In fact, the space around the motherboard in the Antec 902 is pretty cramped on all sides making initial hardware installation more than a little tricky. Once it’s all fitted in routing cables quickly becomes a lot more difficult – we’d certainly advise you to fit the PSU first and tidy all your cables away before
fitting the motherboard.
This process is made easier by the 902’s much improved cable management which now benefits from pre-cut cable routing holes, reusable cable ties and more space behind the fixed motherboard tray in which to store those pesky spare wires.
The drive bay system is, just as it was on the original 900, fully modular with space for up to nine separate 5.25” drives, or any drive combination using the two included three bay hard disk drive mount cages. These cages are just as they were in the original 900, with space for three 3.5” hard disk drives in each, with the cage sliding out the front of the case for easy maintenance and drive replacement.
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Evidently this is a big advantage because it means you won’t need to dismantle your entire machine just to swap out a hard disk. However, while extremely flexible, the hard drive cages are somewhat annoying in demanding you unscrew no less than eight thumb screws before removal (four on each side) – a tedious process, but at least they don't require a screwdriver.
However, we do lament the lack of any sort of hard disk vibration deadening. Unlike the excellent Antec P182 the hard disks mount directly into the case's frame work, so any drive noise and vibration will be amplified.
The drive bays also cause problems when fitting larger graphics cards into the 902, just as we found two years ago when building a system into the 900. While 10 inch cards like the 9800 GTX+ and HD 4870 fit with a little room to play with, 10.5 inch cards like the GTX 2xx series or ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2 will only just fit by the skin of their teeth with some angular cable management for PCI-Express connectors as well. This is an issue that’s compounded by the decision to include an internal 120mm fan mount on the back of one of the drive cages. Designed to provide even more cooling for your GPU or CPU if you so need it, it just gets in the way if you’re running even a somewhat recent graphics card, although it is thankfully easy enough to remove or relocate.
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One very positive addition to the drive bays is the new removable dust filter system. All too often a case manufacturer has simply tacked on dust filters as an afterthought and it’s shown by the fact they break or are difficult to get to, but here the filters are well engineered, solid and very easy to remove and refit. Mounted in front of both of the front 120mm intake fans in each drive cage and over the 120mm intake mounting on the side panel, the filters will really help keep the level of dust and musk that gets inside the case to a minimum, although accessing the front pair them does require the unfastening of those same eight thumb screws per drive bay.
So while not as technically impressive on the inside as it is on the outside, thanks mostly to some still unresolved ease of use problems and a cramped build space, the Antec 902 is certainly much improved over its forbearer. Now let’s find out how that ambitious cooling set up is able to handle our high thermal output hardware in testing.