HTPC GuideZertz , technodanvan , tacohunter52 - March 15, 2009
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HTPC Computer Case:
It's never easy to choose a computer case. You have so many options, and you're going to want it to look nice. You may decide you like some features better than others. Or you might just pick the case based on the materials it's made from. No matter how you decide on your case, you'll want to make sure it performs as good as it looks. You're not going to want all your expensive hardware in a case that gets so hot the side door explodes. This is extremely critical for HTPC cases, as they're notorious for not having good airflow.
You should know that an HTPC case is not a slim case. If you buy a slim case for whatever reason, be aware that most expansion slot cards will not fit. Slim cases use a highly retarded half height expansion slot called low profile expansion slot. A real HTPC case is smaller than a usual case, but can fit most cards. They come in all shapes and sizes, with different price tags and different features. Below are a few cases that I like, but many many more exist. If you do not like the looks of these, but would like help deciding, feel free to ask around in the forums, or shoot me a PM.
When deciding which case to use consider the following:
- Your biggest concern will be heat. You should look at both the intake and outtake fans. Imagine what you think the airflow would look like. If you'll be using a lot of hard drives you may want to consider air moving over them as well. Some of the more expensive cases have better airflow, so they are definitely something to consider.
- Noise should be your next concern. You're not going to want to reach a quiet point in a movie only to get blasted by fans with high decibel levels. If you purchase your own fans they may be quieter. You could also just buy a more expensive case, because they usually have some kind of noise dampening in their design. You can purchase or make your own rubber mounts for your HDD's. This will stop them from vibrating against the case, which can be more annoying than you may think. You can buy a dedicated fan controller. This way you'll be able to have quiet fans while watching a movie, and loud fans whenever it's a good time to have loud fans. Another extremely easy way to dampen sound is to buy special sound dampening foam. It's not that hard to find. In fact, most Radio Shack's carry it.
Now for my choices. Remember these are not the only cases out there. You can easily find cheaper and more expensive cases by just spending five minutes on Google.
- Silverstone SST-LC17-B: I consider this a basic HTPC case. It's not the best looking and it doesn't have any special features. It will support both ATX and mATX, as well as 7 expansion slot cards. This is a great case if you're not looking for anything too flashy.
- LIAN LI PC-C32B:LIAN LI is known for having great computer cases, but they come at a price. The PC-C32B isn't too expensive, but I'm not all that fond of this case's cooling solution. It consists of only two 120mm fans located in the middle of the case. You'll either be blowing hot air from your HDD's and optical drives onto you motherboard, or you'll be blowing hot air from your motherboard towards your HDD's and optical drives. You can adjust where the fans are positioned, but I see no positive impact from anywhere you can put them. The case does however come with anti-vibrational washers and springs that can be used to limit noise. This case also has a sleek design, so if that's what you're looking for, this is definitely a case to look into.
- Thermaltake Mozart SX Media Lab: This is Thermaltake's sleek, feature-filled HTPC case. It has decent cooling, as well as a built-in media lab. It comes with a controller and should fit most hardware. The one downside is the number of expansion slots; you'll only have three. You'll need to use a special PCIe card that allows you to mount your hardware sideways. Without that you won't be able to use any PCI slots, because the expansion slots are mounted sideways on the case. While this may be a major downside, I'd still say this case is one to at least consider.
- Apevia X-MASTER-GN/500: An extremely cheap HTPC case. This would be great for anyone on a budget.
- ZALMAN HD160Plus: Zalman is known for its CPU coolers. Logically a heat sink company should be able to make a case that cools very well, and from what I've heard about the HD160Plus, Zalman has done just that. It's a little pricey, but it does look very nice. It comes with 7 expansion slots, an LCD panel, and the ability to use both ATX and mATX.
- Moneual LAB MonCaso 932T: This is the most expensive case I'll be listing. It is also the best I've seen, but due to price, I will not recommend it for the average HTPC. If you're willing to shell out the cash, you'll be granted a few cool things, not the least of which is a sexy case. The case has 7" touch screen that has an external D-sub video input. You'll also be greeted with 6 expansion slots, ATX support, and two 80mm fans. If you don't mind shelling out the cash, I'd definitely look into this case.