Introduction

It hasn't been that long since we last examined the HTPC scene, and afterwards, we were starting to wonder if anyone knew just exactly what it took to engineer a perfect HTPC case. We say this not because the last four cases we reviewed were poor performers, but simply because it seems like each one managed to just barely miss something that, when it comes right down to it, is pretty important in an home theater case.

Zalman hasn't had much of a history in case design per se, but their presence in the cooling industry is now practically ubiquitous. Starting especially with the fantastic 7000 series CPU coolers, and also with the outlandishly extreme TNN500A 100% passive case, they've made a name for themselves as the forefront proponents of silent computing.

Now going directly after the HTPC market, Zalman has recently released the HD-160 case, a moderately sized, mid-to-high priced, 100% aluminum ATX compatible chassis available in black and silver, and accompanying our review of the case, we'll be looking at their latest power supply, the ZM460-APS, their latest CPU cooler, the CNPS-9500, and their popular GPU cooler, the VF700-Cu.

First, we'll examine the case and test it using the same hardware that we've used to test our other HTPC cases, but then we'll switch our standard ATX test bed's CPU and GPU coolers for Zalman's and analyze how the performance changes.


(TL: Tool-less, TS: Thumbscrews, SS: Standard Screws)

Hopefully, the HD-160 will get everything right and be a perfect fit for people who would like to build a home theater computer. This might be a tall order, but if Zalman's track record is any indication, then perhaps the "experts in silent computing" have the best shot at doing just that.

For more information on the HD-160 and the other products in this review, please check out Zalman's website.

HD-160 Case - Exterior
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  • Saist - Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - link

    The Thermaltake Bach Media Case weighs in at only $120, about half the cost of the Zalman, and offers similar cooling with a similar design. Okay, so I don't get the remote. That's fine, I already have a remote that works with Linux and MythTV.

    Okay, so I don't get the inbuilt LED display. That's fine too, I can live without it.

    No thanks Zalman, but I'll stick with the Thermaltake for now.
    Reply
  • topher42 - Saturday, April 01, 2006 - link

    Take a look at the OrigenAE X11.
    They came out last year.
    I put together a HTPC with an X11
    in January.

    And the Seasonic S12 series of
    power supplies are quieter and
    cooler.

    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Friday, March 31, 2006 - link

    MOSFETs? Are you serious? Just call them ICs. Or chips, or silicon. It's not like you're talking about individual discrete transistors, are you?

    Okay, maybe it's a common term, but I think it's ridiculous.
    Reply
  • Stele - Saturday, April 01, 2006 - link

    ^ Are you serious? Because he was. He meant MOSFETs. The power MOSFETs of the power supply circuitry to the CPU. Yes, he is talking about those individual discrete transistors.

    It's 'transistors' and ICs that're the more common, and in fact general, term. 'Silicon' is what the actual dies are made of, and you don't have bare silicon around a motherboard so that term's inapplicable here. Reading/understanding would help before shooting your mouth off ;)
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, April 01, 2006 - link

    I didn't know there was such thing as discrete MOSFETs, individually packaged. That doesn't make sense to me. I thought you'd always have an integrated circuit, when there's at least 1 MOSFET present. Surely you can't find a black chip with 3 terminals--gate, drain, and source.

    So, I stand by my original point that these things should be referred to on an "IC level", not "transistor level". As far as I know, you can't point to an object on the motherboard and say "that's a MOSFET", since you'd be pointing to many of them at once in an IC. Of course, maybe I'm wrong. That's just my understanding, as an EE.
    Reply
  • topher42 - Saturday, April 01, 2006 - link

    Look up power devices.

    International rectifier for one.
    Maybe a TO-220 package?

    You but three terminal mosfets when you
    want to control power.

    Forinstance on a mother board where you
    change the voltage to the cpu in the bios.

    The ic's input the the mosfet gate and
    the mosfet controls vastly more power
    than the ic.

    For instance. Cpu is 100 watts at
    1.xx volts.

    That's 50 to 100 amps, all varied in the
    bios.

    Do you know of an ic that can do that?

    VHDL guy?

    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, April 01, 2006 - link

    Okay. I've never heard of MOSFETs used outside of ICs as discrete high power devices. I've used Verilog, but not regularly. Reply
  • Stele - Sunday, April 02, 2006 - link

    Hi topher42 ,

    Not sure what exactly you were driving at as you confused a few terms and concepts there, especially since a MOSFET is an IC.

    They come in a fairly wide variety of packages, TO-220 being just one of many. The kind you normally see on motherboards are generally TO-261, DPAK or D2PAK - black, square with a metal tab (soldered to the motherboard) and short legs. Stuff you buy for power amps usually come in TO-3 for max power dissipation, ease of mounting (you can bolt the whole thing on a big heatsink) where compactness is not of concern.

    MOSFETs don't have to come with three legs if you want to 'control power', as they have nothing to do with each other... by the way, there are 3, 4 and even 6-leg MOSFETs, depending on design (6-legged ones are usually dual MOSFETs for low-medium power applications where board density is very important).

    Em, you can't vary the current (50 to 100 amps, you say) via BIOS, only voltage. And the settings don't go to the MOSFETs directly - they go to the pulse-wave modulation (PWM) controller IC, which then adjusts the output voltage ;)


    Hi AnnonymousCoward,

    As a professional (i.e., working) EE or EE student you must surely know about MOSFETs being discrete, individually packaged devices as that is the most basic package for them (like any transistor). Yes, you can go to any electronics store, your lab, your working place (or the section that handles EE hardware) or even just browse casually through any semiconductor manufacturer's catalog and find many, MANY MOSFETs in simple, 3-terminal packages (several which I've mentioned already above). With Gate, Drain and Source clearly labelled in the respective datasheets. As a further help to jog your memory (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that you already know all this, but perhaps just forgot), the term 'MOSFET' alone in the industry generally refers to the transistor in its discretely packaged form. If one wishes to refer to the MOSFETs inside an IC, it is indicated and understood contextually... e.g. "we suspect excessive drain current in one of the MOSFETs in that design, causing heat and electrical overstress failure on the metal layer".

    Integrating them as part of an IC is just an expansion of that concept, and for the same reasons you must surely also know that transistors are the basic building blocks of most ICs; therefore, it is not surprising to see more than one MOSFET, BJT or a combination of the two on the same die in an IC design. Perhaps you'd like to check back with your electronics notes? :)

    To refer to the MOSFETs as ICs is not wrong. However, since there are many ICs on the motherboard, it does not at all indicate which specific IC(s) the reviewer was referring to - which, in this case, are the power MOSFETs of the CPU power supply circuitry. You can point them out as MOSFETs, because as already mentioned, the term is understood to refer to discretely packaged MOSFETs - and usually used in power supply circuitry applications.

    VHDL and Verilog characterise devices by describing and simulating the chips and systems prior to fabrication, so it's not too useful a tool to learn anything physical about a device, like packaging and so on. That requires a datasheet. :)
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Sunday, April 02, 2006 - link

    Thinking about it, in lab once or twice I probably did use a discrete component with 3-4 integrated MOSFETs. I used discrete BJTs more often, though.

    "MOSFETs being discrete, individually packaged devices as that is the most basic package for them"

    Most basic, yes, but not the most common. Through college, and now working in the semiconductor industry, I have almost never dealt with discrete MOSFETs. So, in power-controlling applications, when are discrete MOSFETs used and when are relays used?
    Reply
  • topher42 - Monday, April 03, 2006 - link

    relays have better off isolation.

    Some small signal fets can achieve
    decent off impedance but not power devices.

    It's all in what you want to build.

    ASIC, FPGA, BJT, power FET.

    When I design a op-amp, I want to
    use bjt's. And I like power bjt's
    for audio power amp outputs.

    Reply

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