Antec Fusion Black 430 Media Center Case & A/V Cooler Review

Makaveli - 2007-09-09 22:58:14 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: September 19, 2007
Antec
Antec
Price: Case: $199.99 USD Cooler: $79.81 USD

Introduction:

 

That’s a sweet receiver! This popular compliment has been directed at me ever since I got the all-new Antec Fusion Black 430 Media Center case. Right here and now I’m going to dispel the rumor – this case is actually a home theater PC enclosure. These types of cases typically eliminate some hardware that you use in your home theater setup since the computer that goes inside the cases are capable of the tasks that one or more of those components in your home theater system can produce. We also have Antec’s A/V Cooler to go along with the case for better cooling of the media center components. These products are sold separately, but they go hand-in-hand, so let’s see just how much of a benefit it is to have the A/V Cooler along with the case. How optimal will the case be for a media center PC? Will it be able to efficiently cool the components, muffle the noise of the computer, and have very useful features? Let’s find out just how well the Antec Fusion Black 430 Media Center case, paired with the Antec A/V Cooler, does.

 

"Antec, Inc., is the leading global brand of high-performance computer components and accessories for the gaming, PC upgrade and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) markets. Founded in 1986, Antec is recognized as a pioneer in these industries and has maintained its position as a worldwide market leader and international provider of efficient, quiet, and reliable products. Antec has also achieved great success in the distribution channel, meeting the demands of quality-conscious system builders, VARs and integrators."

 

Closer Look:

When UPS left the box on my doorstep, I bent down expecting a fairly light box but I was wrong – I knew from the weight that the case was made of steel. The box has a very simple yet professional look to it while displaying the front of the case. The back of the box has the specifications printed out in three different languages.

 

 

On the sides of the box you’ll find a statement from Antec alerting you what this case provides, and you’ll also find a picture of the actual case with its top off so that you can see what it looks like on the inside.

 

 

When you open up the box, you'll see that the case is securely held in place with Styrofoam and has a plastic bag over the case to protect it from scratches and debris. Included with the case is an instruction manual, a three year warranty, and a software CD for the LCD panel on the case.

 

 

Now let's get the case out of the box and take a closer look at it!

Closer Look:

The Case:

The case is made of steel with an aluminum faceplate, so it’s not the lightest case on the market. On the front of the case you’ll notice a small LCD screen, a volume knob, power button, reset button, two USB ports, a firewire port, headphone jack, and microphone jack. I think the case looks extremely slick and in a way it does look like a receiver. The case shows fingerprints easily, which is evident in the pictures.

 

 

 

On the right side of the case you’ll find two 120mm exhaust fans. The left side of the case has vents to allow the heat to dissipate from the power supply. Also, notice the vent on top of the case which allows heat to disperse from the middle of the case.

 

 

The back of the case is where you’ll be able to see the four expansion slots, power supply, motherboard I/O plate, and an optional 80mm fan grill. The bottom of the case has vents right below where the hard drives sit, which is ideal because hard drives can generate loads of heat. The rubber feet are very firm and really stick to whatever surface they’re on, so I was impressed with that.

 

 

Working Components:

Once you remove the top of the case, you’ll notice how the case has three compartments. There is the main compartment for the motherboard, a compartment near the front for hard drives, the side compartment for the power supply and CD/DVD ROM drives.

Closer Look:

Working Components:

Next, let’s look at the hard drive cage. The cage has a removable top so that you can insert your hard drives parallel to the front face plate. There are also rubber stops on either side of the hard drive cage to reduce your hard drive’s noise level by eliminating the vibrations of the drive and to keep it securely in place.

 

 

 

The optical drive bay is a removable cage that you must pull up to release and be able to access the drives. Once the cage is out, you’ll see some of the accessories that were hidden below it. Now that the accessories are out of the way, you can see the back of the LCD panel and the optical drive door.

 

 

 

You might have noticed the twist tie-like bands in the middle of the case. This great idea is for wire management, which in turn allows better airflow within the case. Now, let’s shift our focus onto the included 430watt power supply.

 

 

Closer Look:

Power Supply:

As mentioned earlier, the Antec Fusion Black 430 Media Center case has a 430watt power supply included. Let’s open it up and see what’s inside!

 

 

 

 

 

The power supply has a 20+4 pin power connector, one 4-pin connector, six molex connectors, two SATA connectors, and one PCI-E connector.

 

 

 

Let's get everything installed and get the case completely ready for use!

Closer Look:

A/V Cooler:

The A/V Cooler box was a little bit scratched up, but it wasn’t too bad. The visual on the front of the box really gives you a good idea for what the product does. As you can see, it is ideal for placing it on top of your receiver or the Antec Fusion Black 430 media case and then set something rather light, such as a DVD player, TiVo, or an Xbox 360. The back of the box gives you a better idea for what the product does by displaying a visual of a receiver giving off tons of heat and the A/V Cooler consuming the heat and dispersing it throughout the back of the cooler.

 

 

When you open the box, you’ll find that the product is securely held in place by Styrofoam. The paper that was lying on top of the product caught my eye. It is a diagram of how to use the product which I think is much better than having to read a huge manual because this way, everything is broken down in a way that everyone can understand. At the bottom of the box you’ll find the only accessory included, the power cable.

 

 

The A/V Cooler has a reflective top which is aluminum. The back of the cooler is where you’ll find the fans that consume the air to transport it out of the backside of the cooler.  You’ll notice the feet on the bottom of the cooler aren’t rock-solid rubber - they have soft material on the ends of them to prevent any scratches to the product below the cooler.

 

 

The back of the cooler has the port that the power cable plugs in to. On the front of the product you’ll find a switch that controls the speed of the fans. The choices you have are low, off, and high. 

 

Installation:

The first thing that I like to do when I’m installing components into a brand new case is to first make sure the motherboard standoffs are correctly in place. In the Antec Fusion Black 430 case, the only supported motherboard format is MicroATX. After the standoffs are in the correct place, I slide in my motherboard and securely fasten it into place. I went ahead and put my CPU, heatsink, and RAM into place.

 

 

 

 

Next, I install the hard drives. To do this, unscrew the top of the hard drive cage and insert your hard drives parallel to the front face plate. Once they are installed, place the top back onto the hard drive cage and screw it securely into place.

 

 

The optical drives are next to install. Remove the optical drive cage and insert your drives. Screw them securely into place and once they are, you can put the cage back where it belongs. Remember, you can only have one CD/DVD ROM drive because there is only one door for the tray to come out.

 

 

 

 

The last thing I do is hook up all of the power connectors and connect the LCD and front panel connectors to the motherboard. Don’t forget to hook up the 120mm fans within the case! Looks a little messy but still pretty good, doesn’t it?

 

 

Now let’s power this case up and configure the LCD panel.

Installation:

A/V Cooler:

According to the diagram provided by Antec, this product is to be placed on top of a receiver or a media center case such as the Fusion Black 430. Make sure you plug the power cable into a wall outlet and into the back of the A/V Cooler.

 

 

 

 

The order that we have the stack of media components is the Antec Fusion Black 430 case, Antec A/V Cooler, and the Microsoft Xbox 360.

 

Now that we have everything installed, let’s fire them up and test them out!

Configuration:

To be able to configure your LCD screen, pop in the included software CD and follow the onscreen instructions to correctly install the software.

 

 

 

 

 

When the program is starting for the first time, it’ll give you the little warning as seen on the left. The first page of options that the program gives you is to select the font, size, speed, style, and direction of the text. You can also tell it when to run the program and if you want the LCD on when the program isn’t. Under the “Auto Mode” tab, you’ll be able to select the categories that you want the LCD to display as well as the date and time. “Graphic Equalizer” is where you can go to tell the program when you want the LCD to display the EQ.

 

 

 

“System Information” is the tab you’ll want to go to in order to change what information about your system is displayed on the LCD. I am satisfied with the current lineup so I’m going to leave that alone. You can get the LCD to check your email and display alerts if you have new mail by going to the “Email Check” tab. You can select one of the major cities that you live near so that the program can report to you the city's weather. To configure the volume knob on the case, you’ll want to go to the “System” section on the left-hand menu. Here you can tell the program the volume step you want the volume knob to have when you turn it.

 

 

 

Below, you can see a shot of the LCD screen showing my Windows information.

 

Now let's test the case and its temperatures!

Specifications:

Antec Fusion Black 430:

 

Model
Brand Antec
Series Veris
Model Fusion Black
Spec
Type MicroATX Media Center / HTPC Desktop
Color Black
Case Material 0.8mm cold rolled steel/ Aluminum plate front bezel
With Power Supply Yes
Power Supply 430W
Motherboard Compatibility MicroATX
With Side Panel Window No
Expansion
External 5.25" Drive Bays 1
External 3.5" Drive Bays No
Internal 3.5" Drive Bays 2
With front LCD display Yes
Expansion Slots 4
Front Ports
Front Ports USB, Audio, IEEE 1394
Cooling System
80mm Fans No
120mm Fans 2 x 120mm side fans
Physical Spec
Dimensions 17.5" x 5.5" x 16.3"
Weight 18.7 lbs.

 

A/V Cooler:

 

Features:

 

 

  • Aluminum plate front bezel with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Volume Control to work with media center applications.
  • Windows MCE & VISTA® compatible IR receiver included for use with remote control
  • Triple chamber structure to separate heat and noise of power supply, hard drives and motherboard for cooler and quieter operation
  • Quiet high-efficiency 430 Watt ATX12V v2.0 power supply with universal input and active PFC
  • Removable HDD brackets with extra soft silicone grommets to reduce vibrational noise
  • Advanced cooling system:
    - 2 x sidemounted 120mm TriCool 3-speed fans
  • Low profile desktop height to fit in any environment
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    Testing:

    To test these products, I'm going to be using temperature probes to measure ambient front and rear of case for the case temperatures. An array of programs will be used to stress the motherboard, CPU, and hard drives inside the case. The overclocked system is at 2.7GHz since that is the highest the stock cooler could attain without crashing. There wasn't enough clearance for my Thermaltake V1 CPU cooler to fit inside the case and I don't have a low profile CPU cooler, hence why I'm using the Intel stock cooler. The graphs with the Antec A/V Cooler on top of the case will be on the bottom and the stock/overclocked graphs will be on top. Also, since the A/V Cooler's fans can be run at high and low, we'll be taking readings from both settings. All temperatures will shown in Celcius.

    Testing Setup:

     

    Hard Drive:

    The temperatures didn't deviate when the system was overclocked - as expected. The temperatures stayed consistent throughout the tests and we didn't expect the A/V Cooler to impact the hard drive temperatures much, so there is no surprise in these results. HDTune was used to stress the hard drive.

     

    Nothing abnormal going on here, so let's go ahead and test the motherboard, CPU, and case temperatures in this case.

    Testing:

    Motherboard:

     

     

     

     

     

    CPU:

     

     

     

    Case Temperatures:

     

     

     

    When I look at all of the results, I like what I see because they are consistent. There aren’t any temperatures that seem way off or out of line. My CPU was running hot with the Intel stock heatsink but the case kept it under control by keeping the air flowing within the case. The case temperatures were fairly low and they stayed down even when the system was overclocked and being stressed. The cooler had a good impact by cooling down everything by a few degrees, all while being quiet.

    Conclusion:

    The Antec Fusion Black 430 media center case really surprised me in a lot of ways. First, I was impressed by the professional, slick, and unique looks of the case. It really comes off as a receiver at first glance. The LCD panel is something you don’t normally see on most home theater PC enclosures and I really like that feature. The LCD screen is customizable in the sense of what you want shown. However, you can’t deviate from the preset options. For example, the user can’t make the LCD screen say “Check out OverclockersClub.com!” The preset options in the LCD software are very nice though, allowing you to display your system information, news feeds, email alerts, date, time, and much more. The three chambers within the case are very unique and really make everything easier to organize. All around the case you’ll find vents which allow the heat in the chambers to disperse adequately. I really like the case’s solid steel build because it feels extremely sturdy - part of that is due to the rubber grips on the bottom of the case. With the slick looks of the case, unique interior that performs quite well, LCD panel, volume knob and sturdiness of this case, I would without question recommend this case to anyone looking for a high quality home theater PC enclosure. The only thing I can say that is negative about the case is that it only supports the MicroATX motherboard format, which could affect some people.

    The Antec A/V Cooler is something I would not have a home theater system without. In our tests, you could see that the cooler shaved a few degrees, sometimes more, off of the components inside the Antec Fusion Black 430 media center case. What really surprised me the most was just how quiet the unit was. Even on the “High” fan setting, the cooler never got louder than 28dB - which is 12dB quieter than raindrops. Definitely do not pass up this cooler. With its almost dead silent fans and great cooling results, it would be a great addition to any home theater setup. Remember, the A/V Cooler and the Antec Fusion Black 430 media center case are sold separately, but they unquestionably go hand-in-hand.

     

     

    Pros:

     

    Cons: