Antec Skeleton Page: 1
Introduction
 Antec
It's been a good few years now since manufacturers moved away from the beige box of old. The traditional desktop was replaced with midi tower which itself has seen transformation, both large and small, with small form factor cases and large server style cases respectively becoming very popular with PC enthusiasts. Black is the new beige and has been for some time with every other PC donned in an anodised black skin. So Antec, with their radical new design, hope to evolve the case arena one further step with the Skeleton.
 
Being at the forefront of PC case design, without having the price tags to match such competitors as Lian Li and Silverstone, Antec have long been a favourite among system builders. The well thought out, easy on the eye cases are among the highest quality available and while no one could accuse Antec of being the pinnacle of style, one might say they are 'classic' designs, a safe bet for the mass market. The Skeleton changes all that. In fact you cannot call it a case in all honesty and Antec have got the description spot on when they describe it as an enclosure.
 
Here's what Antec have to say about their new case:
 
The Antec Skeleton is a truly revolutionary enclosure. With a unique design that allows for unprecedented airflow, a front 92mm fan, and a top three speed 250mm fan with multicolor LED customization, the Skeleton goes utterly unmatched in stylish cooling. Factor in the layered component trays for top-notch convenience, as well as the rackmount quality side rails, and you have a case truly without equal.
 
In short, it's cool, it's stylish and it is quality. Let's see if there is any foundation to Antecs boasts.


Antec Skeleton Page: 2
Specification
 
Being a totally new design, the specification list is very important as it does differ slightly from what can be used with an 'enclosure' such as this:
 
 
• 4 Drive Bays
 
- External 2 x 5.25”
- Internal 2 x 3.5”
- Optional 4 x 3.5” side panel mounted drive trays
 
• Layered tray design for greater system
integration flexibility
 
• 7 Expansion Slots including room for 11” video cards
 
• Cooling System:
- 1 top 250mm TriCool 3-speed multi color customizable LED Fan
- 1 front 92mm HD cooling fan
 
• Motherboard: Standard ATX
- 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x FireWire (IEEE1394)
- 1 x eSATA,
- Audio (AC97’ and HDA compatible) In and Out Enclosures
 
Material
- 0.8mm cold rolled steel for durability with reinforced plastic frame
 
Side Rails
- Rack mount quality side rails for greater durability
 
Power Supply
- No Power Supply included: To optimize performance of your Skeleton, your choice of power supply is crucial. Antec strongly recommends choosing from Signature or TruePower series.
 
Unit Dimensions:
- 13”(H) x 14.8”(W) x 16.5”(D)
- 31.75 cm(H) x 37.6 cm(W) x 41.9 cm(D)
 
Packaging Dimensions:
- 15.74"(H) x 18.11"(W) x 18.89"(D)
- 40 cm(H) x 46 cm(W) x 48 cm(D)
 
Net Weight: 15.5 lb / 7.02 kg
 
Gross Weight: 21.4 lb / 9.7 kg
 
Note that this product is not aluminium. I was a little disappointed with this as due to the requirements of the potential buyer I thought it would be directed at either someone who intends to use this at a LAN or someone who often changes components. Plastic, reinforced or not, will not give the same durability as aluminium as I do worry about the potential for snapped framework during constant swapping of hardware or lugging it to your gaming clans LAN event. Obviously, using aluminium would add to the cost of the Skeleton but I think this would be money well spent if it meant that the enclosure lasted a lot longer than the plastic currently used.
 
Steel is also used instead of aluminium which saves on cost again but this time at the detriment of weight. Weighing in a shade over 9KG (bare enclosure) this enclosure is by no means lightweight. Antec it seems, is still happy for you to carry the case by the steel reinforced plastic  shell, even when fully laden with expensive hardware so they must have some faith in the design. Personally, I would not trust hundreds of pounds worth of kit to two strips of steel reinforced plastic and would prefer to use something more substantial.
 
Let's not judge the enclosure quite yet, at least until we have seen the case in the bone (a skeleton doesn't have flesh!)...
 


Antec Skeleton Page: 3
Packaging & Appearance
 
The Skeleton arrives in a gloss black cardboard exterior which is very thick and should be enough to stave off any unwanted dents and scratches. I was interested in how Antec were going to package the product due to its odd shape and perhaps more so due to its plastic design. I was therefore impressed to see that quality packaging was used throughout with 2 foam side panels holding the enclosure firmly in place. The Skeleton was also bagged in clear plastic to prevent moisture intrusion so the case should arrive to you in perfect condition.
 
Box Open Box
 
I was impressed to see that the Skeleton is pre-built so there should be no frustration in getting started with building your system. which is just as well as the included instruction leaflet is sparse to say the least. I can appreciate that it is everyones responsibility to save money but a product such as this definitely needs an instruction leaflet to hand. There is a more thorough online instruction manual but that is of little use if your PC is in pieces waiting to be installed in a new Skeleton enclosure!
 
Front Side
 
Back Angle
 
Well here is the Skeleton in all its glory. One word to sum it up, Marmite - you either love it or you hate it. The design is as odd as it is groundbreaking. Da-Vinci would not have gotten far as an inventor if he was afraid of changing the way people think, so then Antec have also taken this approach. For those above 30 years old reading this review then think back to Zoids, those plastic exoskeleton robots we all loved and you can formulate a feel for this radical new design. For those not of that age yet (you don't know what you missed!), then consider the little nanobots from The Matrix and you are halfway there. I personally like the look of the case, industrial, yet futuristic and one thing is for sure, with that huge fan sitting abreast of the main component shelf, overheating should be a non-issue for all but the most insane overclockers.
 
 Bottom Accessories
 
From the base of the enclosure we can see the sliding mechanism unique to the Skeleton which I will cover more in the build section of this review. The accessories are pretty basic - four HD holders, a couple of tie wraps, a bundle of screws and a 92mm HD cooling fan with shroud.
 
 Fan Top Fan Bottom
 
The fan itself is 250mm in diameter and is controlled by two switches. One switch for the fan rpm which can be set to three levels: low, mid or high. The other switch is used to alternate between blue, green, red , a mixture the colours or no light at all. The fan is protected by a plastic mesh fitting which will keep any stray fingers safe and is powered by a standard molex.
 
fan speed/colour switch PCI holder
 
Above right we see a feature of the Skeleton which is a definite weakness, The flimsy acrylic PCI support has seven screw holes as opposed to the standard six which is a great idea, allowing users to add USB backplates etc. However the material used is not so great. We all know acrylic is brittle at the best of times but using it as a support, albeit not load bearing, is simply a bad design. It appears as more of an afterthought as it stands out aesthetically but for all the wrong reasons and a plastic or metal strut would be more in keeping with the skeletons gun metal grey theme.
 
 
Access to the undertray is fairly easy thanks to the removable side panels that unhook with a plastic clasp. Again the plastic clasp is very flimsy and I doubt it would last the test of time. To release the component tray for full access to the Skeleton, Antec have made things very easy and this time, hard wearing. Two thumbscrews are all that hold the component tray in place and rackmount quality sliders ensure that the component tray simply glides out of the frame with minimum effort.
 
Sliding tray 1 Sliding tray two
 
Perhaps the neatest thing about this case however, is its ability change components with the minimum of hassle. The main component tray slides fully from the main framework of the skeleton allowing easy access to your motherboard and components. Beneath the motherboard tray is where you are directed to install the PSU, which sits in its own little holder. Now here is the snag. The Skeleton will not fit long PSU's such as the Enermax Galaxy or Silverstone Zeus series. Not only that but it is recommended you use a PSU with a rear mounted 80mm fan instead of the now very popular top mounted 120mm fan. The reason being is that the top mounted 120mm fan would have very little clearance from the motherboard tray and due to the Skeletons open style enclosure, installing the fan downwards is not recommended at all.
 
Attached to the component tray is the motherboard backplate which is held in place by three screws. Once these screws are removed you can install your motherboard easily, then re-install the motherboard and backplate back onto the tray. Both the main component tray and motherboard backplate are steel so are both hard wearing but again, this is at the cost of weight.
 
So then, with a slide out main compartment, removable motherboard backplate and removable side panels, building a system in this enclosure should be quite easy, yes? Head over to the next page to see how I got on...


Antec Skeleton Page: 4
Build Log
 
The true test of a case is what it is actually like to work with. Too many times, cases are reviewed with only aesthetics and presumptions of performance in mind but for this review, I intend to log my progress by actually cramming some hardware in there. Hopefully, you will stay with me while I take you through my findings along the way.
 
PSU Mount
 
With the main component tray in it's fully extended position, I removed the component tray and side panels as well as the PSU holder in preparation for the build. Firstly, I attached the PSU to the PSU holder. I tried a Silverstone Zeus first which is server grade PSU extended in length from standard PSU size. Sure enough, it would not fit in the Skeleton. Next I went with a 12cm fan PSU to see what problems I might encounter.  Despite the lack of airflow to the PSU, it will fit fine with the fan facing upwards.
 
HD Mount Side Mount
 
Next, I set about installing the hard drives. The Antec Skeleton has provision for fitting up to six hard drives, four on the exterior and two internally. I tried fitting the first hard drive externally by utilising one of the four included hard drive backplates. While this looks cool, it is not the best or safest way to mount the drives. The hard drives simply hang off the side of the case and can be easily attached/detached from the case, perhaps by accident.
 
HD wobble HD Secure
 
 
 
So then, I had to mount them internally. You would think that a case like this would have tool-less design but sadly this isn't the 'case' (pun intended). Antec would have you believe that all that is required is a single screw type fixing which, when attached allows the hard drive to clip into place once inserted into the hard drive compartment. As you can see from the photos above, the hard drive can still be moved so further screws are required to fully secure the drive in place. Installing the DVD drive was much the same but this was more secure and didn't require the extra screws.
 
 
HD Fan
 
One thing the Skeleton does well and that is to cool the components. As well as the 250mm top fan, Antec have included a 92mm fan cool the hard drives. This is a much needed feature considering airflow beneath the motherboard would be zero without it.
 
Motherboard back Problem
 
Upon installing the motherboard, I was impressed with the thought that had gone into designing the motherboard tray. Being rolled steel, it isn't the lightest piece of kit, so I was happy to see as much weight had been trimmed as possible with cut-outs of various sizes taken from the tray. Designed or by accident, the rear of the CPU area is fully accessible ensuring that a screw down cooler is fully interchangeable with easy access to the underside of the motherboard. Sadly, Antec have forgot that screw down coolers tend to be large. Antec recommend the following coolers which all fit fine :
 
1. SCYTHE SCMNJ-1000
2. ARCTIC COOLING ALPINE 7
3. ZALMAN CNPS 7500
4. BGears XPCPU.4ALL.PRO
 
 
Above right we see that our testbed cooler, the Scythe Ninja, was simply too tall. This is not the tallest cooler on the market either with favourites such as the Thermalright Ultra and Xigmatek coolers being taller. This is a MAJOR design flaw of the Skeleton and something that requires rectifying immediately if this enclosure  is to be successful. Having that huge 250mm fan is pretty much pointless if you are limited to a small CPU cooler. The fan section can be taken off by unscrewing it from the main struts but that is just defeating the object of the whole enclosure.
 
Nearly There side stuffing
 
Done Complete
 
So then, stock cooler in hand I installed the motherboard to the motherboard tray and then attached the tray to the component tray. Everything from here on in went smoothly with no more major hiccups including the cable tidy which was relatively easy thanks to the space available beneath the motherboard. Time to push the button and pray...
 
Push the button  
 
It's ALIVE! Below you can see the numerous colours available from green, green/red, red, red/blue, blue and blue green, Each of the colours can be set or you can set the fan to cycle though them. The light display is actually quite neat and not as tacky as I first thought it would be. The transition in colour is very smooth, the fan is very quiet thanks to the sheer size of it and it shifts a serious amount of air. Mosfets, memory, GPU's and chipsets will get a very good supply of cool air even on its lowest setting.
 
Green Red/Green
 
Red Red/Blue
 
Blue Blue/Green
 
Let's head over the page to the conclusion where I give my overall feelings on the Antec Skeleton...
 


Antec Skeleton Page: 5
Conclusion
 
When I first cast my eyes on the Antec Skeleton I was in awe at it's looks. Totally removed from anything we have seen before, my initial feeling was that it would make an ideal enclosure for a test bench. The more I played with it though, the more it became apparent that the Antec Skeleton would not be suitable for someone who swaps out components on a monthly basis, never mind daily! So then, if the case is not designed for extreme overclockers, enthusiasts who regularly swap out components or indeed reviewers, who is it for?
 
Someone who lives in a dust free, pet free, child free zone would be a start. Dust, pet hair and clumsy children are the enemy of open air cases so if you have any of the above in your vicinity beware, this case is not for you. This case would attract some serious attention at a LAN but perhaps not just because of its looks. With no security and ease of access to components, those quick nips to the toilet during gaming breaks could be fraught with danger. So then, who would actually use this case? Someone who want's to be different, so much so that they are willing to put form before factor.
 
The materials used are poor, the reinforced plastic frame is fine though and is actually sturdier than it looks but the cheap plastic used on the fan mount and the PCI support bracket could snap very easily. The rolled steel component tray is very sturdy but someone who buys a case like this wants to show it off and carrying a steel case to a LAN is no fun as anyone who has done so will tell you. That said steel is sturdy and will last the test of time but I can't help feeling the extra cost of aluminium would be much more suitable.
 
The major failing however, is the disastrous framework design. While it looks great, preventing the user to fit a large heatsink & fan is simply unacceptable for a case whose ultimate objective is cooling. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at that point in the build as up until then I could forgive Antec for the bad choice of materials and the lack of a clear target market but a mistake such as this is bordering on the ridiculous. With a simple design tweak, raising the main fan structure a couple of inches could have made all the difference to my opinion of this enclosure, something Antec will hopefully rectify in future revisions.
 
As such, despite its great looks (which itself is subjective) and innovative design, I'm afraid my advice would be to give this enclosure a wide berth unless you are happy to sacrifice CPU cooling for aesthetics.
 
The Good
- Rackmount style sliding mechanism
- Detachable Motherboard Tray
- 250mm Fan
 
The Mediocre
- PSU mounting could be an issue
- Cheap plastic clasps on side panels
 
The Bad
- The Design. No decent CPU cooler will fit!
 
 
Thanks to Antec for providing the Skeleton for review. Discuss this review in our forum.