The 5.25″ drives are mounted with the help of rails that are first screwed onto the drive, and then slide into place where they tightly snap into place with metal clips. Each drive requires two rails that are mounted on the inside of the drive bay face plate. To mount a drive, the faceplate has to be removed, revealing the two rails. So simple, so elegant, so efficient.
The tray for the two front-accessible 3.5″ drive bays is also held in place by two metal clips that can be released and extracted from the front. Screws hold the metal face plates in place for easy configuration.
The only features that require a screwdriver are screwing AGP or PCI cards in place, mounting the hard drives, and adjusting the external 3.5″ drive bay face plates. Other than that, the entire case is tool-less, everything snaps and clips into place for a painless building experience.
Removing the front panel reveals a removable air filter at the bottom. The plastic filter can be released by pressing two plastic clips at the bottom and slid out the bottom of the case without having to open the case or removing the front panel for easy maintenance. The picture shows it partially slid out.
The front panel does not normally require to be removed for anything, which is a good thing. The right panel is the case is bolted on permanently and cannot be removed. Getting the front panel off requires removal of the drives and some finger poking in dark spaces to find the plastic release clips. It is possible though and becomes easier after trying it a couple of times. According to the manual, it is possible to mount an optional fan in the front. If so, it wasn’t obvious to me exactly where and how, still have to figure that one out.
The underside of the case has four rubber feet mounted to it for absorption of vibrations. Also visible in the picture is the slot where the filter can be removed from.
The picture below shows the inside of the Sonata with a basic configuration: Athlon CPU and motherboard, two hard drives, one optical drive, an AGP video card, and two sticks of DDR RAM. Everything fits nicely into the space, and with some creative cable routing the interior stays clean and accessible. Dropping the motherboard into place was a tad tight and required some care. It is definitely recommended to assemble the CPU, heatsink and RAM outside the case.
After pushing the power button to turn the PC on for the first time, the case immediately shows off its finest quality: quiet. The combination of the big rear fan and the temperature-controlled power supply fan works very well and results in a very low noise level. The overall noise level of course also depends on the CPU fan, video card fan, and motherboard chipset fan (if present). In this particular scenario the total was four fans, including the stock fan on the Athlon heatsink and the stock fan on the GeForce4 MX video card, resulting in low and very tolerable noise levels even under full CPU load in a warm room.
The Sonata follows Antec’s tradition of great computer cases. Its sleek look and glossy finish as well as its quiet performance make it also attractive to non-geeks (e.g. spousal units or interior decorators). It is well-made and has some great features for a good PC building experience.
The case comes with a basic but sufficient manual, a bag with plenty of screws and standoffs, and everything else you need. At about $100 retail it is very reasonably priced considering its quality and features of the case as well as the included power supply. I know I would pay the $100 anytime for a case like this.
If you’re looking for an attractive, high-quality, feature-rich case that is the strong and silent type, this is definitely the case for you. If you’re an overclocking fanatic that wants to stuff a dozen drives and a dozen fans into your case, then you probably want to look for something else.
Submitted by: Alex Byron