Antec P190 computer case review: The making of a monster PC

By Ilya Kochanov
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Antec P190When building a new computer, the case and power supply unit are some of the most important things to consider. Not only are they responsible for powering all of your hardware, but they keep it stable and improve longevity. Today I’m going to take a look at a case capable of killing two birds with one stoneā€”it includes both a high quality, sexy looking case, and a power supply system that can handle even the hungriest of hardware.

Antec Performance One series cases have become famous for offering superior cooling combined with noise-dampening technology, which makes for a super-quiet build. The P190 picks up this legacy by offering a feature set similar to its predecessor, the P182.Then, it adds some space for eATX motherboards, new fans, and two power supplies totaling a massive 1.2 kilowatts.

Since the first iteration of the P180, Antec’s P series became largely famous for its sleek and simple exterior. Although the P190 doesn’t sport the same shiny metal side panels as its younger siblings, it manages to hold on to its refrigerator-like simplicity while clearly labeling itself as head honcho. Some reviewers weren’t exactly fond of the silver rivets in the side of the case, I however, found myself enjoying them.

The side panels are made of two layers, unlike the three featured in earlier models. This combination of metal and plastic adds plenty of weight but is very efficient in eliminating noise. When tapped, the panels make a dull thud as opposed to a loud bang like other case panels. On the front, the magnetic door has a shiny finish and comes covered with plastic to prevent scratching when assembling your system. The door also features sound dampening properties and can be swung up to 270 degrees to be completely out of the way.

After the door is opened, you will find four 5.25″ drive bays and one 3.5″ drive bay. The latter being sandwiched between two removable air filters. USB 2.0, FireWire, HD Audio ports, and two HDD activity LED’s are located on the front as well. Although the mounting system for 5.25″ and 3.5″ devices isn’t exactly tool-less, a rail system enables the user to simply slide the drives in and secure them with a click. I found this system to be very secure as drives do not shake or vibrate after they are inserted.

Up top you’ll find two Antec Tri-Cool 140mm fans, which move large amounts of air and are controllable via switches located on the back of the case.

Here, you will find the fan controller responsible for the two fans above, and the standard 120mm exhaust fan. Followed by rubber grommets for water-cooling tubes and, of course, the dual power supply units. The left side panel sports a massive 200mm Antec Tri-Cool fan, which cools the motherboard and any add-in cards you may have. Being a Tri-Cool, this fan has three different speeds, which are only adjustable after removing the side panel.

On the inside there is plenty of space for whatever hardware you have in mind, this is a case that will be able to withstand years upon years of upgrades. Following the noiseless aspect, every surface that comes into contact with a side panel is padded to minimize vibration. A very unique aspect of this case is the dual-chamber design similar to that of Lian-Li cases. The construction is said to separate heat-generating components for effective temperature control.

The lower chamber has a 120mm Tri-Cool fan in the bottom, which is, once again, only adjustable when the side panel is removed. This fan draws air through the lower HDD cage and then pushes it into the power supplies, which then exhaust it via their own fans. A cooling system like this is both quiet and efficient. The one thing that annoyed me a little was the fact that there is absolutely no way to install a fan at the front of the lower chamber. It might not exactly be necessary but having the option would have been nice.

As you can see, mounting a fan in front of the upper HDD cage is possible. I’ve got a 10,000 RPM Raptor in there, so having the additional cooling is convenient. Both cages are removable, and are secured with a single thumbscrew. The two HDD trays in the upper cage slide out to make hard drive installation easier.

You’ve probably been wondering about the little white plugs and those, my friends, are silicon mounts, which completely eliminate hard drive vibration. All six possible hard drives are mounted on these with the included screws. One thing that became a slight nuisance was tightening the screws, which started twisting the silicon dampeners. I found that adding a tiny bit of water with a damp paper towel solved this problem.

The right panel is removed to reveal about an inch of room for routing even the thickest cables. This obviously increases air-flow and just makes the inside of your case a whole lot prettier. Antec included some cable ties but they proved to be weak and ultimately useless. As you can see, I ended up using zip ties instead. Not a big flaw but it would help if Antec threw in a few regular cable ties.

The P190’s most noticeable flaw comes in the form of PSU cabling. A 650-watt PSU powers your motherboard and graphics, while the 550-watt secondary PSU picks up hard drives, fans, and other peripherals. This setup makes for an unbalanced distribution of power, with the 650-watt unit being overloaded in case you decide to go with quad SLI or CrossfireX graphics. Such a configuration can draw as much as 430-watts. Unfortunately the four necessary cables are all permanently attached to the main PSU.

Although the second PSU is modular, Antec fails to include any PCI Express power connectors for it. After purchasing the two necessary cables, a quad graphics setup can theoretically be possible with one PSU per card.

Overall, this is a product I highly recommend for anyone with deep pockets and a lust for the greatest. If you’ve got about $400 to spend on a case, get it. For about $250 less however, you can get the P182. It’s practically the same case except without a power supply and room for extended-ATX form factor motherboards. One thing is for certain though, if you want to go cool ‘n’ quiet, Antec is the way.

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