Antec Sonata Proto Review

airman - 2010-05-03 16:03:38 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: airman   
Reviewed on: May 19, 2010
Price: $69.99

Introduction:

A brand that many computer enthusiasts have come to know and love is Antec. Antec has had their foot in the door since 1986 and has kept up with their reputation as a worldwide leader in computer products. Mainly known for their computer cases early on, Antec has become very prolific in the computer accessory and upgrade market, including high quality power supplies, hard drive enclosures, HTPC products, and their original notebook coolers. In this review, I will be evaluating one of their newest cases, the Antec Sonata Proto. The Sonata series' main goal is to offer consumers a quiet PC without sacrificing cooling performance and maintain a sleek but subtle look for the folks who don't necessarily need all of the lighting and windows. It has been years since I've had my hands on an Antec case, and I'm looking forward to putting this one under the spotlight to see how it performs against the other cases that I've had the pleasure of testing.

Closer Look:

The Sonata Proto is packaged in a glossy, white cardboard box with high quality graphics wrapped around it. The words on the front of the package aside from the brand and model, state "Legendary Silence." It is obvious what Antec's goal with this case is - to be quiet. The right side of the case has text in a few different languages, explaining a few of the features and the reasoning behind the creation of the Sonata series in a slightly dramatic way. An excerpt: "Ages ago, computers were beige, boring and loud - the people cried for relief. Antec heard their cries over the computer noise and gave the world Sonata..." I enjoyed reading this as I appreciate humor in professionalism and enjoy getting to see it once in a while. The rear of the case has the specifications tabulated out in the same languages as the text on the right side as well as a picture of the inside of the case. Finally, the left side of the case has a few features listed, which will all be covered in the latter part of the review. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The case is protected on the inside like most other cases you buy, wrapped in a plastic bag between two blocks of Styrofoam. The case arrived unharmed, which is always a good feeling.

 

 

The case is supplied with the usual instruction manual, as well as mounting screws, a case badge, and a pair of keys for the locking side panel and front door. These locking mechanisms are good for LAN party goers if the user wants to be able to protect their hardware from being stolen or tampered with.

 

 

With the case out of the box and unpacked, the following part of the review will be an evaluation of the exterior of the case.

Closer Look:

The case is finished in textured, matte black with a black plastic front bezel. There are vents on the bottom half of the front, and venting on the rear panel to the right of the expansion slots. The handle on the left side panel is opened by compressing it towards the front, and the side panel swings open like a door. I like having doors that swing open since it relieves the user from having to line up 6 or 8 tabs along the top and bottom in order to reattach it. The rear of the case shows us that the power supply is mounted on the top and that there is one 120mm exhaust fan supplied. The right side panel is blank, and riveted in place. The top and the right panel is actually one piece that is folded over to form the edge. This means that the right side is not removable, unless the user wants to take the rivets out, tap the holes, and replace them with screws. This also means that if there was a motherboard access hole in the tray, it would be inaccessible due to the inability to remove the right side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

The top and bottom of the case are rather simple, with no fans nor venting. The bottom of the case has four rubber feet to prevent the case from sliding on hard surfaces. The rubber feet also allow some vibration noise to be damped, which is a main concern with this line of case. The four recessed holes in the bottom towards the front allow for a 2.5" drive to be installed with the supplied screws.

 

 

The front door of the case opens over 180 degrees, which is nice because it gets completely of out the way. The front I/O ports include two USB ports as well as a headphone and microphone jack. Although the front of the case is vented, removing the front bezel will expose the fact that there is no fan included, nor a place to install one. There is a dust filter in front of the hard drives though, which is a nice feature to keep them clean. I'm sure a user could squeeze a low profile fan in the front, but from the factory this is not accommodated for. Looking at the rear of the drive bay covers, the tool-less rails for the 5.25" drives can be seen. This feature will be explained on the next page.

 

 

As I examined the side panel handle more closely, I snapped a few pictures of how it works. As I stated earlier, the door is released by compressing the handle towards the front. Doing this unhooks the latch that holds onto the inside of the case. Turning the key simply moves a mechanism into position to where the handle cannot be compressed, so it stays locked.

 

 

Now that the exterior has been evaluated, I am liking this case so far. I'm not so much of a fan of the lack of a front intake fan, but this accentuates the silent nature of this case. The next page will show the interior of the case as well as all of the working components, and my opinions of how they function.

Closer Look:

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!

Specifications:

This info is pulled directly from Antec's product flyer for the Sonata Proto.

Type
ATX Mid Tower
Color
Black
Material
0.8mm SECC
With Power Supply
No
Power Supply Mounted
Bottom
Motherboard Compatibility
ATX, mATX, Mini-ITX
With Side Panel Window
No
External 5.25"/3.5" Bays
3/2
Internal 3.5" Drive bays
4
Expansion Slots
7
Front Ports
2 x USB2.0, Headphone, Microphone
Cooling System
1 x 120mm Exhaust
Dimensions H x W x D
16.7" x 8.1" x 18.2"
Weight
16.7lb / 7.5kg

 

Features:

 

Information courtesy of Antec @ http://www.antec.com/pdf/flyers/Sonata%20proto_flyer_EN.pdf

Testing:

To test the Antec Sonata Proto, temperatures will be recorded for the CPU, GPU, chipset, hard drives, and the overall system temperature during load and idle phases. Load will be simulated by Prime95 small FFTs and HD tune for one hour with maximum temperatures recorded by RealTemp. The GPU load will be the maximum value recorded by Rivatuner after five loops of 3DMark06’s Canyon Flight test. Each case is tested as is from the factory, including the fan configuration. As stated earlier, the fan configuration for the Sonata Proto is the one rear exhaust fan. Since the fan is adjustable, I will be running the fan on high speed. Looking ahead, I did not find more than a degree or two difference between the high and low speed, so I will only be reporting the results from the running the fan at high speed.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Cases:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must say, I am pleasantly surprised by this case's performance! I was wary about having one lonely exhaust fan and how it would impact performance, but some of the results struck me quite astoundingly. The GPU and CPU load temperatures fell as some of the cooler results out of about half of the cases. The hard drive temperature on the other hand is not spectacular. I know that most of the comparison cases, if not all of them, have front intake fans that keep the hard drive temperatures within a few degrees of ambient. Since this is not the case in the Sonata Proto, it looks like there may be some stagnant air hanging around the hard drive since there is no airflow there. I think the addition of a front intake fan, although not accommodated for, would allow this case to be a solid performer in every category!

Conclusion:

Well, sure enough, Antec seems to have struck again with a well constructed and thought out case. Many users don't always appreciate the sound of a jet taking off in their workspace, which is why Antec chose to produce another addition to their silent Sonata family. The sound from this case while the fan is on low is no more than a dim whir, and is very tolerable. I did mention earlier that on the high speed setting, it is definitely audible but not too loud. However, I wouldn't call it silent.

The Sonata Proto did better than I expected on the test bench! I was a little disappointed in the hard drive temperatures, but I didn't expect a whole lot either. The lack of a front intake fan definitely impacted the ability to provide even better airflow to the hard drive. I was surprised by the CPU temperature, but I think having a top mounted PSU paired well with the rear exhaust fan, since the PSU has an "intake" for its exhaust just above the CPU heatsink.

The rubber damping on the hard drive trays is a nice touch. I definitely didn't hear any clicking or spin-up from the drive since the damping completely isolated any vibration coming from it. I can't think of a way to make the hard drive holders completely tool-less because of the noise isolation, but with as tight as the 5.25" drives fit, a simple pair of pegs built in to the drive rails would have definitely been sufficient and would not require a screw nor screwdriver. I will reiterate my experience with the hard drive trays being a little difficult. The hard drive trays are difficult to remove while a hard drive is them due to the inability to squeeze the tabs in far enough. I had to muscle as much into my fingers as I could and add some wiggling action to get them out. I think an extra 1/16th of an inch on the width of the hard drive cage would allow for enough clearance to pull the trays out easily while still retaining a secure fit.

Overall, I am definitely pleased with what Antec has supplied with the Sonata Proto. It is sturdy, clean looking, performs well and is quiet for sure. For a sub $80 case, I wouldn't say it is an absolute bargain, but absolutely worthy of ownership if a user is looking for a case that is sleek and stylish yet quiet case without all the lights and windows.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: