We're not sold on the $90 Antec Minuet 300, but it has nothing to do with its design. The clean and simple exterior speaks for itself. Just look at our photos or watch the video, and you'll see that it's easy to imagine the Minuet 300 sitting on a shelf in your living room. We also like its removable drive cage, something we wish was more commonly found on full-size desktop cases. Unfortunately for Antec and other small-form-factor (SFF) PC manufacturers, Apple and its Mac Mini Core Duo have ruined the value proposition for practically every small-form-factor DIY project--even with a well-designed case such as the Minuet 300.
For $599, you can get the basic 1.67GHz Mac Mini Core Duo. We priced out the parts for building an equivalent system from scratch with the Minuet 300 (including a dual-core AMD processor and Windows Media Center 2005) and arrived at a figure of $750. Since you can't beat Apple on price (wow, that sounds weird), the only type of homemade PC that makes sense to build with the Antec Minuet 300--and any case like it--is either a media server with a larger hard drive than the Mac Mini's current 120GB maximum or a more pedestrian system that's extremely less powerful and, hopefully, less expensive. None of these market realities is the Minuet 300's fault, but unless you simply enjoy building PCs or have a specialized need this case can meet, Apple has made building your own nongaming SFF PC impractical.
We call the Minuet 300 a nongaming SFF case because it's so narrow it can accept only low-profile expansion cards. These cards, also known as half-height cards, are fine for adding expansion ports and other non-performance-oriented upgrades, but you won't find a high-performance graphics card that's not a full-size PCI Express card. That's not necessarily a huge loss, however, because the bundled 300-watt power supply probably couldn't put out enough juice to power an entire PC using a higher-end 3D. What the Minuet 300 does have going for it is sleek looks and a removable drive cage. Being able to remove the cage makes it easier to install the optical drive and the hard drive (there's one bay for each plus a second, front-accessible 3.5-inch bay for, say, a media card reader). We particularly appreciate this feature on an SFF case where space is tight; it also makes installing the motherboard and other hardware and routing the cables a breeze.