Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Touch-Screen HTPC: Three Premium Cases Compared

Touch-Screen HTPC: Three Premium Cases Compared
By

There are a few key components that go into every solid home theater PC (HTPC) solution. AMD and Intel have low-power processors that help minimize thermal loads, keeping systems cooler and quieter. Several chipset options from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia now offer powerful-enough integrated graphics for HTPC needs, enabling platforms that don't require discrete graphics, yet are still able to accelerate Blu-ray playback and bitstream high-def audio formats.

We already looked at several mainstream HTPC cases in October. Now it’s time to review a handful of high-end enclosures. With the holidays behind us, there's a good chance that you have a little gift money left over to splurge on a deluxe chassis. Don't let the disappointments of previous-generation HTPCs negatively affect your decision; the hardware available now is more capable than ever of displacing dedicated home theater equipment. Truly, there’s never been a better time than now to tackle an HTPC project.

What Makes a HTPC?

Home theater PCs employ hardware (of course) and a bit of specialized software to provide audio and video playback, plus recording for those with their systems hooked up to a cable or satellite connection. The HTPC becomes the hub of the home’s digital data procurement, distribution, and output. Practically any media source is a possibility. Think of cable, satellite, Internet, and other sources for content. At the same time, the HTPC may also your home’s central database for audio, video, and pictures. Lastly, output choices are considerable. Digital and analog audio options are essentially mandatory. HDMI has been merging both video and audio data into one convenient connector, but DisplayPort is creeping into the scene even while legacy connections, such as S-Video, are still supported.

From Bricks to Style

Every user who has followed the PC market for more than a few years will remember how whiteboxes looked a decade ago. Fortunately, those aptly-named beige machines are long gone, and vendors have done an amazing job of crafting purpose-built cases to fit the HTPC niche. Many models won’t look intrusive in your living room, yet they still deliver some outstanding functionality.

Moneual, Thermaltake, Zalman to the Rescue

The three cases we're looking at today are all full-size, ATX-capable, and offer more space for components and add-ons than the entry-level devices we reviewed a couple of months ago. All three come with integrated 7” displays, as well, which serve as status displays but can also control HTPC features. Unfortunately, they are not well-suited to actually controlling your operating system. These cases follow on the products that Don Woligroski compared almost a year ago. Let’s look at our three contenders from Moneual, Thermaltake, and Zalman. We would have included Silverstone’s CW03, as well, but Silverstone was unable to send a replacement after the first shipment was lost. We recommend looking at an earlier review for details on this product.

Display all 30 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 2 Hide
    mianmian , February 5, 2010 6:57 AM
    I am afraid I can't see that small screen very well. >.<
    On screen display makes more sense.
  • 2 Hide
    p1n3apqlexpr3ss , February 5, 2010 7:14 AM
    I find screens on HTPC cases rather pointless... your gonna be sitting at least 3m away from screen, at which point case screen is too small to see, using a remote or wireless mouse/keyboard is a much better idea... whos gonna be sitting right in front of big 50inch tv...?
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , February 5, 2010 7:35 AM
    You are forgetting that this is a multimedia setup, not just for movies and video playback, and just like old audio players that had these small displays, at least youll be able to get some information when playing other media.
  • -1 Hide
    gkay09 , February 5, 2010 9:38 AM
    caustin582If Crysis were a movie, would you be able to watch it with one of these?

    For once cant people stop talking about Crysis ? Or atleast till Crysis 2 is released ?
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , February 5, 2010 10:43 AM
    There is no way my sense of value would allow me to even consider such a case; my wife, being a rational individual herself, would be baffled and angry if I wasted so much money.
    Of course, members of the US Congress will probably all buy a couple (at least)...
  • 1 Hide
    flannel_77 , February 5, 2010 11:26 AM
    It would be nice to have a remote with a screen like the iPod nano to control audio from the sofa. Then you wouldn't need to turn on the TV or buy a case with a screen.
  • 5 Hide
    d70guy , February 5, 2010 11:55 AM
    I have a silverstone case with 7" touchscreen. It is very useful as my HTPC as it allows me to monitor the system while a movie is playing. Things like temps, cpu, etc are all displayed while I am playing back a movie. This system sits in a rack at the back of the home theater so you don't really notice it unless you go looking for it. Everyone comments on the display, it has a big cool factor. For people who would put the HTPC next to their main screen however an on-screen display would probably be more useful.
  • -4 Hide
    d70guy , February 5, 2010 11:55 AM
    I have a silverstone case with 7" touchscreen. It is very useful as my HTPC as it allows me to monitor the system while a movie is playing. Things like temps, cpu, etc are all displayed while I am playing back a movie. This system sits in a rack at the back of the home theater so you don't really notice it unless you go looking for it. Everyone comments on the display, it has a big cool factor. For people who would put the HTPC next to their main screen however an on-screen display would probably be more useful.
  • 4 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , February 5, 2010 12:14 PM
    $700.00 for an htpc case is entirely too much. Even $275.00 is too much for a case. It is unacceptable. Then a small 7 inch display that is distorted? No way!!!
  • 4 Hide
    Nossy , February 5, 2010 12:15 PM
    It'd be way cooler if I can remove the screen and use it as a remote.
  • 1 Hide
    2shea , February 5, 2010 12:19 PM
    I don't really see the big plus of a display because it would be much handier that you use a logitech harmony for all of your devices. Most of the time you sit on the couch and you dont want to get off it to start the movie or switch the source.
    Nossy's idea is much better and way handier.
  • 1 Hide
    jrivera04 , February 5, 2010 12:58 PM
    I have built a few HTPCs for myself and others and I think these screens are pretty pointless. Also, there are plenty of classy looking cases with plenty of space around the $100 - $150 mark.
  • 1 Hide
    nevertell , February 5, 2010 2:00 PM
    d70guyI have a silverstone case with 7" touchscreen. It is very useful as my HTPC as it allows me to monitor the system while a movie is playing. Things like temps, cpu, etc are all displayed while I am playing back a movie. This system sits in a rack at the back of the home theater so you don't really notice it unless you go looking for it. Everyone comments on the display, it has a big cool factor. For people who would put the HTPC next to their main screen however an on-screen display would probably be more useful.


    You worry about your cpu temps and voltages while you're watching a movie on the damn thing ? Get a life.
  • 1 Hide
    hannibal , February 5, 2010 2:41 PM
    What are the best HTPC cases without screen?
    For me the good look, and silent operation and well designed cooling system are top of the list. These are nice, but the prises are somewhat high. The 300$ is not too bad, but it was the noisiest and smallest alternative...
  • 0 Hide
    jrivera04 , February 5, 2010 3:47 PM
    My dad chose this one. It's pretty nice and has plenty of room inside. You can buy a MS remote and tuck the receiver inside.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811128022
  • 0 Hide
    azcoyote , February 5, 2010 3:57 PM
    Compare the cases like the ones from HUSH and then I will be onboard for a new case... Small and useful. That is the ticket.
  • 1 Hide
    shimzard , February 5, 2010 4:10 PM
    Can you guys make a review of what mobo's and what cases are best for an ultra small htpc? I have seen zotac's and intel's mini itx boards and they seem pretty cool but I am also seeing people buy lga775 boards and pair them with e5000 intel processors (they tend to overheat and theer is a lack of heatsinks for lga775 mobo's small enough for a mini itx case)and install them in mini itx cases aswell. An article on this topic would be cool. for me:
    Atom htpc:
    pros: low power usage, small form factor, cool factor.
    cons: not enough processor power for some applications (i know people are not planning to run crysis on this things).
    lga775 htpc:
    pros:more than enough processor power for use as an htpc, small
    cons: higher power usage compared to atom processors, gets very heated, not alot of heatsinks to choose from.

    I beleive this market is growing and more options and cool gagdets will appear soon ebough. Tom's view on this would be nice. thank you guys and keep up the good work.
  • 0 Hide
    pink315 , February 5, 2010 4:17 PM
    Looks as though those screens use vga, not a big deal for most. The people using hdcp video will care though.
  • 0 Hide
    jrivera04 , February 5, 2010 5:06 PM
    shimzardCan you guys make a review of what mobo's and what cases are best for an ultra small htpc? I have seen zotac's and intel's mini itx boards and they seem pretty cool but I am also seeing people buy lga775 boards and pair them with e5000 intel processors (they tend to overheat and theer is a lack of heatsinks for lga775 mobo's small enough for a mini itx case)and install them in mini itx cases aswell. An article on this topic would be cool. for me:Atom htpc:p ros: low power usage, small form factor, cool factor.cons: not enough processor power for some applications (i know people are not planning to run crysis on this things).lga775 htpc:p ros:more than enough processor power for use as an htpc, smallcons: higher power usage compared to atom processors, gets very heated, not alot of heatsinks to choose from.I beleive this market is growing and more options and cool gagdets will appear soon ebough. Tom's view on this would be nice. thank you guys and keep up the good work.


    This is the motherboard that I am going to use in my next HTPC. Paired with a low end Athlon X2 it will be perfect.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813186191
Display more comments