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Written by Dan Ferguson   
Monday, 05 September 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Antec Solo-II Computer Case Enclosure
Closer Look: Exterior
Detailed Exterior Features
Closer Look: Interior
Detailed Interior Features
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

Computer Case Final Thoughts

I've noticed in creativity and brainstorming sessions that the most rudimentary ideas surface almost immediately. While usually effective, these are not always the most effective. It seems like the truly inspired ideas don't surface until the rudimentary ones are vetted and optimized. Once things get difficult is when creativity finds wings and really good ideas begin to surface.

When it comes to quiet computing I think the obvious ideas are still in the vetting process. There are alot of standard techniques that keep getting reused without much thought and some simple ideas overlooked. I'm not picking on Antec here, I see this across the board. I think what we have is a great start, and I hope to see designers put in a little extra thought on the next generation. If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them in the comments. I'll even give a few to get us started:

  • ALL rubber case (that one's FREE haha)
  • Extra rubber grommets for misc component mounting
  • Insulation around the hard drive cage
  • Fewer holes in the case (dedicated, custom airflow paths can reduce noise)
  • Sound dampening inserts (heavier is better)
I'm sure you have better ideas, so let's hear them. But keep in mind that designers are working in a box. On one side is a money wall requiring upgrades to be economic. On the other is the desire to be as quiet as possible. The front might be the need to meet the needs of hybrid users like gamers and system builders, and the back could be the requirements of visual style. Trying to hit the sweet spot, staying just inside all the boundaries is a tough job, but if we put our brains together we can help designers make better decisions.

Antec Solo II Mid Tower ATX Case

Antec Solo II Conclusion

When it comes to sound, the Solo II only slightly better than it's predecessor the Solo. A 120 mm True Quiet exhaust fan helps to keep noise down and temperatures lower. The build goes slower than other mid-sized towers due the layout, but the layout allows just enough room for performance components. Due to the small-footprint and the capacity for high power parts the interior runs hot. Although Antec tried to make the drives easy to access, a minimum of three panels must be removed for 3.5" drive swaps. Drive mounting could be greatly improved with a sideways or modular drive cage.

Piano-black glossy sides gives the Solo II a classy look that will be appreciated in even the most professional setting. It's prone to the usual fingerprints, but that's only a big problem on the front bezel. The black anodized aluminum looks great when clean, but fingerprints drastically detract from the commanding, unembellished appeal. The intake ports on the side leave the front and sides clean while still offering some pattern to make things visually interesting.

First, the bad. The interior coating scratches quite easily, the hinges on the interior drive bay door are weak, and the front door comes off far easier than it goes back on. The internal bays are hard to access, there's not enough clearance under the motherboard tray, and the cable management hooks cause hurt more than they help when cables aren't excessively long. Now for the good. Spring-loaded, captive thumbscrews on the left panel make it easy to access. The frame and panels are solid and sturdy. A fan speed switch is conveniently located on the back. The front panel buttons and connectors are well-constructed and have just the right amount of resistance. The USB 3.0 ports use a connector meant for the motherboard header.

Layout options are limited, but the essentials will all fit in the small-footprint. With two 5.25" bays and three 3.5" bays there's room at the bottom for extra large video cards and/or a 2.5" hard drive. Fan filters are removable and optional. The top has an intake for better PSU cooling, but just allows noise to escape when a simple PSU is used. For 3.5" drives, the trays include soft silicone grommets for noise-reduction. For better sound damping the trays can be removed and two drives instead mounted in suspension bands. Only tension keeps the drives in place, so caution or modification is required. In addition to grommets and suspension bands, noise levels are kept low by polycarbonate sheets and a 120 mm True Quiet fan. Two additional 120 mm fans can be installed up front if the extra noise must be tolerated for cooling needs.

As of February 2012, Antec's Solo II case sells for $129.99 (Newegg). That sounds a bit steep considering the quiet-computing competition and other features that can be purchased for that amount. Antec made some modest improvements over the original Solo, but the price still seems a little steep considering how much of the platform remains the same. What you're buying: small-footprint, elegant and unassuming appearance, compatible w/ performance parts, quiet. What you're not buying: tool-less installation, extra fans / large fans, modular construction, oodles of space. The main competitor here will be the Silencio 550.

The Solo II made some modest steps forward, but has some shortcomings that make it hard to work with. It's still a good candidate if you like how it looks, want something quiet that can still pack a punch inside.

Pros:

+ Room for large video cards
+ True Quiet 120 mm exhaust fan
+ Silicone noise-damping feet
+ Sound damping panels
+ Multiple quiet-mounting options for hard drives
+ USB 3.0 on front panel
+ Small footprint

Cons:

- Low clearance under motherboard tray
- Suspended hard drive can dislodge
- Very little damping in front panel
- On the expensive side
- Drive cage difficult to access

Ratings:

  • Performance: 8.75
  • Appearance: 9.50
  • Construction: 8.00
  • Functionality: 9.00
  • Value: 7.00

Final Score: 8.45 out of 10.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.

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Comments 

 
# Nice case.pinobot 2011-09-05 23:35
But, i don't understand why they don't put the harddisks on top that would give you a little more room (or to the bottom together with the psu). I just ordered a swapbay for my harddiks, 3 harddisks go in the space of 2 5.25 bays. Talking about bays, why so few bays, you can just as well make 5 external bays, you can always internally put a dustfilter in front of it.
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# RE: Suspended drives slipping outflemeister 2011-09-06 02:56
Did you try twisting the elastic fabric a few times to increase its grip on the hard drive? Like in the third photo down on this page:

##silentpcreview.com/article8-page2.html

I did this in the original Antec Solo (the revised version with the same elastic fabric as the Solo II, not the very first one that used poor quality elastic bands), and it works to keep the drive in place. Not fool-proof, but certainly better than not twisting the cord.
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# RE: RE: Suspended drives slipping outDan Ferguson 2011-09-07 13:12
Yeah, twisting the bands definitely helps, but like you said it's not a sure thing. I think having an extra band, string or something to secure the drive end should have been included in the design.
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# ????Pigbristle 2011-09-06 03:20
Quote: "A fan speed switch is conveniently located on the back"

Are you having a laugh???
Do you know how many people have there rigs under desks?

So now when I switch from watching a movie to playing a game, I have to get down on my knees & thumble around the back feeling for a switch?

And the worst part, moving this switch to the front probably wouldn't have cost anything more to the manufacturing.
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# RE: ????Dan Ferguson 2011-09-07 13:15
Yeah, there was some sarcasm there, I forgot to elaborate. The switch really isn't that bad if the case is accessible, but a pain if it's tucked inside a desk.
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# RE: RE: ????Pigbristle 2011-09-08 16:55
I've noticed a lot of case reviewers do the same thing.
They review the case on a table with 360o access, forgetting that a lot of consumers who actually buy these cases, have them on the floor or under desk.
It just seems so obvious to me, I mean, would you put the start switch on the back? No! , so why put the fan controller on the back???
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# Other competitionComputer Ed 2011-09-06 04:40
I would disagree about this cases main competition. I would see Fractal's Define R3 as the big driect competition to this and from what you have shown actually beating it pretty good.
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# RE: Other competitionThomas 2011-09-11 06:29
Not really. Fractal Define's R3 is one of those cases that simply go through a checklist of features yet don't execute any of them very well. It includes lots of hard drives but the mounting is not especially good for a silent enclosure; it includes bitumen material to thicken the chassis but the steel is woefully flimsy; it includes quiet fans but they use sleeve bearings. I have one right now and its definitely not in the same league as Antec's quiet computing cases with the 1mm thick steel and polycarbonate sheets.

From what I can see, this Antec Solo II is executed well for a system w/ 500W PSU (aka not for really 1337 gamers), the major problem is the asking price where its only a few dollars less than the Antec P183. Cable management with top mounted cases has always been easier with bottom mounted cases and cables are easily enough tucked away with zip ties/modular PSUs...it doesn't really matter *how* you tuck it away because this case doesn't have a side windows.
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# RE: Antec Solo-II Computer Case EnclosureRobert17 2011-09-06 04:40
Thanks Dan. This unit seems a bit pricey for the feature set. And you are correct. Not that swapping drives happens every day, but they are probably accessed more that the PSU which seems easier to swap. Which brings me to your suggestion question.

I've wondered for some time why PSU manufacturers haven't offered PSUs with various configurations, i.e., having modular cabling that extends from perhaps the "top" of bottom-mounted units. Routing PSU cables has been a "one size fits all" affair for too long. And for quietness? A spray-on bedliner for pickup trucks that reduces noise as well as protects the bed has been around for years. Why not utilize it, or something like it, in computer cases as well.

My two cents. Spend it wisely.
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# RE: Antec Solo-II Computer Case EnclosureAdam 2011-09-06 09:24
Love the look of this case and some great design ideas, actually quite tempted by it.
Shame about that cable management though.

Thank for the review, but one question (that's probably pretty stupid), what's with the CPU heatsink orientation?
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# RE: RE: Antec Solo-II Computer Case EnclosureDan Ferguson 2011-09-07 13:32
The Contac 29, as well as other sinks, use a cheap mounting method for AMD sockets which gives it a 90 degree orientation from normal.
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# RE: RE: RE: Antec Solo-II Computer Case EnclosureAdam 2011-09-09 12:19
Well that's odd/lazy. Did they expect every case to have a top vent in it?

Must bugger up the ram slots something terrible as well, bad enough with some correctly positioned coolers let alone sticking right over the top.
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# It literally sucksehume 2011-09-06 18:07
Rear fan, pulling air in. The case sucks.

The thing reminds me of the Antec NSK 4480 II I bought as my very first case. Why they were still selling that dinosaur in late 2009 I don't know. This is better, but the air going into that case is going to hiss through the openings around the back of the face plate.

Well, no one who reads these reviews will be a customer for this case, but I'll say it now: Don't. Get. This. Case.
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# ?wyterabbit 2011-09-08 13:20
The rear fan is an exhaust fan, it doesn't pull air in.
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# Love & Hatealaembodo 2011-09-20 15:15
I'd go for this case. I like it. It's neither over the top styling like a Thermaltake, nor is it lit up like the 4th of July like a LED ornament. I like the understated & clean look. There's also no non-functional esthetic plastic cladding on it. I also don't need 5 hard drives and a water cooling rig. For me, $129 isn't an issue. I can easily add 120mm fans to it and find a way to do a clean wiring job in there. I also don't need to change PC components every 2 months.
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# Use a Fanless PSU!Dogwood 2011-10-13 16:59
It's worth noting that the vented top-mount power supply orientation is perfect for a fanless PSU. I'm looking at a Seasonic SS-400FL; there's also a SS-460FL. If 400 or 460 watts is enough, then fanless is tempting -- in which case the top-mount lets the heat silently escape the case instead of venting into it as a bottom-mount would. I suppose a fan-cooled PSU might be mounted upside-down so as to draw cooling air from outside?

This looks like it will be a great case for an air-cooled system that don't produce excessive heat. With the new 23- and 25- and 28- nanometer parts coming out (Ivy Bridge, Southern Islands, etc -- which use less power) the Solo II can hold plenty of computer power for most purposes.
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# I ordered one from J&R for $110 totalDogwood 2011-10-13 17:11
I just ordered an Antec Solo II at J&R. It's listed at $119.99, including shipping. I found a promo code that gave me an extra $10 off, "JRGOOG"; the listing said this discount code expires on 10/15/11. As I write this, I see Provantage also has the case listed at about $112; presumably they add shipping to that. So the $110 delivered is likely to be the best price this can be had at until maybe it becomes mature -- note that you can find the first Solo now for as low as $80 or $90.

##jr.com/antec/pe/ANT_SOLOII/
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