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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  • SodaAnt - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Well, the mac min has a different set of design criteria. Apple doesn't have to fit a specific form factor, so they can mount pretty much everything on the board itself and do away with most of the cables. When you realize that you can get the same power as the $600 mac mini in a laptop $200 cheaper, you also realize how much more expensive it is.If antec were designing something like the mac mini, they could mount all the power hardware on the board, have a direct connection for the power, hdd, and fan. Further, the mac mini doesn't support two hard drives like this case does. Reply
  • sligett - Monday, September 03, 2012 - link

    Apple will sell you a Mac Mini with two drives:

    750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm + 256GB Solid State Drive
    Reply
  • deruberhanyok - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    a mini ITX motherboard with a pair of mini PCI Express slots. One for wifi and one for an SSD.

    You'd have less cabling and the SSD would get cooling from airflow off the CPU heatsink.

    Unfortunately, it seems mini ITX boards with mini PCI Express slots usually only have one. Still, better to put the SSD there and use a USB wifi dongle, I'd think.
    Reply
  • drfish - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I'm hoping to put an AMD A300 APU in one of these things. We don't need much power for the Solidworks models we produce but we do need the BS certified drivers so I'm hoping this will make a solid tiny workstation, err, a tiny Solidworkstation I guess. Reply
  • Termie - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Thanks for covering this hot new area of case design. I think ITX is really the way a lot of people will be going.

    While this case is smaller than I'd consider reasonable or necessary, it's definitely interesting to read about.

    I'd be very curious, however, what your opinion would be of two cases I recently considered for an ITX build:

    (1) The Antec ISK 310-150, the big brother to the ISK 110 (which has that extra PSU headroom you're wishing for).
    (2) The Bit Finex In Win BP655, which is just slightly larger than the ISK 310, and which I ultimately chose for a recent ITX build.

    The Antec is slightly smaller (in one dimension only - height (in the long direction), and also has venting for a PCIe video card. The Bit Finex is much cheaper, has more PSU headroom, takes a 3.5" drive and a full-size optical drive, and has just a bit more room to work in.

    Again, thanks for covering this area of case design!
    Reply
  • Termie - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Sorry, I mean In Win BP 655, not Bit Finex. Reply
  • Zap - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I'm using the ISK 300-150 (different face than the ISK 310-150, all black with flip-down)
    http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=22326...

    In Win traditionally has somewhat mediocre PSUs. At least Antec's is somewhat known, as a review site used a load tester on it (hardwaresecrets?) and found it does put out what it claims without issues, other than lower efficiency than what is now considered normal. Only redeeming part of In Win's case is that it uses a standard TFX PSU, unlike Antec's proprietary PSU. Seasonic makes 80Plus Gold PSUs in the TFX size up to 350W. Good luck fitting 350W worth of parts into such a small case!

    I believe Antec uses slightly thicker steel than In Win for the case panels.
    Reply
  • AssBall - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    "...while it relies solely on the heatsink/fan combo to actively cool the system, it also relies solely on the heatsink/fan combo to actively cool the system."

    What?
    Reply
  • Termie - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    I think that was an attempt at humor.

    One fan means it runs hot, one fan means it runs quiet...
    Reply
  • Lonyo - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    Do you have any alternative PSUs to hand? Might be interesting to see if something like a PicoPSU would make the entire job any easier than dealing with the built in one (as odd as that sounds).

    http://linitx.com/viewproduct.php?prodid=12383
    The main issue would be the fact there is only one SATA connector on that specific model, but you could get an adapter (although it would take up a little extra space), or re-wire a SATA connector instead of second PATA.
    Reply

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