Introducing the Antec Sonata IV

Reviewing the Antec Sonata IV presented an interesting opportunity for me: while the other cases we've reviewed thus far have been experiences with new hardware, the Sonata IV is the next in a line of cases I'm particularly familiar with. I've built machines in every model from Antec's main Sonata range; my dad's computer is in an old Sonata, my ex-girlfriend's computer is in my old Sonata II, and a close friend's machine is purring along in a Sonata III. As a result, it's a chance to see how Antec's design has evolved over time. But it's more than that: the Sonata line has for a long time been a go-to for quiet computing with reasonable thermals. Has that changed with the Sonata IV?

At first glance, the Sonata IV looks an awful lot like the Sonata III but a little bit larger and with the ventilation changed around. For the Sonata IV, Antec seems to have relaxed their less-is-more approach a little bit in a bid to get with the times. While power consumption of mainstream desktop machines hasn't grown tremendously over the past few years, each successive generation of Sonata has seen a more substantial power supply included with it. The Sonata II's was rated at 420 watts and the Sonata III's at 500W - still more than enough for most modern systems. The Sonata IV ratchets things up to a 620W Antec Neo ECO, 80 Plus certified. It's an awful lot of power for what's otherwise a relatively modest enclosure.

Antec Sonata IV Specifications
Motherboard Form Factor ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
Drive Bays External 3x 5.25"
Internal 4x 3.5", 1x 2.5"
Cooling Front -
Rear 1x 120mm Antec TriCool exhaust fan
Top -
Side -
Bottom -
Expansion Slots 7
Front I/O Port 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, mic and headphone jacks
Top I/O Port -
Power Supply Size ATX; 620-watt Antec Neo ECO 80 Plus power supply included
Clearance 11" (Expansion Cards), 180mm (CPU HSF), 260mm (PSU)
Weight 21.1 lbs.
Dimensions 18.9" x 8.1" x 17.3"
Price $160 MSRP; starting at $131 online

What's not immediately obvious here is that Antec has physically expanded the Sonata IV's dimensions a bit from its predecessors as well. The Sonata III was a fine case, but getting a video card like the ATI Radeon HD 5870 in was extremely difficult; the back end of the card butts up squarely against the hard drive trays. The IV is about half an inch longer and taller, though width remains unchanged.

Another thing that has expanded but unfortunately in exactly the wrong way is the price tag: part of the appeal of the earlier models was that they were good cases with good power supplies for a good price. They tended to top out at $120 in retail stores, could be found for about $100 if you knew where to look, and were a great one-stop for a quick and easy build. At an MSRP of $159, though, the Sonata IV stops being an intriguing value proposition and starts to compete against enthusiast enclosures like the Corsair Graphite 600T and even Antec's own P183.

We can currently find the previous generation Sonata III for $114, compared to $131 for the Sonata IV, so mostly you're paying $17 extra to move from a 500W PSU to a 620W 80 Plus PSU. That's a fair proposition, but as noted we used to see the III going for closer to $100 online, so $30 for the PSU upgrade becomes a somewhat questionable value.

In and Around the Antec Sonata IV
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  • inspire3 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Nice Review.

    I hope Antec uses this review to get back to being the leader in cases again. I've bought my first Cooler Master case in a long time (Centurion 5 was the last CM I bought). Now I am buying a CM HAF 932. Its looking like I'll be moving to CM or InWin. :( Come on Antec, Longer and Wider cases.

    I have a P182, P183 and 2 300 cases.
  • fb39ca4 - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    That's what she said.

    This case looks kind of disappointing. You could get a $50 dollar case with more features, a decent 600w psu and quieter fans for less.
  • TrackSmart - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    I've always liked the Sonata line (My current build is in a Sonata III), but I'm not sure that Antec has gone far enough in this rebuild to justify the higher price. Some observations:

    On the old Sonata III I had to put the fan-control wire through the back of the case so I could change the speed without opening the case (kind of ghetto). I'm glad such "hacks" are no longer necessary. That said, why doesn't Antech include a smarter fan whose speed can be controlled by the motherboard? It's now a $160 case - they can afford to do that now.

    And the price increase seems unnecessary. There are few new features. The beauty of the previous models was that for $90 - $100 (online) you got a classy looking case, that was reasonably quiet and came with a quality powersupply. At the current price point, there's a lot more competition, and Antec hasn't stepped up their game in terms of features or design.

    I *have* seen a failed Antec PSU (on my previous Antec case). But you know what? Even though the case was 2 years and 11 months old (on month away from the end of the warranty) Antec sent me a new one and didn't fuss in the least about it. So they have earned some loyalty from me for their good customer service.

    I just wish they'd stop being just a few easy steps away from making a truly gread case!
  • TrackSmart - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    One last thing: Nice review. It's sad the the street price of the old Sonata III seems to be *higher* than it used to be. Given how it's aged, I couldn't justify spending $120 on it for a new build.

    Dustin, what's your new recommendation for the $100 price bracket? (Something with a design that an adult won't be embarrassed to have in the family room.)
  • nowayout99 - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    I like Antec's Sonata line. I've used a Solo for 2 build generations now because I wasn't able to find a suitable newer replacement for my Sandy Bridge build a few months back. It even has decent cable management to boot.

    I like the Sonata line because they're clean and simply designed. They're almost old fashioned in their simplicity by today's gaudy standards. Cases are getting bigger, uglier and louder, which is turning me off every step of the way. Openings for half a dozen fans = more noise = wrong direction for me.

    All that being said, the Sonata line could use some update tweaking. They don't need to reinvent the wheel as far as how HDDs or PSUs are mounted. Does it REALLY matter? Just keep it true to its purpose -- clean, simple and quiet.
  • rgsaunders - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Local pricing in Kingston, ON is 109.99 after $20 MIR, quite reasonable considering the enhanced power supply, however, I do think it is time for them to make the case a little deeper and wider so that enthusiast level components can be fitted easily, Antec needs to do a little demographic research.
  • Hrel - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    It's overpriced and doesn't offer silent enough operation or tooless enough design.
  • velis - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I had sonata 1 and I almost laughed when I read about all the woes you had:

    I had the exact same problems with PSU in the original. That crossbar is insane and to top it all off, the PSU vibrates against it (in time) which was the ultimate reason I changed the case for.

    Also the video card clearance - OK, they added half an inch, but that is only enough for mid-high end cards - this is ridiculous. I don't buy dual GPU cards, but still I'd like enough clearance to not break my fingers every time I mess with my gfx card.

    And finally the drive mounting: I must say I liked the mounting in the original Sonata: it reduced the vibrations and made more than enough room for my drives, all of them easily manageable. The only thing I missed was the pre-mounted power and sata connectors so that I could just slide the drive in and it would be plugged in already.
    Looking at the pictures and reading your woes, I see that they got even worse in the latest generations: I now have a P180 and its bottom drive bay is a nightmare to handle. You break your fingers and still the cables rattle against the fan mounted 5cm after the darn thing.

    While at P180 I must also say comment on those tri-speed fans: they are a bunch of rattles. The only tolerable setting is low and that one does not cool. I ordered decent fans TOGETHER with the P180 order and replaced them immediatley. They never saw a volt from my PSU.

    I moved to P180 because I hoped for better cooling. SPCR was praising the case left and right. Turns out the Sonata was just as good. I went water after that.

    That said I must agree that this is one of the most beautiful cases around...

    Any chance for a review of a really minimalistic case? As small as possible still fitting an ATX Motherboard?
  • Dustin Sklavos - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I had a P182 and honestly I kind of miss it. Cooling is very effective, and the P183 does solve a lot of the problems the P182 had: there's a hole in the motherboard tray for heatsink backplates, and that stupid center fan in the bottom chamber was moved to the front of the case.

    Once I've cleared my current queue of cases, I'll start explicitly requesting some smaller cases.
  • Daeros - Saturday, June 11, 2011 - link

    I built my most recent computer a bit over 2 years ago now, and I love my case. I have the antec 300, and it is fantastic. No, it isn't silent, but it supports a 3.8GHz overclock on an i7 920 and xfire 4870s with no issues. and it idles very quiet. Just don't get the one with the crummy 2 speed led fans. Plus it only $60, leaving plenty left over for a very nice psu of your choice.

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