There’s no denying that there’s been seismic shift in the PC case market over the last 12 months. Both the higher mid-range and low-end budget segments have seen two new powers really come into their own. Corsair has consistently delivered lushly designed, fully specced cases in the sub-$200 field, while Bitfenix has pretty much put a lock on the sub-$100 space. Sure, you’ve still got your Coolermasters and Silverstones doing their thing, and very well, but for our mind it’s hard to go past the two current leading case makers in their respective areas.
That said, the market will always respond, and one of the heavyweight contenders, Antec, has come out swinging in the shape of the Antec One. This is a bare bones case made by a company that’s normally known for gaming aggression or slick and silent style. In the past, we’ve thought Antec looked a little off the boil, especially with its Eleven Hundred design, which seemed at least a year off the pace. The One – gosh, it’s going to be impossible not to make Matrix quotes; you have been warned – on the other hand, has a low price and just about everything you could want in a clean and simple chassis, one that’s going to be a breeze to install into and sturdy to boot.
Outwardly – and unsurprisingly – it’s not much to look at. Two leading bevels project either side of an all-mesh fascia with three removable panels for 5.25 drives. All the IO and controls face out from the upper edge; it’s nice to see USB3 ports, and two at that, at this price point, with a USB2 adapter included. The upper surface is broken only by a slightly raised internal fan mount, occupied by a single 120mm fan exhausting hot air, while the right-hand panel has an embossed section to make room for hiding cables behind the mobo plate. There’s a similar protrusion on the left-hand panel, with another fan mount; this one, like the front and bottom mounts, is vacant at stock.
The rear panel’s interesting, though. Not only do you have a second exhaust fan, and the usual grommets for watercooling, but the One (trying hard here) might also be showing its roots. It’s not unusual, even in this day and age, to see punch-out expansion slots, but it is rather stranger to see an IO shield that seems to date to the days of serial ports, dot-matrix printers and AT specced motherboards. It’s either a really cool in-joke, Antec trolling us, or possible evidence that the One (steady, Hollingworth – you’re doing good) is based around a rather more ancient chassis than it first appears.
The side panel comes away smoothly, though we’re still unhappy with any case that features plastic thumbscrews, and the interior is certainly clean. It’s a bit cramped, but at this price you’re probably not looking to pack out your build with video cards the size of Super Star Destroyers. In terms of numbers, your VGA card should be no longer than 260mm, and there’s room for CPU cooler as tall as 150mm. Neither’s a real killer.
What might be more problematic is the design of the HDD cage. It faces back into the case, requiring the other panel to be removed for access to drives. The cage itself is a tool-less design, and a good one too, and there’s a cool hex-shaped pattern of cut-outs to keep the weight and material down, but it’s still an odd and awkward choice. Most budget builders probably won’t be doing constant drive swaps, so it’s not a huge problem, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re an unrepentant tinkerer on a tight budget.
The ODD bays are also tool-less, using a levered system that is not only simple, but that’s quite reliable. The theme of not much room continues with the mobo plate; while there’s a generous cutout for cooler access, there’s not a lot of room behind here.
The build quality is Antec’s usual high-standard. It’s light enough that you could even build a simple LAN rig into here; it’s not built for high mobility, but if you’re not tossing the One (easy...) around it should handle travel pretty well. Certainly, our patented ‘bash it, see if anything rattles’ test shows the case to be quite sound. It’s also plain enough to serve as a cheap and simple template for any case mods you might want to be trying out; it’s always best to start with cases a bit more on the disposable side when you’re breaking out the angle grinder for the first time.
The possible vintage providence of the Antec One aside, this is a great budget option. For the sub-$70 asking price – and it’ll likely get cheaper soon enough – you’re getting two fans at stock, tool-less build options, and even rubber mounts for the PSU slot. It’s solid, with room for modest expansion if the stock options aren’t to your liking, and with an all black interior, it certainly looks the part. Antec’s fired a nice little shot across Bitfenix’s bows with the One (woohoo!), and we have a new budget standard.