logo. Then along the bottom you see the Sonata logo and "Elegantly Silent". On the back side, Antec lists the various specs in three different languages. On the top you again see the Quiet Computing logo with the Antec logo, and in the bottom right corner Antec displays the case's RoHS Compliance Icon with other various icons alongside the barcode. In the bottom left corner Antec boasts its three-year parts and labor warranty and gives due credit to the designers and producers of the box.

 

 

 

 

The most surprising item I saw listed however was a direct 1-800 number for their tech support team. I know many manufacturers who make this information nearly impossible to find even on their websites, commonly referring you to an "autopiloted" e-mail support ticket service (PunkBuster support users, you know what I mean). Here, Antec puts its number right on the box, telling me that Antec is willing to jump through many hoops to make sure that its customers are getting the very best of what is out there and is set on maintaining its very loyal and satisfied user base.

 

 

 

Seeing all this has me very excited and we haven't even opened the box yet, so let's see what this case is all about!

Closer Look:

When you open up the display box and slide the case out, you'll notice that it is protected by a cloth sack and wedged in between two foam blocks. The sack later proved to be quite useful as a fingerprint rag and as a workbench cover as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the case's pretty standard protective layering is removed, you can finally see what this case is all about; the Sonata Elite is a very sleek, professional-looking Mid-Tower that really looks like it means business. The case brings back the locking feature for the front panel door, keeping the power button and the drive bays hidden and locked up if you so choose. There is also a loop on the side panel that allows you to attach your own padlock to keep the inner components of your baby safe. The Sonata Elite sticks with black color tones and keeps a very simplistic yet tasteful design with nothing but the I/O panel showing on the front when the drive bay door is closed. The trend continues on the side, where instead of putting in a side fan or otherwise diminishing the sleek unobstructed look of the case, Antec uniquely solves the problem by putting in a 120mm blower-style fan that sits next to any installed video cards and sucks the heat out, shooting it behind the case. The only thing seen on the sides is the passive air intake on one side.

 

 

 

 

I am really excited to see what the experienced craftsmen at Antec put inside the Sonata Elite, so on to the Working Components!

Closer Look:

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.

Specifications:

Here's what Antec wants you to know about the Sonata Elite.

 

Type

Mid Tower

Color Black High Gloss Finish
Case Material Two Layer Steel with polycarbonate
With Power Supply No
Motherboard Compatibility Micro-ATX / Standard ATX / Mini-ITX
Front I/O Panel

2x USB 2.0 + 1x eSATA + Audio In and Out (AC'97 and HDA Compatible)

External 5.25" Drive Bays 3
Internal 3.5" Drive Bays 4
Expansion Slots 7
Chassis Cooling

1 rear (standard) 120mm TriCool™ 3-speed switch control exhaust fan

1 slot 120mm exhaust blower with 3-speed switch

Built-In Washable air filter

Dimensions 48.1 x 20.5 x 44cm (H*W*D)
Gross Weight 25.6 lbs
Warranty AQ3-Antec Quality three-year parts and labor warranty

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Antec @ http://www.antec.com/usa/productDetails.php?lan=us&id=15143

Testing:

To test the Antec Sonata Elite, I will run a few benchmarks that will stress the CPU and the GPU and compare the test results to other cases to see how the Sonata Elite stacks up. In overclocking, every degree counts, but for those who would use the case as a home for a HTPC, temperature may not be as big a deal as being silent. Antec seems to have taken large strides to make both wishes come true, so I am extremely excited to see just how this case performs. To test the CPU at 100%, I will run the CPU segment of Prime95. Then, to test the GPU temperatures, I will run the graphics portion of 3DMark Vantage at default (performance) settings. In both instances I will record the temperatures given by SpeedFan 4.37 in degrees Celsius. The ambient temperature through all the testing is 26 degrees Celsius. All fans are set to their highest settings. Now that that's out of the way, on to the data!

 

Comparison Case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These scores blew me out of my chair when I saw them! In just about every scenario, the Sonata Elite is dead center between the case scores. Keep in mind that with all the fans preset to high, the case is not silent, but it is still fairly quiet compared to many other cases' sound levels at these settings. When set to medium or low, the fans become really quiet and with the rubber grommets I can't hear the hard drive spinning up in the case, which is a big plus. I would test the case at lower speeds, but this is an overclocking site after all, so I'm ready to wrap everything up in the conclusion.

Conclusion:

Antec's Sonata Elite was truly a pleasure to review; the design of the whole chassis is well thought out and works like it should. The AQ3 warranty backs up this statement, putting Antec on the spot if something should somehow go afoul. The included wire management was beautifully done and there was enough room to stuff the extra cords behind the motherboard tray, keeping them out of sight. Although the test temperatures were the middle of the group and sometimes a little higher, considering that the intake was completely passive and how quiet the fans were, even when set at the highest speeds, it is actually pretty impressive. The front drive bay door is hollowed out so that you can fit disk drives in there that jut out, which is nice. My only complaint about the exterior is that the power and HDD activity lights are pretty unidirectional, meaning that you can only see if they're on or not by looking almost straight into them. This case would make someone very happy if they are looking for a case to house their new HTPC and also makes a good option for custom system builders who want to have a more subdued, professional desktop. Installation was easy because almost all the Standard ATX standoffs were pre-installed! The inset on the front panel door comes with a nice 3D Antec sticker to put on, but if you're building a PC for someone else, you can just as easily put a sticker in that you have made yourself with your support line and logo, adding a very professional touch.

I was also pretty impressed with the lock on the front panel because, as I said before, I was not able to pick it, which creates an easy solution for anyone who has kids or teenagers that can't stay off the computer; it is pretty hard to log on to a computer that you can't power up. I never thought I would say this when I looked at the case's specs, but I think Antec has really come out here and bridged the gap between enthusiast cases and professional, every day cases. Not only that, but it only costs $120, making it an easy pick for a home office worker by day and gamer by night. The Antec Sonata Elite lives up to its expectations and then some. It is easy to recommend a case that takes so many steps to insuring the customers satisfaction, and a stable choice that will probably remain on top of the silent market for the rest of the year, at least!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: