Pros

Antec provides unmatched fit and finish, while In-Win provides unmatched power and versatility

Cons

The Antec significantly limits the components you can use, while the In-Win suffers from some poor design decisions

Star Rating

Motherboard install

Performance

Now let's talk a bit about performance, which in this situation really comes down mostly to the build experience. When examining our build photos, keep in mind that we used different motherboards, so the placement of components inside each case varies. It turns out that we caught a bit of a lucky break with our motherboard picks, as they placed the CPU mount on opposite ends, which just happened to keep the CPU away from the power supply cables in each of the respective cases. 

Both cases were straight-forward to build in, but Antec gets another win here for the simplest of reasons: it includes a manual. We were shocked to find that the In-Win BQS656 didn't come with one. Perhaps In-Win just expects you to close your eyes and use the Force to build a system in its ITX cases! While the limited build options presented by cases this small mean most builders will probably figure out where all the components and screws go, it's not an ideal situation to keep users guessing. 

On the other hand, there are some very nice internal features that prove that In-Win engineers knew what they were doing, even if their marketing team dropped the ball. Despite coming in at around the same size as the Antec, there's clearly more room for cable management, making the overall build neater. The case also includes smartly-designed removable drive trays for both the 2.5" drive and the optical drive, ensuring that they are both easy to install and very secure. The drive mounting mechanisms can be seen in the photo below. The In-Win case uses a spring-loaded snap-in tray that requies just one screw per tray, while the Antec uses a more conventional hard drive bracket that requires full removal to access either drive, and in fact had the tray pre-installed from the factory in the incorrect orientation, making cable attachment impossible.

The Monitor

Another thoughtful touch in the In-Win case is the inclusion of all the correct power cables for maxed-out hardware configuration. That means a single full-size SATA power cable for an SSD or hard drive, plus a slim-line SATA power cable for a laptop-style optical drive. Most cases that support thin optical drives require the use of adapters, but because there's only one configuration possible here (a single system drive a single optical drive), In-Win went ahead and did the right thing by including the right cables. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the Antec ISK110, as it has the right cables for the use of dual system drives, and no cables for an optical drive, since none will fit. 

So once these systems are build up, how do they perform? Well, clearly, the quad-core-equipped In-Win was far superior, putting up benchmark numbers that were far beyond what the Pentium could muster. That being said, our little Pentium is actually overclockable, and we took it all the up to 4.2GHz without much trouble. That's fun for tweakers, but the quad-core in the In-Win will be fun for those who actually care about maximum performance, as it can still handily outperform the Pentium in most tasks. We will note that the In-Win's bigger power supply comes with one disadvantage besides the huge external power brick: it runs hotter. And it's not just at load, which would potentially result from the more powerful processor. We also found that the power circuitry mounted inside the case generated a significant amount of heat at idle, when the system was pulling less than 20W. The heat is therefore not a result of being over-stressed, but a result of fairly low efficiency. Antec definitely wins in this regard, but of course has lower overall capacity.

Finished looks

In this last photo, the keen observer will see the little In-Win design oversight we alluded to the previous page. Take a look at that extended optical drive. See the problem? Yes, indeed, it's upside-down! And that wasn't a building error, it's a design error. In-Win's mounting mechanism is easy to use and very secure, but alas, it looks like its engineers forgot to actually build a system using it! For that reason, you'll probably want to set this case up vertically if you'll be using the optical drive regularly. You can also see the different approaches to the placement of front panel buttons and ports. Antec has all of them on the front of the case (and has double the number of USB 2.0 ports), while In-Win has place them on the side of the case. Overall, the Antec approach makes more sense, particularly given that the In-Win really can't be used horizontally with an optical drive, which is when its port placement would actually make some sense. Note that neither case offers a reset button, but this isn't a critical omission, as holding down the power button can serve the same purpose.

Conclusion

Is either of these cases perfect? Absolutely not, but they're both very, very good. We award each one 4.5 out of 5 stars, but for different reasons. The Antec ISK110 offers a fabulous design, with fit and finish far beyond what is typically available at its price point. The In-Win BQS656, on the other hand, doesn't deliver any major design wins, nor is it a tremendous value play, but it combines so many great features into one case that it simply has no equal in terms of all-around versatility.

The Antec ISK110-VESA is available from Amazon for $67, and the In-Win BQS656 is available from Amazon for $80, as of our publication date. If you'd like the ultimate low-noise, ultra-compact system, you'll definitely be happy with either of the two cases we tested, depending on your CPU and data drive requirements. Note that the In-Win BQS656 is also available with an internal 120W power supply; it costs $65 at Amazon as of our publication date. Likewise, Antec offers the slightly larger ISK300-150, available at Amazon for $67, which beats even the In-Win in terms of features, but also uses an internal power supply. Both of these cases will run far louder that the models we tested due to the use of internal power supplies.

If you'd like to learn more about all the latest mini-ITX build options, along with other great compact alternatives, check out our Small Form Factor PC Buyer's Guides.

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