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Case Comparison: Antec P182 vs. P183

Written on June 26, 2009 by Matt Bach
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Introduction

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not the new Antec P183 is truly an improvement over the old Antec P182. The P182 has long been one of our favorite cases at Puget Systems, so there is some resistance to the P183 taking over the role as the flagship case in our lineup. The question is: is the P183 truly superior to the P182, or is the latest revision of the P180 series a step in the wrong direction?

There are plenty of minor revisions to the P183 (slightly different screws, changes in cable length, etc), but we will be focusing on the larger changes that affect performance, acoustics, and ease of use. We will go through different aspects of both cases, with relevant pictures side by side. The P182 will be on the left, and the P183 will be on the right.

We will first examine the exterior of the case, followed by the interior, and will end with a look at the cooling and acoustic performance of each case.

Case Exterior

Antec P182Antec P183

At a glance, the P182 and P183 look very similar, but there are a few noticeable differences. First, the P183 has much larger intake vents on the sides of the door, and also has a series of holes on the front of the door that help the front fans to get fresh air even when the door is closed. The front ports are fully accessible on both cases, although the P183 has replaced the Firewire port with an E-SATA port. The layout of the front ports is also a bit different on the P183, with the USB ports being on top of each other, rather then next to each other. This allows for for the use of two extra-wide USB devices at the same time. Both cases have a standard power LED, but the P183 only has one HD LED whereas the P182 has two. Unlike the P182's HD LED which is covered by the door, the P183's HD LED is fully visible, using one of the front vent holes and a bit of acrylic to disperse the light.

Antec P182Antec P183

Opening the door, we see that Antec has removed a ton of plastic in an attempt to improve cooling performance in the P183. The bay covers have a slight re-design to them with the addition of pressure tabs, making them easier to install/remove. One of the unseen differences to this section of the case is the changes to the filters. In the P182, there are removable filters behind each of the square covers. In the P183, the filters are directly attached to the two doors, as well as to each bay cover.

Antec P182Antec P183

The rear of the case is a near exact copy. The PSU mount in the P183 is slightly different, and uses an extra plate to mount the PSU to the case. The reason for this change is that it allows for proprietary power supplies made by Antec to be installed in the case.

Antec P182Antec P183

The last major change to the exterior of the case is the top fan area. The P182's fan cover has always looked a bit unfinished to us if an included cover is not installed. The P183 essentially merges the cover into the main body of the case, giving the case a more finished look. From a pure performance standpoint, the grill on the P183 is slightly more restrictive than the P182, so it may affect cooling.

Most of the complaints we have heard regarding the P183 are in regards to the new look of the front of the case. From a performance standpoint, this redesign of the front is largely an improvement, although the larger vents have caused concern over the possibility of allowing hard drive and fan noise to escape the case. Our testing should have no problem answering those questions. Arguments can be made for or against the aesthetics of the redesign, but it is really up to personal preference.

Case Interior

The interior of the case has much fewer changes than the exterior. In fact, the changes are all located in the bottom half of the case.

Antec P182Antec P183

The lower middle fan and brace have been completely removed. The P183 has a new fan located in front of the main hard drive bay, so there is still a fan to help cool the bottom section of the case. This new fan placement should help with cooling the hard drives, but the PSU may run a bit hotter. The removal of the fan and brace makes cabling and working on the lower hard drives much easier in the P183. In the P182, it is nearly impossible to plug/unplug a hard drive while the cage is installed. Not having the brace also allows for larger power supplies to be installed without the need for case modding.

The hard drive tray itself has a slight redesign, moving the screw securing the cage to the case from the side of the tray to the bottom. While we have never seen one of these cages break in shipping, moving the screw to the bottom should do an even better job at holding the cage in place.

Antec P182Antec P183

The PSU riser in the P183 that the power supply rests on is slightly shorter than in the P182. It is not enough to affect performance, but it does make it so the metal frame that wraps the PSU that comes with the P182 is no longer available for use in the P183. This frame's only major function was to help keep the PSU in place during shipping, which for most power supplies is not an issue. But if you take advantage of the fan/brace being removed to install a longer PSU, shipping starts to become a worry and the lack of the wrap could become an issue.

Performance

To test each case, we used a combination of our most popular components. Temperatures were recorded using Speedfan and verified with Coretemp and GPUZ. The hottest core on the CPU is our recorded CPU temperature. To test the cases under different configurations, we are using the stock Intel cooler (to simulate a standard air-cooled heatsink) as well as a Asketek LCLC closed loop liquid cooler. For the case fans, we are populating all available fan mounts with Antec Tricool fans. We will do the testing once with the fans on low, and once with them on high. This will give us a good comparison of the cases with a variety of cooling options.

We recorded both an idle temperature and a load temperature under each cooler configurations. For the idle temperature, we let the system idle for at least 30 minutes to verify that the system is properly warmed up. The load temperatures were taken while running a combination of Prime95, Furmark, and the hard drive portions of Passmark BurnInTest. Load temperatures were recorded once all temperatures remained constant for at least 10 minutes, which typically takes about 30-40 minutes.

We will also be using a dBa meter to measure how loud each configuration is and a thermal camera to get a good image of the overall cooling. For this kind of close comparison, these two tools are necessary due to how similar in design the two cases are. The thermal camera in particular is invaluable at finding the temperatures of components not usually monitored, which includes the PSU and RAM as well as the random chips spread out over the motherboard.

Unfortunately at Puget we do not have a recording studio for taking sound measurements. The industry standard is to do acoustic testing with an ambient noise level of around 20 dBa. The room we did our testing in has an ambient dBa of 31 dBa. 31 dBa is roughly how loud the average bedroom is late at night, so we feel these tests are done very close to a real-world ambient environment. Since we are doing a comparison, the higher ambient dBa will not affect the results, but does mean that the results cannot be directly compared to non-Puget Systems articles.

The margin of error for our tests is 1 degree Celsius for temperatures and .5 dBa for the sound measurements.

System Setup:

CPU: Intel Core i7 965
Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe
Memory: Kingston HyperX DDR3-1375 2GB x3
Video Card: Nvidia GTX 280
Power Supply: Seasonic 650watt
Harddrive: Western Digital 640GB Black Edition
Optical Drive: Pioneer 20X DVD-RW
OS: Windows Vista Business 64-bit
Ambient Temperature: 21 Celsius / 70 Fahrenheit
Ambient dBa: 31 dBa


Stock cooler, case fans on low
Antec P182Antec P183
Idle CPU Temp4848
Idle GPU Temp6058
Idle NB Temp4948
Idle HD Temp3533
Load CPU Temp10099
Load GPU Temp8888
Load NB Temp5860
Load HD Temp3533
Idle dBa33.533
Load dBa44.546
Idle Thermal
Load Thermal

Right away, we find quite a few interesting results. First, the P183 has better idle GPU temperatures, as well as better hard drive temperatures. The P182 however does much better cooling the RAM and PSU under both idle and load. While the PSU is by no means overheating, it does show a slight green tint in the thermal pictures. The dBa readings are nearly identical for both cases at idle, but the larger intake vents on the P183 help to make the P183 1.5dBa louder.

Winner: Antec P182, due to better RAM cooling and better load dBa readings


Stock cooler, case fans on high
Antec P182Antec P183
Idle CPU Temp4845
Idle GPU Temp5853
Idle NB Temp3940
Idle HD Temp3331
Load CPU Temp9589
Load GPU Temp8485
Load NB Temp5656
Load HD Temp3331
Idle dBa4748
Load dBa49.550
Idle Thermal
Load Thermal

With the case fans turned up, the P183 starts to out-perform the P182, with idle temperatures noticeably lower nearly across the board. Under a load, the P183 still has slightly better overall temperatures, although the P182 roughly matches the P183 in all areas except the CPU temperature. It should be noted that even though the temperature logs show the P183 as the clear winner here, the RAM and PSU are still running slightly hotter in the P183 than in the P182. The P183 is also slightly louder at idle, but is within our margin of error when under load.

Winner: Antec P183, due to much better temperatures


Asetek LCLC cooler, case fans on low
Antec P182Antec P183
Idle CPU Temp3839
Idle GPU Temp5858
Idle NB Temp5059
Idle HD Temp3534
Load CPU Temp6667
Load GPU Temp9290
Load NB Temp6364
Load HD Temp3534
Idle dBa3634
Load dBa4645
Idle Thermal
Load Thermal

Moving on to the Asketek cooler, there are a few considerations that must be taken into account. The primary being that the rear fan is now oriented as an intake fan rather than an exhaust. The second is that since there is no active cooler directly on the CPU, there is not the normal airflow around the chipset that most motherboards are designed for. That being said, lets examine the results:

At idle, the temperatures between the two cases are within our margin of error, so they are nearly equal. The thermal pictures back up the sensor reading, showing virtually no difference between the two cases at idle. Under load, the P183 takes a slight lead, cooling the GPU just a bit more than our margin of error. However, the thermal pictures show that the P183 does a much better job cooling the RAM and GPU. The real surprise comes in the dBa readings. Under both idle and load, the P183 out-performs the P182 (although not by much).

Winner: Antec P183, due to better dBa readings and slightly better cooling


Asetek LCLC cooler, case fans on high
Antec P182Antec P183
Idle CPU Temp3638
Idle GPU Temp5854
Idle NB Temp4545
Idle HD Temp3332
Load CPU Temp6568
Load GPU Temp8685
Load NB Temp5656
Load HD Temp3332
Idle dBa4648
Load dBa48.548.5
Idle Thermal
Load Thermal

In this configuration, we get a mix of results. At idle, the P182 has better CPU cooling, although the P183 has better GPU and overall system cooling. At load, all the temperatures except the CPU were within our margin of error. Once again, the thermal pictures show the P183 doing a better job at cooling the RAM and GPU. The dBa reading show the P183 being louder at idle, but both cases are identical when put under a load.

Winner: Antec P182, due to better CPU cooling and better idle dBa readings

Conclusion

So which case is the winner? Unfortunately there is no clear winner here. Both the P182 and P183 performed very well in all of our testing. If you are looking to maximize either the cooling or quietness of your system, one case may have a slight lead over the other depending on the situation. Its simply a matter of doing the proper research (which we have conveniently done for you!), and making an informed decision.

Winner by configuration:
Air cooled, quiet systemP182
Air cooled, high-airflow systemP183
Liquid cooled, quiet systemP183
Liquid cooled, high-airflow systemP182
Tags: Review, Performance, Chassis, Antec P183
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