This is the third Antec PC case I've bought, and the second from their classy-looking "Lifestyle" range. So they must be doing something right!
"Why," I hear you ask, "have you bought 3 PC cases?" Well, truth be told, I'm something of a geek. I have a multitude of PCs in my house. Most of them are the result of compulsive upgrading, where a system upgrade leaves me with enough "bits" left over to build another Frankenstein PC. The problem with this is that all the "insides" end up needing a new "outside" to put them in. And so I end up needing new PC cases.
This particular case was bought when I decided I was going to turn some spare hardware into a media-PC for the lounge. With the addition of a TV-tuner and a video card capable of displaying on a TV-set, I'd have my own, home-grown version of Sky Plus, without having to pay Mr Murdoch a subscription fee! Not to mention the ability to play all my MP3s in the stereo in the lounge, my own never-ending jukebox that doesn't need the CD changing - ever.
Now there are some important points to consider when building a PC for the lounge. First off, it's got to look the part or LegendaryMrsDude will have it up in the loft in no time - on a charge of "looking untidy". This means that it's got to blend in with all the other bits & pieces under the telly, which invariable means either black or silver finish. The Overture II scores well here, being both "piano black" gloss AND silver (on the front panel). Being approximately the same size as a standard amplifier, it also maintains reasonable proportions and doesn't look too out of place.
Secondly, it's got to be quiet. At least quiet enough that you can't hear it when the TV is on but ideally quiet enough that you don't notice it when the TV is off. It's at this point that I would mention how surprisingly noisy PCs actually are... If you've never listened to one before, you probably wouldn't consider it but the shrill, incessant whine of a hard drive and the low rumble of various cooling fans can become obtrusive in the setting of a lounge, particularly when they're ever-present. On this point, the Overture II scores only reasonably - while it comes with the usual Antec array of rubber grommets for mounting fans and Hard drives and while they do dampen the noise of those components, it also comes with a varied assortment of fans and blowers to shed heat from the case. Combined with large areas of highly ventilated case (there's lots of vents, holes and grilles all over it), this actually results in a moderately noisy enclosure.
Thirdly, it's got to have enough space to fit in all the bits you need to fit in - hard drives, DVD drives and expansion cards must all be catered for to reasonable levels. The Overture II does well here, with two internal and two external 3.25" bays as well as two 5.25" external bays your storage needs should be catered for, if not quite as well as with a tower case. It also has good room for expansion cards with 6 plates at the rear providing enough room for the USB plates and 3 / 4 PCI cards should you need them.
Finally, it needs enough power to do the job, again delivered as quietly as possible. As with other Antec cases in the LifeStyle range, this is catered for by the supplied Antec PSU that has smart fans and other technical trickery to ensure that it runs as quietly as possible without blowing up (although it still gets very warm to the touch).
So with those key points in mind, I bought one.
It arrived, much like the Sonata I'd bought previously, in a sturdy cardboard box that was covered with glossy, high-resolution, colour images of the contents. They take a great deal of pride in their merchandise, those folks at Antec. Being from the Lifestyle range and coming in the same high-gloss "piano black" finish as the Sonata, I wasn't too surprised at the amount of internal packaging either. Lots of sturdy polystyrene and a lovely white cloth bag wrapped it up and protected it from scratches to the delicate paint job. There's even a polishing cloth supplied to get the best from the high-shine paint!
Being a desktop case, the construction is slightly different to the Sonata. This time it's the top panel that slides neatly off, after removing the thumb-screws, to provided reasonably unobstructed access to the insides. Solid, rubber feet maintain a healthy clearance (about 5 - 8mm) from the ground, but don't sit it on carpet - the pile will interfere with the airflow and things will quickly overheat.
On removing the lid, the first thing you notice is the location of the Power Supply. It's not at the back, where you would normally expect to find it. Oh no, those clever folks at Antec have put it at the front of the case. This has the result of providing lots of room around the motherboard and allowing for a more accessible location for the hard drives. The two internal drives are mounted in a removable chassis in approximately the same places as you would normally find the power supply!
As you would expect, there's a big old fan (92mm diameter) strapped to the back wall of the case to evacuate hot air in an effective fashion. As you would also expect (if you've read my review of the Sonata) this fan is mounted on rubber grommets to keep the vibrations and noise to a minimum. Intriguingly, Antec have also put two blower-type fans underneath the hard drive caddy, presumably to get rid of the heat that HDs create more effectively, although they obviously add to the overall noise of the system.
There's just enough space for a full-sized ATX motherboard, with the usual swappable back-plate allowing for whatever configuration your motherboard comes with on its rear interface panel - the supplied back-plate will suit only the most basic of motherboards. The motherboard itself is mounted on brass posts, plenty of which come in the supplied bag of assorted fixtures and fittings.
The 5.25" bays at the front are a neat affair. The whole caddy is attached to the case by screw-less release mechanism - just press a button and swing a lever and caddy containing both bays comes away at once making it a lot easier to fit the drives themselves (although not necessarily any easier to attach the cables). The externally available 3.25" drives are easily accessed too, though they sit atop the oddly located PSU and so get very hot, making them not at all suitable for hard drives. Best leave them for "novelty" expansions like 8-in-1 media card readers or maybe floppy drives.
Construction is typically solid professional. There are no sharp edges, everything fits just right and the finishing is superb. As already mentioned, there are more ventilation features than normal on a desktop case. The PSU vents to the underside of the case and breathes cool air in from the side. The graphics card has some ventilation cut into the lid above it, alongside a respectable expanse of holes in the lid right above the CPU to provide extensive cooling. Unfortunately all these perforations mean that dust can enter the case all too easily. Already my CPU heatsink is covered in "muck" and it's only been running a month! It would have been nice if Antec had fitted a dust-filter here. Then there are the two 75mm blowers on underneath the hard drives that vent to the right hand side and, last but not least, the 92mm fan at the back of the case which has three possible speed settings to help keep the noise down.
The silver fascia is very neat, with header cables providing two USB2.0 ports and a firewire port right where you need them - it looks just the part underneath the TV. There's also a microphone and headphone socket but these will need the appropriate connections on the motherboard - and this doesn't include Giga-Byte motherboards! Also on the front is the amazingly large, round power button that is surrounded by the obligatory blue LED which shines with incredible brightness. I've not found the power connection to turn this off yet, but I'm not sure I would want to - it actually looks quite neat. The HD light on the other hand is a weedy amber affair that you can't even notice in bright sunlight. Ho-hum.
In conclusion then, this is another fine case from Antec. Solidly built, well designed and to a good spec when you consider that it includes all the case fans and a 450W power supply with plenty of outputs (including SATA) to boot. Expansion is excellent as is the cooling capacity although it is rather heavy, especially once full of kit.
On the down-side, the piano black finish attracts dust like there's no tomorrow and there's no number of free polishing cloths that will help prevent it from gathering. The silver fascia will mean that you need to buy silver CD/DVD drives unless you don't mind it looking distinctly odd. It's also a little noisy. Despite the LifeStyle tag and the claims of low noise output, I still find it to be audible, but not quite annoying, in a quiet room. It will, however cope with some of the hottest CPUs and graphics cards around and in that context; it is actually a reasonably quiet choice, especially if backed up by the selection of the quieter technologies for the insides (like low-speed or silent CPU fans and heat-pipe cooled graphics cards.
Considering the market it's aimed at - it's specifically targeted at media-centre type PCs - it puts most of the competition to shame. While it doesn't have the compactness of quietness of a "Shuttle" type case, it does offer far greater flexibility than those "barebones" systems. It also looks good. The styling is subtle enough that it blends in well with its surroundings. The quality shines through as well. Build and design are both excellent.
In summary then, I can only truthfully award 4 stars. It does what it says on the tin and it does it in style - BUT it's still noisy enough to be heard. At £80 you could consider this a tad expensive but when you take into account the build quality - and considering that a half-decent 450W PSU would probably set you back the best part of £40 anyway, this is really good value.