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Cage Match: Four Open-Air ATX Chassis

Skeleton: Evaluation

Though we normally wouldn’t be required to do thermal testing on an open test chassis, a giant 250mm cooling fan on top of the Antec Skeleton made this type of evaluation desirable. Rated at 158 CFM and 32 decibels in high-speed (800 RPM) mode, 118 CFM and 26 decibels at medium (600 RPM) mode, 79 CFM and 17 decibels in low-speed (400 RPM) mode, we were hoping to at least see a change in chipset temperature.

Here’s where we’d normally show a chart, except that none of our system temperatures changed with top fan speed. We could feel it blowing, but the downdraft from the CPU fan was already keeping the chipset cool and the open-chassis design kept hot air from collecting even without the fan. The fan worked, but the only benefit we got from it was the pretty-looking light show of multi-colored LEDs. Tests including Prime95 (eight threads) and FurMark (graphics stability) revealed the same temperature increase at all top fan speeds.

Without any remarkable performance numbers, what sets the Antec Skeleton apart from competing solutions is its ability to fit between what most of us would consider a case and an open test rack.

Pros:

Internal component frame functions well as an open test platform
External cage offers some impact protection for internal components
Designed for easy transport
Full front-panel features connector set includes eSATA
Supports two optical drives plus six hard drives (two internally)
Supports double-width graphics card in bottom motherboard slot
Top fan provides multicolor light show for visual flair

Cons:

No room under external cage for large CPU coolers
Short front-panel wires complicate some installations
External hard drive trays offer little protection
Internal access requires removal of expansion card bracket

Other Thoughts:

We’d like to see case manufacturers add USB power to their eSATA connections, as previously found on ASRock and MSI motherboards, or substitute one eSATA and one USB connection for a combo connector (recently introduced on Gigabyte motherboards).

Best For:

Portable full-sized gaming systems.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • johnny_5
    When I had a desktop I would just leave the door off. It was unfortunately fairly noisy, but these would suffer the same problem anyways.
    Reply
  • 08nwsula
    the antec is the only frame that doesn't look incomplete
    Reply
  • kikireeki
    I though the point of having an open-air Chassis is to be simple and fast but these are far-cry from that! very cool nevertheless.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    kikireekiI though the point of having an open-air Chassis is to be simple and fast but these are far-cry from that! very cool nevertheless.
    I'm using the Torture Rack 2 right now to test several motherboards, I've added two push-through standoffs to keep them in place without screws.
    Reply
  • Onus
    Have you done any EMF testing on these? It seems to me that could be a considerable con on any of them.
    Reply
  • thackstonns
    I wanted the Banchetto 101, but found a skeleton for 100bucks new. A friend won it in a land contest and didnt want it. So I went with that. It is a good case the only thing that really pisses me off is I have to unplug all the front panel stuff to slide the tray out. Also I am building a bench for it to set on out of acrylic to house my radiators and pump. I cant figure out a good way to run the cpu waterblock though. The top cage does come off with 4 screws, But I have looked everywhere and cant find thumb screws that fit. Otherwise I would just use that instead of sliding it in and out.
    Reply
  • dragonsprayer
    whats wrong with a table or desktop with mobo box and antistatic plastin? works great less hassle! here is a photo from years and years ago! best desk to set up is martin lab testing set up (photo of martin lab persmission given to copy his stuff) - this is the s$#t!: http://s63.photobucket.com/albums/h138/4rothrocks/?action=view&current=Worklog15.jpg
    Reply
  • dragonsprayer
    part 2: we build every system on a mobo box with anti static, we burn in the cpu/psu/mob/gou at max oc in the bios for 24-72 hours - i.e. 920 is burned in at 4-4.4ghz air cooled. we have done this since 2003. then hard drives are hooked up and the system programed. this even done for water cooling built with air cooler then converted to water. The gpu, mobo, psu, cpu and hard drives are tested then installed in the case. The system is then run on orthos and 3dmark loops and other tests for up to 7 days. So the mobo box, anti static works great - stick hdd on there bags, use the mobo box from the system.
    Reply
  • jellico
    The Antec rack is the coolest, by far! The rest look like plain, old racks.

    Reply
  • duolc
    I use a Skeleton for my Case. Dust is an issue but a quick shot of air here and there and I can keep it under control.

    I Use an Asus Silent Knight CPU Cooler And It did not fit originally. I had to shave off one of the supports to make it fit.
    Reply