Introduction

With the amazing rate at which full-fledged computers are dropping in price, it’s really no wonder why they’re starting to take over more and more roles that used to be accomplished by simpler machines. For everything from car stereo systems to hold massive music collections to kitchen machines for helping retrieve and store recipes, these “specialized” computer uses seem to only be expanding in number.

The home theater, a natural target for this expansion, has certainly received more attention than most others – and for good reason. To make a computer feel right in an office setting is one thing, but to make it work in a living room, many adjustments (some might call “sacrifices”) have to be made.

By far and large, the biggest change when switching to a home theater PC (HTPC) that has to be made to the computer is the case. Vertical towers (despite all the recent improvements in the looks department) still simply don’t work well aesthetically with other livingroom electronic components.

Luckily, there have been many improvements made in this category since the inception of the HTPC, and as such, we were able to round up four very nice looking enclosures to compare in this article. Every unit is advertised as being able to handle a full ATX motherboard, and since the demands for a powerful HTPC are relatively high, we’ll be giving these cases’ cooling systems a vigorous workout with a brand new 3 gigahertz Pentium 4-based ATX test bed.

With all that being said, let’s get started by simply checking out the units individually, starting in alphabetical order.

3R Mstation HT-1100
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  • BigandSlimey - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    These guys http://www.atechfabrication.com/products/HTPC_case...">http://www.atechfabrication.com/products/HTPC_case... have been designing their cases in conjunction with the HTPC guru's at avsforum. I'd suggest anyone planning to build a HTPC to go to http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=...">http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?f=... and do some reading, there's a lot to consider.

    I'm also surprised at your omission of the Ahanix cases http://www.ahanix.com/ahanix_product_list.asp?cid=...">http://www.ahanix.com/ahanix_product_list.asp?cid=... which IMO look a lot better than any of the options on your article.

    See also: http://www.origenae.com/products_htpc.htm">http://www.origenae.com/products_htpc.htm
    http://www.silverstonetek.com/product-case.htm">http://www.silverstonetek.com/product-case.htm
    Reply
  • ceefka - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Those Origenae look very nice. I meant the X15 in my earlier comment. This one will cost around 500 bucks. Expensive, but very pretty. Reply
  • lukecon - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    All well and good on the review love AnandTech's review but I think you guys forgot something - The TV tuner in your system - I mean it is a Home Theater PC.
    Reply
  • Tamale - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    The tuner shouldn't really pose any additional problems with a particular case, and the 6600GT we use gets as hot or even hotter than most video cards with built-in tuners.

    Perhaps the cooling in an HTPC would be changed dramatically though if another expansion card is also in the system.. hmm.. I'll have to think about that one. Thanks for the comment.
    Reply
  • BigLan - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Actually, tuners can get pretty toasty, maybe not as hot as a video card, but they don't have active cooling on them. An MCE-500 dual tuner stuck in the last slot with no airflow could be a problem.

    If you are adding a soundcard as well, it can also impede airflow which exacerbates the problem.
    Reply
  • tkr2099 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Very nice review! I'm planning on building a HTPC this holiday season, so this review could not have come at a better time. Thank you, Anandtech, for another extremely well written and helpful review! Reply
  • tayhimself - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    IMO Silverstone especially and less so Ahanix are specialized HTPC vendors. Either you didnt know this, didnt bother to do research, or didnt get a free sample from them. None of which is a terribly good thing.
    AFAIK no 3R systems cases have been available in North America since about 3 years ago when newegg carried a few. Theyre a Korean manufacturer of quality cases that are quite popular in Australia (I'm in Canada FYI).

    Also, why the POS power supply along with the lousy thermaltake heatsink with a hot P4 system? Not too many people are building HTPCs with P4s, and they tend to use better components than Mad Dog and ThermalTake (no offense to the *bling* obsessed).

    The measurements dont jive with the subjective measurements as a 9 dB difference between the loudest and quietest is almost twice as loud.

    A poor review, that doesnt belong on AT. I could probably write a better review and I've never done one before.
    Reply
  • MPE - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I could probably write a better review and I've never done one before.

    Cop out - not to mention inconsequential, immature, ad hominem, and probably false.
    Reply
  • tayhimself - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    ad hominem? Go to http://dictionary.com">dictionary.com Reply
  • ceefka - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Isn't that just perfect? If you can get these temperature numbers with P4, you know that a 90nm s939 is going to do just fine.

    There are so many cases to chose from. Even with built in LCD screens (not cheap btw). Maybe AT can inlcude HTPC's in their entry/mid-range/high-end reviews and builds. On the other hand, this could be a totally different category by itself. You'd also have the opportunity to chose platform.

    This brings forth the next question: How long before Apple makes a Home-Pod, HTPC based on Mac ingrediënts. They should be able to make/develop one by now.
    Reply

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