Zalman's HD135 HTPC case: Gasping for air

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December 31, 2006 by Devon Cooke

Zalman HD135
Home Theater PC Enclosure
Market Price

Zalman is no stranger to the home theater game. Their HD160 has been on the market for almost a year now, and even before that they catered to the HTPC market by including a remote control and Media Center software with their fanless TNN systems. Zalman's background in low-noise cooling has given them an edge too; both cases are worthy offerings.

We therefore approached the HD135 with some lofty expectations, and our first look did not disappoint. Zalman has done a good job of hiding them, but the HD135 has more vents than almost any other home theater case we've seen. That's tremendously important; with the cramped surroundings of most A/V units, a case the breathes well is essential — and such cases are not easy to find.

The target market for the HD135 is a little unclear. Zalman already sells the HD160 and, aside from the styling, there doesn't seem to be a lot to set the HD135 apart. Then again, using style to differentiate a product isn't such a bad strategy in the home theater market, especially considering that Zalman has managed to shave 2.5cm off the height of the HD135, which makes for a sleeker, less boxy appearance.

Aside from styling, the only other obvious change is the number of drive bays. The HD135 supports six internal drives — three more than the HD160. This clashes with our preference for using network storage in a noise-sensitive media center PC, but there are certainly users out there who will appreciate the potential of loading up their HTPC with 4.5 TB of recording space — any no one says you have to fill all six bays.

The retail box is suitably slick for a $300 case.

As with Zalman's other offerings, the HD135 is available in either black or brushed aluminum, so matching other home electronics should be fairly easy. The case panels and interior are aluminum, but the material is thick enough that it should avoid the worst pitfall of aluminum enclosures: Resonance.

Black or aluminum, the appearance is very handsome. Yes, it's only 2.5 cm lower than 4U height, but that 2.5 cm does a lot to reduce the boxy appearance that so many HTPC cases suffer from. The HD135 is still on the tall side for an A/V component, but it's no taller than many receivers and the front panel looks more like a high end DVD player than a computer.

Hey good lookin'!

Front ports and a floppy (or memory card) bay are hidden under a fold-down flap.

435mm x 425mm x 135mm (L x W x H)
5.2kg (11.5lb)
Motherboard Compatibility
Power Supply Support
Standard ATX/ATX12V
Drive Bays
5 x 3.5" Internal Drive Bays
1 x 3.5" External Drive Bay
1 x 5.25" External Drive Bay
Cooling Components
1 x 80mm Exhaust Fan
1 x 80mm Inflow Fan and Air Duct
Expansion Slots
7 Slots
Front I/O Ports
2 x USB Ports
1 x IEEE1394(Firewire) Port
1 x MIC
1 x Headphone
Available Colors
Silver / Black
Display Type
VFD (Vacuum Fluorescent Display)

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