Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Product Review of the Antec NSK1380 microATX Chassis

image Preface


It came time to rebuild my Media Center PC (some call them Home Theater PCs, or HTPCs). The foundation of any PC is the motherboard and chipset, but the foundation of an HTPC is the chassis – the case that holds everything.

That’s where things get difficult.

Your HTPC case has to quiet, but it has to still pull a lot of air through it – chances are it’s going to be smaller than a typical PC case, so airflow is even more important. More airflow usually means more fans, which usually means a loud computer, which you don’t want in your living room or den.

On the other hand, it has to be big enough to hold everything: a hard drive (or two or three), an optical drive, a TV-tuner card or two, an 80+ efficient power supply, a boatload of RAM, and a pretty hefty CPU. Oh, and it needs to look good, too.

I have three Western Digital 500GB SATA hard drives connected in RAID 5 to an Adaptec PCI SATA RAID controller card, so we had to find a chassis that would fit all 3 drives, plus have room for our optical drive.

Having built literally thousands of computers in Antec cases, and knowing how well they are usually built and how good Antec PSU’s usually are, I limited my chassis search to Antec brands.

image Review of the Antec NSK1380

Antec typically makes fabulous cases and rock-solid power supplies. I hoped the Antec NSK1380 would live up to its name. This time, however, Antec failed us — miserably.

The Antec PSU doesn’t live up to it’s 350W specification, this caused our system to fail to post intermittently (I thought I’d gotten a bum PSU, so I had Antec send a new one; it failed with the same symptoms).

image When you read the fine print, it’s only 110W at +5V and +3.3V combined, not 350W, that’s only +12V. Since the PSU is non-standard, if you need more power, you’re out of luck.

But the problems didn’t stop there:

  • the SATA cords are too short to reach the drives, even though there are 3 SATA connectors you can only use one, the others just get in the way;
  • the 24-pin cord rides right across the northbridge heatsink, I can almost smell the cables melting just thinking about that scenario;
  • all the the cables must be wrapped (1) to protect them from being against the northbridge, (2) to aid with airflow, which is already constricted, and (3) to prevent stray wires from falling into fans (we had some wires from the 24-pin bundle that stopped our CPU HSF from spinning, luckily that was caught in the BIOS and not during benchmarking).

I brought these concerns to David Forster, Antec’s Director of Channel Relations. David initially responded saying “I’m surprised by your information.  3-inch cables?  I can only think there must have been some sort of mistake.” That’s what I thought, and I was glad that Antec was taking an interest in getting the problem solved.

David’s tone quickly changed when I verified the cable-length with the replacement power supply.

“For the overwhelming majority (99+%), we made the right decision” in making the cables so short. His argument? “Every extra centimeter of cable length poses a problem, and so the decision was made to make the cables as short as they could be while still doing the job.”

But they don’t do the job.

I picked this case specifically because it could hold 3 HDDs and 1 optical drive. The cables cannot physically reach the all the drives in the case, a fact that David Forster would have realized if he’d tried.

One of the cables will reach two of the three HDDs, I had to add a Molex to SATA splitter cable and abandon two of the included SATA power connectors to power up all 3 HDDs. There goes Antec’s “extra centimeter of cable” argument.

Frankly, I’m amazed that whoever was responsible for this case at Antec didn’t plunk 3 SATA HDDs into the chassis and try to plug them. If they had I can only assume that this problem wouldn’t exist.

I hoped Antec would give me a PSU with appropriate cable length and power specs, but they didn’t.


This case sucks.

If you’re looking for a case or PSU, avoid Antec ENTIRELY. Try Chen Ming, Lian Li, Thermaltake… at this point even Super Flower makes a better case and PSU than Antec does!

  1. The power supply is under powered and misleading in its specifications. The PSU does not supply enough power to run all the hardware that the chassis specifications say it can hold. Antec refused to comment on this issue.
  2. The power supply cables physically CANNOT reach the drives — and Antec doesn’t think there is a problem with that!
  3. Antec’s Director of Channel Relations doesn’t think either of these is an issue.

I hoped Antec would swap out this chassis for another in their line to show me their commitment to the hobbyist, but they didn’t.

This case sucks. As far as I can tell, based on what’s happened here, Antec does, too.

Scott Richards, maybe you can answer this for me: Antec used to be so great, and make great products. What happened?


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5 Responses

  1. T says:

    You are putting more components into this case than the average desktop PC has. 3 hdds, 1 optical and a SATA Raid card? Come on buddy you are asking for Power and Internal Space problems.

    Granted it is physically possible to do this with the case, but this is most definatly not its intended use, you should have known better.

  2. therealjoeblow says:

    I have 3 SATA harddrives plus and IDE DVD drive in this same case with a Gigabyte MA78GM-S2HP motherboard (utilizing the onboard video and audio in a HTPC setup) and an Atlon 64 X2-5600 with a stock Phenom cooler (the one with the all-copper base and heatpipes, nice and low-profile), and have *NO ISSUES* whatsoever as you described. Everything fits fine, the PC runs cool enough (CPU @ ~40 degrees idle and 56 degrees under 100% load) and most inportantly, it’s dead silent.

    This case does *exactly* what Antec intended it to – houses all of the components needed for a HTPC in a small form factor, really good looking case that runs at reasonable temps in an entertainment unit, and is near silent.

    • Joe Levi says:

      As long as you don’t exceed 110W and buy your own cable extensions to extend the 3-inch power-connectors, you’ll be just fine with this case. However, the case is designed to hold more components than its proprietary PSU can power. The case is still running one of my computers, though I had to downgrade every component to keep the power utilization low enough, I had to cut a 120mm hole in the side to keep the HDD cool enough, and I did have to buy and install cable extenders and wrap all the power cables to keep the air flowing, and the cables from pressing against heat-sinks.

      In short, I was able to make the case work, despite Antec’s obvious short-sightedness. What was beyond forgiveness was Antec flip-flopping on the issue of the length of the cords, going from “what? That’s crazy!” to “that’s the way we wanted it” then refusing to do anything about it.

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