|Antec Solo-II Computer Case Enclosure|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Cases|
|Written by Dan Ferguson|
|Monday, 05 September 2011|
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Closer Look: InteriorA case's exterior is mostly about appearance blended with functionality suitable for interacting with the case on a daily basis. Power on, power off, plug in, plug out. For the quiet enthusiast and system builder, the interior of the case can be even more important. The features and layout inside the case can make the difference between a loyal fan and a disenfranchised customer.
Well, the interior of the Solo II is covered in a black coating which matches the piano finish on the exterior. It didn't take more than a scrape from a screw, screw-driver or a bump from a component to mar the coating. I don't think this is a big deal, but it could impact your resale value if you like to upgrade frequently. The layout is only slightly different than most mid-tower ATX cases. As mentioned earlier, the PSU is located on the top, which slides the motherboard tray towards the bottom of the case. There is a rail across the top for mounting the PSU, but this can be removed.
The side panels on the Solo II are heavier than normal since they are steel covered by a dense polycarbonate mat. The mass of the door combined with the polymer mat provide improved sound dampening for vibrations traveling through the air. This type of passive damping provides a fixed amount of noise reduction. So noisier components will still be proportionately louder than quieter ones.
With the back panel removed we can see a huge cutout in the motherboard tray. I would almost dare you to find a cooler/socket combo that can't be installed with this cutout. I won't because the clearance between the tray and the panel is less than a half-inch. This isn't even enough for my main PSU cable! This is my first major complaint about the case. I don't know if this was intentional or an oversight, but I think the designers at Antec must have had some idea. There are very few cable management cutouts in the tray, and a mediocre cable wrapping system was attached to the 3.5" hard drive cage.
The front panel on the Solo II can be removed by opening the left panel and lifting three tabs. The door swings open on two hinges. Once open the front door can be lifted straight off the hinges and completely removed. The dual fans and filters from the original Solo are decoupled in the Solo II giving independent access to either. The top fan and removable filter give access and cooling to the 3.5" hard drive cage while the bottom fan and filter provide cooling for the larger interior of the case.
Each filter can be removed and cleaned, or even removed entirely. Underneath the filters are low impedance grills which will protect the fan without blocking the air flow. Taking off the filters will let more dirt into the case, but the less-restricted airflow will allow the case to run quieter and cooler. The fans from the original Solo have been upgraded from 92 mm to 120 mm. A larger fan moves more air for the same RPM. Thus you can install a larger fan, run it at lower RPM and still get the same magnitude of cooling.
The top filter and fan are mounted on a door which hinges down to reveal the 3.5" hard drive cage and three hard drive trays. This is the only way to get drives out of the case when using the hard drive trays. So you have to remove a side panel, open the front panel, unscrew the thumbscrew holing the inner door and pull out the drive tray. That's way too much work for a case that is supposed to be builder-friendly! I worry about the construction of the "hinges" for the access door. It's really just thin metal strips bent into place. Only one rough jostle or slip here will ruin the hinges.
Underneath each drive tray are a set of elastic suspension bands which can physically decouple the hard drives from the case and minimize hard drive vibrations from rattling the case. More on these later. The last thing to consider is the thickness of the inner door. There's not enough room to include a normal fan with rubber grommets to reduce sound. If you want to go this route to minimize sound in the case you will be restricted to using the lower fan or a custom thin fan.