Introduction

HTPC cases have been on the market for some time now. We generally referred to them as desktop cases instead of home theater PC cases. The design of each is just about the same - it's the features that set an HTPC apart from a desktop case.

Some of these features include simple hardware such as a smaller power supply or smaller case fans. Many desktop cases are smaller than mid-tower chassis, so hardware with smaller footprints must be used. Other features, which carry functions of a media center PC such as an integrated text display and infrared receiver, are some of the things that make an HTPC just that, an HTPC.

Our first look at the HTPC case was with the D.Vine 4 from Ahanix. We took the case apart and analyzed each feature. We were not trying to review a chassis, but instead point out what was needed to have a successful HTPC chassis.

We then had our first look at a new HTPC chassis from SilverStone Technology, the Lascala 10M. We applied some of the things that we had discovered in our HTPC introduction to this LC10/M and compared it to what we thought should be the standard. We knew, however, that we could not really compare a single case to a set standard and so we come to this.

We managed to get our hands on a new model from Ahanix, the D.Vine 5, a desktop/HTPC chassis from CoolerMaster, the Cavalier 2, and an HTPC chassis from NMediaPC, a company which specializes in bringing the home theater experience to the PC, called the HTPC 100. We compare these models to the SilverStone Lascala 10M to find the best of the pack.

Ahanix D.Vine 5
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  • mcveigh - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    mindless yes you can build a basic htpc with simple components, my current one is a 2.4P4 ATI 9100 radeon, and pVR 250 capture card.

    I want to do 2x resize with ffdshow and for that I'l need a 2.8 or faster processore and for some hardware assisted WMV acceleration I 'd like to get a 6600GT.

    then if I want to convert videos to mpg or wmv for storage thats where my CPU will come into play more.

    yes you can do basic functions with the essentials in a small case like hush pc does. but if you want all the bells and whistles, and not beign limited to 2-3 expansion slots you need a larger case.
    Reply
  • Nintari - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    You are absolutely correct on that you cant have it both ways. I do reviews and guides for HTPCNews.com and have experimented so much with different parts and etc and it took me a very very long time to setup such a powerful HTPC with such low noise and heat. Just so there is no confusion on this I was not sayign the CPU would be completely passive... the system can be set to turn off fans and run completely silent when idle (such is the case with cool n quiet on the AMD athlon 64 cpu, combine that with a systemboard liek the ones from Aopen that have built in fan control and your all set for silence and speed without sacrafice)

    Again as stated earlier you have your opinion on what a HTPC is and should consist of, others have the need for more power to do a lot more with thier HTPC than just basic DVD and PVR. I am not saying you are wrong ut I am stressing that it is incorrect to say that the system being used was overkill I for one find it hard to go back to DVD without ffdshow post processing, the capability to PVR HDTV and perform multiple recordings all at once on my HTPC and therfore find it nessecary for the power.
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    You can't have it both ways though, a silent, passive heatsink inside the system increases need for passive airflow. Spec'ing out a system that has more power than it needs will ultimately produce more heat, need more airflow and either filters (which increase noise level per same flow rate) or a service interval. There's another area where passive theater equipment has an advantage, a passive (proper) design has fewer mechanical parts to break and longer service interval- It's not often one has to open up such equipment to dust it out. Reply
  • Nintari - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    it is all a matter of selecting the rigth parts to work in conjuntion with one another. The AMD Athlon 64 CPU has the cool n quiet tech that can cool the cpu down so much in a optimal environment that the cpu fan can some times even shut it's self off. With the right cooler on the right video card that can be silent as well without using a passive heatsink to allow heat to build up in your case.

    Reply
  • Nintari - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    You are incorrect I built a HTPC with a little bigger gaming card in it. I could have got the 6600GT but then I would not of been able to get a VGA silencer for it at all. The newer NVIDIA cards ahve excellent image quality for DVD movies or TV and ETC when using the NVDVD decoders read up on pure video). I actually cool everythign in my HTPC with ease at extremely low noise levels :) In other words when the room is dead silent I still barely hear my HTPC and that is only when I am on top of it. From across the room it is inaudible.

    I take it you have never ran WMV9 HD content, PVR HDTV content or used FFdshow resize to scale DVD to 1920x1080i to a HDTV set if you had then you would see why more CPU power in a a HTPC is required. I can on my HTPC record two SDTV shows and a HDTV show in the background while I watch a DVD....without the system flinching
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    Nintari, high-end HT equipment is typically large only because it allows passive cooling. If it had audible fans too, it could/would be smaller.

    Again Nintari, you didn't build a HTPC, rather an entire gaming system that ALSO does HTPC functions. Perhaps the difference is in our individual interpretations of what a "HTPC" is... almost all of my boxes have a tuner/cap card of one vintage or another in them but I dont' go calling them all HTPCs.

    No, you dont' want to have "as much CPU power, video performance and mmemory as possible". Well, ok, maybe some do, but it's a negative thing for a HTPC unless you're into the bigger/larger/faster/more-expensive is inherantly better mindset. Otherwise, many people prefer a cost, size, heat, noise optimized system. It would be impossible to cool the components you describe with < 30db of noise, yet some don't want 30db from a HTPC.

    Perhaps my tone started out wrong. I'm not trying to tell anyone what they should do with THEIR HTPC, rather stating my opinion, and an evidence that there are those who aren't looking for just another almost-fullsized desktop system for a HTPC. The market is large enough it should support both extremes, many alternatives.
    Reply
  • Nintari - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    I have to agree with the others on this one... tests for noise levels should have been made with and without the rest of the fans on in the system..

    #17 mindless1: your post is your opinion and I will give you that but to say that these cases are too big is ridiculous. High end and mid range THeater equipment is not small by any means so some of these cases will fit in perfectly. Granted the depth of the cases is one of the worst thing on some of these especially on the D5 from Ahanix (which is excessivly deep). As to the hardware used that is not a total waste at all! Sure the 9800XT should have been used with a silent cooler such as a VGA silencer but really the system specs were good. Even when just using PVR and DVD in a decent HTPC you want to have as much CPU power, video performance and memory as possible especially when post processing DVD movies FFDshow, Playing back WMV9 clips or movies or other intensive tasks. I personally have a AMD A64 3200+ w/ Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu, Nvidia 6800 w/ VGA silencer, V@Box DTA 151 HDTV tuner, SB Audigy 2, Dual PVR cards 2x 300GB hard drives and a few other goodies in my HTPC. The noise levels are very very low and this system can do just about anything I want it to including scale DVD to HDTV levels (on DVDs that are encoded well) and play Half Life 2 and other games at High IQ & resolutions with AA and AF on!
    Reply
  • mindless1 - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    All of these cases are ridiculously large.
    They're not really suitable for HTPC cases at all, they're merely desktop cases instead of towers, with beautified bezels.

    A 2U case is borderline "too big" for a HTPC case. If you can't get a HTPC built into that size or smaller you're doing something terribly wrong. Granted, some setups may require a PCI and/or AGP riser.

    Now the hardware - Athlon 64, R9800XT, and 1GB of memory. RIDICULOUS. A complete and total waste, and inferior to appropriate hardware due to higher thermals and power requirements. This is not a HTPC, it's just the same old desktop system except median-tiered instead of high-end.

    Now, if you actually do want to play games in your living room, so be it, but it's NOT a "HTPC" then, rather a gaming box with a tuner/cap card in it.
    Reply
  • mcveigh - Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - link

    I haven't handled the NMedia but it looks like similar cases out there from it's design and I think the silverstone looks nicer and of a higher quality.

    I want my htpc to look nice. I currently have an delr coolermaster aluminum case and most people don't realize it's a PC.

    so i'm going with the minority and saying I loke the Silverstone :)
    Reply
  • Mears - Monday, December 27, 2004 - link

    Man, I wish the NMedia accepted a full ATX board. I'd buy it in a heart beat... Reply

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