Introduction

Home Theater PCs - what was once a basement experiment for those seeking to bring video to their televisions has turned into a major breakthrough in home computing and entertainment. We recall the days when DVD decoder cards like Sigma Designs' Hollywood Plus were the furthest that one could get in bringing digitized video to their home theater systems.

Then came DVI output, which brought the urge to further develop the idea of a home theater PC. Various products exist today which boast full home theater capabilities/compatibility such as Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition, which we had a chance to look at a few weeks ago, as well as third party software packages from SnapStream (BeyondTV) and even open source Linux based solutions such as MythTV, which we also checked out last month. With this new software came hardware requirements that were very specific and limited, but now, the software are expanding to support various types of hardware from a longer list of manufacturers.

What many fail to look into is how their home theater PC will look when placed...in their home theater! We are so occupied in the hardware and software side of things that we tend to forget about what we will house the equipment in when we are finished building the system.

This is where the HTPC case comes into play. Like the mid-tower cases that we have been reviewing for a while now, we need to run thermal and sound benchmarks in order to find out whether the particular chassis will be a best fit for our home theater setup. Sound is especially important in choosing the right HTPC chassis, since no one likes the hum of a fan to accommodate their surround sound setup.

When it comes to cases, it is much easier to mix and match them with hardware, since they are just housings for standardized equipment and only differ by various features, which add functionality to the HTPC experience. In this first HTPC case review, we will be looking at the D.Vine 4 HTPC chassis from Ahanix to get a feel of the standard layout and features that an HTPC case should have. So, let's get started.

More information is available on the D.Vine 4 at Ahanix's website.

Checklist – What to look for
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  • jeffyjones - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    I have the D5 case, and I love how it looks. The display is kind of useless, and I hate the cheap punch-out slot covers, but it looks fabulous from the front. Reply
  • PuravSanghani - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    #9: This article was actually meant to be an introduction to the HTPC case genre, as the title states, and not really a full blown review. We chose the D.Vine 4 because, well, we needed to start somewhere and rest assured, we will have newer HTPC cases to review in the future! Reply
  • pmark - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Why did you choose to review this one when it seems that Ahanix has newer verisons of the case out? Reply
  • maxdido - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    perhaps a stupid question but i'm new to htpc.
    how do you control this thing. is there a remote?
    or do you have to buy one?
    Reply
  • tis66 - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Just a suggestion:

    it'd be nice 2 include some pictures to see the actual cabling, speakers setup, and how the HTPC fit in with other AV equipments in a living room, just to give a clearer view of its usefulness.
    Reply
  • zagaroth - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    I still think the way to go for a really nice look is to get something along the lines of http://www.mini-itx.com/store/default.asp?c=3 for a nice slimline case and then use MythTV. (i like the 'Travla C137 Mini-ITX Case - Black' It fits right in with my stuff.) Having a quite (or in some case's fanless) case with NO harddrive and a quite dvd drive beside the TV. Have it boot over the network from a grunty machine with 2-4 TV tuner cards in it in the basement where it can be as loud as you want makes for a nice setup. The only cables that end up going into it is a network cable a power cable and then the svideo-out and coax-digital audio out. I've found my EPIA-M10000 can be made passavely cooled and is gruntly enough to do want i want. Though if you were to buy one now you can get one of the MII or something which provide alot more power... Reply
  • PuravSanghani - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    ksherman: We didn't mean to sound like we were knocking it or anything. It is a well constructed case and this article was basically a starting point in our expansion towards a wider range of cases. As we look at more HTPC cases we will begin to see trends in results much like those in mid tower cases. But comparing cooling to mid tower cases should not be an issue as almost all of the medium sized mid tower cases match the size of Ahanix's HTPC chassis.

    TO summarize what we learned in HTPC cases there is a trade off between thermal and sound results; a cooler running system with larger or more fans, or a quieter system with the smaller, less powerful fans.
    Reply
  • ksherman - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    I think it rocks! Though I dont see why it was nocked on because it was about 5-6 degrees hotter than a good mid-tower case... It is really not that big of a difference, and at leasts its quiet. Reply
  • Koing - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    Ditto with Octunar99.

    When you spend upwards of £250 on a dam hifi stand you don't mind spending £200 on a pc case for your hifi rack.

    If you have invested quite a bit of money in to your kit you don't mind spending money on this.

    It looks nice.

    Koing
    Reply
  • Octunar99 - Sunday, October 10, 2004 - link

    I think the point is that no self respecting audiophile would have a regular PC in his/her audio rack or next to his/her TV/Home Theater.

    This really give you the ability to integrate a PC in your audio rack and have it look like it supposed to be there.

    Two thumbs up! I would like to a slim version however. My next audio rack will feature slim components to balance with my Plasma.
    Reply

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