Completed Build, Performance, and Conclusion

The Antec P380 is a simple enclosure to build in, provided you don't need access to the front fan mounts. The process (which involved removing six screws from the inside edges of the front panel) was much less user-friendly than I'm used to. It's partly for this reason that I question the placement of the included 140 mm fans out of the box, since the upper fan mounts are likely to be used for a liquid cooling radiator anyway.

A Corsair H105 installed on the P380's upper fan mounts

The bigger issue with the lack of stock front intake fans is their affect on positive airflow, and it will be interesting to see how well the P380 performed with both air and liquid cooling given the lack of an intake fan out of the box.

There was nothing notable about the construction of the pictured system build, and that's a good thing. I encountered no issues with GPU or PSU installation, and the storage drives were a breeze to install. Cable management was a strong point for the P380, as there is more than enough room behind the motherboard tray for thicker cables and plenty of cable management openings.

Test System and Methodology

Test Platform
Processor Intel Core i5-6600K
Motherboard ASUS MAXIMUS VIII GENE (mATX Intel Z170)
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 8 GB 2400 MHz DDR4
Graphics Card XFX AMD Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition
Storage OCZ Vertex 460 120GB SSD
Cooling DEEPCOOL Gabriel, Corsair H75 Liquid CPU Cooler
Power Supply SilverStone Strider ST1000-P 1000 W Modular PSU
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit

I'll digress here to explain the rationale behind a new methodology for enclosure reviews, beginning with this one. All enclosures going forward will adhere to a new, more rigorous testing methodology, with the intent of providing a more comprehensive look at how a given enclosure affects thermal loads. While I covered the selection of new components, as well as some of the upcoming changes to test methodology, in a previous article, here for the first time is a complete breakdown of this new approach to enclosure benchmarking:

  • CPU Temperatures
    • Temps generated using both a closed-loop liquid cooler and air cooler in each enclosure, with separate results presented
    • Temps now measured at idle, load, and "stress". Load temps created using the video transcoder benchmark x264, with stress results from prime95 (large FFT torture test)
    • Temperatures defined as the hottest core as recorded at the 5-minute mark using RealTemp software
    • A custom fan profile will be used to provide linear results for both liquid and air cooling
  • GPU Temperatures
    • Load temps created using the Unigine Valley benchmark (Extreme HD preset), with the highest temp recorded after two successive benchmark runs using GPU-Z software
    • A custom fan profile will be used to provide linear results
  • Noise Levels
    • Measured using a digital sound pressure meter positioned 24 inches from the front of the enclosure (system fully assembled with side panels in place)
    • A fixed speed for load noise will be used for consistency, based on observed average max fan speeds under load for both CPU and GPU

I employed the ASUS motherboard software to create a custom fan profile for the CPU, and both the Deepcool Gabriel air cooler and Corsair H75 liquid cooler used this profile for their PWM fans.

The XFX R9 290X DD graphics card was also setup with a custom fan profile, with a linear rise in fan speed beginning at 20%.

The reason for the alterations in fan speed are simple. Default fan profiles often flatten out during certain temperature ranges, which results in uneven results between tests and enclosures as a given temp will often fall below the threshold to increase fan speed. In my quest to provide consistent results I didn't like the position where a single degree often determined whether the cooler was placed into a louder, but more effective, state. 

Add to this the complication of testing without complete control over ambient temperature and you can understand why noise testing was done at a fixed fan speed. Ambient temps can produce very misleading results with regard to fan noise as a colder room requires less fan speed to keep the system cool, with the opposite true for warm rooms. The adjusted delta temps are the same in either case, but for a neutral look at noise output a fixed speed was chosen for both CPU and GPU noise testing.

Enclosure Performance

I tested the Antec P380 against a Fractal Design Define S enclosure, a popular ATX option known for quiet performance. Moving forward enclosure reviews will emcompass a larger selection of models for cooling and noise benchmarks, but for this review the Define S will serve to provide a reference for these results.

The Antec P380 offers selectable low/high fan settings for all three of the included fans, so testing was done at both positions. With the P380’s case fans set to their low setting the P380 with the Corsair H75 was the coolest configuration under stress, with a slight lead going to the high fan setting under a more conventional load. This seemed odd, but was repeatable. The airflow within the case with the fans in their shipping positions (two 140 mm up top, one 120 mm in back) didn’t create positive airflow, and the matter was slightly exacerbated by the need to remove the rear fan to mount the H75 liquid cooler.

This anomaly aside, the results with the Deepcool Gabriel air cooler followed the case fan setting, with slightly better results from the high position. This was again the case with the graphics card testing, as you will see the high setting providing better cooling in each instance.

The P380 bested the Fractal Define S in each test with the GPU, and for this aftermarket design XFX R9 290X the upper fan exhaust did make a difference. The Fractal Define S uses a single 140 mm intake and 140 mm exhaust fan to produce airflow across the system, and while very quiet the P380 offered the better cooling from a combination of a larger chassis and more powerful fans.

The better cooling performance of the P380 compared to the Fractal Define S did come with a slight noise penalty, though as you can see the two enclosures traded wins with the P380 at the low fan setting. The high setting is considerably louder, and given the low impact to cooling performance I wouldn’t recommend using it. The low position is more than adequate, and provided a quiet experience with the components used.

Conclusion

The P380 is an odd case in some ways, and while it's easy to build in and looks great, there are some unusual design elements (those 5.25" bays!) that make it a little odd to work with. I don't support the decision to omit front intake fans, crucial for positive air pressure, especially considering the enclosure is designed without an easy way to access these front fan mounts. The two included 140 mm fans are located where they will commonly be replaced by a 240 mm radiator, and while a user can repurpose these for the intake, it won't be an easy task.

The P380 has excellent cooling performance and is very quiet at the low case fan setting, and it looks very good both in photos, and in person. In the end it was the suggested price of this enclosure ($229.99 MSRP) that impacted my impression of it the most. It does sell for much less (currently starting at $140 on Amazon and now $129.99 on Newegg.com before a $20 rebate), but with enclosures like the tested Define S from Fractal Design (around $110, Amazon) or the full-tower Corsair Obsidian 750D (starting at $105, Amazon) available, there is certainly some tough competition out there.

Strengths

  • Attractive styling
  • Aluminum top/front panels
  • Excellent storage support
  • Great tool-free HDD bays
  • Very good cable management with rubber grommets
  • Included fans have built-in speed control switches

Weaknesses

  • Primary steel construction feels thin
  • Front intake fan mounts difficult to access
  • No intake fans pre-mounted
  • Hidden 5.25" bays unuseable, thin ODD bay difficult to install

The Antec P380 is offers a nice appearance and performed well (with the fans at low speed), and the storage support is particularly good. However the overall quality of construction and difficulty accessing all of the fan mounts is not in keeping with an enclosure priced above $100.

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