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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Sonata Plus 550 is a mainstream high-quality mid-tower case from Antec, coming with a very well-known 550 W power supply (Antec Neo HE 550), a three-speed 120 mm fan on the rear and a very beautiful black finishing. Let’s take a full look at this case from Antec.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 1: Antec Sonata Plus 550 case.

As you can see in Figure 1, Sonata Plus 550 is made of zinc-coated steel (a.k.a. SECC) with automotive black paint applied and a plastic front panel without a door protecting its bays.

Sonata Plus 550 has four external 5.25” bays and one of them (the bottom one) can be used to hold a 3.5” floppy disk drive, as it provides a frame to make this possible. This case features two USB ports, one FireWire (IEEE1394) port, mic in jack and headphone out jack. We think a case with this construction level (and price range) should have at least one eSATA port on its front panel, a feature that is becoming more and more common and important, as users are using eSATA-based external hard disk drives to backup their data and/or carry data around.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 2: Front panel.

Between the front panel and the main case body there is a vertical mesh that is used for air intake. Usually air enters the case from a mesh located on the front panel or from below the case, on a small opening available between the front panel and the body of the case.  We think that creating this mesh the way Antec did on this case was a very clever move, as in our opinion this solution provides a better airflow to the case, as this case has a bigger intake area.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 3: Air intake.

In Figure 4, you can see the rear of this case. There you can see the rear 120 mm fan and the power supply that come with the product. This case has seven expansion slots, just like 99% of the cases on the market today.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 4: Rear panel.

You can easily add a real lock to this case making it difficult to unauthorized people to open it and steal parts, what can easily happen on a LAN party, LAN café or exposition, for example. Another use that can be given to this hole is to add a warranty seal, making the warranty voided if the user breaks it.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 5: Place for installing a lock on the rear side of the case.

[nextpage title=”Opening Sonata Plus 550″]On this case you can remove both side panels, but only the left panel uses thumbscrews. The side panel is opened by pulling it towards you, instead of pushing it to the rear side of the case as it happens on other cases. The side panel opens up to 225° and you also can remove it, so you don’t need to detach the panel from the case if you don’t want to, see Figure 6.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 6: Opening Sonata Plus 550.

The thumbscrews used on this case are very different from traditional thumb screws: after you unscrew them from the case they stay stuck on the side panel, so it is impossible to lose them, as shown in Figure 7.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 7: The thumbscrews stay stuck to the side panel.

The side panels are protected internally with a plastic layer. According to Antec this layer was added to reduce the noise level produced by the PC.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 8: The side panels have a plastic layer on their inner side.

Even though on this case you can remove both side panels, the motherboard tray is hard-bolted to the case. This is the strongest disadvantage from this case. Even though it is not difficult to install a motherboard to this case, we like removable trays because they facilitate not only the installation of the motherboard to the case, but also the addition of small components like memories and the CPU to the motherboard. In Figure 9 we show this problem, with the red arrows show the location of the bolts.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 9: The motherboard tray is permanently attached to the chassis.

[nextpage title=”Inside Sonata Plus 550″]In Figure 10 we have an overall look from inside Sonata Plus 550.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 10: Inside Sonata Plus 550.

As mentioned, this case comes with a Neo HE 550 power supply, also from Antec. This power supply is a fine 550 W model, and we have already completely disassembled this unit, so we won’t repeat here all features brought by this model. Read its article if you are interested in learning more about it.

In Figure 11, you can see the rear 120 mm fan and, in Figure 12, its speed control switch, which allows you to configure the fan to rotate on three different speeds. This fan is the same one used on Antec Sonata III 500.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 11: Rear 120 mm fan.

Antec Sonata Plus 550< strong>Figure 12: Speed control from the rear fan.

[nextpage title=”Removing the Frontal Panel”]

For installing drives on this case you need to remove its frontal panel. To do that, simply pull the three plastic latches that hold the panel to the case, see Figure 13. Then the frontal panel will swing to your right-hand side, as shown in Figure 14. The interesting thing is that you can remove the panel by just lifting it, as shown in Figure 15.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 13: Pull these three latches to remove the frontal panel.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 14: Opening the frontal panel.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 15: Just lift the frontal panel if you want to remove it completely from the case.

In Figure 16, you can see the front of the case without its plastic frontal panel and there is a lot to talk about it.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 16: Front of the case without the plastic frontal panel.

As you can see there is dust filter in front of the hard disk drives cage. This dust filter can be removed for cleaning (Figure 17).

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 17: Dust filter.

[nextpage title=”Removing the Cage Door”]

In front of the hard disk drive cage there is a metallic door, where the dust filter is attached to and also where you can install up to two 92 mm fans (not included with the case) to cool down the hard disk drives. You must open this door in order to have access to the hard disk drive bays and to install them.

This door is opened by unscrewing two thumbscrews and just like the thumbscrews used to fasten the side panel they keep stuck to the door, so it is impossible for you to lose them.

Also, just like the frontal panel this door uses two metallic hinges opened on top, so you can swing the door to your left-hand side or completely remove it in order to make it easier to install the hard disk drives.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 18: Cage door opened.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 19: You can remove the cage door by lifting it.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 20: Cage door removed from the case.  You can install two 92 mm fans here.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 21: The thumbscrews are permanently attached to the door, making it impossible for you to lose them.

[nextpage title=”Hard Disk Drive Installation: Drawers”]

The way hard disk drives are installed on this case is one of its highlights. This cage features four drawers for installing hard disk drives, plus three “suspension” mechanisms, which we will explain in more details in the next page. The maximum number of hard disk drives you can have with this case is four or three, depending on the system you choose to use, which is good enough for the majority of users.

The drawer system used on this cage is the same one used by other Antec cases like Sonata III 550. Simply push the side latches, pull the drawer and it is free (see Figure 22). Then just install the hard disk drive to the drawer.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 22: Hard disk drive drawer.

As you can see each drawer has four silicone suspensions. Because of them the hard disk drive body doesn’t touch any metallic part of the case (see Figures 24 and 25), reducing the noise level produced by the PC. Because of the use of these suspensions you need to use longer screws to fasten your hard drives to their drawers. These screws are shown in Figure 23.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 23: Screws that must be used to fasten the hard disk drives to their drawers.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 24: A hard disk drive installed to one of the drawers.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 25: A hard disk drive installed to one of the drawers.

After you installed the hard disk drive to a drawer, just slide the drawer back to the case until you hear a loud “click.”

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 26: Installing the drawer back to the case.

[nextpage title=”Hard Disk Drive Installation: Suspension”]

If you are paranoid with noise this case also offers a suspension mechanism, which is basically a thick rubber band used to install your hard disk drive “floating” inside the hard disk drive cage. To make this mechanism to work correctly, you need to remove the four metallic drawers. If you leave the drawers the hard disk drives will eventually touch the metallic part of the case, generating noise and thus turning the suspension idea useless. So you have to choose between one system and the oth
er.

In theory you can squeeze seven slim hard disk drives into this case, four using the drawers and three using the suspensions, but you would have all drives touching metallic parts, killing the low-noise idea, as explained.

In Figure 27, you can see the three suspension mechanisms.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 27: Suspension mechanisms.

To install a hard disk drive just slide it between the rubber bands, as shown in Figure 28.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 28: Hard disk drive installed.

The hard disk drive, however, will be too loose, making it to slide and fall during transportation. So you need to tighten the rubber band, what can be done by twisting the four plastic holders present (two at each side of the case), see Figure 29:

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 29: Twist the plastic holder to tighten the rubber band. Do this with all four holders.

The plastic holders present on the right side of the case feature a cable holder, which is convenient to store the excess of cables from your PC, like SATA cables and power supply cables.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 30: Cable holders.

[nextpage title=”Optical/Floppy Drive Installation”]

As we have shown, this case has four 5.25” bays and you can transform one of them (the lower one) into a 3.5” bay (which is the default configuration).

Optical drives must be installed using a sliding mechanism. On the bottom of the case you can find six rails to be attached to optical drives, see Figures 31, 32 and 33.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 31: Rails for installing optical drives.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 32: Rails for installing optical drives.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 33: Rails for installing optical drives.

Installation is simple: screw two rails to each optical drive (using thin thread screws) and then simply slide the unit into the bay until you hear a loud click.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 34: Rails attached to an optical drive.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 35: Installing an optical drive to the case.

On Figures 36 and 37 you can see the floppy disk drive drawer. If you want to use this bay as a 5.25” simply unscrew the two rails present on the drawer and screw them on your optical drive.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 36: Floppy disk drive drawer.

Antec Sonata Plus 550Figure 37: Floppy disk drive drawer.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

Sonata Plus 550 case main specs include:

  • Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one.
  • Material: Zinc-coated steel (SECC).
  • Power supply required: Antec Neo HE 550.
  • Available colors: Black.
  • Size: 16.7” x 8.1” x 18.2” (42.5 cm x 20.6 cm x 46.3 cm) (H x W x D).
  • Weight: 26 lbs (12 Kg)
  • Bays: Three external 5.25” bays, one external 3.5” bay that can be used as an extra 5.25” bay and four 3.5” internal bays (or three if the suspension mechanism is used).
  • Expansion slots: Seven.
  • Fans: One 120 mm fan on the rear with a three-position speed control switch.
  • Extra features: Washable air filter.
  • More Information: https://www.antec.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 180.00.

* Researched at Pricewatch.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

This is definitely a high-end case using top-notch finishing and features. In fact it has features that we’ve only seen before on bigger cases. Its size, by the way, is very much appreciated. Even though gamers don’t seem to mind owning big cases (especially when they want to impress their friends), usually average users and eventual gamers prefer cases that won’t take up a lot of their working space.

Noise was the main concern of Antec when developing this case, as it has a plastic layer attached to the side panels and a suspension mechanism for the hard disk drives in order to reduce the noise produced by the PC.

So even though this case may look small and not aggressive-looking to users used to big cases, don’t be fooled by its looks. It is indeed a high-end case with top-notch manufacturing quality.

Its black automotive painting is flawless and this is a heavy case (26 Lbs or 12 Kg). Just to put things into perspective, Sonata III 500 from Antec has the exact same size but weights 20 lbs (9 Kg).

Another thing that makes this case great is its power supply: it comes already with an Antec Neo HE 550 installed, which is a very good power supply that we personally recommend.

We could only find three negative points on this case. First is pricing. Costing around USD 180 it is definitely not an option to all users, but when you think that it comes already with a power supply that alone costs between USD 100-120 then you can see that this product is not as expensive as it seems, especially because we are talking about a high-end product here.

Second, we don’t like the
fact that the motherboard tray is permanently attached to the case. A removable tray makes the motherboard and smaller components like CPU and memories easier to install. On the other hand this setup prevents noise: on cases where the tray can be unscrewed from the chassis the tray isn’t always perfectly fastened to the chassis, being a little bit loose, what generates noise.

And the third negative point in our opinion is the absence of an eSATA port on the frontal panel, especially on a case from this price range.

But we think that if you are looking for a high-quality case already coming with a very good power supply and fancy features – especially the way hard disk drives and optical drives are installed – and have USD 180 to spend you will love this case. It is by far one of the best cases we’ve seen to date, providing a good cost/benefit ratio to users that are looking for a true high-end case.