So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Antec Nine Hundred Case
- 200mm "Big Boy" exhaust fan, front exiting drive cages, stylish and light
- Cramped for a gaming case, fiddly hard drive bay screws
The Antec Nine Hundred enclosure is a bit cramped for a gaming enclosure, which are increasingly required to house some of the biggest hardware around, but is otherwise a functional, transportable case.
Price$ 225.00 (AUD)
Antec's Nine Hundred gaming case takes air cooling up a notch with the use of a 200mm case fan, and incorporates some innovative design features that looks stylish, but also adds some welcome features to enhance the overall experience. That said, building a PC with this case has its ups and downs and we were a little concerned by the cramped conditions inside.
The most noticeable feature out of the box is the massive 200mm "Big Boy" exhaust fan that occupies the entire rear half at the top of the case. Along with the three other 120mm fans that come included, this 200mm monster has a three level RPM (revolutions per minute) switch, allowing users to set the spin speed of the fans to 800, 600 or 400rpm. Due to its size the "Big Boy" is able to push larger volumes of air out of the case, so even at 400rpm, air is moved efficiently and less noise is produced than you would expect from a smaller fan.
The two hard drive cages hold a maximum of three 3.5in hard drives each and are fastened by a total of eight thumb screws (four each side) that are accessible by removing both side panels. Once unscrewed the whole cage can be slid out of the front, taking part of the fascia with it. This feature means hard drives can be accessed with reasonable ease after the system is completely built. It isn't quite as simple as using a side facing hard drive bay, but it does the job.
However, fastening the drives into the removable cages can be a hassle in itself unless you have a magnetic screwdriver, as the screw-hole is indented behind a bracket where only the tip of a screw driver can reach. We found it unnecessarily difficult to manage using a normal screw driver. Optical drives are mounted simply by screwing them directly into the bracket in the case.
Each of the two removable cages has a 120mm fan mounted on it. The fans sits flush against the perforated ventilation grills on the front of the case, covering the lower two thirds of the fascia between them and pulling fresh air across the drives, while also cooling the expansion slots. The third 120mm fan works in conjunction with the "Big Boy", extracting air from the upper rear panel of the case, just above the expansion slots.
The Nine Hundred gives clear priority to cooling over noise reduction. With all three case fans running on the lowest RPM setting, the whirring is still hard to ignore, but it's not imposing, especially if you're a headphone user. With the supplied fans alone there's enough air being moved through the case to prevent any hot pockets stagnating, and the steady stream of hot air being expelled from the "Big Boy" is quite apparent. Since the power supply (PSU) is not required to do much, if any of the ventilation, it has been allocated a spot at the bottom of the case. Although there is no thermal segregation for the power supply, the bottom of the two front mounted fans blows over the PSU for a little extra cooling.
With a GeForce 8800 GTX, 2GB of Corsair 800MHz DDR2 RAM , two 7200rpm hard drives, a third 10,000rpm drive, as well as an Intel Core 2 Duo Extreme 2.93GHz CPU running under a heavy workload, while in cramped and hot ambient conditions, the internal case temperature remained well within comfortable levels. If additional cooling is needed, a side fan-mount is available and another mount attaches to the hard drive cage.
Designed for a standard ATX motherboard, the Antec Nine Hundred enclosure requires a little bit of planning before building the system, in order to avoid any problems. We installed a full size ATX motherboard and a GeForce 8800GTX into the case. The 8800GTX is currently the longest gaming graphics board on the market and it was a tight squeeze getting it into the Nine Hundred, falling only slightly short of the hard drive bays at the front. We had to remove the aforementioned 120mm fan bracket from the rear of the middle drive cage for it to fit. We also found that the hard drives had to be installed into the alternate drive cage, as they didn't allow enough room for the 8800GTX to fit comfortably. ATI still hasn't released its DirectX 10 graphics card, but rumours suggest it's going to be fairly large. Running two high-end cards in a dual card configuration will cause things to get very cramped inside this case.
Blue glowing lights adorn the fans just so there's no confusion about it being a gaming case, while front access USB, FireWire and audio ports sit on the top near the front edge. The more-is-less approach to the power and reset buttons is excellent. It may take you a second the find them at first, but the small, plain, black power and reset buttons look very cool, simply by not looking like anything at all. Just behind the front access ports and power button is a small tray with a rubber mat for keeping USB keys, camera docks or MP3 players and it is very handy.
The build quality is rugged but light, even with a full load of hardware, and isn't too garish, so it will work well for LAN parties.
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