As I sit here contemplating to start this based off of a revision of a previous design angle, or if I take the approach of allowing this chassis to stand on its own merits, I find that both angles are very applicable to what we are going to be having a look at. As the title mentions, essentially we are at what the evolution of what the P180 has become some years later. The external design has definitely been revisited in this new release, but there have been a multitude of changes made internally. Looking at cases that came later in the Performance One series from Antec, the P183 and P193 and their revisions, they were all based off a compartmentalized interior design. So while Antec tried to make it have aesthetic cues that hark back to the classic design that many of you reading this have used, there has been much thought and effort into maximizing what you can get into this chassis, making it easy to do, and deliver limited noise in operation.
Maximizing the chassis' potential customers, this chassis gets classified as a Super Mid Tower chassis. The main reason for the "Super" part of this is due to the fact that this chassis will house an XL-ATX motherboard! As far as I have seen, I do believe this is an industry first - I really can't recall any other mid tower with this sort of compatibility. I know quite a few cases will even claim water cooling functionality, and while you may have ways to pass the tubing to an external radiator, the interior spacing doesn't typically offer extra space for such things. Even those that do, the room most times is limited to only the thinnest radiator choices. These are only two of the features of this chassis that is just completely packed with opportunity to take on anything you may want to throw at it.
Today we are bringing you the Antec P280 from the Performance One Series. As I type this I am still a couple of days away from the NDA releasing so that you may read what I am writing. As you read this you are going to have a bit of a wait for these chassis' to hit shelves, but when they do, I have a strong feeling that these aren't going to sit on the shelves very long at all. From what I have seen, and am about to bring to you, the price point set on the P280 is so reasonable, it is really going to step proudly into its appropriate segment. Don't forget, along with all of the features you are about to see in the P280, many strides have gone into not only delivering a fully functional chassis with plenty of room to grow into, but doing so with as little noise to the computing environment as possible. The P280 has really taken me by surprise and I hope you will continue reading and see why I don't think they will have any issues selling!
Specifications, Availability and Pricing
The Antec P280 like many of the Performance One series cases receives an aluminum face for the front bezel/door combination, keeping a similar styling cue that reminds you of the beginnings of the series. In the quest for silence, the front bezel offers a triple layer design of metal, foam and plastic to deaden the noises, while the side panels use dual layers - one the metal panel and the second is a polycarbonate applied to the inside of both panels. This leaves the exterior flat without any designs or windows giving the exterior an understated appearance. A couple of differences externally is that the power and reset buttons have been moved from behind the door to the top of this chassis, and there is the addition of two 120mm fans to the roof of the P280.
Inside the chassis the older compartmentalized concept was pretty much thrown away in lieu of a much better interior in my opinion. In the front of the chassis there is room for a pair of optional 120mm fans that would install under the three 5.25" bays and external covers. Behind the fans, under the tool-less optical drive bays there are dedicated bays for two 2.5" drives that work with one thumbscrew to mount each of them. Under that pair of bays you will find the six 3.5" bays that use plastic trays that also accept 2.5" drives and use a silicone rubber washer system for anti-vibration measures. Behind the drive bays there is a pair of plastic clips that will allow for yet another pair of optional 120mm fans to be clipped on the inside of the rack.
Moving to the motherboard tray that accepts boards as small as a Mini-ITX, or as large as an XL-ATX motherboard, and around it are six wire management holes with rubber grommets, ten places to tie wires to, and one of the largest CPU cooler access holes in any case. This leaves us with the rear of the chassis that holds a 120mm fan and has nine expansion slots for cards up to 13" long. This rear fan and the pair mounted in the top of the chassis are TwoCool fans and are pre-wired to a set of switches at the top of the back of the P280.
I can go on and on with what this chassis offers, but I can only fit so much on this page. I will be sure to cover more as we go through all of the images and as I conclude this review. At this point I want to talk about the part that means the most to our wallets, the pricing. As I type this I am still under the NDA agreement and there is no availability to speak of just yet. Through the email correspondence in setting up this review, the guide I was given does list the MSRP that Antec feels this chassis should sell well at, and I have to agree with this assessment. As I read it, Antec is releasing the P280 for $139.95, but it isn't just what you get with Antec for the money, it falls more on what else Antec is offering above and beyond any of the competition in this price range.
Hang in there, let's see what the packaging offers so I can dive into the chassis and show you why I am so impressed.
Twenty-five years in business starts off the front panel with a large image of the P280 looking at it from the front, left. Not only was this chassis designed in California, it was designed for sophistication, performance and Quiet Computing™.
Proudly Antec25 tops this panel as well. In the middle you get to look inside the P280 at the motherboard tray and components as well as the drive layout. As the packaging shows, the natural interior is covered with black paint to match the exterior.
The rear of the packaging offers ten images with basic descriptions covering everything from the layout of all the components and how they work, the USB 3.0 functionality, all the way down to the dust filters included in the P280 are displayed here.
The last panel shows an image of the P280 from the front, right. It does show that the chassis has flat panels on both sides and leaves the Aluminum covered front door to make all the statement the P280 needs.
Inside of the cardboard box, in this situation it was also inside of a plain brown cardboard box, arrived to me in perfect condition as the images showed. Internally there is dense foam that snugly fits the top and bottom of the chassis with a plastic liner under it. As you will see as we look at the outside of the chassis, this packaging delivered a perfect sample to me even after many damaged cases recently from the couriers.
The Antec P280 Super Mid Tower Chassis
The Antec Performance One Series P280 Super Mid Tower Chassis
The front of the P280 gets a noticeable move of the I/O panel from the right side to the top of the aluminum front bezel cover. At the bottom, Antec presses their name into the aluminum to keep the subtle aesthetics of the outside of the chassis.
The front Bezel is a door as well and when opened, it exposes the three 5.25" bay covers , a dust filter that goes over the spot for the optional 120mm fans at the bottom, and the inside of the door has an additional foam filter that will also deaden sounds from inside the chassis.
The power and reset buttons are placed on the top of the chassis for easier access than previous models. The front I/O offers connectivity for HD Audio in and out, two USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. The small holes at both sides are the HDD activity LED at the left and the power LED on the right.
Behind the power and reset buttons, the P280 gets additional cooling added to the top. This honeycomb mesh cover goes over a pair of 120mm TwoCool fans.
On the left side of the chassis there is a large solid steel panel. While they could have cut a window or added mesh, neither is conducive to silence. This way they can block noises with the steel and the large poly sheet that backs it.
Near the rear of the chassis, at the bottom, Antec designed the dust filter to be removed from here. This doesn't seem like much, but most exit from the rear, and in enclosed areas or with the case backed up to a wall, it makes their removal almost impossible. Nice touch Antec!
Behind the P280, the top starts off with a three switch panel above the rear exhaust fan. Left of the fan is the rear I/O area, and below it you get nine expansion slots and two oversized holes for water cooling. The mesh that runs along the left side is to allow air flow behind the motherboard tray leaving the large hole at the bottom for the PSU.
The switch panel offers room for four switches, but only three are used to control each of the three included 120mm TwoCool fans. The switches are labeled for the top and the rear, and all switches offer both a Hi and Low position.
The right side of the chassis is again plain to allow for the dual layer sound deadening that Antec designed into the chassis to do its job.
Under the P280 there are two things that need addressing. I removed the dust cover to show the mesh area that allows your PSU to intake fresh cool air. The second thing I adore, white silicon rubber feet! One thing I always find with most feet is they will leave black marks on everything; you won't have that with these feet!
Inside the Antec P280 Super Mid Tower Chassis
Our first look inside the P280 shows us things like the thumbscrews in the expansion slots, the room above the motherboard for internal water cooling, as well as the more typical bays on the right. The hardware and paperwork was left to move freely inside during transit.
The 5.25" bays use tool-less latches on this side of the bays and with use of metal tabs pressing on the other side of the drive, makes for a very solid fit with just the clips holding the drive in place.
Under the trio of optical drive bays, there is a pair of dedicated bays for 2.5" drives. The tabs on the side rails press against the drives and with just one thumbscrew; they get mounted securely in the chassis.
That leaves the six 3.5" or 2.5" drive bays continuing to the floor of the chassis. Each slot uses a removable tray that holds a 3.5" drive and also offers mounting for 2.5" drives in each tray. The left of the drives have clips placed on the rack to allow you to clip in a pair of 120mm fans if you wish to.
The motherboard tray in this mid tower offers room for boards up to XL-ATX in size! At the top is a pair of holes for wiring with as much metal removed for CPU cooler access as possible without weakening the chassis. To manage the wiring, Antec offers four more holes at the side and bottom with grommets and plenty of places to tie up the wiring.
In the back you find the third included fan in the P280. From the inside looking out, you can see that the back of the chassis is well ventilated and will allow for good front to back air flow through the additional mesh and open expansions slot covers.
Above the rear exhaust fan is where all the wiring gets tucked to control and power the trio of 120mm TwoCool Fans. In order to get power to these three fans, you will need to run a 4-pin Molex power lead to this panel.
Behind the motherboard tray there is up to 30mm of room for wiring in the deepest spots. To the left of the tray is a support bar that runs the height of the case and offers less room for wiring there. As you can see once the trays are removed, the hard drives have no obstructions on this side for the wiring.
To remove the front you must remove a pair of screws from the inside before you pull off the bezel. Once that is done you will find that the wiring is connected to the bezel and you need to address this area before you wire it to the motherboard.
On the other end of the wiring, you get connectivity for the HD Audio, native USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and in the back the power, reset, HDD and power LED wiring. The issue is that these are very short, and once connected, the front bezel will not come off. A bit more length in these wires would have been greatly appreciated!
Accessories and Documentation
There is quite a bit of hardware included with the P280. There is a group of six zip-ties to help with wire management, where below you get a full assortment of screws. The handful of screws on the left are to mount 3.5" hard drives to the trays, then you get four brass risers, four long fan screws, an extra silicone rubber bushing, four PSU screws, and ten motherboard screws. At the bottom there are eight screws for use with 2.5" drives in the plastic trays, and that leaves the six on the right to mounting the optical drives on the back side of the bays.
The instruction sheet that is shipped with the chassis is very basic. This side of it shows twelve points of the chassis with basic descriptions of what they are. On the flip side there is a bit more to guide you through the installation, but the chassis is very self explanatory in its functionality and usage, so there really is little need for the instruction anyways.
Here I have three hard drive trays. At the bottom left is how they come out of the cage. There are four bushings that allow the screws to tighten into it and deaden vibrations when you install a 3.5" drive as in the tray at the top. If you plan to install a 2.5" drive into the trays, you need to use different screws than the 3.5" drive uses and use the four holes in the center of the trays.
Rather than take a flat shot of the inside of the doors, this angle shows how the 0.8mm steel panel is bent around the sides for structural support and gets backed with the black polycarbonate sheet as far as it can be pushed without infringing on the fit of the door panels.
The Build and Finished Product
With the front door closed there really isn't a thing that changes about the front of the Antec P280 when fully assembled, and for someone who typically isn't a fan of front doors on cases, this one is surely growing on me.
Something I wasn't fully aware of in the beginning was that the front has a double hinge. Not only will the door open 180° from its closed position, but a second hinge allows for another 90° of motion so that the door can open until it meets the side panel of the case.
Typically in a mod tower chassis, this ATX motherboard wouldn't resemble a m-ATX build, but that says a lot for the room inside of this super mid tower. I was able to house everything easily with plenty of room left over for larger boards, water cooling, or more and even much longer graphics cards.
Above the motherboard there is roughly 38mm of room from the top of the board to the bottom of the fans that are installed. This will allow for most single thickness dual 120mm radiators to fit without issue and it won't block any of the view of your motherboard.
In the back there isn't anything that comes to mind that was of any issue. The I/O dust cover went in solidly, the cards went in and secured easily with the thumbscrews, and the PSU aligned as it should.
With as much room as is offered here, you don't have to be too particular about the wiring, but I still try to keep it clean. I will say it again here, three or four more inches of the I/O switch and lighting wires would have been gladly accepted. With the way the door hinge in the front of the chassis, thicker wires will press into place as you swing the panel into place.
All closed up and with the power applied, even with everything lit up in the front I/O panel, the only addition is the tiny blue LEDs. The idea is to not have something noticeable in noise levels or aesthetics. Even if you do see it sitting there, this isn't a chassis that screams "look at me, look at me", it's more of a casual "hey there, don't mind me"!
While the Antec P280 offers things like native USB 3.0, silence in operation, dust filters, tool-less installation and with plenty of room to grow in, it offers things most overlook when designing a chassis. The P280 will handle GIGABYTE's G1 Assassin and the MSI Big Bang Marshal with all the graphics power you can push inside of this chassis. That's right, a mid tower chassis with XL-ATX compatibility - unheard of to me until the P280 hit my desk. This is not to say that if you don't run this setup that the P280 still isn't the perfect solution for you. Even if you have a Mini-ITX board for now, this case will allow you to grow not only in the size of the motherboard, but with all the thought into the allotted space inside the chassis, internal water cooling is very feasible at the top of the chassis without any modding of the chassis needed. I really think Antec delivered a chassis that is fully functional with nothing that I can really think of that needs to be addressed besides the length of the wiring, but is something I have found with Antec cases for years.
Cool features that I liked about the chassis that still stand out in my mind are things like the 270° of swing in the front door. Usually doors don't open as wide and depending on the location of the chassis, that door can easily get in the way. With the dual hinge of the P280, that door can get completely out of your way making daily use easier. While there aren't any intake fans supplied in the P280, I liked that both sides of the hard drive racks allow for fans to be mounted on them. I also like the overall "sleeper" appeal of the P280. Even if you have a four GPU monster overclocked to the bleeding edge, when they see the P280 they would never assume to see an XL-ATX motherboard, water cooling, and potentially 13" graphics cards stacked four deep!
The possibilities and features in this chassis are just something that I have yet to see all in one package, and for those that offer close to what the Antec P280 brings, they typically are more expensive. I addressed that as you are reading this there will be a wait until stock becomes available - I was lucky enough to get one early so I could bring the P280 to you upon release. That being said, everything you just saw and the ability to dwarf builds that fill most mid tower cases, you can get it all for $139.95, as Antec's MSRP suggests. This pricing puts it head to head with quite a few of the more popular case choices in mid towers, and I have to tell you one thing. If you are in the market to buy a mid tower chassis, the Antec P280 super mid tower chassis is indeed a chassis worth the wait, and I suggest you do so to get everything you deserve for your investment and much, much more than what the others are offering!