So far it looks like the Crown CW03 is performing well as a HTPC. To test the functionality of the case, I installed SpeedFan and Prime95. The Prime95 program places the system under full load to create as much heat as possible, while SpeedFan monitors the temperatures and voltages of the system.
For the first stage of testing, I connected the system to an LCD panel to simulate a student at college using the system as a computer and home theater. The high/low readings are included, as are the average readings; see the table below for the results. (All temperatures in the tables are in Celsius/Fahrenheit.)
Open air testing
This testing was completed with the stock cooler and was a total of 60 data points taken in groups of 20 after a cold boot. Each data set covered one hour of testing under various conditions, such as 100% CPU load created by Prime 95, or watching TV and recording a show to increase load and simulate HTPC usage.
Installed in a Home Theater
The most demanding test I undertook was to install the HTPC in an enclosed home theater system: a solid oak cabinet next to a 65" HDTV.
I installed the HTPC on one side as to isolate it from the other components testing with Prime95. Connecting the system to the TV was simple using the DVI connector. A quick check of the TV owner’s manual provided the proper configuration of display resolution. Be very careful when configuring the resolution: an incorrect setting can cause damage to some TVs. Once installed and configured, the system worked well with no noticeable problems.
I then ran Prime95 for 4 hours to create as much heat as possible. In the enclosed area, the CPU temperatures never rose above 70ºC (158ºF) under full load. While this temperature is high compared to open-air testing temperatures, they are not unexpected in a closed environment.
Also noticeable under full load was the sound of the fans, because they are 80 mm units running at over 2000 RPM when under full load. The motherboard will not throttle them down until temperatures are lower, and that won’t happen until Prime95 is stopped and the load on the system reduced. The fan noise was not noticeable when the door to the cabinet was closed, the movie was playing and we were 15 feet away. However, if you open the door, mute the TV or stand closer, and you can clearly hear the fans during 100% CPU usage. During normal operations the fans were not noticeable unless you were very close to the case with the door open.
Having a closed cabinet is an extreme situation that should be avoided: it would most likely lead to early hardware failure, so please provide proper ventilation.
Overall, it was clear to us that the Silverstone case provides good airflow, and the Intel platform proves to be stable under warm conditions.
Remote and IR receiver
The CW03 includes an iMon remote that proved to work quite well.
The remote was responsive and worked quite well at changing channels and controlling the system when used. The IR receiver is on the far left of the case so you will need to ensure that it is not blocked. I did not experience any issues using this remote, other than having to learn which buttons activated which features. The buttons are programmable with the iMon software, but the defaults are very usable.