The Antec name tends to be synonymous with quality enclosures. Antec's "Lifestyle" series cases are created with quiet operation and stylish looks as their primary focus. These cases are actually all named after different kinds of music and dance and include the Sonata (also known as several movements of a musical piece), Overture (also known as a type of introductory opening instrumental), Aria (also known as a song for a solo voice), and Minuet (also a popular first couples dance in the 1600's). Conveniently enough, the Minuet is not only the smallest case of the Lifestyle series, but is also the shortest type of music compared to the rest. With this little bit of a music history lesson, you can see that Antec's Minuet 300 enclosure fits right in with the music theme. Join HardwareLogic as we take you on a close visual tour of Antec's latest incarnation of the Minuet enclosures, the Minuet 300.
"Slim. Sleek. Stylish. And sized to fit your life.
Our elegant mini-desktop case has been upgraded to support the latest intel and AMD CPUs, with improved cooling to protect your components. Minuet 300's slender footprint and mounting bracket allow it to fit vertically or horizontally into the tightest spaces. Designed to accommodate the wide range of full-performance micro ATX components available today, Minuet 300 delivers the perfect blend of performance and convenience."
Most of the relevant specifications of the Minuet 300 are printed on the back side of the box it comes packaged in...
|Case Dimensions||16.8" (D) x 12.75" (W) x 3.8" (H)|
42.6cm (D) x 32.4cm (W) x 9.6 (H)
|Weight||12.6 lbs (5.7kb) Net|
14.2 lbx (6.4kg) Gross
|Motherboard Compatability||Up to microATX ( 9.6" x 9.6")|
|Drive Bays||One External 5.25"|
One External 3.5"
One Internal 3.5"
|Expansion Slots||Four Low Profile Expansion Slots|
|Cooling||One 80mm "TriCool" fan (included in top)|
Space for one 40mm fan in rear (not included)
|Front Panel Connectivity||USB (2), Audio (Mic In, Line Out), IEEE 1394 (One Firewire600)|
|Material(s)||Steel and Plastic|
Although the Minuet 300 isn't the most feature rich case in the world, that's not what makes it stand out from the crowd. It's superb construction, small size, and unique syle make it a great product for a range of uses and users.
The Minuet 300 comes packaged in a box just big enough for the case and some protective styrofoam. My case arrived in perfect condition and the packaging appears as though it would be very sturdy and trustworthy in even the clumsiest of hands.
The accessories that come standard with the Minuet 300 include two black plastic vertical stands and a small baggy of assorted screws (eleven small 6-32'nd thread size screws, one standard size 6-32'nd case screw, four 3mm M3 screws, two long half-threaded M3 screws, a small metal bracket of some kind, and four rubberized "feet" with an adhesive backing). The two plastic stands have little rubber pads on each of the uprights to help grip the side of the Minuet 300 and the base of each piece slides apart and then is sort of clamped down onto the case resting in the middle; very simple yet effective devices.
Also included with the case are several "warning caution danger hazard may cause injury or death harmful if swallowed" type loose pieces of paper that we are all too familiar with and a brief black and white 7 page printed manual. While it doesn't seem like the most extensive accessory package available, you have to remember that there really isn't a whole lot to the Minuet 300, so there is no need for things like drive rails, ducting, cables, etc. Read on and lets take a closer look at the case its self...
Exterior and Looks:
The first thing I noticed when handling this case was that it was quite hefty for such a small case. This is due primarily to it's beefy construction and Antec's choice of using steel as the material of choice. There is absolutely no flexing, wobbling, warping, or denting on the Minuet 300. As soon as I got over the weight of the case and managed to carefully pull it free of it's protective baggy, I was struck immediately by the glossy black finish on the side panels. Words can hardly describe the looks of this paint job and pictures barely do it justice.
You'll just have to take the monkey's word for it that the "Piano Black" finish on the Minuet 300 is truly beautiful. This case will look at home in just about any setting you could ask of it. The only thing you could do wrong would be to shut it away inside a drawer or hide it under a desk where no one can see it! But, of course, the only downside to such a beautiful glossy black finish is that every piece of fuzz and dust is very visible on the case. Fingerprints are a small problem, but nothing extremely annoying. But the dust factor is something to consider. If want to keep this case shining like new, it will take a little bit of extra care to make sure the paint job on the exterior is dust and fuzzy monkey free.
The next most obvious physical feature on the exterior of the Minuet 300 was the large perforated vent on the top panel (or side depending on orientation). This vent is located directly over where the processor, RAM, and motherboard chipset components are located in order to make sure that even today's hottest components can get the air they need to stay at an acceptable operating temperature.
On the side (or top) or the case, Antec decided to include an 80mm cooling fan. It is covered with a domed honey-combe styled grill to keep air flow at a maximum while still preventing wandering fingers or kitty's tail from being consumbed by the whirring blades. In the stock configuration, this fan is set up as an exhaust fan. We will take a closer look at this fan later when we inspect the interior of the case.
The front panel of the Minuet 300 is styled just like its predecessor. You can see the single 5.25" external drive bay at the top left and the single 3.5" external drive bay at the top right. The front panel connections (USB, FireWire, and audio) are located at the bottom left with the power LED, HDD activity LED, and shiny chrome power button in the lower right corner. The HDD activity LED lights up red while the power LED is a light green color. Something else to take note of here is that the Minuet 300 lacks a reset switch.
The front panel is bordered by very nice and very shiny chrome trim. Inbetween the chrome trim and the plastic front bezel on each side of the case are a series of neatly designed small vented openings that vent directly into the interior of the case. In my opinion, Antec did a very nice job of adding funtionality without sacrificing the looks of the Minuet 300. I think these vents really help add to the overall beautiful, artistic look of this case.
It isn't until we see the back of the Minuet 300 that it stops looking like a technologically advanced piece of art , and starts looking more like a computer case. We can see there is one single thumb screw in the middle that secures the removeable side panel to the frame of the case. It is also worth taking note that the other side panels are riveted to the frame and are not removeable. I like the fact that Antec has chosen to go with a single thumb screw here as it makes for an extremely quick, easy, tool-less entry into the Minuet 300. I found that this side panel slid off and on very easily.
Like most other cases out there, Antec decided it was still necessary to include a stock motherboard back I/O shield. It really boggles my mind why companies still bother to include such extras as they rarely (if ever) fit the motherboard being installed; but regardless, it is still there if you need it. Also visible is the rear exhaust vent of the small 300 watt power supply included with the Minuet 300 (more on that later too).
I also want to make it clear that the four expansion slots of the Minuet 300 are not standard height. This case only allows for low-profile expansion cards to be installed. So if you were hoping to buy this case and install your shiny new X1900XTX or X-Fi, think again. Depending on how you look at it, this could be a good or bad thing. On one hand it allows the case to be much smaller, but on the other hand nearly all popular expansion cards (particularly sound and video cards) will be incompatable and cannot be used in the Minuet 300. If you are looking for a stylish enclosure with a small footprint but still want to be able to have the functionality of full height expansion cards, then you will need to look past the Minuet toward the Overture or Aria.
The last feature worth taking note of on the rear of the Minuet 300 is the fairly unrestrictive square mesh vent above the I/O shield. A single 40mm fan (not included) can actually be installed in this space to help with air circulation if you decide that the extra couple cfm will help your temperatures.
And finally, as mentioned before (and pictured on the box), the Minuet 300 can be used in a flat horizontal position or mounted vertically using the two expandable black plastic feet included with the case.
This vertical configuration option is nice because it allows users the choice of mounting orientation depending on space available. It also has an added thermal benefit when propped up in a vertical position because the 80mm case fan is now positioned at the top of the case where it can easily exhaust the rising hot air inside the case.
On first glance, the inside of the Minuet 300 does not show anything odd or unreasonable. About the only thing worth mentioning is the fact that the motherboard standoffs are built into the motherboard tray (which is not removeable). I think this is a really nice feature as it really helps to cut down on the amount of assembly required since you don't have to worry about finding your own standoffs and screwing them all down in the correct holes.
The inside rear of the Minuet 300 is also relatively straight forward. As I mentioned earlier, the four expansion slots only allow of half-height low-profile cards to be installed. Although this can be somwhat of an issue for some users, I think it was a necessary choice made by Antec in order to keep this case as small as possible. And lets face it, if you are trying to find the smallest case possible, chances are you are not also looking to build a gaming beast. Without some serious modding, the Minuet 300 will never be capable of housing the latest and greatest video or sound card. So for people building a system in a case like this, it is most likely that onboard sound, and video will be enough to suit their needs. And frankly, looking at how much onboard video and sound technology is progressing and the fact that practically all microATX motherboards include onboard sound and video, I don't think this is too much of an issue to worry about; but still something to keep in mind...
Moving on, lets take a look at the vented area on the rear of the Minuet 300. It isn't an obvious feature at first glance, but Antec was kind enough to include a mounting area for an extra 40mm fan and even had the forethought to include the two screws necessary to secure the 40mm fan into this space. The only thing left is to actually include the 40mm fan too!
The two long screws (seen above) will go through two mounting holes on the fan and screw into the threaded screw holes in the frame of the case. There are two little "tabs" or pins that stick out that will poke into the other two holes on the fan to help hold it in place.
The final assembly should look something like the one pictured above. It is your choice of whether to have the fan configured as intake or exhaust, but I would have to guess that this fan should be configured as exhaust for best results. And while we are on the subject of cooling, let's take a look at the fan that Antec did decide to include with the Minuet 300...
This is an 80mm fan (made by Antec) is powered by a four-pin pass-through molex connector. The "TriCool" fan gets its name from the fact that it can be set to run at three speeds: Low, Medium, or High. These speeds are selected by flipping a small switch attached directly to and dangling freely from the fan.
0.96 m^3 / min
0.74 m^3 / min
0.55 m^3 / min
I tested this fan at all three speeds and found it to be suprisingly quiet at any speed. At the highest speed, the fan was noticeably loudest, but still not out of control. There was more of a motor whine than anything else. At medium speed, air flow was still pretty decent compared to high speed, but the noise was much lower. A slight motor whine still remained, but was only noticeable when the side panel was off and I leaned down right next to the fan. The low speed setting was obviously the quietest and only a very slight motor whine could be heard when my ear was right next to the fan. There was also very little air flow produced from the fan on low speed. With this being only one of two cooling fans in the case (the other being the PSU fan), it is also probably the most influential on system temperatures. So if the low speed setting on this fan is used, I suggest you keep an eye on your temperatures just to make sure that the airflow is still enough to deal with the heat generated from within the system.
Moving on, we come to the front area of the interior that contains the real "meat" of the Minuet 300.
Here is the drive cage assembly that is responsible for housing the single external, 3.5" drive device, single 5.25" drive device, and single internal 3.5" drive device. You can also see the two round, black, rubber pads on either side of the drive cage. These bridge the gap between the drive cage and the side panel to help reduce vibration.
The neat thing about the Minuet 300's drive cage assembly is that it is designed to pivot around four screws on the sides of the drive cage. This allows it to be rotated up and out of the way making the installation of the motherboard and cable management efforts much more convenient.
Here we see the bottom of the drive cage rotated 90Âï¿½ in the vertical position. In order to get the cage out, you really only need to swing it up to about a 45Âï¿½ angle and then it slides cleanly out thanks to the ingenious "screw-post" system the drive cage rotates around and slides along on.
The picture above shows the drive cage in a partially open position. There are two of those screw "posts" on each side of the cage. You slide the front-most screw into the appropriate slot while holding the drive cage at an angle keeping the rear screw up in the air...
Then as you push the drive cage down, you also slide it forward. This locks the front screw into place inside the frame and the rear screw is then guided down the angled slide where it settles into the appropriate notch, thus securing the drive cage; a truly "tool-less" design. Fantastic!
Under the space occupied by the removeable drive cage assembly, we see the back side of the front panel. I would like to point out here that Antec took a nice step in the right direction by creating small wire management clips to tuck the power switch, power LED, and HDD LED wire leads under to keep the cables tidy and manageable.
You can also just barely make out the 3.5" drive bay cover at the top left corner of the picture above. To the right of the 3.5" bay cover, we come to the 5.25" bay cover. I mention these two things because they have are actually very peculiar in the case of the Minuet 300. Antec has opted for an unusual method of securing these drive bay covers to the frame of the case which makes them very difficult to remove. You have to make sure you press on the very outside edge of the each cover that is closest to the edge of the case. If you are looking at the outside front panel of the Minuet 300 laying horizontally, you need to press firmly on the right edge of the 3.5" drive bay cover and the left edge of the 5.25" drive bay cover. This breaks it free from a small plastic "button" on the inside of the case and then the other edge of the bay cover can be removed from the more familiar clip mechanism on the inside edge of the cover. Just excercise extreme caution when removing these bay covers or else you might break them right off.
Last, but not least, let's have a look at the internal connections on the Minuet 300.
Here we can see all of the motherboard connections for the front panel items are accounted for. Starting at the upper left, we have the classic HDD activity LED, power switch, power LED, and motherboard speaker leads. Next is the IEEE1394 FireWire header and dual USB header. It's always nice to see these connectors as all one piece and not the individual little wire leads that are nearly impossible to connect to the appropriate pins on the motherboard. Finally, we come to the front audio connections including mic-in, mic power, R-out, R-ret, L-out, L-ret, and ground.
The New and Improved 300 watt PSU:
With the creation of the Minuet 300, the biggest difference between it and its older brother (the Minuet II) is the updated power supply unit. I have to commend Antec for taking the time and effort to improve on an already proven product in an effort to make it better suited in todays market dominated by the new ATX 2.0 power standard. As the name implies, the Minuet 300 now features a more powerful 300 watt power supply (compared to the smaller 220 watt unit included with the Minuet II) that features dual 12v rails, a native SATA power connection, and a 20 +24 pin ATX power connector. About the only feature Antec decided to leave out on this PSU is some form of power factor correction (PFC).
This new PSU is a custom creation by Antec (of course), so you can automatically expect a very high standard of performance from this unit. It features a single 80mm fan on the bottom side of the unit facing toward the inside of the case. It draws air into the PSU for cooling and the heated air is then passively vented out the rear of the case through the vents at the rear of the PSU (by the power cable plug). The only other thing that disappointed me about this PSU was the lack of an on-off switch. Although this is a minor gripe, it is still nice to be able to completely cut off power to the computer without having to deal with removing and replacing the power cable every time. Speaking of cables, let's see what this PSU does offer in the way of internal power connections...
We see here that the Minuet 300's PSU has cables for a 20+4 pin ATX power connector, three 4-pin molex connections, a single 4-pin floppy type power connector, a single SATA power connector, and a single 4-pin 12V CPU power connector. While the cables are not very long, they should all be long enough to reach the short distances to any part in the case.
About the only thing I noticed lacking in the cable department is a 6-pin PCI-Express power connector typicaly found on most ATX 12V 2.0 power supplies. But I quickly remembered that the unit I was dealing with is not really designed for such power requirements. As I discussed earlier, the Minuet 300 does not accept typical full height video cards. Since it is really only the high end PCI-Express video cards that require a 6-pin PCI-Express power connector and that these are not typically made in low-profile half-height versions, the lack of a PCI-Express power connector should really be of no concern.
The sticker on the side of the PSU displays all of its relevant voltage specifications.
|DC Output||+5V||+12V1||+12V2||+3.3V||-12V||+5V SB|
It's very nice to see the powerful dual 12V rails on such a small power supply. It should easily be able to handle today's and tomorrow's dual core processors, a single HDD, and any low-profile graphics card you can find!
While installing drive devices into typical "tower" style cases has become as regular as breathing, these more obscure cases like the Minuet 300 incorporate very different designs and can sometimes be confusing to say the least. So let's take a closer look at what it takes to populate the drive cage of the Minuet 300 with a 3.5" floppy drive, 5.25" optical drive, and 3.5" hard drive. Just to get everyone oriented correctly, we will begin with a shot of the empty drive cage removed from the case...
In the picture above, we are looking at the top and rear of the drive cage that faces inside the case. The rear of the external drives will be pointing out this side of the cage.
Now we see the front of the drive cage in the picture above. This is the side of the drive cage that faces the front panel. The large 5.25" external drive bay is easily distinguishable on the left and the smaller 3.5" external drive bay is located just to the right.
Installing the drives is really very easy. The drives are installed into the cage by inserting the rear of the drive in through the front of the drive cage and just sliding it back until the holes on the underside line up...
Here you can see the mounting screw holes circled in red that are to be used for the external drives on the under side of the drive cage. The cage allows for two screws to be used for each drive. The screws go into the mounting holes located on the bottom side of the drives. Now that the external drives are installed, lets have a look at the hard drive mounting...
In the picture above, we are looking that the bottom of the drive cage and the four points of retention for the HDD are circled in red. There are two tabs with a hole for a screw (cirlcled with the larger circles) and two small metal "pins" (circled with the smaller circles).
Here is a close up of the small metal "pins. These two pins simply poke into the screw holes on the side of the HDD.
To install the HDD, you need to hold it upside down and at a slight angle facing one edge down toward the two small
Then just push the one edge onto the pins and the other higher edge will be resting on top of the two tabs.
Finally, the last step required to install the HDD is to pull the tabs back slightly as to let the HDD drop down inside so the drive is pinched between the two tabs and the pins. Then just put in a couple screws through the holes in the tabs and you are good to go. When the cage is installed back into the case, the HDD will be on the bottom supported by the little black rubber bumber in the middle on the floor of the case.
Installing the Motherboard:
With the drive cage out, there is plenty of room to work inside the Minuet 300. Installing the motherboard was super easy and I experienced absolutely no problems. All screws required for securing the motherbaord (as well as the drives) are included with the case, so no issues there either.
As you can see in this picture above, the optical drive and drive cage hang over the edge of the motherboard just a bit. But it is still high enough to clear any memory sticks that might be installed underneath the drive cage. The only problem I could see is that if you had an exceptionally long optical drive and another exceptionally long PCI or PCI-Express card, they might hit each other. But in most situations, this should not even be an issue.
Putting it all togher:
All PSU cables were plenty long enough to reach any and all of the drives as well as the necessary motherboard power connections.
However the mass of cables that ended up underneath the drive cage proved to be slightly difficult to manage. But that is to be expected in such a small case; wire management will be one of the more important things to pay attention to when putting together any small form factor system.
Testing the included MT300 300 watt PSU:
All tests were run on Windows XP Professional with SP2 and the measurements were taken using a digital multimeter
Chaintech VNF4 Ultra
AMD Athlon64 3200 Venice
2x512MB OCZ Platunum PC-4800
eVGA 6600GT 128MB PCI-Express
Western Digital Raptor 74GB 10000rpm 8MB SATA150
Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic PCI sound card
120mm case fan and 92mm case fan
Expecting a lot out of this little guy, I decided to first test the Minuet 300's included 300 watt power supply on an averagely powerful system of today complete with a full sized ATX motherboard, A64 Venice 3200, 6600GT, Creative X-Fi sound card, and a 10,000 RPM Raptor. I was a little disappointed by the results, but the MT300 PSU of the Minuet 300 performed fairly average. While the voltage rails were very stable across the board, the 12v rail was consistantly low. But the numbers are still all within a 2% variance, so there isn't too much cause for concern. While this test system was a nice way to stress this little PSU, the MT300 would never EVER see such a system in it's indiginous habitat (inside the Minuet 300). So I decided to test a typical system that would be installed into the Minuet 300 and record the voltages under the same tests...
Biostar TForce 6100-939
microATX motherboard with default, startup settings
AMD Athlon64 3200 Venice
Stock 10x200mhz speed and 1.4v
2x512MB Corsair XMS PC-3200 (3200C2PT)
Ran at 200mhz with 2.5-3-3-7 2T timings and 2.7v
nVidia on-board GeForce 6100 video
Stock driver settings
Seageate Barracuda 120GB PATA 7200 RPM 8MB
92mm case fan and Antec 80mm "TriCool" fan
|FBA09A12L1BX (12V) and high speed on the Tri-Cool|
Unfortunately, I found nearly the same results on the smaller system as on the bigger, the 12v rail is low. The voltages are slightly better, but still a little low for my liking. But again, the MT300 powered the system just fine and the voltages are still within a 2% variance and can be considered acceptable.
One thing I really want to point out here is that although the 12v rail was low, it was equally as low on each system and didn't fluxuate much. This shows that this is a very capable little PSU, even in a system that is way more power-hungry than what would ever be installed into the Minuet 300 case. I have to also add that the 80mm cooling fan on this PSU wes extremely quiet during testing (no louder than the TriCool case fan on medium) and the unit never really ever got very hot, so cooling is definately at a satisfactory level.
Warranty and Support:
Antec is proud to offer an "AQ3" Antec Quality 3 year warranty on all of their products. You can visit the support page on Antec's website for thier Global On-line Support Service if you need to file a new support claim (or "ticket" as Antec calls it". They also have a nice list of products and relevant information for each item. Furthermore, Antec includes a ver comprehensive FAQ and Downloads page, an RMA submission page, and the option to view a "ticket" that has already been opened/filed with Antec support.
It should be obvious by now that Antec's Minuet 300 enclosure is not for everyone. But for those of you who might be in the market for such a case, the Minuet 300 is without a doubt one of the best I have seen. Many people would consider the Minuet 300 to be a Home Theater PC (HTPC) type case at first sight, but I don't think this case fits into that category very well. As mentioned several times before, the Minuet 300 only allows for half-height low-profile add-on cards. The typical HTPC focuses on high quality sound and video components, but since the Minuet 300 cannot accept the latest and greatest sound and video cards (because they are most always built to a standard full-height), any system housed in the case will automatically be forced to use all on-board features (including sound and video) unless a low-profile sound or video card can be found instead. This fact alone really takes the Minuet 300 out of the "HTPC" market and into a whole new realm.
There are several typical people who will really benefit from choosing the Minuet 300. First and foremost, I can see this case being perfect for the do-it-yourself type of person who wants a classy looking system on a budget that will still perform all of their typical computing tasks (ripping and listening to music, watching movies, surfing the internet, etc.). This could include people like freshman college students who are on a budget, need a computer for school work, but also need to conserve every precious inch in the tight quarters of typical dormatory rooms. This category could also include the typical home family computer; something that will perform mom's, dad's, bro's, or sis's typical computing needs that don't require multiple drives or a top of the like sound or video card. The Minuet 300 would fit well into that type of home atmosphere because it just looks so darn good and will not take up a whole desk. Finally, and more generally, the Minuet 300 will suit anyone who wants a case as small and good looking as possible to house a slightly more basic computer that focuses on more processor and memory dependant tasks rather than things like intense 3D gaming, advanced RAID setups and high-end overclocking and benchmarking. If you were hoping to find your dream HTPC case in the Minuet 300, I suggest you look more toward the Overture and Aria, or wait to see what the rest of Antec's next generation lifesyle series cases have to offer.
Overall, I was very pleased with the Minuet 300 and would have no problem recommending it to people who are in the market for such an enclosure. Antec has, once again, managed to roll out yet another great product with the Minuet 300!
- Very solid, sturdy construction (no bending, flexing, or denting here!)
- Convenient and easy to use features and layout
- Inclusion of a 3-speed fan control for the main 80mm cooling fan
- Powerful ATX 2.0 compliant 300 watt PSU
- Amazing Beautiful Looks
- The low profile prevents you from using the more common, powerful add-in cards
- 12v rail a little low on the included MT300 PSU