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Athenatech A812BB - Full Tower Black Silver Case Review

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dribblesnort

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2002
Location
USA
Company URL: http://www.athenatech.us

I bought this case to replace the CodeGen S-101 server case I use for my watercooled AMD XP3200+ Linux/Gaming system. I wanted to replace the CodeGen because as large as it is, it's simply not a good case to use if you're watercooling a computer. Why? There isn't enough "usable" room.What I mean by "usable" room is there is enough room to easily mount a 120mm radiator and fan without being "forced" to take a jig saw or dremel tool to your case. The CodeGen has 14 bays, which "should" allow enough room to mount a radiator, but the design of the bays is such that you have to cut a large portion of the bay wall in order to shoehorn the radiator into place, and it looks EXACTLY like a radiator was shoehorned into place...i.e. UGLY.

Here's a pic of the case.

System002.jpg


It has 12 bays, which should be enough to satisfy anyone's needs. All 7 of the 5.25" bays are exposed, while 2 of the 5 available 3.5" bays are exposed. The 3 bays that are "hidden" consist of a third 3.5" bay below the 2 exposed ones, and 2 more 3.5" mounts on the side of the case. (yes, on the side. You can see the bays a little further into the review)

Case specs are listed below, and are taken directly from their site:

Dimension: 210 x 480 x 530 mm (W x H x D)
8.27 " x 18.90" x 20.87" (WxHxD)
Drive Bay Capacity: 5.25" x 7 (exposed)
3.5" x 2 (exposed)
3.5" x 3 (hidden)
Motherboard Compatibility:
* Full - Size ATX 12" x 13"
* Dual Xeon Motherboard
Fan Space:
* 1 x 12cm fan in the rear (Standard)
* 3 x 8 cm fan (Optional).
Front Ports:
* 2 x USB2.0
* 1 x Mic
* 1 x Audio
* 1 x Firewire
Expansion Slot: 7 Slots

Brand new contemporary design with easy installation for drives (tool-less design) and front USB (2.0), Firewire, Speaker and Microphone ports.

Full-Size ATX Form Factor / Dual Xeon Board

Side Cover: Toll-Less; Intrusion Detect, Security Lock (Optional)

Rail Construction for easy drive installation

Thermally Advantage with multiple fan options & with a standard 12cm Ball Bearing Fan installed in Rear.

SECC high quality steel

I/O Card Security kit to secure installed cards

Innovative designed tool box to store all necessary hardware & accessories for installation or upgrades.

Side Bracket Retainer for additional 8cm fan (optional) or Hard Drives

Optional choose for Mobil Rack Devices or HotSwap all-in-one Kit

Let's talk a bit about the specs...

If you look at the pic below, you see the metal plate that covers part of the motherboard. It's located on the left side of the case, under the side cover. The large plastic "E" looking thing on the far left is the retention lever. Pull it towards the front of the system and the door opens. There are places to mount two 80mm fans on this panel, and the side cover of the case is slotted to allow air to exit or enter, depending on how you place the fans.

System005.jpg


What you may not see at first glance is this panel can also mount 2 more hard drives if you decide you need them more than fans. Since these two hard drive mounts are ventillated to the outside through the slots in the side cover, they should get for plenty of airflow and stay cool. I currently have (2) WD 160Gb drives mounted here and their temps are about 35°C-37°C, as measured with my Aspire Bay Bus temperature panel.

There's also something else here that doesn't immediately jump out at you, but seems to be very useful. Do you see those 6 plastic pieces arranged vertically in between the fan/HDD mounts? Those are part of the I/O Card Security kit, mentioned above in the specs section.

When you install an expansion card, you simply take the plastic spoon looking thing and push down on the plastic part that corresponds to the slot you just put a card into. The plastic piece ratchets down putting pressure on the expansion card to lock the card in place. This is especially useful if you're using a massive heatsink to cool your videocard!

When I bought this case, I did so because it has a 120mm fan mounted on the back of the case. I felt it would be the perfect location for mounting a d-Tek Pro-120mm radiator. As you can see in the pic below, the case ships with drive rails, case feet, and a chassis intrusion switch which connects to the motherboard jumper (if your motherboard supports that option).

System008.jpg


The radiator I'm using is a Pro-120 Hi Performance Radiator from Dtek Customs. I believed I could simply remove the stock 120mm fan and mount the radiator in its place. This would make for a very clean installation of my watercooling system.

I was wrong. It's simply too tall, and too wide to fit in the area the 120mm case fan is located.The tanks on the bottom and top of the radiator make it too big to fit in the area I initially chose. That left me stuck with a new case that had nowhere to mount a 120mm radiator...It was time to get "creative"...which is the term I use to describe my Dremel Tool.

Take a close look at the picture below, because there are several items I will touch on after the picture.

System006.jpg


If you look, you can see where there may be a couple different areas to mount a 120mm radiator in the drive bay portion of the case. The candidates are the upper and lower 5.25" drive bays.

Also notice the way the motherboard tray is designed...the motherboard tray, and the side of the drive bays are comprised of one single piece of metal. This makes for a stronger case, with less flex from the user's standpoint. From the perspective of the manufacturer, it's an easier case to produce, because it has fewer parts, which should cut down on cost.

One possible caveat to having a one piece design such as this is there's no way to run your cables down that side of the case to hide them, unless you get "creative" ;) Here's the result:

System011.jpg


What I'd like to see is a modification to the manufacturing process to place several rectangular holes in the small vertical section to allow users to route cables through that side of the case. I broke out the dremel and added a hole there so I could route my cables a little neater. I also took pics of the mods I made, and forwarded them to Athenatech with an explanation of why I made the mods...
System014.jpg

Their reaction to my email? You'll have to read the rest of the review...

Notice too the wires hanging down from the top of the case. Those are for the two top-mounted USB 2.0 jacks, Headphone & Mic jacks, and the lone Firewire jack. All the cables and connectors are clearly labeled and there should be no problems hooking them up.

You can also see a strengthening brace connecting the drive bays to the back panel of the case. While this is a good idea, I found the case to be so well-built, the brace is simply not needed.

This is something that needs to be noted in bold...This case is WELL BUILT. So much so that compared to this case, my old $199 CodeGen S-101 server case feels like a pile of dog crap with a couple sticks stuck in it. The doors on this case are darned near better built than my apartment's doors. This case just feels solid and well built. I can't remember another case that I've felt was as solid as this one is. Solid in this case does NOT equal heavy either...It's as light as any other steel case in it's class. It's just designed better, and built better, IMHO.

In the pic above, you can also see the Accessory Kit that is included with the case. This kit holds the drive rails, screws, and anything else you can fit in the kit. (I placed a couple small screwdrivers so I'd always have my tools handy when working on the case) You can also remove it if you choose. It mounts to the bottom of the case with 4 phillips head screws.

I thought I would mount the radiator in the lower drive bay portion of the case, but the radiator I have is a monster (as far as 120mm radiators go) so it is too big to fit there. That left only one place I use...The 4 upper 5.25" drive bays. This actually worked in my favor because I hate a computer sitting on the floor. By putting it on my desk, I could put my DVD+-RW in the lower bay section and not have to stretch to reach it.

I installed the Radiator by using 1/2" weatherstripping all the way around the radiator to isolate it from the case, and it went in without a hitch. This weatherstripping made the mounting so secure that I didn't need to use any screws or zip ties to hold the radiator in place. How secure is it? I can turn the system upside down and shake it like crazy and the radiator stays in place without even having 1 screw holding it in place!

However, mounting the radiator this high in the case left me with no other alternative than completely re-think my whole watercooling layout. I use a Fill & Bleed kit from Swiftech, which is "supposed" to be located at the highest point of the watercooling system, so I can bleed the air out of the system. With the radiator at the top of the case and the fact I am forced to place the Fill & Bleed Kit at the bottom of the case in the lower bay area, I realized I'd have to invert the pump, then invert the case when I fill my system so I could bleed it correctly. Doing this allowed me to use far less hose than I would otherwise have needed.

My overall impressions of the case?

I'll list the bad, then the good, then the suprise

BAD:
Power Supply mounting plate should be reversable. This would allow for cleaner routing of the cables because they'd be closer to the mobo tray. giving you more slack.
The wires for the top-mount USB/Firewire/sound should be longer...approximately 6 inches...so they can be routed more efficiently
Needs to have a hole in the transitional area where the mobo tray becomes the drive bay wall so you can route your ATX connector in a cleaner fashion.
The wire access hole in the middle of the mobo tray/bay wall should extend to the edge of the mobo tray to allow more slack for the ATX connector.

GOOD:
SOLIDLY BUILT! I cannot stress enough how well built this case it. EVERY item in it exudes quality materials and workmanship.
120mm fan mount on the back allows the fan to spin slower, but still move more air than an 80mm so it's quieter. Quiet = GOOD in my book
Plenty of drive mounting options allow for many possible configurations. I hate being locked into 1 layout for drives
All cables are clearly labled so connecting Firewire and USB is not as difficult a task as you would think...I was suprised at the ease actually...
The doors on the front of the case are ventilated, so I can run my system with the door closed and still maintain 33°C temps with my XP3200+
The Accessory Kit allows me to store all the screws and tools I need to work on the case, so I never have to hunt for parts or tools.
I/O Security kit allows users with massive heatsinks on their vidcards to feel secure knowing the card will not work itself loose when the case is jarred.
Plenty of fan configuration possibilities for those people using multiple fans in their system.
Drive rails mount your 3.5" drives securely and make removal a breeze!
This is the first case I ever owned that actually has a chassis intrusion detection switch...good? bad? I dunno...I like the "geek factor" though.
Large Power and reset buttons that are easy to find, and are built well (some cases have cheap power & reset switches that stick when you push them)
Plenty of vents in the case (2 on the left side where the panel is, and another on the lower-front section of the right side. This is in addition to the WHOLE FRONT OF THE CASE which is vented.
The swing out panel is nice, whether it's used for fans or drives or a combo of a fan & drive.
The cables for the top-mount ports are noise-shielded so there's no noise on the headphones or mic. (my other case is noisy as h$#@ to the point I can't use the front-mount headphone/mic jacks)
Free case! Yeppers! I got a free case because they liked my design suggestions!

As I stated earlier in the review, I had to make some mods to the case to make it a better box for my needs. I sent pics of the mods, along with an explanation to the company on a Friday evening. John Ho emailed me back on Monday morning of last week. He stated he really liked my suggestions and then asked for my address. When I sent it to him, I thought he'd send a personal, "Thank You for your suggestions." letter.

What I got instead, was a BRAND-NEW, FREE case, packed to the gills with extra parts like drive rails, screws, extra feet, bay covers, etc.

It's the exact same model as this one, but it's been completely redesigned inside!

The differences are:

Removable Drive cage in the lower section that holds FIVE 3.5" drives

case-2.jpg


A fan (with removable filter!) that mounts to the right side of the case to blow air directly through your hard drives.
case-4.jpg

If you remove the drive cage, you can mount a 120mm fan up front! (and the way it's designed, my Pro-120mm radiator would fit PERFECTLY)

case-3.jpg

John Ho sent this to me free of charge. He sent it just for sending them an email providing them with some feedback on their design. It blows my mind that a company would do that in this day when it seems as if all anyone cares about in the computer field is the bottom line.
 

J2T

Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2002
Location
Orlando, FL
Nice review and looks to be a nice case with a lot of the extra details added in. That is really cool to hear about a company actually taking feedback and using it. Kudos to Athenatech. :)
 
OP
dribblesnort

dribblesnort

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2002
Location
USA
bumped because I've seen 3 threads today where people looking for cases haven't even heard of Athenatech
 

brennan77

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2001
Location
New Orleans
Where can I get it and how much? They have US distributors listed, but none of them list this case as available. This case, if for the right price, looks like it could really be a gem for a few modifications.
 

brennan77

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2001
Location
New Orleans
Ahhh. It's listed under a different brand. Thanks for the link. I'm strongly considering this as my next case. It looks like all the parts should come apart easily. I plan to take it all apart to give a nice paint job as well as a window.
 

DaFonz

Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2004
Wow! Talk about great customer service.

I was thinking about getting an antec sonata, but this case deserves consideration especially with the great CS>
 

brennan77

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2001
Location
New Orleans
Does anyone know when the new case revision will become available? I don't want to buy the case without the revisions to the hard drive cage and the front fan mount.
 
OP
dribblesnort

dribblesnort

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2002
Location
USA
Contact Athenatech direct

brennan77 said:
Does anyone know when the new case revision will become available? I don't want to buy the case without the revisions to the hard drive cage and the front fan mount.

You "should" be able to buy from the company, by contacting them direct

You can use [email protected]

or

[email protected]

I recommend them highly.

What I like best about my case is that I can close the doors and the radiators STILL get great airflow...with the doors shut, they're quiet too. remember though, I use Vantec Stealth fans...
 

brennan77

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2001
Location
New Orleans
dribblesnort said:
You "should" be able to buy from the company, by contacting them direct

You can use [email protected]

or

[email protected]

I recommend them highly.

What I like best about my case is that I can close the doors and the radiators STILL get great airflow...with the doors shut, they're quiet too. remember though, I use Vantec Stealth fans...

What kind of clearance is there between the doors and the drive bays? I'd love to go water cooling one of these days, but at the moment I'm stuck with a tornado 80mm over my CPU controller my a Sunbeam fan controller. Therefore I need a bit of space for my control knobs to protrude. I guess I can always set it back into the drive bay a half inch or so to make up for it. I'm just curious.
 
OP
dribblesnort

dribblesnort

Member
Joined
Nov 29, 2002
Location
USA
brennan77 said:
What kind of clearance is there between the doors and the drive bays? I'd love to go water cooling one of these days, but at the moment I'm stuck with a tornado 80mm over my CPU controller my a Sunbeam fan controller. Therefore I need a bit of space for my control knobs to protrude. I guess I can always set it back into the drive bay a half inch or so to make up for it. I'm just curious.

There's about 1/4" clearance from what I can tell.
 

brennan77

Member
Joined
Aug 8, 2001
Location
New Orleans
dribblesnort said:
There's about 1/4" clearance from what I can tell.

Hmmm...that sounds like basically no clearance at all. I'll have to keep that in mind. Thanks for answering my questions and writing up such a nice review.