Inside the Three Hundred Two
Budget enclosures are tasked with balancing the features that matter most to the end user. In the case of the Three Hundred Two, Antec has decided - for better or for worse - that an all-black interior isn't a priority. For a window-less chassis there's perhaps some merit to that argument, but when you enter the Three Hundred Two, you can't help but feel as though you're stepping back in time.
Sure, all-black interiors are primarily designed to look good, but they also come across as modern. The dull-grey interior of the Three Hundred Two looks like a chassis that hasn't aged particularly well, and it's possible that Antec agrees as the manufacturer has told us that an all-black version will soon hit retail shelves.
If the dated grey interior of the existing model doesn't put you off, there's plenty to like in here. The chassis feels roomy throughout and it's reasonably well equipped right out of the box. To the right of the internal cavern you'll find a complete column dedicated to storage that features three tool-free 5.25in optical bays up top, followed by six tool-free 3.5in hard-disk bays below.
Hard disks are installed easily using the plastic mounting brackets included in the bundle, but none of the six bays are able to accommodate 2.5in drives. Instead, Antec has created two unusual mounting points for SSDs or other 2.5in drives. One can be housed at the base of the chassis (between the PSU and hard-disk cage) and a second 2.5in drive can be installed on the back of the motherboard tray.
Antec's pre-installed cooling configuration, meanwhile, consists of two fans; a 120mm rear exhaust and a 140mm top exhaust. Two pre-installed fans are standard fare at this price point, but Antec's duo are of the TwoCool variety and both are attached to rear switches that allow each fan to run at low or high speeds (600RPM and 1,200RPM, respectively, for the 120mm fan or 800RPM and 1,200RPM for the 140mm fan).
The default configuration is sufficient for cooling high-end hardware, and we'll demonstrate real-world temperatures later in the review, but if you do want additional airflow, the Three Hundred Two has a further four fan mounts. Two 120mm fans can be installed up front for hard-disk cooling, a side 120mm intake can be added to pull clean air toward your GPU(s), and, unusually, another 120mm fan can be added to the other side to draw heat away from the CPU backplate.
The feature set is strong at this particular price point, but we did come across a few niggling issues that detract from an otherwise straightforward build process. The power cable attached to the rear 120mm fan is surprisingly short and wouldn't reach our motherboard header. It's the first time we've experienced this particular issue, but it's easily resolved by rotating the fan 90 degrees to free up some extra cable length.
There are a couple of other cable-related imperfections to be wary of, too. There's no option to route cables over the top of the motherboard, so there's no elegant way to connect the CPU power cable on boards that require it, and the front-panel connectors on our review sample were labelled incorrectly - the lead labelled Power SW turned out to be HDD LED.
The front USB 3.0 ports are connected through an on-board header, but if your motherboard doesn't provide such functionality, Antec has stated that it will provide a USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 convertor for free - you simply need to ask.
A welcome gesture, and little niggles aside, the Three Hundred Two is generally pleasant to work with. There's plenty of room for high-end kit, and though the cable-routing holes could have been bigger and fitted with rubber grommets, their introduction allows for a cleaner-looking build. A gap of around 3cm between the motherboard tray and rear side panel provides plenty of room for excess cabling, and dust filters are included beneath the PSU and behind the front panel.
Our X58 test bed feels right at home inside the Three Hundred Two, but the dull-grey interior does limit the visual impact. Antec's chassis does have the benefit of half-a-dozen hard-disk bays and two-speed fans, but it isn't as attractive as Corsair's similarly-priced 300R. So which is the better performer?