Hands-On With Five Mini-ITX Cases

Antec ISK 310-150

At first glance, the Antec ISK 310-150 looks like an external 5.25” drive clad in black metal. The white front panel and compact height that ducks under 10 cm underscores this impression. You can either operate the case laying flat or stand it up on its side, oriented vertically.

The Antec case fits anywhere thanks to its compact shape, but there are some compromises you have to make. For example, you can only fit a slim optical drive in the case. Furthermore, the Antec ISK 310-150 is the only enclosure in our roundup that will only accept 2.5” hard drives, although you can accomodate two of them. The two USB ports and one eSATA port on the front panel are practical for connecting external drives.

Little Room for Graphics Cards

Antec primarily offers the ISK 310-150 as an HTPC or desktop system case, which is a choice we agree with. The integrated 150 W PSU provides enough power for both tasks, especially when you're using integrated graphics. The 80 mm ventilation fan can be adjusted to spin at three speeds, depending on your acoustic tolerances and cooling needs.

If you want to install an additional graphics card and use the Antec case as a gaming system, things become more complicated. The low-profile expansion slot is a nice touch, but when you use it, the compact case becomes extremely crowded. An additional fan would help handle the extra heat from the graphics card, but Antec only includes one, and so you're going to be prone to overheating.

Tricky Motherboard Installation

Because of the very compact dimensions of the Antec case, we ran into issues when installing the small Mini-ITX board from Gigabyte. The ATX connector on the motherboard interfered with the mount for the second fan, and only after removing the cover did we manage to mount the motherboard. It is possible to remove the mounting frame for the hard drive and the optical drive to free up a little more work room.

Conclusion: The Optimal Frugal Desktop

Fortunately, Antec's ISK 310-150 doesn't promise more than it can deliver. The case works acceptably well in an HTPC environment, so long as you're leveraging integrated graphics and not hoping for too much on the gaming side. Arm it with an SSD and you're looking at a small, quiet desktop workstation. The cramped innards and weak 150 W PSU preclude gaming for the most part. Also, the design can make hardware installation somewhat tricky. Then again, that's the price you pay for smallest dimensions.

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Antec ISK 310-150
TypeMini-ITX case
Form factorMini-ITX
Dimensions (W x H x D)328 x 96 x 328 mm
ColorBlack case, white front panel
Connections2 x USB 2.0, 1 x eSATA, Audio in/out
PSU150 W
Support for expansion cardsYes (Low-Profile)
Drives2 x 2.5" hard drives, 1 x 5.25" Slim-line optical drive
Ventilation1 x 80 mm (side), second fan optional
Weight3.8 kg
PriceAround $80
  • rohitbaran
    Q08 supports expansion cards of length upto 300mm. It is mentioned on the Lian Li website and prople have built systems with cards like Radeon 5870 in it.
  • doomtomb
    Lian Li PC-Q08 is my pick everytime but why did you guys not look at the SG07?
  • jeraldjunkmail
    I (custom) build an element Q with an H50 water cooler. I had to (custom) move the PSU to the front of the machine under the 5.25" drive bay. This involved drilling out the rivets and reriveting them in order to hammer the pieces into shape. It also can fit a large video card in there (but this is not a gaming rig). There is a 6 2.5" hard drive software raid array in it and it is running Debian 6.0... Smallest water cooled rig in the world? Maybee.... Sorry if double post... Not sure...
  • gti88
    Please, do something with picture gallery.
  • Matask
    Perhaps its worth mentioning that you can get the SG05 with silverstone 450watt SFF psu instead allowing a bit more power. My current setup consists of the same Motherboard as used in this test Zotacs gtx460 AMP edition, an 0verclocked I7 860 at 3,5ghz with the H50 cooler and 4 gigabytes of 1333mhz 8-8-8-21 memory. Runs like a dream. And temps are actually quite good as the gfx card blows the heat directly out the side, and the push-pull airflow works very satifactory. Only thing to beware of is cable clutter as it can really mess up the airflow in these small cases.
  • Sharro
    I've been buying Shuttles for the last 10 years and I feel sad for not seeing any model included in this review.

    They are reliable little boxes :-)

    All the best,

  • gti88
    MataskI7 860 at 3,5ghz with the H50 cooler i5 2500@3.5GHz can be really cool with Big Shuriken@800rpm.
  • I love the Chenbro ES34169. You can find it for under $100 and quality is great. The only thing I would change is the stock fans, which are too loud on full speed.

  • Matask
    gti88i5 2500@3.5GHz can be really cool with Big Shuriken@800rpm.
    Yeah prob would have gone another direction than the H50 should i buy something now since performance pr dollar isnt that high. However the new SB cpu's do overclock better than my 860..so its really no suprise you get good temps at 3,5 ghz with your I5..you prob would with stock cooler as well..at least from what i have read around the interwebs..
  • dogman-x
    The Silverstone SG05 only accepts a slim optical drive, which really limits you for BluRay burners.

    I ended up buying the Shuttle SH55-J2. This is a Mini-ITX case plus an ITX motherboard for an Intel LGA1156 processor. The case accepts a double-slot graphics card and a standard optical drive. And unlike past Shuttle products, you can upgrade the system with any standard ITX motherboard. It's also very quiet, which is a big plus for home theater.