Zalman HD160 Home Theater PC Enclosure

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HDD CAGE DETAILS

The hard drive cage looks simple enough, but it's actually a bit of a pain to work with.


The HDD cage is a bit awkward to work with.

It's in two parts: A U-shaped part that screws over a base. Fours screws on opposite sides attach the two parts together. The other two sides of the base have holes through which screws attach the cage to the bottom of the case. You might be able to see in the photos that the base has two pads and a pin through each pad to simply hold the bottom edge of the drive in place. Two screws through the top secure the drive. Three drives can be accommodated, with very tight spacing between them.


The metal tabs and the pins both make contact with the HDD.
The cage mounting hole on the far side becomes covered when the HDD is installed.

The bottom pads and the top rubber grommets are meant to mechanically decouple the drive from the cage, but there are problems with this arrangement.

  • The little tabs for each drive make contact with the drive, hence "short-circuiting" the soft bushings.
  • There's still metal-to metal contact between the pins at the bottom and the HDD.

The manual suggests removing the entire cage, mounting the drives, then screwing the cage back in place. What it doesn't tell you is that if a drive is mounted in either of the two edge positions, a screw to attach the cage becomes blocked. You can't secure the cage at all. It also doesn't tell you that you need a fairly long shaft (~6"), magnetic Philips head screw driver to access the cage mounting screws.


Base part of HDD cage.

The only ways to make this work is to use just one hard drive and mount it in the center position, or to leave the base in place, removing only the top U-shaped part to mount the drives. It's fiddly, but it is doable.

VFD POWER

Another potential problem with the HDD cage is that it blocks access to the terminals on the VFD to power it up. The photo below shows the location of this pair of pins; the HDD cage needs to be removed completely to fit the VFD power connector.


Access to VFD power connection requires removal of HDD cage.

Another related issue is where the VFD feed voltage comes from. Remember the ATX Power Cable Adapter pictured on the first page? Well, it's simply an ATX cable extender with a single pair of breakout leads. The output voltage is 5V, and it comes from the 5VSB (5V stand-by) line, as shown in the photo below. We're not thrilled with this arrangement, as the extra contacts may cause some voltage drop by the time the juice gets to the motherboard. Users of many modern PSUs that have just 2A capacity on the 5VSB line might be wise exercise a bit of caution about overdrawing from that line (with lots of USB devices, for example).


ATX breakout lead to power the VFD.

OPTICAL DRIVE BAY

The trouble with mounting continues with the optical drive. You might be able to spot the problem just by examining the photo below: The optical drive cannot be adjusted for correct positioning at the front panel while it is actually in place. There is no way to access the screws that lock the optical drive down. The best way to deal with this is to install all four screws for the optical drive loosely. Put the cage in place, and position the drive. Tighten the two screws you have access to. Then you can take the cage out, tighten the other two screws, and reinstall. You need to remove the cage once, but once is all that is necessary.

There's also an additional HDD mounting bay at the top of the optical drive cage. It is equipped with the same rubber grommets as the ones at the top of the main HDD cage. However, given the absence of any airflow vents nearby, a hard drive in this location is likely to get very hot, and we would not recommend using this drive bay.


Optical drive bay and front panel I/O assembly.

The front of the optical drive bay needs to be worked on in order to match the brushed aluminum bezel. Zalman provides a machined brushed aluminum cover piece to replace the plastic one on the optical drive.


Looks nice when done, but the doing is not fun.

The front plastic lip of the disk tray on most optical drives can be removed without damage if you work carefully, but as they all differ a bit, you have to examine the drive and figure it out for yourself. Usually there's a couple of clips or tabs that hold the lip in place. Once the piece is removed, then the aluminum cover piece can be placed. It's backed with a strip of double sided tape. We ended up using another layer of double sided tape atop the existing one to make things work. The fact that all this has to be done while the front/back position of the optical drive is adjusted to align its front to that of the case makes things quite tedious. Again, it's not impossible to do, but it is certainly very fiddly and annoying, even for those who have lots of experience assembling systems.



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