Antec Sonata Proto Reviewairman - May 19, 2010
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The inside of the case is unpainted. An unpainted interior is not the end of the world for a case that has no window, so I won't be leaving any negative marks for the lack thereof since it would rarely be seen. I have removed the hard drive trays in the main picture in order to show more of the case since there is a closeup look of the trays themselves later on this page. This case allows for seven expansion slots. The venting next to them can be seen clearly. Compared to most cases, the venting here seems to have more area (larger holes, less space between) of openings to accommodate for extra heat flow. I am not completely sure what the holes in the bottom of the motherboard tray are for since the right panel cannot be removed, and they aren't really in a place where you would need access to on the motherboard anyway. It's possible Antec chose to do this in order to save on resources and weight, since the non-removable side panel will remain there permanently as structural support.
A structural rail runs from the back, below the power supply, to the 5.25" drive bay cage. Unfortunately, due to placement of this rail, installing the power supply after installing the motherboard would be and probably is nearly impossible. I discovered this after doing some pre-reading on the case before I put it together, and I felt like that needed to be pointed out. In the picture with the hard drive cages installed, it can be seen that they are removed by squeezing the exposed metal tabs inward and sliding them out. I did discover that due to the way the hard drive tray holder is designed, it can be difficult to get the trays out when a hard drive is installed due to not being able to "squeeze" the tabs inwards far enough. I was challenged a few times to get them out. I think an extra 1/16th of an inch to the width of the cage holder would be sufficient. Moving on, the case accepts three 5.25" and has room for an additional two external 3.5" devices. The 3.5" holder is removable.
The drive bay covers are black plastic and as I stated earlier, individually house the tool-less rails for the 5.25" drives. The rails aren't 100% tool less however, as they require the user to put two screws through the rails on each side. With that being said, I'll dub this setup "semi" tool less. The hard drive trays have noise isolation built in to them. The noise isolation is simply a rubber grommet that adds padding on both sides of the mounting hole through which the screw goes. A little unusual fact about these trays is that they hold the hard drive in using the four screw holes in the bottom of the drives. I don't see this often anymore, but either way, it works. Part of the included screws are specifically for holding the drives in place. The picture shown displays what the noise isolation looks like when a hard drive is installed.
The included 120mm fan is badged as an Antec with no other information on it. It uses a 4-pin Molex connector and has a speed switch on it, I'm guessing for low and high. On high speed, the fan does get a little noisy once the side panel is on, possibly due to the vacuum it creates since there is no intake fan to relieve the negative pressure. On the low setting, I don't hear anything more than a slight whir, which is completely tolerable. The included headers for the case are the normal I/O such as USB and audio, the power and reset buttons, power and activity LEDs, and a built in PC speaker. The length of the cables is more than enough and I didn't have to worry about stressing them. I rolled up the excess and tucked it behind the hard drive cages.
The hard drive trays do allow for the drives to be installed rear-facing which helps with concealing wires. I mention this in all of my reviews because I personally always try to do this if possible. It makes the inside of the case look a lot cleaner. I could spend more time doing wire management than actually putting the computer together, and probably did with this case. Speaking of wire management, this case does offer some accommodations underneath the 5.25" bays to pull wires through, which is visible on the final picture of the whole case put together. The hard drive trays themselves simply slide in a snap into place. As I mentioned before, getting them out with a hard drive installed can be challenging, or at least was for me. With a hard drive in place, I had trouble squeezing the tabs in far enough in order to release the cage from the holder as well as installing them. I had to put a little bit more force than I expect to for them to snap into place during installation. The 5.25" drives are installed by screwing a rail on each side of the drive, and sliding it in using the same manner as the hard drives. They are removed in the same way, by squeezing the tabs inward and pulling outwards. The 5.25" drives fit snugly and do not have any extra movement once they are installed.
With all of the components installed, the interior of this case remains very clean looking even without having the inside surfaces painted. The GTX260 is a tight fit into the case, but all that matters is that it fits. That being said, any card larger than 10.5" in length will not fit.
I like this case so far. It's quiet, good looking, and sturdy with enough room on the inside for wire management. My only concern is there being only one fan in the case, and I know how much heat these components can push out. However, we will find out soon enough how it performs!