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Observations

Stealthy HTPC: Two Cases To Hide Your Inner-Geek
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Because these cases target different types of HTPC builders, a page full of charts to represent a few data points sets up a false sense of direct competition where there would otherwise be market differentiation. Instead, let’s consider the specific merits of each case separately.

Lian-Li PC-V351

Using eight-threads of Prime95, the Lian-Li PC-V351 reached a maximum CPU temperature of 66° Celsius over ambient on our overclocked and under-cooled Core i7-920, which is around 8° higher than the open platform. It also reached a GPU temperature of 70° Celsius over ambient, 1° Celsius higher than in an open platform.

The increase in CPU temperature was adequately small, since the tested processor probably represents the maximum configuration that most performance-HTPC builders would consider using. Better still, the GPU temperature increase of only 1° Celsius was exceptional.

Thick panels reduced noise to the point that the closed system sounded around half as loud as an open system. For practical purposes, this would result in a complete configuration that ranges in the low- to mid-20 decibel range at a one meter distance under low to moderate GPU load. That's loud enough to drive silent PC enthusiasts crazy, but quiet enough not to hear from a typical seating distance of around three to four meters. Our graphics tests increased noise significantly, but anyone who doesn’t game could easily pick a silent or near-silent card. We heard no resonance from the PC-V351’s panels.

nMedia HTPC 8000

The HTPC 8000 held our overclocked and under-cooled Core i7 processor to a maximum of 62° Celsius over ambient using eight threads  of Prime95 to apply load, around 4° Celsius higher than an open platform. This impressive feat of thermal control was brought about by a relatively large volume of air surrounding the CPU, a power supply orientation that doesn’t work against the CPU fan, and a large, nearly-silent exhaust creating cross-draft above the CPU cooler. A relatively low-restriction front was also able to keep the GPU temperature at only 1° higher than an open platform even without the assistance of an intake fan.

Noise cancellation was good thanks to the extensive use of wood, and the reduction of GPU noise by around half when the case was closed was especially surprising since the front of this case is slotted. Most builders should expect noise in the low- to mid-20 decibel range under minor GPU load, and anyone with more demanding requirements should feel free to use quieter components. The medium-density wood also reduces the likelihood of panel resonance, and we heard none.

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