In and Around the Antec ISK 110 VESA

Given just how small it is, even compared to lightweight heavy hitters like SilverStone's Sugo SG05, you'd think there wouldn't be much to the Antec ISK 110 VESA. That's not quite true, though; just like good game design, what's not included is often just as important as what is.

Even before you get to the enclosure itself, there's a decent amount of extra kit that comes with the ISK 110. Antec includes a bracket for mounting the built system behind a monitor, the external power supply, and a snap-on stand that allows the case to stand vertically. The external AC adapter is a stock Delta Electronics unit similar to what you might find with a notebook, which means that some of the power circuitry still has to be included in the chassis. We'll get to that in a second.

The styling for the ISK 110 VESA is pretty simple; since there isn't any room to include fans, most of the case is ventilated in some way. In fact the only face of the enclosure that doesn't have ventilation is the front, which features the power button, indicator LEDs, and four USB 2.0 ports. You can argue for or against USB 3.0 in an enclosure this small; internal USB 3.0 headers and their cables are pretty substantial, and a quick jaunt to NewEgg reveals only a handful of Mini-ITX boards that feature them.

Antec's two-toned design relies on a silver band encompassing the front, rear, bottom, and top of the case; the side panels are black. The left or "top" panel of the ISK 110 VESA is entirely mesh and it's worth mentioning that the slight extrusion gives the interior a bit more space than it would initially seem to have. Unfortunately the right or "bottom" panel isn't ventilated anywhere near as much, and you'll see later on that's to the case's detriment. There's very little reason not to include better airflow through this side, since it's where the two 2.5" drives are kept.

Opening up the ISK 110 VESA is actually easier than it looks. On the back of the case, the two side panels are each held in place by a pair of screws, and Antec actually includes thumbscrews you can replace these with if you're so inclined. Once the screws have been removed, the two side panels just snap off and back on. They're secure without being too difficult to deal with, but it's also clear that Antec didn't design the ISK 110 VESA to be regularly tweaked.

The interior of the case reveals the thick cable bundles you've come to expect. It's only when you're dealing with a case this small that you realize just how much space all these headers can really take up, but I'm not sure there's a better way for Antec to handle these. Draw your attention to the board on the right side of the photo, though; since Antec is using a stock AC adapter to power the ISK 110 VESA, they have to supply the necessary power circuitry to separate the individual rails. There's also a proprietary connector on the board where a cable that branches off to the individual leads is connected; since the ISK 110 VESA can support such a limited number of components, though, Antec only has to include what's absolutely necessary.

On the opposite side is a removable tray that includes mounting holes to install one 2.5" drive laterally or two next to each other. It's a nice touch on Antec's part to include an alternative mounting orientation for systems that are only going to use a single drive, but also note that this means the drive is butting up against the underside of the motherboard...and the CPU.

Antec's design is really about as bare essentials as it's going to get, and with the cooling needs of the ISK 110 VESA coupled with the size constraints of a Mini-ITX board (both in terms of how small it can get but also how big it still needs to be), I don't know that they could've really done too much to deal with the needed cabling and power board. This does mean that you're always going to be able to see the inside of the system, for better or worse, and dust is liable to be a bigger issue with the ISK 110 VESA than it might be with a larger case. It also means that whatever cooler you use on the CPU is going to basically define the sound profile of the case; there just isn't anything muffling it or any directed airflow.

Introducing the Antec ISK 110 VESA Assembling the Antec ISK 110 VESA
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  • sligett - Monday, September 03, 2012 - link

    Well, there's an optimal size for anything. It costs more to make it larger, and it costs more to make it smaller. It also costs more to make something with non-standard parts. Sure, an ATX power supply is cheaper - they make them by the bazillions. And finally, if you *need* an enclosure this size, then you will pay to get it.

    That's life.
    Reply
  • plext0r - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I've been using the M350 case from mini-itx.com with my Zotac IONITX (Atom + Nvidia) motherboards and it's a great little case (MythTV). It includes the VESA mounting holes on the back (no bracket needed). I ended up sandwiching a Scythe 100mm x 12mm fan into the case since 40mm fans are too loud and I couldn't run fan less. Reply
  • Geraldo8022 - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I too think that is a nice little case (M350) with one exception; the power button is over the ATX connector. Makes for a barely doable installation. I use Sapphire E350 (Zacate). I have an SSd and a 500G 2.5 inch HD. I use the integrated graphics and it works for me. I also would like to see Express Mini PCI utilized more. I use a PICO and prefer it to what Antec has implemented. I plan on moving mine into some kind of flat bottomed duffel bag and start taking it into cafes rather than my laptop. This ITX system is mounted on the back of a 24in Asus IPS monitor. Involves a powerstrip and, of course, has no battery. I think someone is missing an opportunity by not making a specialized bag for something like this. I see these people with their little tablets and I will sit here with my 24 incher. Course I will just pack it from car so weight is not that big of a deal. We'll see. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    That last part, about taking your 24" monitor + attached case out-and-about, is hilarious. Kind of like going back to the early suitcase-style computers where the top lid was a keyboard.

    Personally, I'd take one of the many cheap, lightweight, E350 powered laptops over your suitcase style E350 system, but I'd be amused if you actually did this.
    Reply
  • Seraphimcaduto - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I have this case as well, mine has a llano A8-3820, 8gb of ddr3 ram, a crucial m4 64GB and a 250GB WD HDD. I have to say that I love this case for its portability and power, but I had to mount an internal (low profile) 100mm processor fan to cool it better; the cooling was adequate before, but i was pushing the onboard graphics more than most (sane) people would. After using this case for several months, I can say a slightly larger power supply (even 120w) would be appreciated. Currently you are limited on your processor/main board selection and the extra 30w would greatly expand what you could use. Reply
  • Seraphimcaduto - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Forgot to say that I needed an extension cable for the 4-pin power connector as well and I used the asrock A75-itx. Only some of the asus mini-itx motherboards seem to have the 4-pin power socket close enough... Reply
  • coder543 - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    isn't the A8-3820 a mobile APU? how did you manage that? Reply
  • Seraphimcaduto - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMD_Fusion#section_...
    http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/processors/...

    Actually the A8-3820 is a revision of the A8-3800 CPU. Both processors are 65W desktop socket FM1 but are next to impossible to find, as mentioned in the review here of the Pudget AMD system with the same case. Both have the 6550D graphics, which means my little guy quite the portable LAN box.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Looking at the way wires end up jammed into every open space above the board it seems a pity none of the even smaller board sizes have gained any traction outside of with VIA. Using a slightly smaller board would allow for routing all of the thinner wires behind the board and then just having them pop up around the edges; leaving only the fat power cables clogging things up on top. The case doesn't have support for even a half height expansion card, which eliminates the main restriction against going smaller. Reply
  • Belard - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    They could have made it slightly bigger... making better airlflow perhaps as well as more room to hide some wiring. Since it has a power adapter, they could have made all the wires BLACK, including the USB to help make them disappear... actually, the inside should be painted black as well.

    This also shows how well the Apple MacMini is well designed, eh?
    Reply

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