Silverstone LaScala LC-04 HTPC Case

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Assembly was fairly straight forward but not as easy as building a system in a regular ATX case. The lack of an instruction manual, printed or online, combined with the small size of the case made this build more challenging than usual.

Finished. There's a lot of stuff packed into this little case!

The full size ATX board that I used for this build bolted up to the standoffs and case with no issues at all. As I mentioned above, anyone thinking of using this case with a motherboard that does not have integrated graphics should carefully check the diagrams on Silverstone's site to make sure they can use all the slots that they need. With my particular board, the AGP slot was located in the position that left me with no option to install any PCI cards. In this case I would not be able to use one of the PCI-based hardware video decoder cards (such as the Hauppauge PVR-250) that are popular with the HTPC crowd. Caveat Emptor.

I initially mounted an Alpha SPAL-8952 heatsink to cool the CPU. The Alpha's fan sucks the hot air up off the CPU and exhausts it away from the heatsink. Since Silverstone followed Intel's P4 "Thermally Advantaged Chassis" guidelines and included an air vent above the CPU area, the Alpha style of "blow up" heatsink seemed the natural choice. The heatsink didn't line up perfectly with the case vent, but it was within 1/2".

My thinking was that it would be beneficial to remove as much hot air from the case as possible, and the Alpha's fan orientation would achieve a measure of this. I thought that if I used a typical "blow-down" style of heatsink, the fan might pull in cool air from the vent, but it would be heated as it passed through the heatsink, and then it would be recirculated throughout the case.

After I ran tests with the Alpha heatsink I swapped it for the good 'ol Zalman 7000AlCu. This is my "reference" heatsink so it would be easy to compare its performance using same hardware in a typical, well ventilated tower case. Plus I could test my "blow hot air out" vs. "suck cool air in" theory.

I had serious reservations about bolting the Seagate HDD directly to the case and mounting bracket, but decided to try it anyway because I wasn't in the mood to mod the mounting system to decouple the drive. The steel mounting bracket is removable so it wouldn't be too difficult to drill an alternative set of mounting holes and space the plate further apart in order to use some EAR HDD-decoupling grommets or Sorbothane strips to dampen the drive noise. Of course, decoupling the drive from the metal case will cause the drive to run warmer so depending on just how warm the system runs, the user may well decide to leave the drive hard-mounted to the case.

Running the wiring was an interesting exercise. I like to keep as much of the wiring out of the way to aid in case cooling and general aesthetics but with this small case, it was a real challenge. There is nowhere to hide the wiring and there is very little room to keep the wiring out of the airflow. The wire loom on the PSU is pretty short which helps keep the cable clutter down, but it was too short to reach the HDD, fan and optical drive without using the one supplied wire extension and scrounging up another one of my own. The wiring harness does not include any SATA power connectors, but does include a floppy drive power connector, even though there's no place in the case to mount a floppy drive. I guess this could be used as a video card power connector with some cards.

The I/O wiring harness from the front panel was a challenge as well. The two sets of USB 2.0 connectors were not mounted in a one piece connector body but were all separate. This required careful studying of my motherboard manual, and close attention as I was hooking them up. Everything worked fine, but it sure would be easier if there was a standard connector for the USB headers. The Firewire cable is terminated with a standard six pin external connector on it. This will not fit on a typical motherboard Firewire header, it will only fit into the jack of an external Firewire port. Unless your board or Firewire card came with this type of connector on it (a rarity, in my experience) you would have to drill a hole in the back of the case, run the Firewire cable out of the case, and then plug it into the I/O port on your motherboard or add-on Firewire card. Kind of silly, if you ask me.

The optical drive was easy to setup and install. They tray bolts into the case with four screws, yet is easily removed to gain access to the hardware beneath it. There isn't much clearance between the bottom of the optical drive tray and the motherboard components and add-on cards, but this handy bit of shoe-horning does let you use a full-size 5.25" drive in this small case.

Here's the optical drive mounted in its tray. Notice the close proximity to the NB heatsink.

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