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Stealthy HTPC: Two Cases To Hide Your Inner-Geek

Stealthy HTPC: Two Cases To Hide Your Inner-Geek
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Most Tom’s Hardware readers are technology-savvy enough to appreciate the concept of a home-theater PC (HTPC), but many of us still don’t have one. There are plenty of good reasons not to own one, from stifling DRM policies to the cost compared to increasingly-functional gaming consoles.

One of the most difficult obstacles for the industry to overcome is that many potential users simply don’t want to see yet another PC in their living room. Of course, in this context, we're reminded of the boring beige box making more noise than a theater-based component really should.

For some of us, computers that look like 1980s hi-fi components don’t go far enough towards hiding the geeky underpinnings. So, we sought out a couple of cases to address the classic "wife approval factor," which, given that the stigma of having too much tech can affect any type of relationship, could be updated to read “social-acceptance factor.”

Casual observers will probably overlook the two cases we found, not even recognizing them as PCs. The wooden unit could visually pass as a retro-themed radio, while the black unit, if properly placed, could be mistaken for a somewhat flashier-than-normal subwoofer.

Aesthetic opinions vary, while our greater interests are hardware capacity and performance. Let’s take a closer look at what these two puppies can do.

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  • 0 Hide
    siliconchampion , September 17, 2009 6:32 AM
    Definitely a good article reviewing these cases. I particularly like the retro radio, but nothing tops the badass factor of my Xbox pc media pc.

    (C2D E7400, 4GB DDR2-800, 7200RPM 2.5 inch 320GB Hitachi, Wireless N, Earthwatts 380 watt psu, low profile 9800GT, all with a wireless adapter for 360 controllers inside it. Looks totally stock (except from the back) and is the sickest thing for streaming movies and TV from my i7 build upstairs.
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , September 17, 2009 6:46 AM
    I really like that nMedia HTCP, it makes me want to make one like the Thermaltake Mozart Cube did.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 17, 2009 7:20 AM
    I love that wood thing! Add a tv tuner and a logitech keyboard/remote thing and it's perfect!
    Suppose you'd just have to ask them which dvd drives are compatible when shopping for the internals!
  • 0 Hide
    amnotanoobie , September 17, 2009 9:39 AM
    The nMedia is nice, but it'd be good if you already had the wooden tv rack so it'd blend in. The Lian Li's side opening ODD tray might be a deal-breaker for some, but it is still sleek.
  • 0 Hide
    r0x0r , September 17, 2009 10:29 AM
    Old, unused amplifier + dremel = WIN!
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , September 17, 2009 10:29 AM
    neiroatopelccI love that wood thing! Add a tv tuner and a logitech keyboard/remote thing and it's perfect! Suppose you'd just have to ask them which dvd drives are compatible when shopping for the internals!


    The button spacing is a fairly universal problem, since the case's button only has a little over 1/8" travel and the space is around 1/8" to the button of most drives. You can put something else between the two to fill the space, it doesn't have to be a cabinet door bumper.
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 17, 2009 10:47 AM
    CrashmanThe button spacing is a fairly universal problem, since the case's button only has a little over 1/8" travel and the space is around 1/8" to the button of most drives. You can put something else between the two to fill the space, it doesn't have to be a cabinet door bumper.

    Yeah, but well. I've got my htpc running in a cylinder of what translate.google.com calls corrugated sheet metal. Looks like a metal bass tube on feet, and I don't expect to replace it. But I still love that wood chassis. The lian li doesn't look very attractive. Think the old aerocool m40 I gave my parents looks a lot better, and I don't consider lian li quality anyway. The lian li that hosts the 920 already has a broken lid that used to cover the top usb, and the power button appears to 'just be hanging there' instead of being fixed properly. Can't beat silverstone in anything really. It's merely expensive like thermaltake, but without distinguishing qualities.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , September 17, 2009 10:48 AM
    r0x0rOld, unused amplifier + dremel = WIN!


    Don't forget the 5x7 car stereo speakers.
  • 0 Hide
    r0x0r , September 17, 2009 11:15 AM
    CrashmanDon't forget the 5x7 car stereo speakers.


    Are you thinking of home theatre amps or car stereo amps?

    I'm thinking of a home theatre amp.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 17, 2009 11:58 AM
    Forgive my ignorance but aren't those components overkill for an HTPC? What else would you be using it for beside playing movies?
  • 1 Hide
    Fendulon , September 17, 2009 12:13 PM
    That is one sweet wooden case. A very reasonable price as well. I would actually consider getting that if it did have that damn card reader there.
  • 0 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , September 17, 2009 12:54 PM
    I want the Lian Li cube.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 17, 2009 1:22 PM
    I agree with the radio. The black box looks like a PC to me.
    If anything, it could look like a microwave, but definitely not a subwoofer!
  • 1 Hide
    Regulas , September 17, 2009 1:29 PM
    The nMedia is cool and it can be had at newegg for $99. Makes me want to start buying parts again. A mini ATX low power wireless server comes to mind.

    As far as the article goes, I quote,

    "The HTPC 8000 supports full ATX and micro-ATX motherboards, with barely enough room in front to support long graphics cards (such as the GeForce GTX 285)"

    But it does fit, my XFX GTX 285 barely fit into my Lian Li Mid tower case but it fit.
  • 0 Hide
    mactruck , September 17, 2009 1:45 PM
    the_stig13037Forgive my ignorance but aren't those components overkill for an HTPC? What else would you be using it for beside playing movies?


    I love gaming on my HTPC - it is insanely fun playing L4D on a 52" HDTV. No, it can't play Crysis but that's what my main rig is for.
  • 0 Hide
    g00g13 , September 17, 2009 2:48 PM
    Tomshardware, could you please built us a similar wood casing HTPC with the option of where you can choose different size USB/Digital front panels for your self. (even better where the front panel works with Linux) Tomshardware used to do DIY projects like this before.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , September 17, 2009 2:48 PM
    "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."

    Really? My wife would throw that thing out of the window. To each his own, but I find it hopelessly tacky. Not to generalize too much, but I think it will probably do better in the US than anywhere else.

    Our Silverstone case HTPC blends in pretty well. If you squint it looks like a power amp or something.
  • -1 Hide
    g00g13 , September 17, 2009 2:59 PM
    @947816yoriqhfukdsjac, that thing doesn't look great, hence the reason why I asked, why can't Tomshardware build a better looking box with a custom front panel, that you can buy off the shell from "known companies". Perhaps even laminated wooden box. Or use cheap Pine or Meranti, or stains that perhaps make cheap pine look good. I think wood does help dampening fan noise/high pitch. IMHO
  • 0 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , September 17, 2009 3:21 PM
    the_stig13037Forgive my ignorance but aren't those components overkill for an HTPC? What else would you be using it for beside playing movies?

    Recording HD content, while playing a blueray movie, having a Monopoly game minimized and dc++ running in the background?

    As the intro said - some think of htpc as something that plays movies and music - and others think of something that pretty much makes the rest of the equipment obsolete. Combine the wood chassis with the motherboard with onboard 5.1 surround amplifier, a dvb tuner or two and a 4870/260 and you've got something you could replace everything with. Connect it to your projector or 40" monitor, and you don't need your dvd/ps3/blueray/wii/receiver/amplifier system anymore. Just imagine the cable mess that'd no longer be there?
  • 0 Hide
    niknikktm , September 17, 2009 4:11 PM
    Sorry man,

    While it's a nice review on these two particular HTPC cases, I absolutely cannot simply blow off the Blu-ray and HD aspects for ANY HTPC build and consider it legitimate. If an HTPC is incapable of recording in high definition and authoring (god forbid simply playing) Blu-ray, then it's not of much of a "Home Theatre" PC to me. This is almost 2010! Time to stop playing with the kiddies and pony up with the big boys.
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