I have had many long hours inside of Antec cases, starting off with my 900. From what I have seen with Antec chassis' in my short time here, is that air flow is key in their concepts. The 900, while a bit loud, had and still has some of the best chassis air flow money can buy. Even their open air chassis incorporated a large top fan and additional fans to keep components cool even without sides. This brings us to why I'm here today.
Back in May we looked at the Antec Skeleton and I was quite pleased with what Antec was offering in their uniquely designed open air chassis. I loved the concept and using and installing components in it was a breeze. The top mounted fan worked wonders for keeping RAM and chipset coolers full of cool air flow, greatly reducing the ambient air the motherboard sat in. the biggest complaint I had then was head room for CPU coolers. Let's see what they have come up with this time.
Today we are looking at the Mini Skeleton-90 from Antec. This version is a mITX compatible, sized down model of the Skeleton I previously reviewed. Since things were so easy and pleasurable to use the first time around, I don't expect many issues, aside from cooler clearances. Enough with what I expect, let's get to the images and let the product speak for itself!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
This open air chassis is built from 0.8mm cold rolled steel. The floor, motherboard tray and mounting clips are all made of steel for the innards, while the exterior is made from reinforced plastic. The plastic outer shell is painted grey and has had a texture applied, dulling the look of the chassis. The front I/O, housed in this frame, consists of two USB 2.0 connections and two 3.5mm jacks for audio. The chassis only supports mITX motherboards and 2.5" storage drives. There is no way around those two factors. The Mini does still allow room for a full sized, 5.25" optical drive, though. With its small size and relative light weight, there should be no issues finding some space to house this Mini Skeleton.
With the reduced scale of things, cooling is handled a bit differently this time around as well. The TriCool on the Mini is only 250mm this time, but does put out sufficient air flow. Mounted in between the floor and the motherboard tray, in the rear of the chassis, airflow on your components housed here comes from a 70mm fan pulling air in the front and out the back. The idea here is with less moving parts and lower voltages of said parts, more cooling just isn't needed.
If finding an Antec Mini Skeleton-90 is on your list of things to do, you will have no issues locating one. Looking around, all the major players stock it both on and off the web. During my searches I was able to locate the Mini Skeleton-90 for $109.99 at Newegg. This does not include shipping. Price is fair it seems at this point, but let's let the chassis itself do the talking and see how I feel when my time with the Mini Skeleton-90 is done.
The Mini Skeleton-90 sports the same packaging as the full sized version, but this time around things are scaled down a bit. The bright yellow stripe on the black background will definitely catch your eye.
The right side is all black aside from the grey specification chart that houses the size, weight and the size of the power adapter.
Since both the front and back are mirror images, I skipped it and moved on to the left side. Antec chose to give buyers a top-down perspective of the Mini Skeleton-90.
Once the box is removed, I was pleased to see that the Mini gets the same attention to packaging as did its larger brother. The Skeleton-90 is cradled in the center of the two high density foam sides. Inside of those the chassis is packed in a plastic bag, to aid against any abrasion. The instructions and paperwork can be found on top, along with the hardware box, which was removed for the image.
The Antec Mini skeleton-90 Open Air Case
The Antec Mini Skeleton Open Air Case
At first glance there doesn't seem to be much change to the Mini Skeleton-90. Look a little closer and things start to pop out. Fewer components in the front I/O and less room for drives are the main things that had to change in shrinking down the chassis.
Keeping in line with the original, the Mini shares all the ease of access to the sides as well. These drop down panels will allow you to mount drives if you feel it is necessary.
The rear of the Mini has a couple of things to note. No clear plastic graphics card support is what I noticed first. Near the bottom, to the left, is where the power adapter gets plugged in. To the right is where Antec mounted the 70mm rear exhaust fan. This fan will draw air to cool both drives and the power supply.
Same as with the other side; the vented, bottom half drops out of the way for access as well. Once the panels are removed, you can mount SSD's with the trays I will show you later, here as well.
Looking into the belly of the beast, we see the 150mm blue LED fan that cools by pulling in outside air and blowing it down onto your components. One thing I do like about the Mini over the original is that they backed the underside of the fan with grill material as well. With the limited room, this keeps fingers safe while tinkering inside the Mini Skeleton-90.
As I mentioned in the specs page, this is a TriCool fan on top of the Mini. Located to the left side near the front of the fan, you will locate the switches. The white switch is to turn the blue LED's on or off during operation. The three position switch is for the three "TriCool" levels of the fan.
Front I/O wiring is typical. You get an HDD activity, reset and power connection. Somehow the power lead eluded me in this image, but I promise you it is there. The USB 2.0 and HD or AC'97 audio connections finish up the included wiring.
Simply removing one thumbscrew from the rear of the floor of the chassis, the motherboard tray and component shelves slide out for easier installation.
Accessories and Documentation
Here is the box that I removed from the interior packaging image. Due to its large nature, once the box is removed it wouldn't stay on top of the rounded chassis.
Inside you will find a power brick terminating in a laptop like adapter. This connects in the port I pointed out on the rear of the chassis. Then of course you need to supply the brick with power, so we get a cord rated to 125V and 7 amps. Antec also includes a 4-pin Molex to dual SATA power lead adapter, and ten cable ties to tidy up when you are done.
More goodies found in the box include two, 2.5" trays for adding SSD's and a baggie with various screws to mount all your components. Lastly we have the half height graphics support. It is currently upside down from how it installs, but goes on quite simply.
With the included paperwork comes the owner's manual, paperwork on the AQ3, three year warranty, and a diagram of the wiring layout.
I removed the 90 watt power supply from under the motherboard tray. The DC_IN is powered from a 4-pin connection attached to the back of where the power brick plugs in. on the outgoing side, all power stems from one 24-pin connection. For image quality wires were removed.
The wiring harness, as I said, stems all power from the 24-pin connection in the center of the image. The 20+4-pin connection goes to the motherboard, while on the other side, the harness supports two SATA, two 4-pin Molex and one FDD connection. Keep in mind, with the provided adapter you can have up to four SATA power connections running from this.
The Build and Finished Product
Using my usual mITX components, only this time a 35W Celeron is my processor of choice, I was able to get everything in pretty easily. Even with connections for the front I/O components needing to be plugged in at the opposite end of the board, there is sufficient length in the wires to get the job done.
Once the tray was returned to its locked position and the thumbscrew replaced, all that is left is placing the optical drive of choice to the left and up to two 2.5" drives to the right. I don't currently own any 2.5" drives but I still have a trick up my sleeve to test the performance.
As I'm showing here, the trays can be simply hung on the sides to add more drive space. A little bit harder to see, is the room above the CPU cooler. I used a low profile cooler from SilverStone, but I seriously can't see much more than stock or stock-like coolers being able to fit.
There is a bit of an easier look at the cooler height from this angle. I would have liked a bit more room. Everything looks clean with the completed install, even when you have to wire the 4-pin CPU power cable around the back as I did. I found plenty of length to all the power leads to get everything I needed connected done so with no fighting.
One last side shot, this time the opposing side, all buttoned up and in proper form.
Booting up for the first time, the fan was already set to high. I was slightly surprised by the lack of a hum coming from this fan. I would have expected this fan to be louder than what I actually was hearing. Once I set the CPU fan all the way up in BIOS, the two sort of blended at the same resonance, which made it hard to tell which was actually louder.
And of course I had to get one in action with the LED turned on!
Working with the Antec Mini skeleton-90 did leave a huge smile on my face. From the minute I got it out of the box, I actually said out loud, "aww it's so cute". That being out in the open, I should explain. I had already looked at the full sized version and when I pulled the mini out of the box, I was surprised at the almost "spot on" similarity between the two; the Mini struck me as almost a model of the original. Overall I liked the time I played around with my Mini Skeleton-90, but there are a couple of downsides.
I would have liked a bit more room for a better CPU cooler. I don't know about you, but I overclock almost everything I own. My ZOTAC does a fine job of pushing the FSB and with all of the extra cooling the chassis supplies, it seems sort of wasted. Now, running some DOS based tests and using my infrared temperature gun, I was able to get a few baseline measurements. With the TriCool running I was able to keep my CPU six degrees cooler when set to high, so all is not lost. The small 90 watt PSU also makes selections of what processor to choose very limited for 775, but an Atom system is ideal.
All things considered, I am left with an overwhelming feeling of novelty. While it is an attractive piece of hardware, the sheer size of things makes it really impractical, unless you are building the system around this chassis from the start. My thoughts are this; if you are building a mITX system, it's usually HTPC or browsing / e-mail builds. This puts them, most likely, in higher traffic areas. The open air design is great to look at, but one mistake of a spilled drink, or mischievous children's hands, I think the novelty will quickly wear off. The asking price for the Antec Mini Skeleton-90 is currently $109.99 at Newegg, plus shipping. Once I got passed the cute factor, the pricing for this product is a tad high for my wallet.