In and Around the Antec Solo II

Antec has a wonderful tendency to keep most of their enclosures looking fairly classy and understated. Aesthetics have proven time and time again to be a major sticking point with many of you in our readership and it's understandable. For my personal system I had to choose between Thermaltake's Level 10 GT and SilverStone's FT02; the Level 10 GT may have slightly better thermals, but the FT02 is, at least in my eyes, much nicer to look at.

Gallery: Antec Solo II

The extremely minimalistic design of the Solo II doesn't leave us much to talk about in terms of the exterior, though. It has a glossy black finish that isn't too bad at picking up fingerprints, and Antec has reduced the number of 5.25" drive bays from four in the Solo to just two. The market segment this case is geared towards shouldn't have any issues with this; I personally need three (two optical drives and a card reader), but two is still plenty for the overwhelming majority of users. The column of ports has been expanded to include two USB 3.0 ports above the two USB 2.0 ports, and these ports are connected with a motherboard header instead of a routing cable. Air is brought in through ventilation on the left and right sides of the front panel, similar to how Antec's P182/P183 have operated.

The rest of the enclosure is extremely spare, although the first sign of change is a vent at the top of the enclosure. Instead of using the power supply's bottom-mounted fan as an additional exhaust (as seen in older ATX case designs), Antec quietly suggests inverting the power supply and cooling it separately. The benefit to this design is that it takes the power supply's cooling out of the equation for the rest of the case. Though mounting the PSU to the top of an enclosure has fallen increasingly out of vogue, SilverStone's TJ-08E got a lot of mileage out of this design choice, as it allows you to mount the motherboard lower in the enclosure; the optical drive bays hang out in roughly the same space as the power supply, allowing for an intake directly in front of the CPU cooler.

If you take a look at the back, you'll see everything is business as usual, but Antec has swapped out their traditional TriCool fan in favor of their new "TrueQuiet" fan. The TrueQuiet has a fan speed switch mounted just below it that can be set to either low or high. We're down one setting from the TriCool but somehow I just know we'll manage.

When you open the Solo II is where things start to get a little bit wild. One of the first major changes is that there's a small dedicated space behind the motherboard tray, something sorely lacking from the Sonata IV. It's a very small space, but Antec has still essentially allocated space for cable management. There are also cutouts in the motherboard tray both for mounting cooling and routing cables. Finally, there's clean space able to accommodate large video cards. Everything is mostly cordoned off and orderly.

The drive cage is an odd duck, though. Antec includes three drive sleds and two "suspension" mounts, and I have to be honest, I'm just not a fan of the suspension mounts. With the drive sleds in there (complete with sound-reducing silicon grommets) I have to wonder why these mounts were included at all; removing them could've snagged us space for an additional drive sled, bringing us up to a healthy four instead of the three we have. Behind the drive cage is the reason why it's not a lateral design: there are four sets of hooks designed to minimize cable clutter.

Introducing the Antec Solo II Assembling the Antec Solo II
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  • DrJ-10 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    FWIW, I tried this some time ago and it didn't work for me. I must not have been patient enough, or my hand are too large, or something.

    I note that this sort of nonsense is not part of the Fong Kai cases that HP has used for a long time in their workstations. The bar simply is not necessary for a case to be solid or quiet.
    Reply
  • MrMaestro - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    I owned a first-gen SOLO in my previous setup and I loved it, though admittedly I didn't truly appreciate its qualities until I got rid of it. It was soooooo quiet, I would leave it on all night in my bedroom and in the dead of night I could only just make out that it was on. I've stopped doing that since I got my P183 because it makes too much noise, and that's with the TriCools swapped out for Scythes.

    This looks like a nice evolution of the old design, though there are a couple of things I'm disappointed about. Firstly, it looks good, but a bit boring. I had the Sonata Plus (which was a SOLO bundled with a PSU) which has a dash of orange on the front, and it looked great while being a tiny bit different. This plain black is a bit boring.

    I also wish they would have moved the PSU to the bottom of the case, as the support bar is a bit of a pain, and out of place in a modern, name-brand case I think.

    I will definitely look into this for my next build though. Thanks for the review AnandTech.
    Reply
  • Menty - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Nice review, thanks :).

    Did notice you mentioned the PSU-installation difficulty. I saw it mentioned elsewhere that the bracing bar would be removable in the Solo II, and indeed it looks from the photos like it has screws instead of rivets on it. Could you check that? :) It might make a substantial difference to the build difficulty for some people.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    The PSU support bar has a screw in the back of the case, but unfortunately uses rivets to attach to the optical drive cage. :( Reply
  • Menty - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Well that sucks :( thanks for replying though. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Double-checked, this is my error. The case uses small phillips head screws, not rivets. The crossbar can be removed! Reply
  • soydios - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    So, how would it perform with both intake fan slots populated with low-speed fans, acoustically and thermally?

    This case meets all of my requirements for a new case besides thermals, thus I'm curious to try it with two added intake fans.
    - full ATX
    - 3x HDD mounts w/ vibration isolation
    - 1x 5.25" bay
    - sound-deadening panels
    - intake air filter(s)
    - good selection of front ports
    Reply
  • nowayout99 - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    The noise is dependent on the fans you select. This case, like the original Solo, gives you just about every advantage you can have, but the part selection is up to you. Get quiet parts and you will have something you can barely tell is on.

    This review does not include any front intake fans, so any front fans you add will only improve thermals. Unless you are doing SLI or Crossfire, the thermals will be well within operating spec for the components. Again it'll come down to part selection. Low-speed fans will be silent inside this case.
    Reply
  • jwaight - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Dustin, could you install 2 intake fans and redo the thermals again?
    I know you test the shipping unit, but who wouldn't populate the intakes?
    Reply
  • flipmode - Tuesday, September 6, 2011 - link

    Nice review. Nice to see Antec trying to recover from the follies of recent Sonata models.

    I have a Sonata III and I really do like it. But there are some things Antec has not addressed that I don't understand.

    1. Bottom mounted PSU. This is almost a necessity IMO. It helps with cable management since excess cables don't have to defy gravity with bottom mounted PSUs. This might make very long graphics cards incompatible with the case since a bottom mounted PSU would push the mobo upward and therefor the graphics card upward into the drive cage, but I'd be willing to accept that compromise. If you're a gamer then get a gamer case.

    2. Side-facing drive sleds. This is a necessity. You can skip the cable management hooks if you have to in order to get the sleds to face sideways. The ease of use of side-facing sleds is a tremendous convenience over the front facing scheme. Also, Antec's designers should consider how the cables route to the drives. In the Sonata III the cables can be routed in a pretty clean manner but I think that it more from luck than any strenuous thought on the part of the case designers.

    3. Tri-cool is better than dual cool. I have the Tri-cool fan and I love it. It's a terrific fan. And include the fans at the front of the case too - even if it means charging a little more.

    4. The cross-bar must go. It's a coincidence, but just this past Sunday I spent 30 minutes with a drill removing the cross-bar from my Sonata III so that I might possibly be able to get a PSU in and out of the case without removing the CPU heatsink. And the case is plenty sturdy without it. The side panel goes on and off easier without the cross-bar.

    Well, now for some compliments:

    1. The sound attenuation is a wonderful thing to see and Antec should keep that up and in as many of their cases as possible.

    2. The understated look of the case is quite nice and approaching beautiful. That is first and foremost what has always drawn me to the Sonata line and now Fractal's cases too.

    3. The cable routing space behind the mobo and the cut-outs in the mobo tray are absolute must-have features these days and kudos to Antec for including those.

    4. I also like that there is no handle on the side of the case like there is on the Sonata. And I love the fact that there is no side vent. Side vents are ugly, and cases should achieve adequate air flow without them. Good job there!
    Reply

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