Antec Nine HundredNov 7th, 2006 | By Archive
Antec Nine Hundred
: 11/7/06 – 01:57:33 AM
Page 1 : Index
$140 USD (Newegg.com) / $135 CDN (NCIX.com)
One can never have enough Antec cases in a home. The build quality, the design, and usually the price are all something worth writing home to Mom and Dad about in your monthly "I need food" letter…for the college students it is anyway. Antec has been hocking its superior wares on the computer market since 1986 and those 20 years of experience shows in everything they build. Antec has grown from a small enclosure builder into a premium computer component power-house.
Now among the elite enclosure builders of the world, Antec produces some of the best rack mount designs the IT industry demands. It has been just over a year since my review of the Antec Take 4 4U rack mount case and I must say, it is about time I have my desk graced by the presence of another bullet-proof Antec enclosure. Of course Antec is not only known by IT professionals but home builders as well with a complete line of enclosures ranging from the beautiful HTPC cases to the hottest segment of the market, the gamer case.
Today I will take an in-depth look at the newest enclosure out of the Freemont California production facility, the Antec Nine Hundred which is dubbed the "Ultimate Gamer Case" by the always spunky marketing department. I of course will challenge this claim by scowering over every square inch looking for areas the Nine Hundred excels in and where it falls short, like the Detroit Tigers bid for a World Series championship…yes I felt like crying, so what? This air cooling powerhouse looks to be quite a case from the spec sheet but specifications can only tell half the story, photos and opinion based upon hands on experience are what reviews were created for…time to get reviewing.
Page 2 : Package & Contents
Naturally, I received my review sample direct from Antec double boxed and protected by air pillows to ensure that the retail box showed up in one piece. Despite UPS's best efforts, it did in fact arrive at my door in perfect condition.
The all-black package that the all-black Nine Hundred comes in is quite fitting. Obviously this package is marketed towards the gamers in the crowd keeping it simple, dark, mysterious, and of course…cool.
The side of the package gives us a full view of the case and a few of the unique features of the case including the 200mm fan, modular drive bays, and side panel window.
The rear of the package is very much like the front but with a bit more substance.
We get a good three angle view of the Nine Hundred and many of the features that it possesses are in plain sight with just these three images. There are also three columns listing the specifications in three different languages.
Top to bottom this list of specifications reads like a restaurant menu with all the best dishes it has ever produced on it. All the ingredients for a good case are here including plenty of cooling. Really, the biggest thing with this case is the cooling ability show by the massive 200mm top-mounted exhaust fan.
Speaking of the 200mm exhaust fan, here it is. Intelligently placed on the top of the box to mimic the case inside, this fan is huge. Overall, the box that the Nine Hundred comes in is quite nicely done with enough photos and information to inform on-the-spot buyers of what the Nine Hundred has to offer.
Getting inside the box reveals the standard two inch protective barrier around the case with thick styrofoam blocks suspending the case at both ends. The case itself is wrapped in a plastic bag with the instruction manual resting on top.
Removing the styrofoam cocoon from the box gives us our first look at the Nine Hundred in the flesh. Initially I am surprised at how small it actually is. For some reason I was expecting a much taller case. Either way, the protection through transport is certainly top notch, and I expect nothing less from Antec.
The last of the protective pieces is a thick film covering the entire surface of the side window. Unfortunately the interior accessory package inside the case was rolling around loose so the potential for scratches to the inside of the window is certainly there.
These are the accessories that were not secure when I received the case. The bag had tape on it that appeared to be connected to one of the hard drive cages but that tape broke. I really wish manufacturers would seal contents from coming loose as a scratch did appear on the inside of the window.
The contents seen above contain the usual manual, mounting hardware, as well as a rubber mat for the tray on the top of the case. Also included is a bracket and faceplate for mounting a 3.5" device in one of the 5.25" drive bays, specifically for those users that still use a floppy drive.
Page 3 : Specifications
When looking for specifications on any Antec case, you have to be pleased with the web site they offer. You can find out absolutely everything about every product Antec offers and there are always plenty of photos. Not to mention that their web site is always fast and never leaving you to wait around. I have stolen a little excerpt from the brief description Antec provides of the new Nine Hundred.
What really stands out is that Antec has finally gotten rid of the useless floppy drive bays and opened the whole front end up for a combination of 5.25" drive bays and up to six 3.5" drive bays. On top of that, the cooling ability of this case has got to be tremendous. A total potential of five 120mm fans with three included is nothing to sneeze at, but when you add in the top mounted 200mm exhaust fan, it means that this case will have no problems introducing fresh air or removing the hot air your system produces. Speaking of the fans, here are the specifications of the fans that are included in the Nine Hundred.
200mm Fan Specifications:
Size: 200 x 30mm TriCool Fan
Rated Voltage: 12V DC
Operating Voltage: 10.8V ~ 13.2V
120mm Fan Specifications:
Size: 120 x 25mm TriCool Fan
Rated Voltage: 12V DC
Operating Voltage: 10.2V ~ 13.8V
Page 4 : Exterior
I am pretty excited about the Nine Hundred because it looks to be really well put together. We start, as always, with a good look at the exterior features of the case.
There she is…in all her sleek black glory. Immediately the perforated front grill and 120mm fans are visible and announce to the world that this case is serious about cooling. The basic stance and distinct edges of the case give it a very futuristic and mechanical feeling. The Nine Hundred is quite easy on the eyes if you know what I mean.
The front grill is wrapped in a very solid plastic trim piece. What is most impressive of this front end is the completely perforated grill and the two 120mm fans which will suck a lot of fresh cool air into the case cooling any drives that are mounted in the many available slots.
Moving up towards the top of the case we get more of the futuristic styling that looks like they are straight out of the next version of DOOM. Everything has a hard angular feel to it including the top 120mm fan cut-out and accessory tray.
Our power and reset buttons are housed up here with a pair of USB 2.0 connections, a 6-pin firewire connection, and the standard headphone and microphone jacks. I personally like power buttons on top and the tray behind the front connections might actually be useful…it is a lot bigger than I thought it might be.
The star of this case and most unique feature is this mammoth 200mm fan that exhausts air out the top of the Nine Hundred. Being a tri-cool fan we will have complete control of its speed. The honey-comb grill looks to provide plenty of room for air to escape and should keep air noise to a minimum.
The side panel is home to not only a plexi window but also an additional fan intake with optional 120mm fan mount. The fit and finish of both the grill and window are superb and the angle of the cutout really accents the case nicely. I like how the window doesn't show the drive tower like some windows do, Antec did really well on this side panel in my opinion.
We now turn our attentions to the rear of the case and find yet another 120mm cutout and included Tri-Cool fan. This is the third of the four fans that come with the case and when combined with the top 200mm fan, getting hot air out of this case shouldn't be an issue. Since all fans are 12 centimeter Tri-Cool fans with three selectable speeds, noise shouldn't be something I can point out later on in this review.
Just in case you missed it in the specifications section and the cutout at the bottom doesn't clue you in, the power supply is mounted on the floor of this case. This provides a better thermal environment for the CPU at the same time as providing a solid base for the case to remove that top heavy feeling a traditional tower has. Both rear panels are held in place with thumbscrews and like every Antec case I have ever built a system in, the fit and finish of all the panels is incredible.
The last of the exterior photos is just a quick one to show the feet that come pre-installed on the case. Antec has decided to go with a nice set of black soft rubber feet. I can tell you that these feet stick nicely to glass and hardwood making the case very difficult to slide around. It should be staying put wherever you have it sitting.
Page 5 : Interior
The first thing one must do to get inside of a computer case is to remove the side panel, tools are optional with the Nine Hundred thanks to the thumbscrews holding the panels on.
Obviously this is the backside of the panel showing how the plexi-glass is mounted and the optional 120mm fan can be mounted. Most windowed side panels use a thin flexible plexi-glass and can sometimes not be mounted very firmly but this side panel is not like those. This window is solid and very secure.
The 120mm fan mount utilizes a pair of clips as opposed to mounting the fan with screws. This provides a clean esthetic and very easy mounting method, simply clip it in place.
With the door off we get a nice clean view of the interior and right away, using the motherboard standoff holes as a reference, the depth of the case will make it fairly tight behind the drive bays. Aside from that, nothing really stands out or indicates a problem is going to arise during installation.
The two black cable ties built into the back of the case are going to come in very handy for routing cables. My mind is already envisioning my installation plan of attack. The one thing I don't think I will be able to use is the extra 120mm fan mount seen here. The modular drive cage setup also looks very promising.
The backside of the drive tower looks just like the front side with a healthy dose of thumbscrews that hold the drive cages in place. You will also notice the standard holes top to bottom that allow for nothing but 5.25" devices should you want to remove the drive cages, all that versatility Antec promotes is starting to make sense.
Removing a drive cage is as easy as undoing the thumbscrews and popping it out.
I have pulled both drive cages for this photo. The beefy cages are very nice to work with. The fans are mounted to a plastic enclosure at the front of the drive with the individual perforated grills covering the fans.
The power connection and Tri-Cool fan speed switch run along the side of the cage. This is the cage with the additional 120mm fan mount attached to the rear of the unit. This simply pops off if you don't want to use it.
I can't leave well enough alone so I have set out to remove the fans and much to my surprise, it was quite easy. Antec has almost designed these cages to make it quite possible to swap out their Tri-Cool fans with fans of your choice…not sure why you would want to though.
The fans are held into the plastic mounts with a pair of screws and are the standard Tri-Cool fan, we saw the specifications a couple of pages ago, with one exception. The power and fan control cables are longer because of the fact that they have to run along the length of the drive cage. Hopefully Antec would be willing to supply replacements should something happen to the originals.
My standard strip down of an enclosure continues and I will now focus on the top of the Nine Hundred. There is not only the two cable ties running down behind the drive cages, but also a hook up top that keeps track of the cables coming from the top mounted connections and buttons.
I wasn't sure if I could pull the top off without the front bezel coming off so I popped it out.
With the front bezel out of the way I was free to pop the top off to expose a black finished top panel with most of it cut out for the front panel connections and that massive 200mm fan at the back. The top piece is riveted to the frame so for the modders in the house, you will need your drill handy to get it off.
The underside of the top panel reveals a very well laid out front panel configuration. The power, reset switch, and LED are all secured with an epoxy of sorts to ensure they don't come unplugged by tugging from inside of the case.
Next up was to pull the monster fan out and see just how big it is. A couple screws and plastic clips later unleashed the steering wheel sized fan from the enclosure. All I can say is wow, just wow!
The rear of the Nine Hundred isn't very exciting or different aside from the bottom mounted power supply. A quick look at the mounting holes of the power supply appear to allow either orientation for the power supply to sit. So those with power supplies with a large fan on the bottom, you should be allowed to flip the unit over and install the large fan topside up.
Page 6 : Installation
We are off to the races with the Antec Nine Hundred as our vehicle and a whole pile of my AMD 939 system I just pulled from another box.
Six of the nine included standoffs were already installed so I had to tighten in the last three. Antec only provided nine standoffs total and some motherboards have ten holes now. It is always nice to have an extra couple in the bag so hopefully Antec sees that including a couple more wouldn't hurt their bottom line and this user would certainly appreciate it.
Trusty-D gets the job of being installed in the Nine Hundred for this review and everything fits just fine. My earlier fears of a tight fit behind the drive cages is starting to come true so my cable management skills and OCD are going to have to be up for the task.
Next item going into the Nine Hundred is the power supply and you can see my plan of attack for the cables. Using the included tie downs up the back wall is priority number one. The lower mounted power supply will cause headaches for some with the 4-pin or 8-pin CPU power cable as many motherboards have moved this connection to the rear area of the case behind the I/O panel. This will force users to run the cable across the entire system to reach as running up the side and along the top just won't happen unless you modify the cables length.
Another thing this set of components has going for it is the front to back fan orientation of the Silverstone Zeus power supply, I was able to mount the power supply with the cables closest to the rear wall because of this. Power supplies with large bottom fans will need to be mounted upside down and this will result in the cable stack out of the power supply to be on the side closest to the side panel. This will add to the length needed to run the motherboard connections and will compound problems if they are already a tight fit.
I then slid the optical drive in place and began running the top control cables to their connections on the motherboard. You can see my audio cable run along the top tucked neatly into the crack up there and the firewire connection was cleverly snaked across the middle of the motherboard in a very un-obtrusive fashion. The CPU and cooler installed without problems. The case is plenty big enough to be able to install CPU coolers with the motherboard already mounted.
As you can see I choose the top spot for the optical drive install and it slides in place easily fitting like a glove. The fit is near perfect to be honest and I can't say I have had an optical drive fit the cutout this well in a while.
It just so happens that while I was doing the installation I received an e-mail from the O2 director, Simon Lau, stating that Antec had received some feedback about the video card mount not fitting well. My X800GTO card from HIS has a messed up bracket and it didn't fit, but it hasn't fit in a single case that I have reviewed, so I pulled out my PowerColor X1300PRO for a test fit. Obviously there are no issues here with the card fully seated in the slot, the mounting tab lines up perfectly. I am not sure if it was just some cases that had the issue or if it was a design flaw that might come up with certain video cards but I have nothing out of the ordinary going on here to report. Either way, Antec has assured us that a revision has been made to the Nine Hundred and users shouldn't experience any issues.
*Note from Antec*
It's true that Antec has made a revision, but those cases are not shipping yet, so users with the original may experience issues. If they do, they should contact Antec customer support and they will be sent a new case.
Talk about quality customer service!
With most of the motherboard hardware in place, I could turn back to the front of the case for the drive installation. I have chosen to install 3 hard drives in the one cage to get a good idea of how a fully packed Nine Hundred will cool the hard drives. My only recommendation for this part of the install is to have a screwdriver with a magnetized tip or the recessed holes might get you frustrated without it.
I then pulled the second drive cage out of the equation and mounted the fan and bracket by itself. I was quite pleased to find out I could mount the fan without the drive cage as it then allows for a much more open path for this fan to introduce fresh air into the case. This is the versatility Antec was talking about coming to life.
The one part of the installation that I did find quite frustrating was getting the floppy drive mounted to the bracket, and then getting the bracket installed. You can see how only one screw hole lines up with my archaic floppy drive and the instructions for this section didn't help at all. With just a single screw, the floppy drive isn't completely secure and is can "flop" around with a little bit of pressure. I may have done the mounting incorrectly but I couldn't find another method that worked and I hope Antec will consider amending the instructions to cover this a little more in-depth to help alleviate that frustration from users.
Oh, and please don't laugh at my floppy drive. It does its job when called upon to do so and has never let me down during a BIOS flash so why should I buy a new one? Just so I can have a pretty face plate while it sits in a box on the shelf for 99% of its life? Didn't think so. By the way, getting this grill on with the bracket wasn't fun and I resorted to brute force. Again, further instructions on an easier method to do this would be helpful but as you can see, once installed, the fit is near perfect.
Here we have everything installed and hooked up. Based on other reviews I have seen and a few forum posts of users with their Nine Hundred setups, I should receive a prize for how clean mine is. It took a bit of effort, no more than any other case, but the included tie downs were a life saver and really helped with making the cable stack appear to be almost neat.
The SilverStone Zeus power supply I used was a win/loss situation. On the win column you had long cables and a cable setup that just happened to play well with the hardware I used, but the downside of this was the large amount and length of the excess cables that I had to hide. I managed to do so by utilizing the cubby hole underneath the bottom drive cage. There is plenty more room than I thought under there and I encourage all users to utilize this space.
Overall I would have to give the Nine Hundred a solid B+ for installation. I did manage to get a clean install, even with a full compliment of hardware, but with a few motherboards I have it would have been a different story. The potential for a bit of a headache is there if your power supply has a poor selection of cables or the cables are on the short side. Running cables across the face of the motherboard never looks clean and with some setups, that is what it will take. With mine, however, I think I did a marvelous job and couldn't be more pleased with the Antec Nine Hundred.
Page 7 : Testing
Testing a computer case isn't exactly like testing any other computer component where benchmarks are completed and graphs are made. The real test for a computer case is in the previous section during the installation but I do attempt to gauge the cooling ability of a case by performing thermal testing both in the case, and then out of the case with the same hardware. Here is the hardware that we saw during the installation period and what will be used when doing the thermal testing:
In Case Testing
CPU: AMD Opteron 146 (CACJE 0603FPMW) @ 2800MHz (1.47V)
CPU Cooling: nMedia Ice Tank
MB: DFI LanParty NF4 Ultra-D
RAM: OCZ PC4000 2GB EB Platinum Ed. 2*1024MB @ DDR508 3-3-2-7 / 2.5v
GPU: HIS X800GTO IceQ II Turbo 256MB @ 560MHz Core / 690MHz Memory
PSU: Silverstone Zeus ST56ZF 560W
HD 1: Seagate SATAII 80GB 8MB NCQ
HD 1: Seagate SATAII 80GB 8MB NCQ
HD 2: WD SATAII 250GB 16MB
OS: Windows XP SP2 (with all updates)
Ambient Temp: 22C-23C
Antec Nine Hundred
Out of Case Testing
The thermal testing consists of two parts. The first round is for the system using Stress Prime (Orthos Beta version) to load the system and generate as much heat as possible while maintaining enough stability to run the test for more than 3 hours. During the 3 hour period readings from SpeedFan will be taken 3 times and averaged out. The system will then sit idle for a full hour and the temperatures at that time will then be used as the Idle values.
The second round is for the video card thermal testing. I use ATI Tools "Scanning for Artifacts" feature to load the GPU for 4 hours, again taking three random readings and averaging those results for the graph below. The Idle temperatures of the GPU are recorded after 1 hour of closing ATI Tool.
We start with the system thermal results and I am quite pleased to report that the Nine Hundred has come up roses in my testing. The CPU, the Motherboard, and the Northbridge all showed lower temperatures when mounted in the Nine Hundred as opposed to sitting on my test bench. I can directly attribute this to the excellent airflow through the case and that huge 200mm exhaust fan sitting right above the CPU socket area. All fans were turned down to low for testing so even further cooling can be had by simply putting up with a little more noise.
The GPU did show slightly better temperatures outside the case and that is likely due to the lack of a power supply directly below the intake fan on the ArcticCooling Silencer cooler. Overall though, the Nine Hundred has certainly impressed me with these results.
The hard drive numbers don't really surprise me that much considering they have a 120mm fan blowing directly over them in the Nine Hundred and there was no fan blowing on them when sitting on my desk. The difference in temps really goes to show just how much some fresh air blowing over your hard drives can lower their operating temperatures and thus, increase lifespan. Remember, all of the six hard drive mounts will have a fan blowing over them in the Nine Hundred.
The top I/O ports worked really well and the location turned out to be quite handy. There was no noticeable slow down using the top USB 2.0 ports and the audio ports sound crystal clear. At first I thought the tray up top was a bit gimmicky but have quickly found it quite useful.
The last of this testing section will consist of the fans and incredible airflow that goes from the front of the Nine Hundred through to the rear. The front LEDs are quite blue and despite my un-wavering dislike for LEDs, they actually compliment the case. A switch to turn them off or on might be asking a bit much but none-the-less, I would love to see the ability to turn the LEDs off.
So I decided to try something different with this case to see how it turned out. The idea was to place ribbons at a few different spots in the case to see just how much air was flowing over those areas. There are a total of four spots where I placed two ribbons side by side. I left the hard drive cage in the bottom spot and the middle section just has the 120mm fan mounted there without the cage. All fans were left on the low setting like in the thermal testing above.
The first ribbon we are looking at is the one attached to the top of the hard drive cage right near the bottom of the case. The ribbons were not moving all that much and when you stick your hand in there you can barely feel any airflow. I found that interesting because the hard drives showed a significant decrease in temps in this setup. I guess it doesn't take much airflow to cool an idle hard drive because there really isn't much air making it through the cage.
The next two ribbons are right in the middle of the motherboard pretty much where chipset coolers would be mounted and just above the top video card slot. These ribbons were going crazy. The fan without the hard drive cage in place felt significantly stronger than the fan with the hard drive cage in place. If you are only using three hard drives or less then I would suggest using the bottom cage only and leaving that middle section open with the fan free to blow plenty of fresh air into the mid-section of the Nine Hundred.
The last of the ribbons I placed in the case were near the top where the 200mm monster runs. Again, this ribbon was jumping all over the place. Keep in mind, this was only on the low speed setting. When I turned the fan up to high, it would suck the ribbon up into the fan. This top mounted 200mm fan does its job and does it well. It clearly sucks a lot of hot air off the upper part of the motherboard around the CPU and the thermal testing results back this statement up. My decision on the 200mm fan is a big fat two thumbs up…good job Antec for coming up with this design, it will be copied by others I am sure.
Page 8 : Conclusion
When it comes to enclosure reviews I am not the easiest person to please. I usually find all kinds of things I want changed, would do differently, or simply don't like about a case. You will have noticed that throughout this review there was not that many of those, "I would have done…" comments. The Antec Nine Hundred really did surprise me. I have to admit that I read a few user reviews of this case just before receiving my sample and there was a pretty negative vibe in the room when I started working with the Nine Hundred. I am happy to say that I was quickly turned around and that negative energy was replaced with a very positive feeling.
The one thing I really would have liked to see in the Nine Hundred is more room. Yes, it is tight in there especially when you factor in the ability to mount so many drives and how little room there is between those drives and the motherboard. Installations will be tough with certain hardware combinations but I think I demonstrated that a little creativity and time will allow for some very clean installs, even with plenty of hardware.
The one thing no-one who owns this case can complain about is the ability to cool a hard working set of components. There isn't a noisy and in-efficient 80mm fan in sight, my arch nemesis, and that monster 200mm fan up top is far from a gimmick. It does an incredible job of exhausting hot air from the case. The futuristic and clean appearance of the Nine Hundreds exterior is sure to turn heads and like all Antec enclosures, the Nine Hundred is extremely well put together and the finish is second to none.
Cooling, cooling, cooling
Incredible fit and finish…typical Antec
Quite a versatile internal/external drive solution
Did I mention cooling???
A little tight…an inch of length would do wonders
Cable management might be tough for some users
Overclockers Online would like to thank Antec for providing the Nine Hundred for review.