HTPC Cases With LCD Screens: Bringing Bling

Thermaltake DH102: Appearance, Fit And Finish, And User Experience

Appearance, Fit, and Finish

The DH102 is certainly a very attractive home theater case and is somewhat muted in design as a good HTPC case should be. It looks quite comfortable and slick next to black-colored home entertainment equipment such as stereos or televisions.

Thermaltake chose a single color option for the DH102: a glossy black with a dark gray stripe on the bottom. It looks good and goes with pretty much anything, but if you’re buying an HTPC to fit in with an existing silver home-theater setup, you might want to consider the Moneual or SilverStone offerings, which come in both black or silver.

As far as fit and finish go, the DH102 is cheaper than the competition for a reason: it’s not a terrible case with which to work, but there is a bit more flex to it than you'd find with the Moneual 972 or SilverStone CW03. Having said that, I’m not bothered by flexibility with this style of a flat-sitting HTPC case as much as I would be with a tower case .

User Experience

The DH102 was surprisingly easy to work with during the first part of the installation process, as the top cover wraps around the case, as did classic-style desktop cases from the 1990s. With the cover removed, we had full access to the bottom and sides of the case, which made it very easy to get to everything.

The case has a crossbar above the CPU, which we assume is for structural purposes. There is a hole in the crossbar that appears to be for a CPU duct, but no duct is included.

While the DH102 is a bit small, it’s not difficult to put the components in their place as long as you remember to insert the drives first. Drive installation is tool-less for the most part, and we didn’t encounter anything that would hamper an installation.

Properly re-installing the cover after everything is done is a minor annoyance as it takes a bit of fiddling to get it to fit properly. For example, guide rails on the side and top of the case must align in order to achieve a good seal.

Our only pet peeve was the tool-less expansion card retainer, which is made of plastic and broke after we tried to use it. On the positive side, the tool-less retainer isn’t necessary, since expansion cards can still be fitted with regular screws if desired.

The case is relatively quiet, although it wasn’t the quietest in the roundup. It put out 42 decibels at 4" from the front of the case. When using it in a home theater, the Thermaltake DH102 certainly wasn’t loud enough to notice.

In summary, the DH102 is a fine touch-screen LCD HTPC case compared to the other cases, and if compact size is a priority, then we can recommend it without reservation. However, if size isn’t as much of an issue, then the Moneual 972 offers more space and multimedia-card connectivity for a few dollars more.

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49 comments
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  • Hamsterabed
    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
  • cruiseoveride
    ... 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
  • average joe
    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.
    -1
  • DiscoDuck
    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
  • JeanLuc
    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.
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  • cleeve
    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
  • cleeve
    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.
    1
  • Anonymous
    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!
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  • neodawg
    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.
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  • cadder
    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.
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  • cleeve
    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.
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  • BillLake
    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.
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  • cleeve
    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?
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  • niknikktm
    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
  • cleeve
    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
  • niknikktm
    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
  • cleeve
    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
  • Orion75
    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
  • niknikktm
    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
  • cleeve
    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.
    -1