Antec Three Hundred Gaming Case
I recently upgraded my son's gaming PC to dual Nvidia 8800 GTs in SLI and immediately noticed the temperatures were much higher than they should be. This was a very old Antec case and lacked sufficient airflow. I couldn't find a model number on it anywhere, but its QC stamp was from 2000. It only had two fans (other than the fan in the PSU): an 80mm fan sucking in air at the bottom front and a 60mm fan in the top back, just below the power supply. Time for a new case to handle the heat generation of dual GPUs and the CPU. Since I really love my Antec Nine Hundred case, but I didn't need quite the same room for this build, I decided to try its little brother the Antec Three Hundred.
Cheap, But Not Cheap
The Antec Three Hundred sells at Newegg.com from $45 to $70 depending on your luck plus shipping. Antec later introduced the Antec Three Hundred Illusion case which goes for about $70 that includes two Antec 120mm three speed fans in the front drive bays. The latter case a great deal since there are no quality 120mm fans for difference in cost.
Either way, that's a very good price for a very solid case. I'll point out the little extras that make this case a bit more of an extra value. I'll also point out a few things I would have like to have seen. Let's get right into it (literally), shall we? Peeking into an empty case can only reveal so much, but it's nice to note how much room this case has for a mid-tower case. The first picture below (click on the thumbnail to expand the picture) shows that the case has nine 5 1/4" drive bays. Only three of those are truly externally accessible (unlike the Antec Nine Hundred where there are nine externally accessible drive bays). That said, very few people would ever need more than three - many only needing one. The second picture shows the included 140mm top and 120mm rear Antec Tri-Cool (i.e., three speed) fans, which are in the perfect spot to draw the air directly from the CPU on most motherboards. This is probably equivalent to upgrading your CPU heatsink/fan combo without spending anything extra. The last couple pictures show the external drive bays from the inside (along with the front panel wiring) and the front panel audio cable which has both AC97 and HD audio connectors.
Moving to the front of the case, there are two fan mounts that are removed by loosening a pair of thumb screws in each mount. The first picture below shows the upper fan mount removed. The front panel is pretty standard fare in that it has two USB ports, headphone and microphone jacks, a reset switch, a power switch, and LEDs for power and hard drive activity. I wish they'd also considered adding an ESATA port, but perhaps I'm the only person finding those almost required any more. None of the slots in the drive bay in the bottom allow for a floppy drive. One could put in one of the top external bays with a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter that Antec lists as an optional part, which includes a floppy slot. For most builds with late model motherboards, there's really no need for a floppy drive, so this isn't much of a problem
A look at the right side of the case shows that there is some hidden cable management there with a couple of straps included. One thing I would have liked to see and which I have started seeing in high-end cases, is a cut out under the motherboard where the CPU would likely sit. This allows a heavy duty CPU cooler that includes a bottom plate to be installed or removed without taking the motherboard out of the case. I wouldn't take any points away for the lack of said cut out - if I were giving points - but it would have been nice. Most people never tinker with their motherboards once installed. I do. I also wish the case included some form of a PC speaker (or that motherboard manufacturers would put a piezoelectric speaker on the motherboard itself). I'm old-fashioned in that I like hearing that POST beep upon powering up the PC.
The Build Begins
The Antec Three Hundred doesn't include the 120mm fans in the drive bays or the one on the side panel, however with three disk drives and dual graphics cards, those are all desirable. (See also, the Antec Three Hundred Illusion case mentioned above that seems to include two of the three fans for only $10 more.) For this build, I used three Enermax UC-12EB fans. I use these in the 120mm and 80mm sizes a lot. The reasons are that they are cheap (from Newegg.com anyway), utterly quiet, move lots of air and last forever (where "forever" means that at least for the two years that I've been using them, none have failed). The ENLOBAL Magnetic Barometric Bearing probably has a lot to do with their reliability. The 120mm version produces less than 17db sound while moving 44 CFM of air at only 1000 RPM. They don't have fancy lights; they just work efficiently and quietly .. in an Antec case even. (This assumes you know that Antec and Enermax are [two of my favorite] competitors in the case and cooling market).
The first picture below shows an Enermax fan installed in the drive bay mount. Next, the drive bay fan mount hooks over a couple slots on the left and is fastened into place using the thumb screws on the right. This makes them extremely quick to install and replace. The case designers included cable management slots behind the fan mounts as shown in the last picture. It's that attention to detail that makes me impressed with this case. When screwed down tightly, the fans are not likely to vibrate. Once the optical drives are installed (two of them in this build), the front panel hooks onto the right and clips tightly into place on the left. That's a very nice clean way to mount the front panel without requiring tools or screws.
Now, it's time to get serious installing the bulk of the hardware. The motherboard went in without consequence, and the picture below shows the three drives in their slots in the bay. They are held in place with thumb screws seen on the very far right of the picture, which are included with the case. Some "cheap" cases also get cheap by including few or no screws. That's not true with the Antec Three Hundred. There are enough screws here for at least the six drive bays, the motherboard (including nine standoffs) and several other assorted screws. This build is still using a couple IDE optical DVD-ROM and DVD-RW drives. As these die, I replace them with SATA drives, but haven't found a reason to do a wholesale replacement on working drives.
The Antec Three Hundred has a bottom-mounted power supply unit (PSU) and one of the consequences of that is that it brings the motherboard closer to the external optical drives at the top of the case. Looking at the first picture below, the distance between the blue IDE port on right side of the motherboard and the first IDE optical drive is now about three inches. Too bad the shortest dual-device round IDE cable I have is about 12 inches long. The hidden cable management behind the internal drive bays will be used to hide most of it. As the second picture shows, another advantage is that the CPU is indeed very close to the top and rear fans, which will help keep it cool. Having the power supply at the bottom did make it hard to route the 8-pin auxiliary power connector to the motherboard except straight up the back of the case.
The first picture below is of the finished build. In order to maintain airflow and clearance, I had to move one of the disk drives up one slot in the bay to clear the back of the video card and it's power plug (but luckily there's plenty of drive bay slots). I would recommend getting the measurements of a long video card though to make sure it fits in this case. The 8800 GTs are not the longest cards out there and they are a tight fit. The final picture of this series shows how the cable management took up all the extra slack of the cables. The airflow in this case is pretty decent, but not as good as a larger case.
Once the left and right side panel are put in place and fastened down with their thumb screws, the build is done. I didn't take a picture of the side panel fan, but it's another Enermax 120mm fan and connects to a 4-pin Molex to three pin adapter at the bottom of the case near the PSU. (It's the black and red wire pair hanging out of the case in the picture of the full build above.) The first picture below shows the final build as it looks from the back. Note that this case has real removable and replaceable slot covers. A lot of cheap cases have knock out slot covers that can't be put back once broken out of a slot (except by using a slot cover from another case). The last picture is the finished view from the front and right of the machine. All and all it's a very sharp looking build.
The real payoff with this case is when we turn the power on. The new build is almost silent. Technically, so was the old build in the old case, but having no air movement tends to do that. The difference here is the internal case temperatures and those of the CPU have both dropped about 20°C to the mid 40s and mid 30s, respectively. That was the whole purpose of the transplant to the new case, and it's doing the job wonderfully. I think we'll keep it.