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Antec Skeleton Case

Once and awhile there is a product that comes along that is so unique that people greet it first with shock, then curiosity, and finally love. The Antec Skeleton is one of them.

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Introduction

Every once and awhile there is a product that comes along that is so unique and original that people greet it first with shock, then with curiosity, and finally love. I believe that the Antec Skeleton case happens to be one of those products. Think of the Skeleton as the bare bones of a case. It has all of the required mounting holes and standoffs, all of the standard features that any other modern case would have; it is just missing its skin. With no side panels on this case, installing components is a breeze. Read along to see how the bones of Antec’s newest case hold up when installing a system.

About Antec

Antec, Inc. is the global leader in high-performance computer components and accessories for the gaming, PC upgrade and Do-It-Yourself markets. Founded in 1986, Antec is recognized as a pioneer in the industry and has maintained its position as a worldwide market leader and international provider of quiet, efficient and innovative products. Antec has also achieved great success in the distribution channel, meeting the demands of quality-conscious system builders, VARs and integrators.

Whether you’re a gamer looking for that cutting-edge case or a system integrator seeking a reliable and efficient power supply, you’ve got a lot of factors to consider, from performance to stability to style. As the leading global provider of high performance PC components, we believe in delivering products that not only meet your expectations, but exceed them. Your computing experience should be quiet, efficient, cool and elegant; we don’t believe in compromise, and neither should you.

 

Features

  • Layered tray design for greater system integration flexibility
  • 8 Expansion Slots with room for 11” graphics cards and multiple graphic card solutions, including NVIDIA 3-way SLI®
  • Front ports: 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x FireWire (IEEE1394), 1 x eSATA, Audio (AC97’ and HDA compatible) In and Out
  • Rack mount quality side rails for greater durability
  • 0.8mm cold rolled steel component tray and high density ABS frame reinforced with 0.8mm cold rolled steel for durability
  • No Power Supply included: To optimize performance of your Skeleton, your choice of power supply is crucial. Antec strongly recommends choosing from Signature or TruePower series.

Specs

  • 4 Drive Bays: External 2 x 5.25″, Internal 2 x 3.5″, Optional 4 x 3.5” side panel mounted drive trays)
  • Motherboard: Supports StandardATX, MicroATX and Mini-ITX motherboards
  • Unit Dimensions: 13”(H) x 14.8”(W) x 16.5”(D), 33 cm(H) x 37.6 cm(W) x 41.9 cm(D)
  • Packaging Dimensions: 15.74″(H) x 18.11″(W) x 18.89″(D), 40 cm(H) x 46 cm(W) x 48 cm(D)
  • Net Weight:15.5 lb / 7.02 kg
  • Gross Weight: 21.4 lb / 9.7 kg

Closer Look: Packaging and Extras

When the package for the Skeleton showed up on my doorstep, I was quite surprised at how large the box was. I knew that the case inside was not going to be of standard proportions, as it has more of a cube shape design when looking down on the case. Although a little dusty and scuffed from the shipping process, the box gave you hints as to what was lurking inside. The words “Think Beyond the BOX” adorned  the side panels of the box, indicating that there was no ordinary enclosure inside. Once opened, it was obvious that Antec wanted the Skeleton to arrive safely at its destination, as there as form-fitting foam holding the case in place.

Before we look at the case itself, here is a quick rundown of what else is included in the box. A plastic bag contains information about the 3 year warranty that the case is covered by, a simple three-step diagram showing how to release the lower tray from the case, a small pin assignment sheet, and a product overview sheet that leaves much to be desired. Antec states that since the Skeleton case is so unique and innovative, users should read the detailed manual that is available at their website. The manual that is available online is only a 14 page PDF file, so why this could not be printed off and shipped along with the case is beyond me. My only idea is that the manual might be updated often, as new users of this case contact Antec asking for more information on a certain aspect of the case.

In addition to the paperwork, there are four drive cages that can be used to mount 3.5″ devices to the sides of the case for extra storage capacity. These drive cages all have rubber pads to keep vibrations to a minimum. There are also a few cable ties that come on most of Antec’s cases. These come in handy when trying to tidy up the innards of any case. A few small bags of screws and motherboard standoffs are also included. Antec has been helpful enough to label the individual small bags to help you find the right screw for the job at hand. Contained in a separate small box is a 92mm fan and fan housing that clips onto the Skeleton case to provide cooling for the hard drives that are installed in the drive rails on the lower level of the case.

 

 

Closer Look: External

The first thing you notice once the case is out of the box is that this case is not your average case by any means. Sure, there are some cases out there that have the fancy lights, or the unique designs and funky windows, but the Skeleton is in a class of its own. Since the Skeleton has such a unique design, some people might not be able to tell the front from the back or the left from the right. I’ll be the first to admit that this case does take a little while to get used to working with. Now some of you may be thinking that plastic is not exactly what you were looking for or expecting when looking for a new case, but this plastic is more than strong enough to do the job. No wimpy or wobbly plastic here. In fact, there are a few spots along the arches of the case that feature metal support brackets for added strength. The lower sections of the case are all cold-rolled steel, and are just what you would find on any other case.

The front of the case is home to the standard array of buttons and ports that you would find on any new case. Antec supplies a single Firewire port, two USB 2.0 ports, a single eSATA port, and a pair of headphone and microphone jacks. To the sides of these ports are a standard reset and power button. There is also a tiny hard drive LED indicator located along the line of the other front amenities.

Just above the row of ports are support arms for the large 250mm cooling fan and its housing. This fan will be discussed later on, but it is noteworthy to mention the Antec name along the front of the fan housing.

On the lower level of the front of the case you will find two 5.25″ drive bays on the left, and two 3.5″ bays on the right. Both bays utilize a drive rail system for easy installation and removal of components. The 92mm fan mentioned earlier simply snaps into place in front of the two 3.5″ bays to provide cooling to the drives.

Moving on around the left or right side of the case, you will really notice the unique design that the Skeleton features. Each side features an arch shaped design, made of the same plastic that adorns most of the external parts of the case. In between each arche’s legs is a simple grill that can be removed to aide in the installation of components and the routing of cables. This is a great feature that came in handy when installing the drives.

Each side panel uses rubber dampening just like the drive cages to keep vibrations down.

Out back, the Skeleton is pretty bare before any components are installed. Towards the top of the case there is a clear plastic bracket that spans the entire width of the case. This bracket is used to secure any PCI or PCI-E components of the PC being installed in the Skeleton. The bracket is removed prior to component installation and is then re-attached to the case once the devices are installed. Said cards are then screwed into the support bar to ensure that they are stable, just like in any other case.

The top of the case is home to a large cooling fan. I take that back. It is a VERY large cooling fan, 250mm to be exact. This fan will be discussed later on in the cooling section of this review. Off to the side of the fan are two switches used to control not only the speed of the fan, but the color scheme of the LEDs that illuminate the fan. To the sides of the fan are the tops of the arches. At the top of each arch there are multiple openings, with the top opening being designed for any lifting of the case that may be needed.

Closer Look: Internal

One very unique feature about the Skeleton is that it is comprised of both a frame and a component tray. These two parts are separate from each other, allowing for the component tray to slide out from the back of the chassis. The component tray houses all of the devices that reside on both the upper and lower levels of the internal case structure. This ability makes it very easy and efficient to upgrade components. As you were probably able to see in the external images, the Antec Skeleton is comprised of two levels internally. The upper level is utilized for the motherboard and any components that attach directly to the motherboard, such as graphics cards, network adapters, and other PCI or PCI-E devices. The lower half of the internal chassis is set aside for the power supply, optical drives, and hard drives.

The upper level of the component tray is very simple. Essentially, a removable motherboard tray, the upper level features the standard motherboard standoffs needed to install a motherboard. By removing three screws and sliding the tray to the side, you can easily remove the motherboard tray for added flexibility when installing the motherboard.

Down below on the lower level of the internal structure resides the drive rails for mounting two 5.25″ devices and two 3.5″ devices. All four rails feature easy to use tabs that make the installation and removal of drives a literal snap. While these devices are located at the front of the case, there is room in the back for the removable power supply cage. The cage is fully removable and can slide into one of two sets of rails, depending on the size and configuration of your power supply. With these three types of components being installed on the lower level, there is just enough room to hide all of your extra power supply leads, and excess SATA and IDE cabling.

Closer Look: Cooling

Antec used the slogan of “Think Beyond the BOX” on the packaging for the Skeleton case, and that is something that they definitely did when coming up with a way to keep the components of your installed system cool. By utilizing a 250mm multi-colored LED fan mounted at the top of the case, Antec is able to keep all of the components that are installed on the top level of the case cooled. Fortunately, Antec protects you from unwanted fingers getting caught in the fan blades by covering the fan with a metal honeycomb-patterned grille. This same pattern is used on the removable side panels on the lower level of the case, as well as on the 92mm fan. The “Super Big Boy” fan utilizes a standard 4-pin Molex power connector and has two switches for fan control. One switch controls the six multi-colored LEDs on the fan, and allows you to cycle through nine color combinations, including no color at all. The other switch controls the speed at which the fan rotates. Three settings on this switch allow for an optimal noise to performance ratio.

The second fan included with the Skeleton is of the 92mm variety and is used to keep the 3.5″ hard drives installed in the drive bays cool. This fan comes pre-installed in a fan housing that easily clips onto the front of the case for easy installation and removal in the need of drive replacement. This fan is also powered by a 4-pin Molex connector and features a single speed. The honeycomb grille that adorns the sides of the case and protects the 250mm fan also keeps unwanted objects from getting caught up in the fan.

 

Installation

As you might imagine, installing components into the Skeleton case is a little bit different than with your average case. For one, you are able to totally remove all of the interior structure of the case, for full access to all of the mounting points. I plan to use the Skeleton as a test bed for various hardware pieces, so being able to mix and match components very easily is a welcome feature of the Skeleton.

By loosening the two thumb screws at the back of the case, you are able to slide the component tray all the way out of the case. One nice feature of this removal process is that the rails that the component tray uses utilize a ball bearing system like you would find on a high-end tool chest or other smooth-moving drawer. The component tray also rolls along rubber wheels to ensure a smooth ride.

Once the component tray is removed from the frame, you can then remove the motherboard tray from the top level to make installing the motherboard very easy. After the motherboard is secured to the tray, simply slide the tray back into place and re-install the three screws that keep it in place. Thankfully, the Skeleton has pretty long front panel cables to allow for easy connection from the motherboard to all of the I/O ports along the front of the case. The one minor issue I have with the Skeleton is that there can tend to be a bit of clutter once you get all of your components connected to one another. Luckily, most of the power supply cabling stays below and unseen on the lower level of the component tray, but all of the front panel cabling is left jumbled up top. This is nothing that a little time and cable management can’t overcome; it is just more noticeable with a somewhat “naked” case.

Installing the optical drive and hard drive was a breeze. Only one “rail guide” screw needs to be installed per drive. The drives then simply slide and lock into place in one of the two designated slots for each type of drive. After the hard drives are installed, you simply snap the 92mm fan into place to provide cooling for the drives.

At the back of the component tray, power supply installation is a snap thanks to the removable power supply cage. Simply lifting a tab allows the cage to be removed for easy power supply installation. The cage features rubber padding all around for maximum noise reduction, and is setup to allow you to mount the power supply right-side-up or upside-down, depending on the configuration of your power supply. There are also two sets of rails for the power supply cage, providing for a little more room on one side or the other, depending on the length of your power supply.

Things do tend to get a bit tight with the cabling of the power supply. On the one side of a power supply, you have the cable running to the wall, and the other side hosts all of the necessary power cords. Using a modular power supply will definitely aide in freeing up some room for lower level cable management.

Add-in cards such as video cards and soundcards can be inserted into their motherboard slots and once the component tray is slid back into the frame, the PCI support bar can then be re-attached to the frame and the cards secured to the support bar. Once all of the power supply connections have been finalized and all motherboard connections are in place, it’s time to power up.

 

Testing

I have to admit I was preparing for quite a bit of noise from the 250mm fan that adorns the top of the Antec Skeleton. Thankfully, I was wrong. The only noise coming from this case was due to the CPU and video card heatsink fans. The huge fan is very quiet on the low and even medium settings. Only when turned up to the full speed do you really notice the sound of the fan on this case. The three-speed switch is located in a very accessible location, and sits just beside the button that determines what color pattern is displayed on the blades of the fan.

Since there are no side panels on this case to dull down the noise of the CPU and video card coolers, I decided to test my luck and remove the CPU fan and disable the fan on the video card. Back when I first reviewed the Swiftech cooler used in this build, I had very good things to say about it, and I am happy to say that it has performed flawlessly in a passive state in this case. The same goes for the video card. Even on the lowest speed setting, the Skeleton’s huge 250mm fan keeps all of the components well within their operating temperatures.

Another great thing that you don’t really have to worry about is dust. You might think the opposite, but with the fan running and moving air across the entire surface of the upper level of the component tray, any dust that might try to settle is simply blown away.

Using the additional side-mount drive trays, I was able to easily review the contents of my old hard drives without having to tear down a PC to install the drive, or purchase an external enclosure to use with the drives.

Conclusion

From day one I have been thoroughly impressed with the Antec Skeleton. The case’s unique design may make you think that Antec was going more for form over function, but they have really spent their time designing a great looking case that is very easy to use. The removable component tray makes installing hardware easier than ever before. Being able to essentially remove the inner workings of the case is a huge aide when swapping out components.

With room for two internal 5.25″ drives and two internal 3.5″ drives, and room to mount four more 3.5″ drives on the sides of the case, there is plenty of space for all of your storage needs. And speaking of room, the Skeleton even allows for the installation of a 3-way SLI setup. That’s three 11″ video cards. With that much potential horsepower in a case you can be confident that the 250mm fan will be able to keep components cool without sacrificing some peace and quiet.

Pros:

+ Great design

+ Full of Features: Removable component tray, removable motherboard tray

+ Awesome cooling, at a noise level you can handle

+ Easy to swap components

Cons:

- Cabling can be a bit messy and a little tight in some areas

The Antec Skeleton has really broken the mold of what a PC case has to be, and by doing it so well Bjorn3D is proud to give it 9.5 out of 10 and the Golden Bear Award!

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