itschris

itschris

Moderator
You’ve decided it’s no brainer to build an HTPC. You’re right. It makes a lot of sense because you can utilize it from just organizing your music, to nearly controlling every aspect of your home theater. That being said, the first thing you need is something to pack all those components into.

When it comes to HTPC cases, there are several important things to consider: budget, capability (i.e., will it do/fit what you want it to), location of the case, and of course… looks.

You can spend anywhere from $59 to over $1,000 for some of the highest end offerings from some companies. I’m going to start this thread with a summary and links to some of the more well known case manufacturers. I’m going to include links to online reviews that I think may be worthwhile reading. The truth is, some cons noted on a particular case may not be a con to you. For instance, if the case is somewhat loud, you may not care since yours is housed in a cabinet. What matters to you will be very much dependent on your specific setup. So looking at some of the important aspects of cases, here are some of my initial observations as someone who’s been hemming, hawing, and research for some time about my first build.

Budget
As noted above, you can spend $50, $500, or more a lot more. To some degree, you get what you pay for, but mostly the much higher priced cases have built in touchscreens that usually add a significant amount to the cost of the case. With the better cases, you usually have better cooling, better wire routing, easier installation of components, but make no mistake, you can certainly build a very find HTPC with a $55 case.

Capability
The nicest, most expensive, or best value case is worthless if it can’t do what you need it to. Many of the new high end graphics cards are full length cards, they’re tall, and they generate a ton of heat all on their own. If you plan on using one of these higher end variety graphic solutions, you’ll need to pay careful attention to your case choice. It’ll need to have the room for the card itself… without compromising the installation of your other components and your case must have excellent cooling characteristics.
How many drives do you plan on installing? Some cases, for example, say you can install 5 drives. Well maybe. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Again, cooling will play a big part in that, and often times a full length card may actually limit one or more drive locations. When you start loading the case with multiple drives, multiple tuner cards, high end graphics, the case design becomes crucial.

Location
More than anything, this speaks to case noise. The more hardware you have packed in the case, the more heat you’ll have, the more cooling you’ll need, and the greater potential for fan noise you’ll end up with. There are many “silent case” solutions to address this issue, but if your case is located in a cabinet, the noise level may be a mute point (pun intended).

Looks
Do you want this to look like a computer, an a/v component, or just an indiscriminant box. There are choices for all of these looks. There are a lot of slick looking cases that have 7”, even larger touchscreens on them. Some look very industrial, some look as slick as the latest receivers. Like anything, however, some create immediate excitement, but you may end up paying for fluff or unneeded or impractical options. Spend some time thinking about how important looks really are since it can add significantly to the cost… for appearance sake alone.
Next… I’ll be adding links to the some of the most popular case solutions.
 
krzywica

krzywica

Audioholic Samurai
Nice stickey Chis....will there be a suggested case lineup to follow?

I got my case for $75 from what I remember and it worATI X2's and Nvidia GTX 2xx cards would be too long for my case.
 
Djizasse

Djizasse

Senior Audioholic
Nice intro :)
I would like to add another option for the DIYers.

You can buy a faulty receiver or amp, these can be had for cheap.
With some carefull planning you can even change the LCD and make all the buttons work.
Some amps have really nice cases and would make a very nice companion for the rest of the "real" A/V equipment.
 
itschris

itschris

Moderator
I'm hoping to post a series of links and reviews tonight. Stand by.
 
krzywica

krzywica

Audioholic Samurai
Nice stickey Chis....will there be a suggested case lineup to follow?

I got my case for $75 from what I remember and it worATI X2's and Nvidia GTX 2xx cards would be too long for my case.
Not sure why I can't edit my post but.....this is what I was trying to say....must have bumped the "insert" key when I was typing last night...:)

I got my case for $75 from what I remember and it worked great with a basic setup. But when I added a quad core CPU (Q8200) and a high end GPU (HD4870 1GB) the heat was way too much and the cooling needed to be revamped greatly. Also like you said the case limited me as to what GPU I could get as the ATI X2's and Nvidia GTX 2xx cards would be too long for my case.
 
Sheep

Sheep

Audioholic Warlord
I have the HD4870 512mb in my rig, and it barely fit with the HDD cage installed (No HDD in the cage either!). I removed it and put a 120fan in the opening blowing onto the card for some airflow. This is a Silverstone Lascala-13B case.

SheepStar
 
Djizasse

Djizasse

Senior Audioholic
Some of the nicest cases I have seen. On the spendy side and using 100% passive cooling for the most silent HTPC ever.

http://www.atechfabrication.com/HTPC_cases.htm
Very nice! Many thanks for this link.
When I opened it I went straight to see if they included the cooler blocks + heat pipes to thermally connect the CPU and GPU to the case, and the DO! Excellent!

Take a look at these photos:
GPU block:


CPU + GPU - beautiful:


CPU close shot:


Too bad about the price. And I thought the Zalman TNN500AF was expensive.
 
M

mustang_steve

Senior Audioholic
Those cases are pretty hot. However don't discount the aluminum full-tower for one reason: massive data storage.

I'm in the process of ripping all my DVDs, menus and all to my hard drive, as well as CDs....no alterations from the disc media whatsoever. The purpose of this is to remove disc handling, as well as get these numerous DVD racks out of my living room :p

Having a full-tower case means I can fit 8 hard drives within this thing....that's the capability for over 8 Terabytes of media sotrage. Of course I could build a file server for all of this, however there's price issues with that, down to the dedicated network that would be required to ensure there's no interruptions in the data transfer.

Through proper drive selection and installation noise issues can be reduced to being a moot point. Use an SSD for the operating system in a 3.5" bay, then throw rubber dampers on the drive mounted in the 5.25" bays. My system is so quiet that my room's air purifier on it's lowest setting is louder.

So just consider this a different view on the HTPC case concept.
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Those cases are pretty hot. However don't discount the aluminum full-tower for one reason: massive data storage.

I'm in the process of ripping all my DVDs, menus and all to my hard drive, as well as CDs....no alterations from the disc media whatsoever. The purpose of this is to remove disc handling, as well as get these numerous DVD racks out of my living room :p

Having a full-tower case means I can fit 8 hard drives within this thing....that's the capability for over 8 Terabytes of media sotrage. Of course I could build a file server for all of this, however there's price issues with that, down to the dedicated network that would be required to ensure there's no interruptions in the data transfer.

Through proper drive selection and installation noise issues can be reduced to being a moot point. Use an SSD for the operating system in a 3.5" bay, then throw rubber dampers on the drive mounted in the 5.25" bays. My system is so quiet that my room's air purifier on it's lowest setting is louder.

So just consider this a different view on the HTPC case concept.
You could always get External HDDs.

Also keep in the mind the 2TB WD HDDs. 2TB x 8 = 16TB.:D
 
B

Boerd

Full Audioholic
Very nice! Many thanks for this link.
When I opened it I went straight to see if they included the cooler blocks + heat pipes to thermally connect the CPU and GPU to the case, and the DO! Excellent!

Take a look at these photos:
GPU block:


CPU + GPU - beautiful:


CPU close shot:


Too bad about the price. And I thought the Zalman TNN500AF was expensive.
Really cool images - I like these HTPC cases.
I need to win that California Lottery for once - I don't know why is taking so long ...:confused:
 
Polygon

Polygon

Audioholic
I love the HeatSync 7000 from A-Tech. I was going to go with that until I found the new Zalman cases. I'm very picky and there aren't a lot of good looking and functional ones around. The Zalman cases are a lot cheaper too.

Zalman HD501



Zalman HD503



I just ordered the 503 a few days ago. Can't wait for it to get here.
 
gacajun

gacajun

Audiophyte
I am new to these forums but a long time computer builder/user..etc.

Cases without fans are quiet but boy are they expensive. I just went through a rebuild of my HTPC and spent a long time looking at cases. I had an Antec shuttle type case with 3 hard drives and a DVD burner in it for about 3 years but with 1.5 and 2 TB drives getting affordable I thought I'd downsize the case. I wanted something to look more like my amplifier and less of a PC and did not want a tall case. I ended up buying a Lian Le PC-C37B for $150. I looked at the Zalman line but it was more than I could see putting in a case although their cases are nice. You can see the case details at the manufacturer's website here. The case will accommodate only half-height cards, which is what I wanted size-wise. I ended up with this system

Case - LIAN LI PC-C37B
Motherboard - Asus P5N7A-VM
Processor - Intel Q9650
Tuner - Hauppauge WinTV HVR-2250
2GB memory
2 hard drives - 1.5 TB/2.0TB
DVD - BlueRay burner (don't remember the make and model)

The video is off the motherboard and is pretty qood quality, had CUDA processing as well. I also use a Silicon Dust HD Homerun tuner that is hooked to my wired LAN, it has 2 HD tuners in it. All of this is hooked to my Sony 57" TV and I am happy with it.

The HTPC looks like my Sony amplifier and the only way you can tell it is a PC is the USB ports are on the front. LIAN LI has a newer case (PC-C39) which is the same as mine except it has an IR port in the front. I use a Harmony remote to control everything so I'm good with what I have.

Interesting forums...lots of knowledgeable people here; I know I am going to learn a lot.




http://www.lian-li.com.tw/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=220&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=64&g=d
 
B

Boerd

Full Audioholic
I am new to these forums but a long time computer builder/user..etc.

Cases without fans are quiet but boy are they expensive. I just went through a rebuild of my HTPC and spent a long time looking at cases. I had an Antec shuttle type case with 3 hard drives and a DVD burner in it for about 3 years but with 1.5 and 2 TB drives getting affordable I thought I'd downsize the case. I wanted something to look more like my amplifier and less of a PC and did not want a tall case. I ended up buying a Lian Le PC-C37B for $150. I looked at the Zalman line but it was more than I could see putting in a case although their cases are nice. You can see the case details at the manufacturer's website here. The case will accommodate only half-height cards, which is what I wanted size-wise. I ended up with this system

Case - LIAN LI PC-C37B
Motherboard - Asus P5N7A-VM
Processor - Intel Q9650
Tuner - Hauppauge WinTV HVR-2250
2GB memory
2 hard drives - 1.5 TB/2.0TB
DVD - BlueRay burner (don't remember the make and model)

The video is off the motherboard and is pretty qood quality, had CUDA processing as well. I also use a Silicon Dust HD Homerun tuner that is hooked to my wired LAN, it has 2 HD tuners in it. All of this is hooked to my Sony 57" TV and I am happy with it.

The HTPC looks like my Sony amplifier and the only way you can tell it is a PC is the USB ports are on the front. LIAN LI has a newer case (PC-C39) which is the same as mine except it has an IR port in the front. I use a Harmony remote to control everything so I'm good with what I have.

Interesting forums...lots of knowledgeable people here; I know I am going to learn a lot.




http://www.lian-li.com.tw/v2/en/product/product06.php?pr_index=220&cl_index=1&sc_index=25&ss_index=64&g=d
How silent is it ???
 
gacajun

gacajun

Audiophyte
I have two 70mm fans installed in the case and its pretty quiet. I have some $$ invested in the quad processor so need to make sure the heat stays down. Having the video off the motherboard helps some but the case is pretty compact. There are mounts for up to 5 fans although I only have 2 mounted. I found some 70mm fans at NewEgg that have a pretty low dba rating so I ordered 3 of them. I'm going to install them one at a time and see how the sound increases and will install what I need to keep it cool. The case has vents below the hard drive and all around the sides so there is plenty of space for air flow.
 
K

kentek

Audiophyte
LanBox

My choice is ThermalTake's LanBox @ < $140 Or the LanBox Lite @ $100.

Takes a Micro ATX Card. I'm choosing the Intel DP55WB and one of Intel's new i5 CPUs.

ThermalTake also has a gadget that will house 2 2.5 HDs in one 3-1/2 space and give you hotswap capability.


I am about to order 5 or 6 to use as company desktop.
 

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