Touch-Screen HTPC: Three Premium Cases Compared


The three cases from Moneual, Thermaltake, and Zalman represent some of the highest-end enclosures you can buy for an HTPCs, in terms of quality, features, and price. We decided to look at models with an integrated display, which you should carefully consider. Although there are many aesthetic reasons you'd want to go that route, including easy control of audio playback without the need for a large screen, there are only a few real-world benefits when it comes to usability. Most people can certainly live without such a luxury, given that an operating system output of 800x600 resolution gets distorted on the 800x480 displays. The result is ovals instead of circles, which you probably won't warm to, especially after paying a few hundred dollars extra for the secondary 7” LCD.

Yet, the displays are extremely handy if you use your HTPC for audio playback on a regular basis, or if you like to grandstand when presenting your darling of a home theater PC to your friends. The additional display options are not important, but they’re at least nice to have.

All three products come with the same basic front interfaces, although Moneual has only one USB port. In exchange, its MonCaso 972 offers the most interior space to work in, which may be an advantage during installation, but a disadvantage if you can't accomodate its bulkier dimensions. Thermaltake has the smallest footprint, but the DH 202 isn’t made of aluminum. It is the noisiest solution because of its 120mm front fan, and it allows for the least number of hard drives to be installed. Zalman proves that it can create excellent cases, and the company adds rubber dampeners for the drive cage, as well as a sophisticated cooling layout based on an amazingly quiet four–fan arrangement.

Moneual’s MonoCaso 972 comes with a high-quality magnetized screwdriver and is directly comparable to the Zalman HD160XT Plus. Both leave us with positive impressions. Be prepared to fork out around $700 for the Zalman case and about $500 for the Moneual. In contrast, the $275 for Thermaltake’s DH 202 seems like a bargain. Can you live with its disadvantages? We don't think they're too debilitating, while that price difference is simply too large to ignore. Kudos to Thermaltake on this one.