Comparison Table And Conclusion
|Approx. Price||Approx. $360||Approx. $240||Approx. $110|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||430 x 340 x 67 mm||430 x 380 x 105 mm||430 x 170 x 426mm|
|Included Fans||No Case Fan, CPU Cooler, PSU with integrated Cooler||None||2 x 80 mm at rear|
|Fan Locations||None||3 x 40 mm||2 x 80 mm or 92 mm at front 1 x 80 mm at right side|
|Motherboard Form Factor||µATX||µATX||ATX|
|PSU Form Factor||SFX, included (230W)||ATX, not included||ATX, not included|
|Expansion Cards and Format||1 x PCI full-height (via riser card)||4 x half-height||7 x full-height|
|5.25" Bays||1 slim-line||1 Full size accessible||1 Full size accessible|
|3.5" Bays||1, internal only||3, internal only||7, internal only|
|I/O Panel||2 x USB, FireWire, audio, mic, four-way D-pad with center OK button, a reset button, AV Center||2 x USB, audio, mic, FireWire||2 x USB, audio, mic|
|Front Display||iMON VFD||-||-|
|Accessories||Remote Control, copper CPU cooler and 230W PSU, PCI riser card, DVD combo drive||Remote control|
The three HTPC cases in this roundup could not be more different. They all serve the same basic purpose: turning a PC into a home theater. However, the three manufacturers went in three different directions, each targeting different user types.
GMC’s AVC-S7 is a true slim-line design, as it can only accommodate one half-height PCI expansion card, and it does so by utilizing a riser card. The design is reminscent of some DVD players with DivX/XviD playback capabilities, and it won’t blend smoothly into your home stereo environment because of its two-tone (silver and black) color scheme. However, GMC created a complete package. The product comes with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive and a suitable 230W power supply. Both are not top of the line, but they’ll suffice to get a decent HTPC solution started. We’d prefer a Blu-ray drive to support HD video content, and the single PCI riser card prevents the installation of any PCI Express TV tuners. Finally, we don’t believe the thermal design can reliably support high-end processors.
Moneual’s MonCaso 312 conveys a higher standard of quality thanks to a brushed aluminum front and home stereo-like control elements, such as the illuminated volume control dial. The case stands a bit higher than the AVC-S7 and accepts up to four half-height expansion cards. Depending on the motherboard you choose, these can be PCI or PCI Express cards. The MonCaso 312 can hold three hard drives instead of GMC’s one, it requires an ATX power supply rather than SFX, and it comes with three spots to mount 40 mm fans. That’s not ideal if you want to maintain system silence, but it ensures that even high-end hardware can be properly ventilated. Compared to AVC’s $360 retail cost, the MonCaso 312’s $240 price tag appears reasonable. Just keep in mind that you still have to purchase a slim-line optical drive and power supply. Fortunately, this one actually is available to our US audience.
Finally, we have the SilverStone LC10-E bargain priced at only $110. The metal case is well-finished, and the front is covered by a stylish brushed aluminum panel. Like the Moneual, SilverStone offers a silver and black color scheme. However, SilverStone went for full ATX, allowing up to seven full-height expansion slots, ATX power supply support, seven internal hard drive bays, and two 80 mm rear fans. Two more fans can be installed at the front if required. Clearly, this is the only case able to serve as both an HTPC and as a home server or high-end gaming box. The LC10-E’s fascia isn’t HTPC-optimized, as it lacks the card readers available on the GMC and the Moneual case, and it doesn’t even feature a remote control.
There’s no denying the LC10-E if you want your HTPC to be powerful or if your budget is limited. GMC offers an out-of-the-box solution for HTPC users that don’t want to go high-end, and Moneual is somewhere in between. No solution is perfect, though, and you’ll have to look at your requirements carefully before making a decision.