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Stealthy HTPC: Two Cases To Hide Your Inner-Geek

Observations

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.

  • siliconchampion
    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.
    Reply
  • falchard
    I really like that nMedia HTCP, it makes me want to make one like the Thermaltake Mozart Cube did.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    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!
    Reply
  • amnotanoobie
    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.
    Reply
  • r0x0r
    Old, unused amplifier + dremel = WIN!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    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.
    Reply
  • neiroatopelcc
    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.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    r0x0rOld, unused amplifier + dremel = WIN!
    Don't forget the 5x7 car stereo speakers.
    Reply
  • r0x0r
    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.
    Reply
  • Forgive my ignorance but aren't those components overkill for an HTPC? What else would you be using it for beside playing movies?
    Reply