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Antec Sonata III

The third incarnation of Antec maintains the same looks as the first generation. What has changed is the power supply has been upgraded to EarthWatt 500W and the front panel is now including the eSATA. If you are a fan of the original Sonata, you sure will love this case and the the upgrades will definitely make this case a great choice for those who need a case with a good quality power supply.

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INTRODUCTION

Can a good thing get better?  In an industry where changes are happening at an incredible pace, you don’t usually see things that have maintained the same looks and design for three generations.  The Antec Sonata has stood the test of the time.  Ever since the first Sonata entered the market back in 2003, it was one of the best looking cases that also packed a lot of features and functions.  Throughout the last few years, the folks at Antec have kept the original design and added a few modifications here and there but maintained the overall aesthetics.  Today, four years since the first Sonata’s launch, Antec has released the third generation of Sonata and Bjorn3D has the privilege of reviewing this case and seeing what changes Antec has done with this case.

FEATURES AND SPECIFICATION:

  • Improved overall air intake for better and quieter cooling
  • EarthWatts 500 Watt power supply (80 PLUS® certified)
  • Front mounted USB, eSATA, HDA & AC’97 Audio In/Out ports
  • 9 Drive Bays:
    • 3 x 5.25″ external drive bays
    • 2 x 3.5″ external drive bays
    • 4 x 3.5″ internal drive bays in individual trays with silicone grommets to absorb hard drive vibrations
  • Metal double hinge door allows the door to open up to 225º
  • Cooling System:
    • 1 rear 120mm Tricool™ fan (standard) with 3-speed control to balance quiet with cooling
    • 1 front 120mm case fan (optional)
  • Built-in washable air filter keeps harmful dust out of your case
  • 0.8mm cold rolled steel for durability
  • Motherboards up to Standard ATX
  • Dimensions: 16.7″ (H) x 18.2″ (D) x 8.1″ (W)
  • 42,5cm (H) x 46.3cm (D) x 20.6 cm (W)
  • Net Weight: 20.2lbs / 9,1kg
  • Gross Weight: 25.5lbs / 11.6kg

THE EXTERIOR 

 

 

Having owned the first generation of the Sonata, I am please to find out that the Sonata III maintains the same look as the first and second generation Sonata case.  We still get the same highly reflective black coating.  There is still no other color selection available except black but it works for me as I like the look and the color.  The case is made primarily with 0.8mm cold rolled steel and a few plastic components.  The case’s dimensions are 42,5cm (H) x 46.3cm (D) x 20.6 cm (W) and weights at staggering 9.1kg.  It’s heavy but it’s sturdy and well constructed.

The front of the case has been redesigned slightly from the original Sonata.  The LED light and the cover for the front USB, headphone, and Firewire has been replaced with a metal stripe across the middle of the bezel.  Here, you will find two USB ports, a headphone, a MIC, an eSATA connector, power and HDD activity LED indicator.  This is the first case that I have reviewed that comes with eSATA front connector.  It’s nice to see Antec has updated the connector to include the eSATA connector, although I would still prefer to have one firewire connector.  With Antec taking the whole width of the front bezel for the connectors, I would think that Antec should include more connectors, such as two more USB ports and maybe even a card readers would be nice.  I personally prefer having the front connectors hidden inside a cover like the original Sonata to prevent dust build-up but the eSATA is a real nice touch by Antec.

The front panel cover of the Sonata III can be locked.  Open the front panel cover and you will see three 5¼” external drive bay and two 3 ½” external drive bay.  In addition, you see the ON/OFF button and the reset button.  Contrary to the first generation of the Sonata, the Sonata III’s front panel cover is not removable.  Quite a few people have been complaining that the old front cover is prone to break and I think this maybe the reason which Antec chooses to attach the front panel to the case.  The metal double hinge front cover is able to rotate all the way to 225 degrees although it will stay open at 180 degrees without external force. I personally like the removable cover as it makes installation much easier but the new design works for me as well.  The cover feels slightly flimsy.  Also, I would prefer to see the panel being held to the case via magnets like many other cases than the plastic tab that is used in the Sonata III as the plastic tab isl prone to break.

 

The Sonata III’s 5¼” drive bays all come with covers.  Hidden behind the covers are rails for the drives.  The rails would require to be screwed onto the drive for installation.  Some people may find this a hassle as “tool-less” installation seems to be the most advertised feature in a case but I personally like this design as it holds the rail much more secure than other design.  Furthermore, I absolutely love Antec’s ingenuity of placing the rails behind the 5¼’’ drive bay cover so if you need to install the drive, you don’t have to search all over for the rails.

The external 3½” bays also require the drive to be screwed onto a metal cage.  The cage houses both drives.  Simply pushing the spring which holds the cage in the case will release the cage from the case for installation, however, you may have to remove the cables attached to the drive when you are installing the drive.

 

The side panel still maintains the same design as the first generation of Sonata.  We see a handle which provides an easy access to the internal components.  I really love the handle design of the Sonata case because even without the screws the panel will stay closed to the case.  The panel can be locked with the key provided.  Like the original Sonata, the Sonata III’s left side panel is screwed onto the case and can’t be removed.

FAN AND POWER SUPPLY

On the back, we see that Antec has used two thumb screws to hold the side panel to the case.  We see that the case includes a power supply, a 120mm fan slot, an I/O shield, and seven expansion slots.  The included 120mm fan is Antec’s own 120mm TriCool fan.  The TriCool fan offers a 3-speed control to balance quiet with cooling.  The fan speed is adjustable with a switch inside the case.  It would have been a better choice if Antec is able to route the fan speed adjustment controller to the outside of the case or better yet routing the switch to the front panel connector.  The fan requires a 4 pin molex connector and Antec has provided a pass-through connector.  We will test the efficiency of the fan later in the review and give out thoughts on the noise level of the fan and system.

   

 Fan Specifications

  • Size: 120 x 120 x 25.4 mm
  • Rated Voltage: DC 12V
  • Operating Voltage: 10.2V ~ 13.8V

Speed

 Input Current Air Flow Static Pressure Acoustical Noise Input Power
High 2000 RPM
0.24 A (max)
2.24 m³ / min
(79 CFM)
2.54 mm-H2O
(0.10 inch-H2O)
30 dBA 2.9 W
Medium 1600 RPM 
0.2 A
1.59 m³ / min
(56 CFM)
1.53 mm-H2O
(0.06 inch-H2O)
28 dBA 2.4 W
Low 1200 RPM 
0.13 A
1.1 m³ / min
(39 CFM)
0.92 mm-H2O
(0.04 inch-H2O)
25 dBA 1.6 W

 Power Supply

The Sonata III also comes with a PSU.  In fact, all Sonata cases come with Antec’s own PSU.  The Sontata III comes with Antec’s EarthWatts 500 W PSU.  Bjorn3D has reviewed this PSU in the past (http://www.bjorn3d.com/read.php?cID=1048), so I will not go into detail about the power supply and test this PSU in this review but simply direct you to our review since Antec has not made any changes from the one we have reviewed.

PSU Specification

  OUTPUT    

 

+5V +12V1 +12V2 +3.3V -12V +5Vsb

Max. Load

20A 17A 17A 20A 0.8A 2.5A

Min. Load

0.5A 1A 1A 0.5A 0A 0A

Load Reg.

±3% ±3% ±3% ±3% ±5% ±5%

Ripple m (p-p)

50 120 120 50 120 50

We can see that the PSU is a 500W power supply with 34A on the +12V.  The nice feature about the power supply is that it is 80% efficiency so it saves energy which translates into money saved (not to mention our planet).  The power supply is also extremely quiet.  It comes with enough connectors for most users.  The power supply is a decent quality so rest assured, you can have piece of mind knowing that your PSU is able to handle the system load with Sonata III.  However, given the fact that this is only a 500W and has 34A on the +12V, it probably is not going to be able to handle the latest high end 8800 GTX and HD2900XT.  The PCI-E connectors are 6 pin connector so it won’t be good for those who own the HD2900XT as it would require the 8 pin PCI-E connector.

THE INTERIOR

 

Opening up the side panel, we see four more 3½” drive bay.  All together, the case supports six 3½’’ drives (2 external and 4 hidden) and three 5¼’’ external drive bays.  The inside is essentially the same as the first generation of the Sonata.  The internal 3½” drive bays are rotated at 90 degrees which makes drive installation a breeze and also helps to avoid hard drive cables running into problem with lengthy video card such as the 8800 GTX.  The 3½” drive bays use a metal rail where the hard drives will be screwed onto the rail and pushed into the slot.  The rails are locked to the case and can easily be released by squeezing the two metal tabs on the end of the rail.  I like the metal rails design as it’s more durable than plastic rails.

We see that Sonata III supports Motherboards up to Standard ATX.  The motherboard tray is not removable but there is sufficient amount of space to work with.  From the picture above, we can see that there’s about an inch of space from the edge of the ATX motherboard to the hard drive space.  The space from the expansion slot to the hard drive cage is about 28 cm, which is barely enough for the 8800 GTX.  However, if you do use the 8800 GTX, you wouldn’t be able to install the front 120 mm fan since the fan will block the card.  The bottom of the case does not have too much space to work with so I would recommend connecting all of the headers before you mount the motherboard to the case. 

The construction of the Sonata II is probably one of the best.  I did not find any sharp edges at all.  All the metal edges are rolled or folded to prevent any potentially hazardous cuts.  Also, since Antec provides the cover for the 5¼’’ cover, you don’t even have to break the metal piece that’s often found in many cases, which often will result in sharp edge once the metal piece is broken.

Inside, we see the case comes with headers for eSATA, USB, HD audio, and AC ’97 and the cables are all sleeved and long enough for any motherboard.  In addition, we find the usual headers for power, speaker, HDD Led, and reset but they are not sleeved like most cases.

The expansion slots are not a tool-less design and they need to be screwed into the case.

One thing that is missing from the Sonata III is cable management.  The case does not offer any way to hide the cables.  There are places where you can put the cables away from obstruction, such as on the bottom of the hard drive rails, but they don’t truly offer a way to hide the cables.

QUIET AND COOLING

The hard drive rail is not just any rail but includes a noise reduction rubber grommets to reduce system noise

Since Antec advertises the case as “Quiet Super Mini Tower”, it is expected that the Sonata III has special features to help reduce the system noise.  The Sonata III’s hard drive rails come with rubber grommets to absorb noises caused by metal to metal vibration.  The hard drive is cushioned on the rubber grommets through which screws pass to secure the drive.  It’s nice to see Antec includes this feature and I wish all case manufactures will include such feature.

In addition to the noise absorbing rails, the feet of the Sonata III are also made of rubber to help further reduce the system noise.  The feet are actually glued onto the bottom of the case and it could fall off the case if you tend to rub the cases around the floor (My old Sonata case’s feet actually fell off.  I sent an emailing to Antec and 24 hour later, the replacement feet has been shipped.  Excellent support.).

 

The Sonata III can accomodate two 120 mm case fan: one on the back of the case with Antec TriCool fan pre-attached and one behind the hard drive cage.

Not only does Antec design the Sonata III to be quiet, it also designs the case to run cool.  In addition to the 120mm rear fan slot, the Sonata III has another fan slot in the front of the case, just behind the hard drive cage for another 120mm fan.  The fan’s placement is somewhat undesirable for people who have lengthy graphic card. Also, it is not the optimal placement of the front case fan since it is placed behind the hard drive cage, it won’t help to cool the hard drives.  However, the fan would be a great choice for people who got a motherboard where the chipset is placed near the hard drive cage as the fan will help to cool the chipset.  Unfortunately, Antec does not include a fan, which is somewhat a dissapointment as you would expect it to be included with the price of the case.

Also, there are plenty of ventilation holes above the PCI expansion slot.  Unfortunately the holes do not come with a dust filter.  It seems to me that the slot was the left over from the Sonata II’s air duct.

The front of the case also has openings on either side of the case for cool air to enter the case.

  

Antec has included a washable filter in the front of the case just behind the front bezel.  The filter slides from the bottom of the case.  It is recommended to wash the filter regularly to prevent any dust build up and provide a good air flow to the case.

INSTALLATION

Sonata III offers plenty of space to work so the installation process was fairly easy.  Given the fact that the PSU and the fan is included and pre-assembled, it further simplified the whole installation process.  Since the motherboard tray is not removable, I would suggest you install the headers to the motherboard first.  There were a few instances where the space seems to be slightly crowded but that is fairly common in any mid-tower case.  The rail system worked well and the drives slide in and out of the slots easily. 

I only encountered a small problem with the installation but that was probably not the Antec’s fault.  The DFI LanParty NF4 SLI-DR that I was using has a riser sound card attached to the board.  The 120 mm fan on the Antec Sonata III got in the way of the card, causing the card has to be installed at an angle.  It does not hurt the sound card’s function nor does it have any effect on the sound quality.

Overall, I have not found any problem with the installation.

NOTE:  After installing the system, I noticed a small rattling noise coming from the system when I place the system in a certain way.  A few adjustment of the case’s placement seems to fix the rattling noise.  After confirming with our fellow reviewer, Rob (who also got TriCool fan in his system), it seems like Antec’s TriCool fan has a problem when the fan does not sit properly on the bearing housing, so it starts to vibrate loudly as they spin.

TESTING

I have decided to test the Antec Sonata III fan’s cooling effectiveness.  The system that will be installed in the Sonata III consists of minimal fan, a CPU fan and chipset fan only.  Thus, the cooling will solely depend on the Sonata III”s PSU and rear 120 mm TriCool fan.

System Configuration

Processor

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ Manchester
CPU Heatsink Thermaltake Big Typhoon with Arctic Silver 5 

Motherboard

DFI LanParty NF4 SLI-DR (BIOS NF4LD406)

Memory

2x G.Skill Extreme Series (F1-3200PHU2-2GBZX)

Hard Drive

Maxtor DiamondMax Plus10 250GB Hard Drive (Maxtor 6B250S0), 250GB, 7,200 rpm, 16 MB Cache, SATA 150

Graphics Cards

Sapphire X1600XT (modified with Arctic Cooling Accelero S2), Catalyst Driver 7.5

Sound Card

Onboard

Power Supply

Antec EarthWatt 500W
Case Antec Sonata III

Operating System

Windows XP SP2
Chipset Driver

ForceWare 6.86

Results

Fan Setting

 Low Medium High
Temperature Lowest (°C) Highest (°C) Lowest (°C) Highest (°C) Lowest (°C) Highest (°C)
Motherboard
46
50
44
50 42 48
CPU
32
45
32
43 32 43
CPU CORE 1
34
49
33
49 32 48
CPU CORE 2 
31
45
30
44 29 44
Northbridge 
47
49
44
49 43 47
GPU 
46
58
41
58 41 52
GPU Ambient 
50
63
46
63 45 58
HDD 
40
41
40
41 36 41

It is not surprising to see the temperature of the components running cooler when the fan speed setting is set at High.  What I am a bit surprised is the fact that when the fan is set to Medium, the highest temperature generally does not alter too much from when the fan is set at Low.  When the fan is set at Medium, we see the lowest temperature of the components has decresed in temperature ranging from 1 degree to 5 degrees compare to the Low setting.  When the fan is set at High, the highest temperature drops 1 degrees to 6 degrees depending on the component.  We see both the GPU and CPU ambient temperature shows the largest drop and this could be attributed to the fact that the fan is moving large amoung of air out of the case which create a negative pressure inside the case which in turn allows the cool air to enter the system through the air holes above the expansion slots.

Unfortunately, I do not have a decimeter to measure the fan noise.  Base on my own ear, I feel that fan’s noise is nearly silent at Low setting but it is slightly noisy at Medium and High settings.  I cannot really tell too much noise difference between the Medium and High.  It’s somewhat dissapointing that the fan does not allow automatic adjustments as it would be much more desirable to kick up the speed at high temperature but slows down when the components are not running at the maximum speed.

 

CONCLUSION

The third incarnation of the original Sonata maintains the goods of the original Sonata.  Antec has not made too many changes from the original design and it is understandable as the original Sonata has some of the best features in a computer case.  The rail systems and the 90 degree hard drive mounting mechanism are still with the Sonata III.  Antec was among the first to implement these features in the original Sonata and now these features have become a standard in the industry.

Antec has spiced up the front connectors of the Sonata III to include eSATA but in doing so, they have removed the Firewire port.  Also, the power supply has also been updated to support ever demanding system components, and the rear fan has been updated with adjustable fan speed.  It’s nice to see these updates.  If you are a fan of the original Sonata, you sure will love this case and the the upgrades will definitely make this case a great choice for those who need a case with a good quality power supply but don’t expect it to run your quad core with 8800GTX SLI (or HD 2900 XT crossfire as the power supply does not come with 8 pin PCI-E).

The Sonata is a well-crafted case for keeping the system running cool and noise level down.  Although I am slightly disappointed to find the power supply cables are not sleeved, the fan controller is not routed to the outside of the case, and the absence of firewire connector, the Sonata III is still a good case in both functionality and aesthetics.  At retail price of $139.95 over at Newegg, the Sonata III is slightly expensive comparing to other mid-tower cases but considering the updated connectors and a decent quality power supply, it is too bad.  Furthermore, you can’t forget about the three year warranty which Antec includes with their products.  The Sonata III seems to be targeted at mainstream users or light gamers who need a classic and elegent look and do not care about the flashy window.  The HTPC users would enjoy the highly reflective and quietness of the case. 

I love the original Sonata case and I am glad to see that Antec has not made too much changes.  I do have to admit that although I like the Sonata’s design; however, it’s a slightly let down to find that Antec has not bring any innovation to this case as I would love to see slightly more changes.  Then again, maybe it’s good to leave good things the way they are.

 

The Sonata III will receive a score of 8 (very good) out of 10 for the function and aesthetics.  It will also receive Bjorn3D’s Seal of Approval.

 

 

Pros:

+  Sleek look
+  Plenty of front panel connectors: 2 USB, a headphone, a microphone, and an eSATA
+  Easy Installation
+  A 120 mm TriCool fan with adjustable setting included
+  Fan filters
+  Noise-dampening rails
+  Well-constructed with no sharp edges
+  A decent 500W, 80% efficiency PSU
+  Quiet

Cons:

-  Price
-  PSU may not be strong enough for high end system
-  Fan controller is inside the case
-  No firewire on the front panel connector
-  Fan makes rattling noise if not positioned right
-  Front connectors are not covered
-  No cable management

 
 

ADDENDUM

One of our reader, PP Mguire shows that a skillful builder can really hide the cables well inside the Sonata case, check out his skill at our forum

One comment

  1. Thanks so much for this review on the Sonata III 500. Even though it’s 7 years later it helped me so much. I was in the process of rebuilding a machine using this case and couldn’t remember where I put the rails to mount a drive in the 5.25″ bay. After doing an extensive search I came across this page and there was the answer; the rails are snapped to the back of the drive bay cover! Now my project can move forward! Thanks again for the wonderful photos and description! (I LOVE the internet!)
    God bless you!

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