Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC Case

Makaveli - 2008-07-09 19:50:22 in Cases
Category: Cases
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: July 20, 2008
Price: $529.95

Introduction:

Putting together any system is difficult, because you need to factor in what components best suit your needs, how much you can spend, and some personal taste. Building an HTPC is no different, except the fact that you really need to know the absolute most you'll do with the system, because nothing is worse than spending much more money on something that you barely use all of its potential. So now you have spent multiple hours researching, comparing, and pricing all of your parts and you're ready to buy. But wait! You're missing something very crucial - an HTPC case to house all of your components.

The idea of an Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC) case is that you're trying to eliminate the piles of hardware in your living room that play your movies, music, and surf the internet. I've had a few HTPC cases, but I've never felt like I can get rid of all the other useless hardware that lies around my room. Could the all new Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case be the unit that finally has everything I need in my home theater setup? This HTPC case features an 7 inch touch screen monitor on the front of the case! How awesome is that? Let's see if this Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case is the best thing since sliced bread.

 

Closer Look:

The Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case comes in a huge box that is quite heavy. I'm going to guess that this case is predominantly made of steel. The box is very simple, but it definitely boasts the 7 inch LCD screen on the front of the case. Upon opening, you'll find the case is securely held in place by two huge Styrofoam pieces and the case is also covered by a plastic bag to prevent any scratches during shipping. On top of the case rests a box labled "Accessories". I can't wait to see what kind of goodies are in that box...

 

 

Now let's take a closer look at the Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case to see what it has to offer.

Closer Look:

The Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 is constructed of aluminum and weighs a good 16.6 pounds without anything installed. On the front left side of the case, you'll find a power button and a space for the HDD LED light to blink and an infrared sensor. On the right side, you'll find ten buttons and a volume knob. On the first row of buttons, from right to left, you'll find "MCE" (Launches Media Center Application), "App. Exit", "Back", up arrow, and "Enter". The second row has "Start", "Menu", left arrow, down arrow, and right arrow. Wait, that's not all! If you pull down the flap below the LCD screen, you'll expose a microphone jack, headphone jack, IEEE 1394 port, and a USB 2.0 port. The bottom right side is where you'll find the multi-card reader which comes in handy a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, one of the main features of this case is the 7" LCD touch screen on the front of the case. It's protected by plastic so that it doesn't get scratched during shipping. Right below the LCD screen is a drive bay for your optical drive and you'll find the open button right under the bay.  I cannot wait to see how this LCD screen looks and works! The back of the case features a standard ATX power supply and I/O shield sections for the designated parts to be installed. Also, you'll find 7 expansion slots, but one has a VGA cable protruding from it. The top of the case has two fan vents that are strategically placed - one above where your video card is and one above your CPU.

 

 

The sides of the case are identical and they have vents to allow hot air to escape from the case as well as cool air to taken into the case to cool down the components. Since this HTPC is likely to be on alot, the more vents and air ducts, the better. I'm definitely glad to see huge vents like this on either side because this machine will be on almost 24/7 in my place.

 

 

Rarely do you see vents on the bottom of the case but with this particular HTPC, Moneual put two vents on the bottom. Both are under each of the hard drive racks, which is excellent placement, since hard drives do get quite hot! Also, the bottom of the case has four rubber feet to keep the case securely in place while it's in use.

 

Now that we've examined the outside of the case, let's get a closer look at what's inside.

 

Closer Look:

To get into the case, you'll need to unscrew the two screws on the back of the case and pull the lid off. I was impressed when I opened the case, because the interior is painted black, like the exterior, which makes it look really good. The front side of the case is unique, because Moneual Lab has placed the hard drive racks symmetrical to one another, allowing you to fit up to four hard drives in total. To remove the hard drive cages, you'll have to unscrew two screws at the bottom of each cage and one screw above them. In between the hard drive cages, you'll see the spot where a single optical drive fits, as well as the backside of the LCD screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back side of the case has two 80mm exhaust fans included as well as a few dust screens. This HTPC case, unlike many others, is able to support standard ATX motherboards! This is a huge plus in my book. You can see where the one VGA cable for the LCD screen runs through the last expansion slot. There is a vent right by the power supply to allow cool air to get into the power supply. Also, you'll find a dust screen near the other side of the power supply vent. The more ventilation - the better.

 

It's time to move on and see the included accessories.

 

Closer Look:

Included in that white box are a screwdriver, screws, a Microsoft Windows Vista capable remote control, AAA batteries for the remote, an aluminum 5.25" drive bay cover, a pen for the touch screen, a manual and a software CD. I was surprised that they would include a screwdriver, so I applaud Moneual Lab for that. However, this might be a turn off for some users, because it's a sign that this case is not tool-less, like most cases on the market today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aluminum drive bay cover has a back side that has 3M tape on it, so that you can stick it on your optical drive. Surprisingly, this aluminum drive bay cover isn't very light.

 

 

The remote control is specially designed for Microsoft Windows Vista and popular media applications such as Windows Media Center. The remote is powered by two AAA batteries and it has a button that feels like a mini joystick in the middle of the remote control. This remote definitely looks like it has everything you're going to need on it.

 

 

Now let's configure the 7" LCD touch screen, so that we can get this case up and running!

Configuration:

Be sure that you connect the VGA cable for the LCD screen to your video card or motherboard. You may need a VGA to DVI converter, like I did, to connect the cable to your video card. When you first power on the case, the LCD screen shows the BIOS and POST screens, but the touch screen feature doesn't work. Once you get into your operating system, the screen will go black until you install the included software. Pop in the disc to your optical drive and follow the on-screen instructions to correctly install the software. You'll also have to setup the remote control with the infrared so that the case will read the request when a button is pushed on the remote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon reboot, you'll have to go into your monitor properties and configure the LCD screen. You have to set the 7" LCD screen as an extension to your desktop (essentially running two monitors as one). The 7" touch screen and the remote control now work. The LCD screen has extremely accurate colors and looks amazing. The recommended screen resolution is 800 x 600 but you can run up to 1024 x 768 which is what I'm going to run it at. The LCD screen is very colorful, bright, and almost reminds me of the T.V. screen on an airplane in the back of the seat in front of yours except more clear.

 

 

The LCD screen is now fully functional, so let's go ahead and check out the specifications and features of this unit before we test it.

Specifications:

 

Case Type
Home Theater PC
Case Dimensions
17" x 18.5" x 6.75" (W x D x H)
Color Black/Silver
Material Aluminum
Motherboard Type
Standard ATX
Power Supply Type Standard ATX
LCD Touch Screen
7 inch Screen Size
15:9 Ratio
800 x 600 (recommended resolution)
External D-sub Video Input
Internal USB touch screen input
Remote Control Unit
MonCaso Remote Control
Rear Fan
2 x 80mm (pre-installed)
External 5.25" Bay
1
External 3.5" Bay
0
Internal 3.5" Bay
4
Expansion Slot
6
Front Panel I/O
MIC, Headphone Jack, 1 x IEEE 1394, 1 x USB 2.0, Media Card Reader, Volume Knob Media Control Button
OS Windows 98 / ME / 2000 / XP / XP MCE / Vista
Accessories Screw Driver, Assemble Screws, AAA Batteries
Weight 16.6 lbs (w/o packaging)

 

Features:

 

-Information sourced from Moneual Lab's website: http://www.monshopper.com/shop/moncaso-972-p-307-c-36_37_41.html

Testing:

To test the temperatures of the Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case, I'll be stressing my system by running Prime 95, HDTune, and 3DMark Vantage at the same time. Idle temperatures were taken after allowing the components to sit inside of the cases for at least 30 minutes, while having absolutely no load applied to them at all. Hopefully, this case will put all of the vents into use and get all of the hot air out, but still be able to get cool air in. Let's start testing and find out! Also, please note that the Bgears case supports only MicroATX motherboards so I put in the ECS G33T-M2 MicroATX motherboard.

Testing Setup:

Comparison Case:

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks like the MonCaso 972 has only slightly better airflow than the Bgears. The different motherboards were the reason behind the different scores in the chipset temperature tests.

Conclusion:

This Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 HTPC case is definitely a must have for anyone willing to pay a premium price for the premium features of this HTPC enclosure. This case combines sleek looks with an amazing 7" LCD touch screen panel on the front of the case, that definitely sets this case above any other HTPC case I've ever owned. The LCD screen was bright, very colorful, and could support up to a 1024 x 768 resolution! I was impressed by the Windows Vista capable remote control, because it's basically a universal remote for your HTPC setup. The fact that this case can fit a standard ATX motherboard is really good, because it allows the user more options when they're deciding on which motherboard to purchase. The aluminum build of this case is solid, but it feels a bit heavy - especially with hardware in it. Speaking of hardware, installing everything into the case wasn't very easy, because it isn't tool-less. The biggest problem I have with this case is the lack of space between the end of your optical drive and the standard ATX motherboard. There was about a whole inch of space for me to fit my SATA power dongle into my DVD burner. I ended up having the dongle plug into the drive and push on the motherboard, so I wasn't very pleased with that. I defintely used the space underneath the hard drive cages to hide some of the loose cables running through the case, so this case is a good one if you're looking for places to hide cables. Overall, I was extremely impressed with how this case looks, how useful and neat the 7" LCD touch screen is, the abundance of accessories included, and the airflow of this case. If you're in the market for a high end HTPC case to eliminate all the extra hardware in your current home theater setup, look no further! The Moneual Lab MonCaso 972 is hands down the greatest HTPC case I've ever tested, but along with it, is also the greatest price tag I've had on any of my previous HTPC cases.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: