Well I purchased a P190 and received it yesterday. Here is my mini-review of it and suggestions for Antec. (Hopefully someone from Antec eventually reads this.)
Initial impressions and praise
After pulling the case from the box, the whole thing screams of quality just as the P180 series does. Included are all the familiar accessories we've come to expect from Antec. The improvements over the P180 and P182 design are immediately evident and it's clear alot of thought went into the design of this case. I'd also like to say that I am precisely the market for this type of case. I prefer steel cases and no Lian-Li offered what I wanted or felt I needed in a case and this was really the best option I could find so far. (Aside from certain CM Stacker models that would have worked just as well.)
I'd like to congratulate Antec on a number of improvements over the design of the P180 and P182. First, the increased size is exactly what I needed. The noise in this case is acceptable but obviously not as quiet as the P182, and that's fine. The 200mm fan, the dual 140mm fans and all that are great. Cooling is really nice in this case which is a must for me. Installing a motherboard in this case is super easy, the fit and quality of most of the case and the accessories are fantastic. The snake light built into the top of the case is a real nice touch as well. The design layout of the case is excellent and asthetically the case is very pleasing to look at. I'm so glad that the fan spoiler is gone. All the accessories and small touches are great too. I like the pre-drilled and grometted holes for water cooling, (I made good use of those.)
Building your PC in the Antec P190.
Well, the first thing I did when I pulled the side panels was to check the bottom chamber and the PSU areas. First off I pulled the two Antec PSUs out of there. I plan to make use of at least one of them elsewhere and install my Thermaltake ToughPower 1200watt beast. First thing I noticed when pulling the Antec PSUs out is what a tight fit everything was down there. Not a problem I thought. So I got those out of the case by pulling them up through a supplied hole in the top of the lower chamber leading up into the motherboard area. First thing I noticed is that you can't get PSUs in or out any other way. Second thing I noticed is that you can't remove or install a PSU with cards installed in the machine. They do have to be removed in order to make room for the power supply to clear this area.
Quick commentary on the Neo-Link PSUs themselves
For one thing, these PSUs seem to be of reasonable quality and the finish is excellent. The first thing I looked for is how they would link together. This is where it gets a little ugly, the link is proprietary. This is unfortunate and the CM Stacker solution was far better in that you could link any two PSUs together. Also these units are cooled only by an 80mm fan in the back of the unit. This isn't the best design and everyone damn well knows it. The Neo 650Watt and Neo HE 550 watt are unique versions marked Neo-Link and are a little different than their retail counterparts would be. The NeoHE 550 isn't as modular as it's retail cousin. The retail unit has only two non-modular wires while this one has a handful that are modular and several that are not. The Neo HE 650 on the other hand isn't modular at all. I don't like this at all. With modular PSUs it should damn near be everything or nothing at all. Instructions on distributing the PSU load would have been nice as well. The wires are all left there unlabled to do with as you please. Thier site suggests using the Neo HE 550 for your motherboard and the 650 for peripherals. However there are no visable markings on the PSUs that can be seen without removing them and therefore when working on the machine you wouldn't ordinarily know which was which unless you took the PSUs out of the case like I did.
Back to the business at hand
Next I tackled the installation of my Thermaltake ToughPower 1200. Holy **** it doesn't fit. No way no how does this thing fit. I looked at my situation and I was pissed that a case this highend won't allow you to (easily) install a PSU over 7 inches in length. This is quite frankly unacceptable. Not everyone that is interested in this case wants two smaller PSUs. They want to use the big boys. Not just because they are so powerful but because they are superior to the Antec PSUs that have been out there in the marketplace for the last couple of years. Anyway I considered my options. Drilling out the rivets and taking the case apart in a way not intended by the manufacturer was one option I was sure would work. I didn't exactly want to go this route so I looked more carefully. After several test installations I found an angle I could use and decided the metal was flexible enough to allow me a hell of a good chance to get this sucker in there. Well after much screaming kicking and flexing of metal I made it fit. Fantastic. The metal of the upper chamber was flexible enough as I thought and isn't any worse for wear. I just hope I don't have to remove the PSU anytime soon.
On to my next problem. I only wanted to use the one PSU so I had to find something to cover the hole that was left by the departed PSU. Unfortunately I found nothing. I tried the plates from the Lian-Li and Stacker STC-T01 and none of those will fit without cutting, drilling and possibly welding. So right now I opted to throw the mostly modular Neo HE 550 into the vacant slot, and I tied up all the wires. There is now a lack of symetry on the back of the machine, but screw it. I wanted this to be over. So I moved on. I did however wire the power switch of the Neo HE 550 in just in case via a left over wiring adapter provided by one of my older Coolermaster Stacker STC-T01 cases to do the job. This also gave me an extension that makes reaching the motherboard power connector a little easier.
Next I simply swapped my lower drive cage with all my drives in it from my P182. This worked out well since this part was identical. This also worked great because there is a new hole just above that chamber that makes running cable a snap. I hid the excess cable from my drives in the floppy bay. Looks pretty good too.
I moved on to the rest of the build. Installing my motherboard, routing cables, installing cards and my optical drives. Finally I installed all my water cooling hoses and blocks, memory modules and so fourth. Everything worked pretty well and was generally easy to do. The problem I did run into was the water cooling hoses. They would interfere with movement of the 200mm side fan. I'll work on re-doing all my hoses and getting this resolved as it's my fault for a generally poor water cooling hose layout. I'm kind of new at water cooling and therefore my water cooling setup isn't as pretty as I'd hoped for. So that aspect of the build is a work in progress.
Another change unique to my build is that I decided to mount the lower chamber fan differently. Fortunately Antec included the normal screw holes so that you do not have to use their fan bracket if you don't want to. I installed fan grills on both sides of the fans. It's hard to keep the wiring in the lower chamber neat because of the amount of wiring I have to have and because of the nature of some of that wiring. My SAS card cabling has power connectors attached to it and the plugs are long. Therefore they were kind of getting cought up in the fan, hence the need to place fan grills on both sides of the fan. Small problem, easy fix and it looks pretty good.
One final build observation: For the love of god, all case manufacturers need to either include both types of power LED wires or they need to split them apart. Period, pulling the leads out and redoing the plug end gets old after awhile.
Overall I am pleased with the case. The included power supplies will find uses elsewhere so I don't feel like I wasted a bunch of money on the P190. I got it from Atacom.com for around $400 instead of Antec's MSRP of $500. Since the PSUs would have cost around $100 each or so I did ok. I think the case is worth $200.
Suggestions for improvements for any Antec people who might read this:
#1 First off, this is a high end case, people want to be able to use high end power supplies and don't want to use Antec power supplies necessarily. Antec is about the only manufacturer that still sells cases and power supplies together. This is fine but we want options. I had alot of trouble installing my Thermaltake ToughPower 1200 which has superior specifications and components to the Neo-Link setup. So please, start selling these without included PSUs. That would drop the price considerably. Few people will spend $400-$500 on a steel case and dropping the Neo-Link setup would probably sell more of them.
#2 To make PSUs of extreme size fit better, you can do things one of two ways. Drop dual PSU support (most people don't like it and don't use it anyway) and make the PSU mounting area more like that of the P182. If not, the hole in the top of the PSU chamber that you slide PSUs into needs to be an inch longer. It should also be just a hair wider. It's hard to slide PSUs in there without scratching them.
#3 Offer the black interior of the P182SE on more cases, it would be especially cool to have on an all black Antec P190.
#4 Some of the edges in the PSU area are very sharp. I cut the piss out of myself working in that area. Some great care has been made to file down many of these edges, but compared to older cases like the KS-188, SX1040 and others this thing is a bit hazardous to work with. Those older cases I mentioned are safe nearly everywhere.
#5 Drop the proprietary Neo-Link feature. It's cool and all of that but a solution more like the CM Stacker STC-T01's works much better as it will work with ANY power supply pair out there.
#6 Include a Y-Power cable like the Dell servers use. This would be much nicer for plugging in two PSUs.
#7 An additional change needs to be made in the top 3.5" drive cage. I think that the cage needs to be a about an 8th of an inch shorter so that fans of fan grills can install fan grills on this fan. Granted this is super minor, but I like fan grills on all my fans. I like the look and it gives the interior an overall higher quality feel to it in my opinion. Plus the drive cage length being slightly longer than that of the P182's makes clearing the fan bracket a bit tough, but there is just enough room to do it.
#8 Include fan grills for all the fans. I'd like to see more case manufacturers do this. It's something that I think every manufacturer should do. If someone has sloppy wiring it keeps wires from getting into the fan blades. Specifically for water cooling users or just people with sloppy wiring jobs, the lack of a fan grill on the 200mm side fan makes things really difficult to close up due to the fact that you have to worry so much about getting stuff caught in it. You might also want to think of a different method of powering the 200mm side fan. It's a ***** to have to connect and disconnect a 4 pin molex connector like that. Not to mention you have to keep access to at least one four pin molex connected to your PSU in order to power the fan. It's not an ideal solution for wire management.
#9 There is a stamped fan grill on the back of the case. I don't like these things and I never have. This should be removed and replaced with a mesh like the Coolermaster Stacker series cases have. That and I could use a fan grill on the back of it instead. It would also make attaching water cooling radiators to that back fan easier.
#10 Include a damn cover plate for the PSU area. As I've stated most people that would buy this case don't want the dual Antec PSUs. Frankly their quality isn't what it used to be and secondly, some of us already have badass PSUs we want to use. If you didn't include the PSUs or even if you do, include a cover plate so that we can cover up the PSU bay we don't use. Lian-Li makes one for thier dual PSU bays as does Coolermaster that allows you to mount two 80mm fans in this area instead which would be a welcome feature on this case.
This may sound like alot of complaining, but really most of these things are just me nitpicking. The most annoying thing, and frankly the biggest problem is the PSU area. Head my advice for changing that, and start selling them without the dual PSU setup and you'll sell a ton of these things. Even at $200 or $250 I think they'd sell really well.
Cliff notes and summary
Sell the case without the power supplies.
Change the PSU area either by enlarging the hole that PSUs are dropped into the chamber from or make that section like the one found in the P182 for single PSUs.
I am pleased with the case for the most part as I've already stated. This is truely an enthusiasts case. It's rugged, sturdy and not bad to look at. It's a good case, but there are some changes Antec will need to make before it becomes a great case. For people who don't need extra PSUs this case is probably a waste of money they way they are sold today. For individuals who would use the Neo-Link setup the case is a pretty good deal if you think it through. Those using the Neo-Link setup obviously won't have the issues building with it that I had so that's something for all potential buyers to think about.
I'll post pics of the setup sometime tonight hopefully. Make fun of my water cooling setup and I'll find your house and take a dump on the hood of your car.