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HTPC-hopefuls can no longer easily justify delaying their builds simply because they don’t like the way any PC looks in their living rooms, thanks to atypical designs such as the Lian-Li PC-V351 and nMedia HTPC 8000. Both are capable of housing powerful hardware, while reducing noise to completely tolerable levels. Putting a complete system in either enclosure will result in huge functional advantages over the simple media players that many so-called “HTPC fanatics” advocate.
However, neither is a perfect solution for everyone. By hiding external drives on the side, Lian-Li made it a little harder to decide exactly where its PC-V351 might be tucked away in a room. Furthermore, its front-panel connector cables are just a little too short to be easily connected to some motherboards.
nMedia has a completely different set of compromises, such as an optical drive release button that doesn’t quite reach most optical drives, a DVD logo that appears out of place on a retro-radio device, easy-access connectors that are also quite visible front-and-center, and a simulated tuning dial that only functions as a power button. Being mostly wood, the HTPC 8000 lacks traditional EMI shielding, and the few metal parts it uses internally are of much lower quality than the wooden exterior. Anyone interested in neo-retro functionality probably won’t be disappointed by the unhidden front panel connections, but instead might be frustrated that the available digital display panel doesn't provide remote or front-panel media or audio controls.
The HTPC 8000’s most significant achievement may be that it’s the first to boast an acceptable wife approval factor in this author’s family room. Isn’t that why we choose alternative designs anyway?