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Conclusion

HTPC Cases With LCD Screens: Bringing Bling
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In the final analysis, do these cases offer well-built HTPC platforms with many options, or are they just flashy cases with a pretty face? At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I think the answer is yes to both. Indeed, these are great HTPC cases. And yes, they are definitely flashy with a pretty face.

As for their build qualities, the cases are certainly well-constructed, especially the Moneual 972 and SilverStone CW03. They all look good and appropriate in a home-theater room. They all serve their purpose well, which is to bring the HTPC into the living space inconspicuously and practically, and all of them offer this service without too much hassle as far as hardware installation is concerned.

As far as a flashy, pretty face, they have that, too. As shallow as it may be, the most obvious feature of these cases--the LCD touch screen--is probably a lot more cosmetic than practical. Sure, it allows you to launch music files in a convenient way without powering up your big screen, but other than that, there's not a lot of tangible benefit to watching video on a 7" screen when the computer is presumably attached to an HDTV.

With this in mind, let's consider each case's strengths and weaknesses:

Moneual 972

Strengths:
Exceptional build quality, relatively low price, lots of room, included MultiMedia card I/O panel

Weaknesses:
Large depth may be a detriment, optical drive cover is attached with adhesive, only two 60 mm fans for airflow

SilverStone CW03

Strengths:

Exceptional build quality, appropriate for A/V rack mount, triple the external drive options of competitors

Weaknesses:
Highest price by far, no included I/O panel



Thermaltake DH102


Strengths:

Lowest price option, smallest size helps fit into cramped enclosures

Weaknesses:
More flex with steel construction, only one color choice


At the end of the day, which case would we choose if tasked to pick the best touch-screen LCD case?

The Moneual 972 offers the best combination of price and build quality. However, both the SilverStone CW03 and Thermaltake DH102 might be better choices in specific circumstances as demonstrated by their unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, if space is an issue, we'd probably choose the DH102, and if we were buying for a rack-mount setup where more than one external drive is important, the SilverStone CW03 is the obvious choice.

On a personal note, I will add that I find these cases to be a little too expensive for my taste. But to be fair, I don't think these cases are intended for use by this writer, just like I don't think Ferrarris and Lamborghinis are made for me, either. Those cars, like these cases, are something I will probably never own. They're for the pure enthusiast crowd with the necessary discretionary income.

But that certainly doesn't stop me from admiring them when I come across one.

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  • 1 Hide
    Hamsterabed , February 3, 2009 5:50 AM
    Nice Review, I agree with your take on cost but if i had the funds i would defiantly get one of these cases for an HTPC. the Moneual looks like the one I would get. This review was nice and balanced and took into all the different factors affecting the cases. noting that the screens were very similar and that the remotes were identical was something I was very happy to see as well as using the fan less psu as another control. A note of how the VGA cables get to the out side from the touch screen would have been a nice note but the pictures demonstrated it accurately showing that they have a pass through to the back video card area.

    A+ review in my book
  • -1 Hide
    cruiseoveride , February 3, 2009 12:23 PM
    ... and we're supposed to put these "hub caps" on my car?

    Seriously, this looks so cheap. Who is going to put it on a rack with $20k worth of audio/video equipment.
  • -1 Hide
    average joe , February 3, 2009 1:17 PM
    I like the rack mounting feature of the Silverstone. But I like the other case better. I think a rack would fit my sparse industrial theme.
    I have a fairly small space. Lots of Ikea furniture.
  • 0 Hide
    DiscoDuck , February 3, 2009 1:18 PM
    The touchscreen to me seems a bit of a waste. I prefer to use a standard computer monitor and a HDTV connected to a video card setup in a way that creates a workstation in the front wall of my hometheater with a slide out shelf for keyboard mouse. That way it can be a workstation/gaming machine from chair and HTPC from armchair via remote. I use mce2005.
  • 0 Hide
    JeanLuc , February 3, 2009 1:44 PM
    Why would you want an expensive touch screen interface on HTPC? The whole point of having a HTPC is use can operate it remotely from your sofa. I would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 1:48 PM
    Yeah, I have to agree with you fellows and I tried to get that across in the review; any productive use for these screens is a bit of a stretch. The only thing I could come up with is using the frontview media player to access music if you didn't want to power up your screen; I have a projector with a limited bulb life and I don't want to turn it on to listen to my music library.

    But thanks for reading it anyway, I hope the info was useful to you guys.

    And thanks for the kind words, Hamsterabed!
  • 1 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 1:50 PM
    JeanLucI would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.


    I mentioned on the first page "All three offer full ATX compatibility", that includes MicroATX.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 3, 2009 2:27 PM
    I have been waiting a long while for an updated HTPC review. I was hoping to see what kind of components you gurus would use, but this case review was very helpful to me too (been thinking about using an AMD GPU with the HDMI, but was interested in seeing some overall system power requirements of running an HTPC. Don't want a huge jump in electric bills). I was mostly considering building an HTPC for my dad. He's old, and likes to listen to music. He streams internet radio, but sits in the uncomfortable computer chair. With one of these cases he could easily select music AND be able to play a movie using the same box, without a learning curve that would frustrate him. Thanks for the write-up, I hope you can do another one soon!
  • 0 Hide
    neodawg , February 3, 2009 2:33 PM
    nice review, I have the DH101 which is the same - the 7in touch LCD, but it does have the remote and small 2x5 in blue black lcd, that displays computer/media information, i didnt find that the case was flimsy at all, maybe a little without the cover, but once the cover is on it is like a rock. I have to agree with you on the touch LCD, another good idea on paper, but in real world it is an epic fail.
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , February 3, 2009 2:49 PM
    I've thought about this issue in the past and there are times when I might want to use the small screen and not power up the big screen-
    1) to set the PC to record something, say I get up in the morning and remember I wanted to record a certain broadcast, I can do that from the small screen
    2) to take a quick look at the weather maybe
    Actually I've thought about this with respect to just having a large screen and a small screen beside it, sort of the next step beyond "picture in picture". So maybe the touch screen aspect isn't useful but the screen itself might be useful, and if a person didn't want to use the touchscreen in the front of the case, they could use a small monitor or tv setting with the equipment. Some people might want the HTPC to set in the furniture along with the BluRay player and TV tuner, but others might have a more extensive setup with a place to sit and work, video games, multiple screens, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 3:03 PM
    cadder) to take a quick look at the weather maybe


    I probably should have stressed it more in the review, but the frontview player shows the weather, time, system properties (like CPU usage), and a news ticker.

    And in retrospect, the weather feature is the one I used the most. I might add a note about that in the review, cadder.
  • 0 Hide
    BillLake , February 3, 2009 3:08 PM
    The Silverstone has one additional feature that Don missed, because it has a 1080p screen it can duplex the video. This is a great feature as you can have simultaneous display at high resolution, 1080p, it is one of the few cases that has this feature.
  • 0 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 3:20 PM
    Well, I'm not sure if that's much of a feature, Bill. What's the advantage of simulaltaneously displaying interpolated video on a 7" screen at the same time as it's playing on your HDTV?

    If you're watching a movie on your TV, why would you want the same movie displayed on a 7" screen? Or am I missing something?
  • -1 Hide
    niknikktm , February 3, 2009 3:50 PM
    While I'm glad that Tom's finally turned just a little of their attention to HTPC enthusiasts, and the reveiw on the cases was adequate, I do hope that it doesn't end here. Just another case reveiw is not what we need. I beleive a lot of us here would like to see an article about someone actually using one of these cases to build a state of the art HTPC. You know, with hardware and platform and the like???

    That sure would be nice for a change.
  • -1 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 4:03 PM
    I'll look into it. I'm not unually involved in the HTPC case system builder marathons and I'm not sure when the last one was.
  • -1 Hide
    niknikktm , February 3, 2009 4:21 PM
    Thanks Cleeve. I beleive it's been nearly three years and much has changed since then. It's long overdue! I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that the decision makers at Tom's give it a green light.
  • -1 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 5:52 PM
    niknikktmThanks Cleeve. I beleive it's been nearly three years and much has changed since then. It's long overdue! I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that the decision makers at Tom's give it a green light.


    Here's some from May 2007:
    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/s/marathon/
  • -1 Hide
    Orion75 , February 3, 2009 6:09 PM
    Well for those of you who don't want to upgrade their existing HTPC cases... here's an alternative: http://www.mimomonitors.com/products/mimo-740
  • -1 Hide
    niknikktm , February 3, 2009 6:48 PM
    I stand corrected. Nearly two years (not three) since the last HTPC build. The point is still valid. A lot of new hardware has come out since then and a new build is long overdue. HD PVR recording and Blu-ray authoring are just a couple of key aspects that are now possible but weren't then. Also, the advances in graphics and video capture hardware is notable. There are many reasons to revisit an "HTPC" or "Media Center PC" marathon after two years.
  • -1 Hide
    cleeve , February 3, 2009 7:55 PM
    I wasn't calling you out Nik, just linking to the last HTPC build I could find. Like I said, I'm going to try to make this happen.
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