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HTPC Cases With LCD Screens: Bringing Bling

Conclusion

In the final analysis, do these cases offer well-built HTPC platforms with many options, or are they just flashy cases with a pretty face? At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, I think the answer is yes to both. Indeed, these are great HTPC cases. And yes, they are definitely flashy with a pretty face.

As for their build qualities, the cases are certainly well-constructed, especially the Moneual 972 and SilverStone CW03. They all look good and appropriate in a home-theater room. They all serve their purpose well, which is to bring the HTPC into the living space inconspicuously and practically, and all of them offer this service without too much hassle as far as hardware installation is concerned.

As far as a flashy, pretty face, they have that, too. As shallow as it may be, the most obvious feature of these cases--the LCD touch screen--is probably a lot more cosmetic than practical. Sure, it allows you to launch music files in a convenient way without powering up your big screen, but other than that, there's not a lot of tangible benefit to watching video on a 7" screen when the computer is presumably attached to an HDTV.

With this in mind, let's consider each case's strengths and weaknesses:

Moneual 972

Strengths:
Exceptional build quality, relatively low price, lots of room, included MultiMedia card I/O panel

Weaknesses:
Large depth may be a detriment, optical drive cover is attached with adhesive, only two 60 mm fans for airflow

SilverStone CW03
Strengths:

Exceptional build quality, appropriate for A/V rack mount, triple the external drive options of competitors

Weaknesses:
Highest price by far, no included I/O panel

Thermaltake DH102
Strengths:

Lowest price option, smallest size helps fit into cramped enclosures

Weaknesses:
More flex with steel construction, only one color choice

At the end of the day, which case would we choose if tasked to pick the best touch-screen LCD case?

The Moneual 972 offers the best combination of price and build quality. However, both the SilverStone CW03 and Thermaltake DH102 might be better choices in specific circumstances as demonstrated by their unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, if space is an issue, we'd probably choose the DH102, and if we were buying for a rack-mount setup where more than one external drive is important, the SilverStone CW03 is the obvious choice.

On a personal note, I will add that I find these cases to be a little too expensive for my taste. But to be fair, I don't think these cases are intended for use by this writer, just like I don't think Ferrarris and Lamborghinis are made for me, either. Those cars, like these cases, are something I will probably never own. They're for the pure enthusiast crowd with the necessary discretionary income.

But that certainly doesn't stop me from admiring them when I come across one.

  • Hamsterabed
    Nice Review, I agree with your take on cost but if i had the funds i would defiantly get one of these cases for an HTPC. the Moneual looks like the one I would get. This review was nice and balanced and took into all the different factors affecting the cases. noting that the screens were very similar and that the remotes were identical was something I was very happy to see as well as using the fan less psu as another control. A note of how the VGA cables get to the out side from the touch screen would have been a nice note but the pictures demonstrated it accurately showing that they have a pass through to the back video card area.

    A+ review in my book
    Reply
  • cruiseoveride
    ... and we're supposed to put these "hub caps" on my car?

    Seriously, this looks so cheap. Who is going to put it on a rack with $20k worth of audio/video equipment.
    Reply
  • average joe
    I like the rack mounting feature of the Silverstone. But I like the other case better. I think a rack would fit my sparse industrial theme.
    I have a fairly small space. Lots of Ikea furniture.
    Reply
  • DiscoDuck
    The touchscreen to me seems a bit of a waste. I prefer to use a standard computer monitor and a HDTV connected to a video card setup in a way that creates a workstation in the front wall of my hometheater with a slide out shelf for keyboard mouse. That way it can be a workstation/gaming machine from chair and HTPC from armchair via remote. I use mce2005.
    Reply
  • JeanLuc
    Why would you want an expensive touch screen interface on HTPC? The whole point of having a HTPC is use can operate it remotely from your sofa. I would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.
    Reply
  • cleeve
    Yeah, I have to agree with you fellows and I tried to get that across in the review; any productive use for these screens is a bit of a stretch. The only thing I could come up with is using the frontview media player to access music if you didn't want to power up your screen; I have a projector with a limited bulb life and I don't want to turn it on to listen to my music library.

    But thanks for reading it anyway, I hope the info was useful to you guys.

    And thanks for the kind words, Hamsterabed!
    Reply
  • cleeve
    JeanLucI would also like to have seen what motherboards these cases can support whether it be a micro ATX or full ATX motherboards.
    I mentioned on the first page "All three offer full ATX compatibility", that includes MicroATX.
    Reply
  • I have been waiting a long while for an updated HTPC review. I was hoping to see what kind of components you gurus would use, but this case review was very helpful to me too (been thinking about using an AMD GPU with the HDMI, but was interested in seeing some overall system power requirements of running an HTPC. Don't want a huge jump in electric bills). I was mostly considering building an HTPC for my dad. He's old, and likes to listen to music. He streams internet radio, but sits in the uncomfortable computer chair. With one of these cases he could easily select music AND be able to play a movie using the same box, without a learning curve that would frustrate him. Thanks for the write-up, I hope you can do another one soon!
    Reply
  • neodawg
    nice review, I have the DH101 which is the same - the 7in touch LCD, but it does have the remote and small 2x5 in blue black lcd, that displays computer/media information, i didnt find that the case was flimsy at all, maybe a little without the cover, but once the cover is on it is like a rock. I have to agree with you on the touch LCD, another good idea on paper, but in real world it is an epic fail.
    Reply
  • cadder
    I've thought about this issue in the past and there are times when I might want to use the small screen and not power up the big screen-
    1) to set the PC to record something, say I get up in the morning and remember I wanted to record a certain broadcast, I can do that from the small screen
    2) to take a quick look at the weather maybe
    Actually I've thought about this with respect to just having a large screen and a small screen beside it, sort of the next step beyond "picture in picture". So maybe the touch screen aspect isn't useful but the screen itself might be useful, and if a person didn't want to use the touchscreen in the front of the case, they could use a small monitor or tv setting with the equipment. Some people might want the HTPC to set in the furniture along with the BluRay player and TV tuner, but others might have a more extensive setup with a place to sit and work, video games, multiple screens, etc.
    Reply