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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  • warped6 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I purchased one of these back in the late spring. I too tried putting the DVD in the bottom position and it didn't fit. I then found out that it wasn't meant to hold an optical drive. It's meant to hold a VFD display so you can have the extra little door open to see the display. You can see this on there web site.Unless there is a short optical drive that I haven't found yet.

    I also replaced all of the fans with quieter ones. That helped quite a bit as far as noise.

    I've been very happy with the box, now if I could just get the software to work the way I want it too and so the wife can deal with it, I could move it into the living room. :-)
    Reply
  • bearxor - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I know a lot of people are complaining because you reviewed some fairly low-end HTPC cases, but these are all in the price range that I'm looking at, which is 90-130. I was settled on a Cooler Master case, but after reading what you guys wrote about the Tenor, I might just go with it. I had decided against it because of the blue LED lights, but like you said, I could just disconnect them.

    Not all of us are willing to spend 200-300 dollars on just a case for our HTPC, this review was for us.
    Reply
  • bschuler2004 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I still contend the best HTPC is a HTPC out of sight controlled via RF remote. Why even have a pc in the living room? Your cable company doesn't put it's Video On Demand servers in your living room.. why would you? It just doesn't make sense. Plus, then you can use any case, can be as loud as you want.. cuz nothing in the living room is as quiet as an Svideo,Rca, etc cable.. You save money, space, and alot of headaches. Reply
  • BigLan - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I agree, to a point. My HTPC is a generic mid-tower which has similar dimensions to my sub. It doesn't really look too out of place except fot the blue LED in the power supply.

    I've been thinking more and more that the ideal setup would be a non-descript PC box on the floor or hidden, with an external usb DVD drive (or two) and the remote control receiver placed near the amp/receiver.

    Most of the current htpc cases seem to appeal to the bling factor, which I learned the hard way meant loud fans and inadequate cooling.
    Reply
  • PDubya - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    On page 5, the "removable cap" looks to be recessed, so I'm guessing you could place some filtration medium in that capped area. Just my two cents. Reply
  • Tamale - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    but that's the exhaust.. I'm still not sure what good putting a filter on the exhaust side of the power supply would do... Reply
  • bldckstark - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I agree that putting a filter on the exhaust side would be useless, but the cover is there for some reason. I have several machines here at work that have covers very similar to this that are used for air intake filters. Was the PSU checked for air flow direction? Maybe they reversed it in this application. Reply
  • bldckstark - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    The users manual states in the cooling section that you should not "block the air intake vents on the top panel, the front left side (at the filter) or the back (ventilated PCI slot covers." They are calling it an intake. This is the EC manual, not the US version. They are quite different, and there is no mention of the cover in the US version.

    http://www.antec.com/us/support_productInfo_detail...">EC users manual in English - pdf
    Check page 6 under "Important Notes On Cooling"
    Reply
  • UrQuan3 - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    I understand that this review is geared more towards gaming rigs in the livingroom than for video recording/playback machines, still I'd like to know about some of those systems as well. I've been looking at picking up either an ATX P4 or a mini-ITX Pentium M machine from http://www.hushtechnologies.net/">Hush. Just wondering if anyone has tried one. Reply
  • OrSin - Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - link

    500 is the low end of those case. They you pay extra for stuff like a reset buttom.
    Crazy over priced. I could see going as high $ or even alittle more if you want the front display, but $500+ ?. I guess if I spent $10,000 on Theathe systems it would not too bad. But $500 you could just hide a regular systems in the wall or something.
    Reply

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