The Little One - Antec ISK300-65 Mini-ITX Casing



How can the Antec ISK300-65 be so small, you may wonder. The answer becomes apparent once you peel away the casing and look into its belly. Soon, it becomes obvious that the ISK300-65 cannot accommodate 3.5-inch hard drives and normal 5.25-inch optical drives. Instead, its drive cage is big enough only for 2.5-inch hard drives and the slimmer variety optical drives more commonly found in notebooks. Additionally, instead of a traditional PSU, it uses a 65W external AC-to-DC power adapter as its power source and a DC-to-DC ATX power distribution module affixed within the chassis. And lastly, the ISK300-65 only has space for half-height expansion cards. Little wonder then it is small.

Removing away the drive cage, this is what we see. The space on the left is for the motherboard, whereas the power distribution unit is on the right.

The PSU component or to be more accurate, the power distribution unit on the Antec ISK300-65 is marked MD-135 and it helps supply power to the various components in the system requiring various voltage level inputs. In turn, the various power connectors are connected to it via a standard ATX connector.

The Antec ISK300-65 uses Antec's very own 80mm TriCool fan. It has a 3-speed selector and it is very quiet at its lowest speed setting.

Piecing the system together was easy enough, but trying to stow the cables away was a different story. They were bulky and some, like the 24-pin ATX power connector, was obviously too long and too bulky to be stowed or stuffed away neatly.

Also, we must note that with a PSU component that is rated at a measly 65 watts, which means there's little hardware you can pair with it. In fact, there are really only two setups you can readily 'choose' from:- Intel's Atom motherboard kit (Intel D945GCLF2 ) or NVIDIA's Ion platform (which also use the Intel Atom processor).

Here's our system installed with Intel's dual-core ATOM D945GCLF2 kit.

From this angle, we can see that the insides of the Antec ISK300-65 is actually quite spacious. However...

... despite the space, it was difficult to get any decent sort of cable management done. The wires are too bulky and Antec could have helped by meshing the individual wires on the connectors together. Or better yet, they could have pre-routed the cables for us.

You can try mating the Antec ISK300-65 to an enthusiast class mini-ITX board like the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi we've reviewed, but that would be pushing the limits of the ISK300-65's puny PSU, considering that we measured the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi to have an idle power draw of 56W when equipped with a fairly capable but still dual-core based Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor. Moreover, that figure rises to 86W when running graphically intensive applications. Of course you could opt for a very low end Intel processor like the E5000/7000 series or the Pentium Dual-Core series to bring down the power levels, but this will still push the supplied PSU to its limits.

Ultimately, the choice of providing the Antec ISK300-65 with a lowly 65W PSU is puzzling given that it is possible to squeeze even a full height cooler into the case to tame more powerful processors and it can even be outfitted with a half-height discrete graphics card as we attempted to outfit the chassis to test its limits. Of course we don't expect users to actually squeeze it with a full height Intel cooler like in our trials, but given that even the standard half-height Intel coolers can accommodate entry-level quad-core processors, it clearly shows that the Antec ISK300-65 has a lot of untapped potentially held back by the PSU choice.

The Antec ISK300-65 is clearly capable of accommodating an enthusiast class mini-ITX board like the Zotac GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi, so why Antec would choose to pair it with such a low-powered PSU is beyond any of us.

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