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Antec Fusion Remote Max HTPC case

Nov. 21, 2008 by Mike
Chin

Product
Fusion Remote Max

Premium Home Theater PC Case
Manufacturer
Antec
Inc.
Market Price
~US$200

The Fusion Remote Max came from the same design initiative which produced the
Antec P180 series (P180, P182. Mini P180 ) and the NSK2400/Fusion cases. It
is meant to compete with similarly big cases from Silverstone, Thermaltake,
CoolerMaster and Moneual, but Antec has kept the pricing substantially lower
than most of the direct competition. The Max is a bigger version of the smaller
mATX-sized Fusion, which has become one of the most popular HTPC cases on the
market today. For some, the larger size of the Max is a better match to the
typical gargantuan high end home theater receivers.

The FRM is the third product of collaboration between Antec and myself. As
with the P180 and the NSK2400/Fusion cases, I was the thermal / acoustic design
consultant on the Max project. In large part, it is an adaptation of the P180
series case to a horizontal layout. The primary design goals for the FRM were
quite different from those for the previous projects. The main goals are reflected
in the promotional language Antec is using for the Max:

"Spacious enough for dual graphics cards, the Fusion Remote Max enclosure
enables you to build the ultimate home theater PC, perfect not only for enjoying
digital media, but for playing the latest games. This case features a stylish
aluminum front bezel with an LCD, a built-in IR receiver and a remote control
to work the included iMEDIAN HD software. If that weren't enough, the quiet-running
140mm fan and noise-reducing design provide whisper-quiet operation."

Some of the key features include:

  • Three separate thermal zones — for the motherboard, the hard drives and the power supply.
  • Power supply cooled by outside air independent of other components.
  • Hard drives and components on the motherboard cooled by directed airflow from 120mm and 140mm exhaust fans in main chamber.
  • Sturdy 0.8mm steel chassis construction.
  • Free-breathing, directed in/out vents for ideal airflow.
  • Soft silicone rubber grommet mounting of hard drives to minimize noise-causing vibration transfer.

The Fusion Max (as it was originally called) has been coming for some time.
The project actually began before the original NSK2400 / Fusion was released,
and it's been shown at a number of shows since then.

A QUICK LOOK

The FRM comes in a colorful retail box, like most Antec products. It is quite large. The case is packed with closed-cell foam end caps for shock protection. A box of screws and other parts, an owner's manual, and the iMon remote control are included.



The usual full color retail box.






A big knob that looks like it's for volume, a display over the stealthed optical drive, and a drop down cover across the bottom of the front. Except for the big 140mm fan grill on the right, the Fusion Max looks like minimalist high end audio gear. Note the reflections from the shiny silver surround of the front rubber feet.



ANTEC FUSION REMOTE MAX SPECIFICATIONS

Remote
Control
Deluxe 56-button remote control and iMEDIAN HD by iMON software for media management and playback

Front Panel

Aluminum plate front bezel with Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), built-in IR receiver and volume control to work with media center applications

Unique Design

Triple chamber structure to separate the power supply, hard drives and motherboard for cooler and quieter operation

Cooling / Airflow System

- 1 side (standard) 140mm TriCool fan

- 1 rear (standard) 120 mm TriCool fan

- 1 (optional) 120 mm front fan mount to cool the graphic cards

- Air guide brings fresh air to the CPU Cooler


- Built-in washable air filters
Drive Bays

5 Drive Bays

- External 1 x 5.25”

- Internal 4 x 3.5”
Motherboard up to standard ATX (12"
x 9.6" or 30.5cm x 24.5cm)
Expansion Slots 7
Front Ports - 2 x USB 2.0

- Audio In and Out

- eSATA

- IEEE 1394
(Firewire)
Material 0.8mm cold rolled steel construction
Dimensions / Weight • 7.5"(H) x 17.5"(W) x 17.8"(D)

• 19.05cm(H) x 44.45cm(W) x 45.21cm(D)

Net Weight: 19.6 lbs / 8.9 kg


Gross Weight: 24 lbs / 10.9 kg

The case is built to the 4U standard. "U" refers to server rack mount sizing, 1U = 1.75". Without the feet, the chassis is 7" tall, or 4U; with the feet, it is 7.5". This is similar to the Silverstone CW series cases, the Lian Li PC-C32, CoolerMaster MC Media 280 series, most Moneual cases (like the MonCaso we reviewed last year) or Thermaltake Tenor/Bach and DH series.

THE EXTERIOR

The overall impression is of a high quality, weighty case. The
combination of a brushed aluminum fascia and thick steel panels is well proven,
and it works nicely here. Here's a photo of the unit with the lower door open
and the optical drive door open as well. (The photo was obviously taken after
system assembly.)



The clean look is achieved by hiding all the I/O ports behind the full
width hinged door. An aside: The black anodized brushed aluminum fascia
is difficult to photograph.







There are two dust filters accessible from behind the hinged front panel door.





The back right corner is where all the airflow is generated. A single center thumbscrew (not shown) locks the bayonet-mount top cover in place.

The 140mm fan on the side and the 120mm fan on the back over the
motherboard I/O panel are both set up to blow out. Switches to control the speed
of each fan (low, med, high) are embedded just beside the 120mm fan. This means
that all other vents on the case work as intakes: The top cover slot vents over
the video card area, the grill over the PCI slots, the vents slot covers. There
are two more vents, on the bottom panel, as you'll see below. On the far right,
there is a large vent similar to the one on the left, meant for a 120mm or 140mm
cooled power supply.



Bottom intake vents.

In the photo above, the front panel is on the left. Note the long
vent under the left side of the case (at the bottom of the photo), and the more
square one near the front center. These are important intake vents, and they
incorporate the dust filters shown above.

The feet are the same ones used in the NSK2400/Fusion case. The
photo and caption below from our
review of that case
could easily pass here without comment.



The right feet: The front one is cosmetically nicer, with a rubber insert in the center;

the back one is all soft silicone rubber.

THE INTERIOR

Here is what greets the eyes when the top cover is removed. The top of the photo below is the front of the case. Again, the overall impression is high quality materials and nice detailing, with few edges where you can cut your fingers. (Admittedly, this proves unavoidable in virtually every case I've ever worked on.)



Three separate compartments divide the case into distinct thermal zones.



With the optical drive cage removed.

In the front center there is a compartment for two hard drives,
vented from the bottom. Directly behind that is the main chamber for the motherboard,
which contains the two exhaust fans. A small partition wall divides the center
HDD and motherboard compartments, but this wall does not come all the way up
to the top; there is a gap of about 2" at the top. This allows the front
drives to take advantage of the airflow generated by the two fans in the main
chamber; the half-wall that divides the two chambers forces the air to be drawn
up between the drives rather than simply pulling it straight underneath them.

The single-bay optical drive cage, another component from the
NSK2400/Fusion, slots in on the right side of the case (confusingly, this is
on the left side in the photo above). The cage is double-height to accommodate
the front display, but only a single optical drive can be installed. It covers
the mess of cables coming out of the front I/O panel and the display. Having
is single drive bay is unlikely to be a problem for most people, but it does
prevent the installation of other accessories that use external drive bays,
such as card readers. This is a minor point — external card readers are
readily available — but it is still something to consider.

The left side of the case (right in the photo above) is compartmentalized
with a full height wall that runs the full length of the case. Two further hard
drives can be mounted in the front of this space, and the PSU slots in vertically
at the back. If a 120mm/140mm fan PSU is used, the large right panel vent becomes
its intake. If an 80mm in-line fan PSU is used, then the long, dust-filtered
bottom vent in this chamber becomes the intake. A power supply with in-line
airflow is preferred if the drive rack in this compartment is to be used, as
a 120mm/140mm configuration will mean that the drives will receive only the
minimal airflow that can be drawn through the cable slots between the two drive
compartments.



Closeup of HDD bays with Antec's usual soft rubber grommets;

both HDD areas have vents on the bottom.

Note the cable slot in center dividing panel.

One of the unique features of this case is the ability to accommodate
large video cards over 10" long, like nVidia's GX280/260 and ATI's HD-4870X2.
This is done by removing the divider section of the central HDD chamber (by
removing a few screws), which opens up enough extra room for the long cards.
There is also room for a 120mm fan directly over the bottom vent in a plastic
frame which mounts with just two screws. This increases the airflow around the
video card(s) and also reduces the intake airflow impedance. Two full length
video cards can be accommodated.



This photo shows much of what's discussed in the previous paragraph.

Note there's no vent under the optical drive bay.

OTHER FEATURES



LCD, iMon remote and software CD.

The Fusion Remote Max has a built-in, MCE-compatible IR receiver, and a large
volume knob that controls the master volume. The remote control is compatible
with Windows Media Center Edition and iMEDIAN HD. A full review of this software
is outside the scope of this review, but both are capable of remotely accessing
and controlling all media files on your computer or network. They also support
internet radio, as well as TV/TIVO functions if a tuner card is installed.

There is also a front display, which can be set up to show RSS news feeds,
world city time and weather, and much more. Did we explore all of these features?
No, but the iMEDIAN HD software that runs it is common to most HTPC cases that
we've seen. Suffice it to say that a cursory run through these features resulted
in no surprises, pleasant or otherwise.

AIRFLOW

As mentioned earlier, the 120mm and 140mm TriCool (3-speed) fans are set up for exhaust. For exhaust fans to work, there must be intake vents, and for ideal airflow, the intake and exhaust vents should be roughly the same in area. The location of the intake vents also determines the path of the airflow through the case.

In the Fusion Remote Max, the air is sucked through the main chamber
from multiple sources — the vent on the top panel over the video card slots,
the rear intake over the PCI card area, any unused PCI slots, and the filtered
vent under the center drive bay. With such a variety of different intakes, the
air should flow across all of the components in the motherboard compartment
before being evacuated by the fans. The basic concept is very similar to that
used in the Fusion/NSK2400.

The bottom intake vents, which should really be the most important
ones, are somewhat compromised by the dust filter holder assembly. In the Fusion/NSK2400,
the bottom portion of the HDD cage is more or less directly exposed and open,
which makes for a very low impedance path for air flowing in, as shown in the
photo below.



Central HDD bay in Fusion/NSK2400.

In the Fusion Max, it's not as open. As the photos below show,
a certain degree of impedance is caused by the filters and the frames needed
to allow the filters to slide in and out. We'll discover later whether this
extra impedance has any serious consequence.



Center HDD vent in Fusion Max.






Center HDD vent in Fusion Max - another view.





Left HDD vent in Fusion Max.

THERMAL & ACOUSTIC TESTING

Thermal and noise testing comprise the core of most SPCR equipment reviews.
Please keep in mind that the range of component options and installation variants
is large, and there is no way for any review to cover all such permutations.
Our system is one example of what can be done. You should be able to draw broader
generalizations from our detailed analysis of this particular system.

An AMD Phenom 9600 in a 790G chipset board with an ATI HD4870 graphics card was installed and several variant setups tested in the Fusion Remote Max.

"Whoa," some of you will say, "Why such powerful components
for a HTPC? Aren't you seeking to minimize the power and thermal profile of
the system, especially for a HTPC which requires only modest computing power?"

These are valid questions. The answer is that we're trying to push this case to its thermal limits. The Fusion Remote Max is promoted as a HTPC case that gamers can get behind. You can picture the scene Antec intends: Rabid gamers clicking away on game controls in the light of a huge flat screen TV bursting with color and action... and a PC housed in the FRM somewhere nearby. Well, let's test that image. If the FRM can stay quiet with an extreme gaming system running within, then surely any self-respecting DIY computer builder can make a virtually silent "normal" HTPC in this box.

System Components:

SYSTEM ASSEMBLY

The hardware assembly took several hours, including fiddling time (to examine
parts carefully) and the time needed to stop, plan out photos, shoot and edit
them, and so on. If photos were not being taken, hardware assembly would probably
take a bit more than an hour. It's reasonably straightforward, except when you
have to decide how to route the wires. There are many options, and the choices
are mostly personal.

Despite the large size, the FRM is not easy to work in, because of the compartmentalization. Avoid installing at components into the slots until all the other wiring is done, get HDDs with wiring already in place. A modular cable PSU is just about mandatory, as spacing in the left chamber is very tight.

As with the Fusion/NSK2400, the front panel features are powered via a USB
connector and a 4-pin connector that splits off of a breakout adapter for the
ATX connector. The latter adds complication and bulk to the wiring; it's a real
pain. Unfortunately, the reality is that any HTPC that is meant to function
with a remote control must tap the PWR-ON pin to the power supply if it is to
provide "power button" functionality. And, the only way to do this
is to tap the main ATX connector. Needless to say, the inconvenience of an ATX
pass-through connector is fairly standard.



The PITA 24-pin breakout adapter for powering the front panel LCD.

The installation of the Scythe
Orochi

CPU heatsink is worth a close look. The Orochi is a ridiculously big and
overly heavy heatsink that we have chosen not to review because its 1.3 kilogram
mass is probably dangerous to your motherboard when hanging sideways in a tower
case. It is so big that it will not even fit in most tower cases. We don't recommend
it, especially on socket 775 boards; the Orochi's mounting hardware is simply
inadequate, in our opinion.

However, the FRM is not a tower case; the heatsink sits atop the board, so
it doesn't hang sideways and apply cantilever force as it would in a conventional
tower configuration. It also just squeezes in, and on the motherboard of choice,
fills the entire corner nearest the exhaust fans with cooling fins. The big
fan that it comes with does not fit, but with the Antec case fans so close,
it did not seem necessary.



Asus M3A78-T motherboard next to Orochi, with AM2 clip attached.



Hmmm... will it really fit in the Fusion Max??



Just barely, but the 120mm fan on the back panel had to be removed.

In this configuration, the rear 120mm exhaust fan had to be removed,
so that vent became an intake for the system. The initial configuration was
designed for minimal noise, with just one ATI HD 4870 video card and no data
drive; the operating system was installed on the Intel SSD. Yes, the SSD is
overkill, but it's a bonus for the system not to handle the 4~8W additional
hard drive heat and the noise that goes with it. The center HDD chamber was
dismantled so that its bottom intake would be more open for airflow. We'll take
all of this into account in our analysis.




Another view.

Windows Vista Ultimate was installed and fully updated, and our usual gamut of software tools installed:

  • SpeedFan
    4.37
    for CPU and other hardware monitoring.
  • CPUBurn for processor stress testing.
  • ATITool
    provides a steady high load to the GPU.
  • 3DMark06 gaming benchmark
  • GPU-Z to monitor video card temperature

Other tools:

ACOUSTICS AROUND A MEDIA PC

Just a quick digression about the acoustic environment and desired functionality of the media PC. The way a media PC is used is different than the average desktop PC. The most important differences are noted below.



Criteria



Media PC



Normal PC



Location


On equipment rack, near TV / stereo

On desktop next to monitor on on floor under / beside desk


Application


Play & record music and video, play games; usual PC functions
secondary.

Office, creative, engineering, scientific and communication
work; gaming and other entertainment functions usually secondary


User Position


Typically at least 2 meters away.

Typically not more than 1 meter


Overall Acoustics


Background, the PC noise, noise from other A/V equipment, conversation, and the music/soundtrack playing from TV/stereo speakers

Background + typing noise + noise generated by PC, perhaps background music

In a nutshell, the media PC is usually situated near the TV, which is usually at least six feet away from the seated viewers. The noise in the room includes whatever is being played through the speakers of the A/V system, plus any noise made by other audio/video gear. From first hand experience, we know that...

Many digital TV boxes and PVRs contain a noisy hard drive and fan(s).
The HDD is often on all the time, whenever the unit is plugged
in. This means the noise is there all the time, whether you're using the gear
or not. There is no real care in ensuring low acoustics; we've measured nothing
lower than 25 [email protected]; it's more typically closer to 30 [email protected] or higher because
the HDD is hard mounted to the chassis, and the chassis then makes whatever
it's sitting on resonate.

Many high end (and not so high end) A/V receivers contain a fan that runs almost all the time. This is usually not as intrusive as the HDD noise in the digital TV boxes and PVRs, but still measures at least 20 [email protected]

Almost all rear projection TVs require at least one cooling fan to be on constantly. The speed of this fan does usually vary with internal temperature, which naturally goes up the longer the TV is left on. The typical noise of these TVs (with the speakers muted) is around 30 [email protected]

30 [email protected] is about the absolute minimum level needed for intelligibility of speech, given typical dynamics when the TV, movie or game sound is turned on. Typical levels are much higher, with peaks reaching ~60 [email protected], and averaging at least 40~45 [email protected] This depends a great deal on viewer / listener habits, hearing sensitivity, housing setup, etc.

In general, sound levels for movies are much higher, likely 10~20 dBA higher
for both average and peaks. This is also true of music listening: Most people
prefer higher levels for better detail and realism. Typical peaks from an
A/V system playing music probably reach 80 [email protected], with the average being
perhaps 10~15 dBA lower (depending on the type of music, of course.)

These are broad generalizations. Suffice it to say that we believe the acoustic environment for a media PC will almost always be much louder than for other types of home PCs. Its noise will be masked by the sound from the speakers — at least until you hit the mute button, at which point the PC and other A/V equipment noise may become very much audible.

At the same time, if the HTPC is in a multifunction room, but
you still want quick and instant access to its media functions, then it will
have to stay on. Then the idle HTPC noise will be there for you to hear whenever
you are in the room, whether you're using the equipment or not. S3 standby
mode
is a good solution to have near-instant turn-on while still eliminating
idle noise when the system is not being used.

TEST RESULTS

The thermal testing was done in a 20' x 10' room where ambient
conditions were were 20 dBA and 22°C throughout testing. Acoustic testing
was done in the live room as well as in SPCR's anechoic chamber, where the ambient
level was 11 dBA. Idle measurements were taken 5~15 minutes after boot or reboot,
after the internal temperature remained unchanged for several minutes. Load
measurements were taken after at least 15 minutes of full load — again
enough time for the temperature to stabilize. There were no differences greater
than about 0.5 dBA in measured SPL between the two test environments. The noise
of the system was far enough about the ambient to be measured accurately in
either room

1) BASE CONFIGURATION

The overall sound was smooth and subdued, a broadband noise marked mostly
by the airflow turbulence of the 140mm exhaust fan. The PSU and video card
fans seemed to contribute very little to the overall sound.

At close proximity, there was some low frequency emphasis that went away
when the cover was removed. It is not panel vibration; it is the air within.
This is common to all cases, and it is the result of cavity resonance: The
air resonances in the case amplify any noise inside that happens to be near
its resonant frequencies. Applying sound damping on the underside of the top
panel could help but it's almost impossible to eliminate entirely. The good
thing is that the lower the overall noise of the components, the lower this
effect will be. Conversely, the higher the overall noise, the less you'll
hear the effect because it'll be drowned out by the more obvious noises. You
can hear the effect of the top cover being on or off in one of the recordings.


Base Config
(stock 14cm fan @ low)

Load

AC Power

CPU

°C

Board

°C

GPU


°C
Idle
152~155W
40
48
55
25

CPUBurn x4
225~227W
57
54
56
26

ATITool
222~237W
43
51
83
26

ATITool + CPUBurn
288~295W
57
56
83
26

3DMark06 + CPUBurn
245W~270W

285W peaks
57
56
81
26

Play Blue-ray movie
133W~148W
43
51
62
26

No combination of loads increased the measured SPL by more than 1 dBA, although
some increase in tonality could be heard on tests that loaded the GPU. The
stock ATI cooler on the HD4870 spun up at least a bit (from the minimum of
~830rpm to a maximum of about 1600rpm), and this lead to a subjective increase
in noise. The PSU fan might have sped up a bit in the highest load tests,
but this was difficult to confirm or hear. The overall noise was subjectively
constant throughout all the tests.

The AMD Cool'n'Quiet dynamic under-clocking / under-volting utility for the CPU was confirmed to be working automatically, as it should in Vista.

The power draw measured on this system was close to the highest ever for
any system at SPCR, the one exception being the recent test
systems we assembled around the Intel Core i7 processors
. Curiously, the
power consumed while playing a Blu-ray disk was lower than at idle. This was
seen repeatedly; we have no clear idea why it is so. The thermal data while
playing Blu-ray conformed better to our expectations — it was slightly
higher than at idle.

The cooling was good on all counts. The temperature on the PSU was not monitored; its exhaust felt fairly warm at the highest loads, but its fan never ramped up from default... or if it did, the effect was so subtle that it was not noticed or measured.

Crossfire Configuration

Adding the second video card impinged drastically into the intake of the fan for the first card. The issue is spacing, as the photos below show.



While the second video card has plenty of space for its intake fan,
the intake of the first card is drastically reduced.






In anticipation of thermal issues, a 120mm fan was added at the front bottom intake. It is a product from a new company, GELID Solutions Wing12 rated at 1500rpm, and 25 [email protected] It sounds quieter than the spec suggests, and has a smooth unobtrusive character.






The fan mounted in the supplied frame. It was controlled by the motherboard: ~1100 rpm at idle and up to 1600rpm at full load.

It's obvious that a motherboard for dual video cards should have at least two slots between the PCIe-16x slots. Then, two high performance cards — which invariably take up two slots — would have at least one slot between them, or close to an inch. The choice of board here was not ideal... but you can be assured that your smarter motherboard choice will help to achieve lower noise than we did here.

Adding the second HD 4870 card pushed idle power up by some 70W. When the GPUs were loaded, the increase in power over the single GPU system was over 100W. This was the same increase seen when both the CPUs and graphics cards were fully loaded.

Yet, in idle, the noise increase was very subtle, measuring perhaps 1 dBA
at most. Subjectively, it seemed a touch more intrusive, probably because
the fan on one video card (which have the smallest fans and therefore the
highest pitch of any sounds in the system) was always spinning faster.


Crossfire Config (14cm fan @ low, front 12cm fan 1100~1600rpm)

Load

AC Power

CPU

°C

Board

°C

GPU


°C

idle

218~225W
41
57
56/75
26

CPUBurn x4
300W
57
57
56/75
31

ATITool
320~333W
45
61
58/85
30

ATITool + CPUBurn
369~376W
57
68
79/86
33

3DMark06 + CPUBurn
310~340W

378W peaks
57
65
76/84
32

Play Blue-ray movie
208~221W
43
57
77/78
27




Almost all the noise output is well below 1kHz. The dominating sonic signature is that of the 140mm stock fan. It is a relatively benign broadband sound. With one 4870 video card, the overall SPL dropped by about a single decibel.




Taking the cover off reduces the cavity resonance effects between 100Hz and 300Hz. Although the measured SPL is only about 1 dBA, it is plainly audible in the accompanying sound recording below. It's actually a more significant difference at idle than going from one 4870 card to two.

As the system was subjected to higher load, the effect of the second video
card became quite audible, and its thermal effect could also be seen in the
GPU temperature. As the table above shows, one of the two GPUs always ran
substantially hotter than the other, and thus, its fan ran substantially faster.
This was obviously the card whose intake fan was so blocked. Its fan speed
never dropped below about 1200rpm, which contributed a bit of tonality to
the sound. There were some other increases in temperatures, but overall, they
were fairly minor.

As the thermal load increased, the fans in the system sped up to compensate.
This effect was quite audible; at the high loads the SPL reached 30 dBA and
beyond. All the fans ramped up a bit except the 140mm stock case fan, which
was fixed at low speed.

NOISE / THERMAL ANALYSIS

Since the loudest default sound in our test system was the stock 140mm fan, it's worth posting Antec's specs about the fans:

14cm TriCool
12cm TriCool
Speed

(RPM)
Airflow

(CFM)
SPL

(dBA)
Speed

(RPM)
Airflow

(CFM)
SPL

(dBA)
high / 1500
95
32
high / 2000
79
30
med / 1100
67
21
med / 1600
56
28
low / 700
47
20
low / 1200
39
25

It's interesting to note that the 12cm TriCool is noisier by far at minimum,
while the 14cm TriCool is a bit noisier at maximum. The speeds of the two fans
are selected to roughly match airflow at each setting. However, the 20 dBA noise
spec for the 14cm TriCool is a far cry from the 25 [email protected] measured for the system
in its quietest mode. What gives? Well, there's the additive effect of the VGA
cooler fan and the (admittedly very quiet) fan in the PSU. The vibrations of
each fan adds subtly to the overall sound, and then finally, there's the cavity
resonance effects.

What happens when both the fans are mounted and spinning at low? This was done
by replacing the Orochi with a more conventional but still fanless heatsink,
and reinstalling the 120mm fan. Remember, the cooler fan on the GPU is still
in the mix, along with the idling PSU fan. Here are the various combinations.

14cm TriCool
12cm TriCool
high
high
46
high
med
45
med
high
39
med
med
38
med
low
37
low
med
30
low
low
27
low
off
25
off
low
20

It's clear now that the wrong fan choice was made, at least if minimal noise
was the goal. The 12cm fan is quieter than the 14cm all across the board. This
is partly because it faces the back, and the microphone is positioned in front
and about 30 degrees to the right, which means the 14cm fan's noise reaches
it more directly. Still, the 12cm fan is clearly quieter. There's little question
the 14cm fan moves more air, and especially for the second configuration, the
cooling of the 12cm fan at low would not have sufficed.

Going back to the results that were obtained, let's ask a few obvious questions:

1) Is 25~27 [email protected] too loud while playing a movie? Probably not for most users. The soundtrack would completely drown out the noise especially from the typical big screen viewing distance of 6~12'.

2) Is 27 [email protected] too loud for a powerful gaming rig? This is the first
configuration at full load. The answer is probably not for most users. They
would be too absorbed in the game to notice, especially as the noise level
does not really change.

3) Is 31-33 [email protected] too loud for a high end gaming rig? It's too loud for me, but for a gamer in the throes of battle ecstasy, I can only guess.

4) What about the impact of a hard disk drive on the noise and thermals
of the system?
The noise of a good hard drive mounted as intended in either
of the two bays available would make virtually no difference to the overall
noise; it would be many decibels lower than the noise of the fans. This is
especially true of quiet champs like the bare WD VelociRaptor, the WD 320/640
or the F1 Samsungs. Seek would be somewhat audible, but this is hard to eliminate
in any system. The biggest challenge with a drive in this system is that if
you want best system cooling, then you want to leave the center bay open.
This requires the hard drive to be mounted in the PSU chamber, which will
receive minimal airflow with a 120mm fan PSU, especially if you have to do
any cable management in that space. But that is still the best compromise.

The thermal impact on the system (and its noise) of a drive or two is not
significant, as they represent a very small percentage of the total heat in
the system. And, clearly, the FRM is capable of handling it. My personal choice
would be one VelociRaptor elastic suspension mounted in the left / PSU chamber.
All storage of media files would be done off the computer, on a NAS or media
server.

5) What other choices could have been made to reduce the overall noise of either configuration?

a. An Enermax Modu82+ 625 power supply would drop the PSU's noise contribution
at high loads by around 2-3 dBA.
Because its 120mm fan would not face
any airflow impedance from the side vent (as opposed to the output cables
that have to be dealt with to keep the front bottom intake vent clear for
an 80mm fan PSU), and therefore it would ramp up in speed at a higher load.
If that change was combined with a slight downward tweak of the 14cm fan
speed, the system could probably easily reach 24 [email protected] or better, which
is close to ambient in many rooms.

b. The 14cm fan could be removed altogether, the 120mm back fan run at low, and the massive Orochi heatsink replaced with a more conventional high performance heatsink and a quiet 120mm fan mounted directly on it. The combination of the 12cm stock fan at low and this new HS and quiet fan would likely drop the overall noise even lower, perhaps as low as 22 [email protected] Cooling would probably not suffer.

c. Both of the above combined with a change to a motherboard with greater spacing between the two video cards in the Crossfire configuration would result in lower noise from the GPU coolers. That would probably drop the maximum noise level of the Crossfire system to perhaps 28~29 dBA.

d. For the extreme gamer, a single ATI HD 4870x2 might be a better option
than two 4870s in Crossfire Why? Because the case can handle the longer
card, and there would be more airflow room. The power profile of a 4870x2
is identical to two 4780s. This depends greatly on the acoustics of the
4870x2 card in question. It might be worth looking into.

Other Points: There are too many to list, but here are a couple of important
ones:

1) The feet on the FRM provide only half an inch of space between
the bottom intake vents and the floor. Increasing this gap could help reduce
intake airflow impedance and improve cooling around the drive chambers.

2) Any system in this case — in fact, almost any performance
oriented PC in any case — should not be stuffed into a typical TV/entertainment
stand. Computers have high thermal density and need breathing room around
them to be well cooled. Take away that room, and it will run hotter and make
more noise as fans speed up in response. Unless the case intake and exhaust
vents remain clear and well vented, don't put a powerful PC in a cabinet.

FUSION REMOTE MAX NOISE RECORDING

These recordings were made as 24-bit / 88 kHz WAV files with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR's
own anechoic chamber
(11 dBA ambient), then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable approximation of the distance
between a computer or computer component and your ear. The recording contains
stretches of ambient noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of
the subject. Be aware that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if
we couldn't hear it from one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The Fusion Remote Max recording starts with 7 seconds of room
ambient, followed by 10 seconds of the noise of the Crossfire configuration
at idle. That's followed by 10 seconds of the same configuration but this time
with the cover removed. There is only about 1 dBA of SPL difference at 1 meter,
but it should be readily audible. For the most realistic results, set
the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't
change the volume setting again.

  • Antec
    Remote Max case
    Crossfire configuration at idle, 1m distance,
    with case cover closed, and case cover open.

Unfortunately, we have no comparable sound files of any systems conducted under
the same conditions with the same equipment. The anechoic chamber and the test
equipment were both recently upgraded, rendering several years of archived recordings
useless for comparison purposes.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Antec Fusion Remote Max was designed to be a full-size thermally and acoustically
advanced case for home theater PCs. There are many promising elements: Sturdy
construction, good choice of materials, comprehensive airflow cooling design,
and many small thoughtful touches that speak to Antec's long history of case
design. In short, it is a larger implementation of the Antec's successful Fusion
/ NSK2400 case mentioned so often in this review.

The FRM did a good job of keeping components cool in our hot and powerful gaming
test system. The noise levels heard and measured at full GPU/CPU load were higher
than we normally like, but keep in mind the nature of the test: If it can do
a decent job with an extreme gaming PC, then it should coast easily with cooler
components in an optimized home theater PC. For the HTPC enthusiast, the ability
to install a full ATX motherboard is interesting not because it can handle two
graphics cards but because it can handle multiple tuner cards, audio cards and
other add-ons that can enhance the HTPC experience. For gamers, it can dissipate
nearly 400W of computing heat at just 32-33 [email protected] with minimal tweaking. By
gaming system standards, that's a very modest level of noise.

The acoustics of the two stock fans are interesting. They are fairly good,
but they can probably be bettered with carefully selected replacements. Both
were smooth enough to encourage experimentation with further reduction in speed,
especially the 14cm fan which could improve substantially below the standard
LOW setting.

The most serious drawback of the system is probably the extra impedance caused
by the air filter mechanisms under the HDD bays. In many case these will not
impact performance or noise, but in extreme systems like the one assembled here
for testing, they may have to be carefully dealt with. Other nitpicks include
the lack of an extra bay for a card reader, and the minimal airflow available
to the drives in the PSU chamber when a 120mm PSU is installed.

Case appearance is always subject to personal taste. In our view, the fascia
is sleek and beautiful in its lack of clutter. The hinged plexiglas door is
a bit prone to picking up dust and fingerprints, but it's a minor quibble. The
stealthy optical drive door is effective (it worked without any adjustments
of the ODD positioning), and works very smoothly, without any metal clanging
despite its metallic exterior.

In summary, the Fusion Remote Max is a good, logical addition to Antec's media case line. It is indeed possible to imagine watching a high definition movie via a HTPC built in this case, then turn to some intense 3D gaming fun on the big screen with low noise and very high performance.

PROS

* Good airflow / thermal design

* Thick, sturdy steel construction

* Built-in HDD silicone rubber grommets

* Great front bezel design

* Highly competitive price

CONS

* TriCool fans could have slower, quieter "slow" position

* Filtered intake design might pose too much airflow impedance

* Tight to work in despite large dimensions

* A bit too tall to be elegant?

Much thanks to Antec
for the review sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

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Moneual MonCaso: Touchscreen Gadgetry and Solid Cooling in One?


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Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case

Zalman's HD135 HTPC case

Silverstone GD01 and LC17 HTPC Cases


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