I've been mucking around with building a system using this case. Still trying to determine which cpu architecture to pursue (AMD 64, P4 Northwood, P4 Prescott, PentiumM). My use of this HTPC, would be to use it as a PVR (so a large hard-drive is a must), and predominantly using MCE2005's suite of applications (i.e. recording a program, whilst watching another, and recording TV shows to DVD, providing network storage for media files for the rest of the house).
I've noted the following revisions to the case when compared to the original HT-400 reviews (e.g. http://htpcnews.com/main.php?id=ht400b_1
). I'll try to avoid repeating what the reviewers on other websites have said on things such as installation procedure.
1. In the UK (via www.quietpc.com
) the case's IR receiver and optional VFD are mounted in a PCB which terminates in a USB cable that can be plumbed straight into a mobo header (instead of the molex/parallel port cable). The front mounted firewire port still terminates in a firewire plug, but I bought firewire plug-to-mobo-header cable from the vendor. This means, that neither the VFD or firewire cables need to routed to the outside of the case anymore!
2. The PCB for the VFD and power/reset switches have been seperated into 2 smaller PCBs, making installation of the VFD that much easier. Using the iMon driver/application was all that was needed to get the remote and VFD working straight away.
3. The remote now supplied is the iMon Pad.
4. The drive cage has been altered from the original 2 x 5.25" configuration, to a 5.25" and a 3.5" (see my comments on hard-drive mounting later on). The other 2 x 3.5" drive cage remain the same.
The case (silver), looks fantastic, and the logos are centred and true. And yet I can't see how this case is worth £250 (price includes the optional VFD) especially when compared to acoustically/thermally better designed PC cases which cost a 1/5 of the price (e.g. Antec 3700BQE). But having read reviews of other HTPC cases, this was the best of a bad bunch. What swayed it for me was the specially designed Acoustifoam kit developed for this case. The foam kit comprises of 4 pieces (3 for the of the case cover, and 1 for the base of the case). All the pieces when fitted are designed to not foul the case intake grills and mobo standoffs. The foam is very effective at deadening the panel resonance that thin gauge aluminium case covers are (in)famous for.
As I stated in the beginning of this post, I haven't settled on an architecture, but so far I've been playing around with a 2.8GHz Northwood & a 3.2GHz Prescott on the same motherboard. Components are as follows:
Accent HT-400 + Acoustifoam HT-400 kit + Acoustriproduct fan gasket + Acoustifan dustproof 80mm (5 volts)
Abit IC7-G (Zalman passive northbridge cooler) (for testing purposes)
Corsair 2x512Mb RAM
Samsung Spinpoint 120 250Gb SATA drive
Pioneer 108 drive (for testing purposes)
Seasonic S12-600 (for testing purposes)
Thermalight XP-120 + Acoustifan dustproof 120mm fan (5 volts)
Gigabyte fanless 6600GT AGP card (for testing purposes)
Whether or not the XP-120 can fit in this case will vary from motherboard to motherboard, as it really depends on where the CPU retention bracket is in relation to the rest of the motherboard. On the Abit IC7-G it wasn't a problem. I found that the cpu ran 3-4C cooler with the fan blowing in the up direction whilst testing the Prescott cpu. This is in line with SPCR's review of the cooler. It may be that in this orientation, it promotes airflow from the inlet vents to the CPU, rather than the other way around. One thing to note is that the foam does eat into the case space, meaning that there's little clearance room above the CPU heatsink/cooler, and a miniscule amount (if any) for the heatpipes of the nVidia card. Bearing in mind the voltages I'm running, temps are as follows (ambient temp 26C, and it was tested on the dining room table):
Idle PCMark04 MCE2005 Disk VGA CPU Fan Case FAN PSU Fan
P4 2.8GHz 48C 60C 55C 36C 55C @650rpm @500rpm @750-850rpm
P4 3.2GHz 58C 70C 65C 46C 58C @650rpm @500rpm @750-850rpm
Noise wise, the HTPC is very quiet, and I think perfectly acceptable for an HTPC environment. I was surprised that the PSU fan hardly ramped up at all, although this is more a testament to the effeciency of the Seasonic S12 PSU than the case. Up close you can hear the PC, and mostly from the back of the PC. Noise is mostly air flowing through the fans' blades, although I did note some vibrational noise from the hard-drive. Otherwise hard-drive idle is quiet from over 1 metre away, and seeks are very muted (I haven't checked to see if AAM is activated). There is still some resonance in the panels, but it doesn't create any noise (thanks to the acoustifoam). The majority of the heat is expelled out of the case by the PSU's 120mm fan, although the 80mm exhaust fan does help (despite it's lowly CFM value at 5 volts). This fan was mounted on the outside of the case (I may choose to increase this to 7.5V and see if I can live with the increase in noise when it's placed in the TV cabinet). Subjectively, and from the sofa, it's hard to hear the PC is on when the speakers are on, even during quiet passages, and that's the acid test. It's not going to compete with a quietened Antec 3700BQE (for example), the design of it is too compromised, but then it does blend in with it's surrounding, and the noise signature is unobtrusive. I don't know what I can compare it to, but it's several times quieter than a PS2 or Xbox (and their in an enclosed TV cabinet).
One thing is clear though, to get this case quiet, you need to carefully select your pc components. This means CPU, heatsink, fans, PSU, hard-drive, graphics card (if any) and subsequent cooling.
Problems I found:
1. List of compatible DVD writers that fit the fascia hasn't been updated by manufacturer. They only list the NEC drive, but it doesn't have booktype settings for DVD+R or DVD+RW. So I need to do a bit more research on other drives, otherwise, I'll just get the NEC and be done with it.
2. The power switch kept on getting stuck. No visible reason for this, but I rotated it around until it found a position where it didn't stick in use.
3. One of the brass standoffs for the VFD PCB, was not screwed in properly, causing the IR Receiver PCB to be twisted. It seems to be okay now.
4. Remote sensor needed to be carefully bent into a better seated position as it was preventing the installation of the VFD.
5. A general lack of instructions, particularly for installing the VFD. The website's VFD installation instructions are for the parrallel port version of the VFD.
Other things to consider during build:
1. Heatsink choice. I really wanted to get a cpu cooler whose fan could have been pointed towards the vent (possibly via a duct). This would reduce the amount of heat that the PSU has to expel. There isn't a lot of vertical room for such a setup, but you never know. There is of course one course of action, but it's quite drastic, and that would be to create a blow hole above the CPU fan. Dare I do it?
2. Some people have dremelled a hole where the vents are beneath the central drive cage is and aided airflow into the case with a fan.
3. Need to settle on mobo/cpu selection. The cheapest option is to stick with the P4 2.8GHz. But I also have a A64 + Abit AV8, but I don't know how well AMD does in MCE2005. For the sake of temperatures, I'm also willing to contemplate PentiumM, but again, I don't know how well it performs with what I intend to use the HTPC for.
4. HTPC doesn't need such a powerful PSU, fortunately the Seasonic S12 have lower powered variants.
5. Hard-drive mounting. Need to find a way to decouple/suspend the hard-drive to reduce vibrational noise. Otherwise, I'll remove the hard drive cage behind the USB/Firewire ports, and place the hard drive on non conductive foam there. As the case won't be moved, it might be okay. Whatever I choose to do, hard-drive temperature will need to be monitored. If it weren't for PVR function, I would choose to go for a quiet 2.5" drive, which can be decoupled in the 3.5" drive cages.
6. Graphics card. Although the existing graphics card is passively cooled, the heat builds up in the case. Exhausting the hot air out of the case, as the Artic Cooling silencers do, would be worth pursuing. However these coolers are not silent, unless you run a fanmate on it. As I understand it, there isn't a version which fits an AGP 6600GT card (thus potentially affecting my mobo choice).