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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  • Tamale - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    The 'POS' power supply happens to deliver steadier voltages to the highest-end gear I've gotten my hands on (and no, the P4 test bed isn't the most powerful thing I've tested it in) than anything else that's passed through my hands, and that includes over a dozen power supplies by high-end manufacturers. I'm no reviewer of power supplies yet, as we're still working on that, but I guarantee you that this is a fine unit, especially for the area of case reviews, because in quiet mode it does a fantastic job of staying silent enough to hear the case fans and still provides rock-solid voltages to a stressed-out system. It also gets warm when in quiet mode in the cases that don't ventilate the power supply well enough, which is another good measure of a case. Perhaps most important however is the modular nature of the unit, and even though I've tried other modular units none were as quiet as the MadDog.

    Secondly, the thermaltake golden orb II at full voltage is quieter than any of zalman's coolers at full voltage. While I understand that the zalman will probably get lower temperatures, It is absolutely essential that the CPU cooler in my test bed make as little noise as possible, and the golden orb II does just that.

    The recurring theme in your post seems to me to be that you want 'the perfect HTPC', but the whole idea of a case review is to isolate everything but the case as much as possible, and sometimes hotter components do a better job of illustrating the deficiencies of units than the latest and greatest.

    Trust me on this one, if we used the absolute best gear available the comparisons would be much muddier.

    As for the subjective comment, my scale of 1-10 can be thought of as a scale of tolerance.. with 5 basically being the threshold... anything higher than that really is 'too loud for the given application' and anything lower than 4 is 'acceptable'. It's not meant to be a numerically accurate scale of any sort. I felt very comfortable with the final subject ratings I gave these cases, because the Tenor and PC-800B just barely passed my personal threshold test, and I believe most users will agree.
    Reply
  • tayhimself - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I hope you realize other PSUs are likely quieter and more efficient than "Mad Dog". Sure the may be quiet to your ears, but thats too subjective to really mean anything. Sadly, you rate the modular nature as being an important issue when it is not. The PSU getting warm in quiet mode may be a sign of a PSU not getting enough airflow.

    And you say "its silent enough to hear case fans". While that can be true, the PSU and Tt golden orb noise signatures can drown out subtler differences between the cases in terms of noise of the case fans. This is almost obvious from your review as you dont perceive the difference of 9 dB to be significant. Its better to use quality quiet components so you can tell what the case is contributing to the noise spectrum. Since this is about making case buying decisions, the other factors are best isolated.
    Reply
  • Avalon - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    Get crackin'. Reply
  • mrgq912 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    to tired to read the article but first post.

    Reply
  • mrgq912 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    okay now that I have that out of my system. How come you guys never review stuff from alienware or voodoopc. Those guys make HTPC's aswell. I never every heard of the players in this review making HTPC's untill today. Well nice to know i have options.

    Would buy one if i could, untill then i will live with my ati tv wonder elite.

    Reply
  • ksherman - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    uh, cuz Alienware and Voodoo are over priced peices of DooDoo... and because this site is more geared around people that build their own machines... Reply

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