In and Around the Antec Sonata IV

Superficially, the Antec Sonata IV looks very similar to the Sonata III. The overall fit and finish is extremely clean: the front panel and drive door are an attractive matte plastic, while the rest of the enclosure is SECC steel with the top, bottom, and sides painted black. The back of the Sonata IV is pretty familiar, with the power supply at the top, an I/O shield, and then seven expansion slots.

One of the first big changes is the inclusion of a USB 3.0 port on the front of the enclosure, and it's routed to the back to connect to the I/O cluster. You'll also notice if you look below the ports that there's no front ventilation to the Sonata IV, and if you open the door to the power and reset buttons and the drive bays, there's no external 3.5" bay. Antec includes a 3.5"-to-5.25" adapter kit for just this purpose. 5.25" drives are also removable using attachable drive sleds that are concealed behind the bay covers.

So where did the ventilation go? To the right side of the case, actually. There's a vent on the right side that allows air to flow in through the hard drive bays and into the body proper. This vent is removable and can be easily cleaned.

When I opened the case I found the arrangement very familiar. The major change is in the way the hard drives are mounted in the Sonata IV. Every generation prior, they were mounted horizontally in drive trays that were fairly easy to remove (although the specialized screws needed for the rubber standoffs were also fairly easy to lose). In the Sonata IV, there are unusual rails that have the screws built into them, and the drives mount vertically, basically stacking two to a row. It isn't a bad system necessarily, but it's also not as convenient as previous generations. Antec's representative told us it was altered to accommodate the change in cooling design.

In the wall of the drive cage there are also four mounting points for a 2.5" drive, which can be secured with thumbscrews. There are no silicon grommets here to reduce vibration; this was designed specifically for SSDs. Unfortunately as you'll see in assembly, this solution leaves a lot to be desired.

As for the rest of the Sonata IV's internal design, the enclosure feels almost anachronistic. The power supply is mounted to the top of the case instead of the bottom and supported by a cross bar. There's no cutout in the motherboard tray for aftermarket cooling and no cable routing, an issue exacerbated by the included power supply which lacks modular cabling. The power supply's bottom-mounted fan seems to be there to aid in exhausting hot air through the case along with the single 120mm Antec TriCool fan. That fan's control is mounted to the back of the enclosure, so at least you don't have to pop it open to control the fan speed.

Introducing the Antec Sonata IV Assembling the Antec Sonata IV
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  • inspire3 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Nice Review.

    I hope Antec uses this review to get back to being the leader in cases again. I've bought my first Cooler Master case in a long time (Centurion 5 was the last CM I bought). Now I am buying a CM HAF 932. Its looking like I'll be moving to CM or InWin. :( Come on Antec, Longer and Wider cases.

    I have a P182, P183 and 2 300 cases.
    Reply
  • fb39ca4 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    That's what she said.

    This case looks kind of disappointing. You could get a $50 dollar case with more features, a decent 600w psu and quieter fans for less.
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    I've always liked the Sonata line (My current build is in a Sonata III), but I'm not sure that Antec has gone far enough in this rebuild to justify the higher price. Some observations:

    On the old Sonata III I had to put the fan-control wire through the back of the case so I could change the speed without opening the case (kind of ghetto). I'm glad such "hacks" are no longer necessary. That said, why doesn't Antech include a smarter fan whose speed can be controlled by the motherboard? It's now a $160 case - they can afford to do that now.

    And the price increase seems unnecessary. There are few new features. The beauty of the previous models was that for $90 - $100 (online) you got a classy looking case, that was reasonably quiet and came with a quality powersupply. At the current price point, there's a lot more competition, and Antec hasn't stepped up their game in terms of features or design.

    I *have* seen a failed Antec PSU (on my previous Antec case). But you know what? Even though the case was 2 years and 11 months old (on month away from the end of the warranty) Antec sent me a new one and didn't fuss in the least about it. So they have earned some loyalty from me for their good customer service.

    I just wish they'd stop being just a few easy steps away from making a truly gread case!
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    One last thing: Nice review. It's sad the the street price of the old Sonata III seems to be *higher* than it used to be. Given how it's aged, I couldn't justify spending $120 on it for a new build.

    Dustin, what's your new recommendation for the $100 price bracket? (Something with a design that an adult won't be embarrassed to have in the family room.)
    Reply
  • nowayout99 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    I like Antec's Sonata line. I've used a Solo for 2 build generations now because I wasn't able to find a suitable newer replacement for my Sandy Bridge build a few months back. It even has decent cable management to boot.

    I like the Sonata line because they're clean and simply designed. They're almost old fashioned in their simplicity by today's gaudy standards. Cases are getting bigger, uglier and louder, which is turning me off every step of the way. Openings for half a dozen fans = more noise = wrong direction for me.

    All that being said, the Sonata line could use some update tweaking. They don't need to reinvent the wheel as far as how HDDs or PSUs are mounted. Does it REALLY matter? Just keep it true to its purpose -- clean, simple and quiet.
    Reply
  • rgsaunders - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Local pricing in Kingston, ON is 109.99 after $20 MIR, quite reasonable considering the enhanced power supply, however, I do think it is time for them to make the case a little deeper and wider so that enthusiast level components can be fitted easily, Antec needs to do a little demographic research. Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    It's overpriced and doesn't offer silent enough operation or tooless enough design. Reply
  • velis - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I had sonata 1 and I almost laughed when I read about all the woes you had:

    I had the exact same problems with PSU in the original. That crossbar is insane and to top it all off, the PSU vibrates against it (in time) which was the ultimate reason I changed the case for.

    Also the video card clearance - OK, they added half an inch, but that is only enough for mid-high end cards - this is ridiculous. I don't buy dual GPU cards, but still I'd like enough clearance to not break my fingers every time I mess with my gfx card.

    And finally the drive mounting: I must say I liked the mounting in the original Sonata: it reduced the vibrations and made more than enough room for my drives, all of them easily manageable. The only thing I missed was the pre-mounted power and sata connectors so that I could just slide the drive in and it would be plugged in already.
    Looking at the pictures and reading your woes, I see that they got even worse in the latest generations: I now have a P180 and its bottom drive bay is a nightmare to handle. You break your fingers and still the cables rattle against the fan mounted 5cm after the darn thing.

    While at P180 I must also say comment on those tri-speed fans: they are a bunch of rattles. The only tolerable setting is low and that one does not cool. I ordered decent fans TOGETHER with the P180 order and replaced them immediatley. They never saw a volt from my PSU.

    I moved to P180 because I hoped for better cooling. SPCR was praising the case left and right. Turns out the Sonata was just as good. I went water after that.

    That said I must agree that this is one of the most beautiful cases around...

    Any chance for a review of a really minimalistic case? As small as possible still fitting an ATX Motherboard?
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I had a P182 and honestly I kind of miss it. Cooling is very effective, and the P183 does solve a lot of the problems the P182 had: there's a hole in the motherboard tray for heatsink backplates, and that stupid center fan in the bottom chamber was moved to the front of the case.

    Once I've cleared my current queue of cases, I'll start explicitly requesting some smaller cases.
    Reply
  • Daeros - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I built my most recent computer a bit over 2 years ago now, and I love my case. I have the antec 300, and it is fantastic. No, it isn't silent, but it supports a 3.8GHz overclock on an i7 920 and xfire 4870s with no issues. and it idles very quiet. Just don't get the one with the crummy 2 speed led fans. Plus it only $60, leaving plenty left over for a very nice psu of your choice. Reply

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