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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  • rafaelaustin - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    Heat and noise are the enemies of an HTPC. The temperatures displayed in this test seem exceptionally low for what I've seen reported by others, usually around 55c. Try this with an Intel CPU or a "slimline" case and see what happens. The 520W Powerstream is overkill. Also, where is the TV tuner? It needs a Hauppauge PVR-250 to make this a real HTPC. Reply
  • rafaelaustin - Friday, October 29, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • geogecko - Wednesday, October 20, 2004 - link

    When can we expect to see a more comprehensive review of HTPC cases?

    Some interesting units out there on the net that would be good choices for review, IMO:

    http://www.atechfabrication.com/
    http://www.ahanix.com/ (other newer options)
    http://www.silverstonetek.com/

    And especially the new HT-400 from:
    http://www.kanam.co.kr/
    Reply
  • Bochista - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    My recent purchase of an HDTV puts me in a position where an HTPC would be useful, but I don't think some of the things I intend to do are considered in this review. Some things were hit on however, and I hope to see more cases with these features.

    1. I need LOTS of storage. Archives of my HD Tivo will take up quite a bit of room.
    2. I want to play games on my 62 inch TV, so I need thermals for serious video cards as well.
    3. The IR reciever for remote is nice.
    4. The ability to have an LED panel acknowledge commands from the remote, display track/time of a movie etc. Also, the ability to dim during movie watching so as to be less of a distraction.
    5. Silent Cooling.
    Reply
  • pshrink - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    "Another feature that Ahanix has managed to implement, and others should follow suit, is the IrDA transceiver"

    I can't see anything like a IrDA transceiver in the pictures, and I can't find any info on Ahanix's web site with regard to built-in IrDA capability. Someone please clarify.
    Reply
  • tagaste - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    Amen. Why make it seem like the temperatures are a problem when they aren't? They aren't even close. Perhaps the review has to appear 'balanced' but surely perfectly normal operating temperatures shouldn't be given anything like the same weight as ease of access, noise levels, and aesthetic considerations. When normally-clocked HTPCs actually start failing because of heat from poor ventilation or Johnny burns his hand on the case, then it's time to talk about "thermal issues." Reply
  • iwilson - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    The thermal testing is nonsense. An HTPC places noise control a lot higher in importance than thermal load. The temps quoted are nowhere near the level of causing a problem with any of the components. My HTPC has run for several years with less fans than in the article with absolutely no problems. As long as the PC is stable I couldn't care less if the temperature was 500 degrees inside.

    Case I use is here btw http://www.kanam.co.kr/html/htpc.htm
    Reply
  • Bookie - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    I'm glad you guys are spending more time with the htpc market. I'd like to see a review of silverstone's htpc case. I'm getting ready to drop a lot of money on a new entertainment system (plasma, htpc, and the works), and just want to make the right decision. I'm very interested in the lc02 (black: http://www.silverstonetek.com/products-lc02.htm) with a matx setup, but all the reviews I've read try to fit a full sized mb with all the xtras (unecessary if you ask me). I think that something like this with a mobile processor (mobile athlon 35watt probably) would be the best setup. Reply
  • CrabbyGuy - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    I think that AnandTech's thermal tests very much need expansion for HTPC cases. Very few people will build a PC in a case like this and then leave it freestanding. Rather, HTPCs will be stacked on (or even under) other home theater components and are likely to be installed in cabinets closed at the rear without fans in many living rooms. Testing the cases' thermals in these situations would be very helpful to many of us. Also, recommendations such as, "Put a fan pulling at least 25CFM behind the right-hand side of the case when installing in a closed cabinet and do not operate an HTPC installed in this case without its being open at the front," would seem especially useful. The alternative is either trial and error or component failure for many users. Reply
  • CrabbyGuy - Monday, October 11, 2004 - link

    Reply

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