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D.Vine 5 HTPC Case by Ahanix

August 12, 2003 by Mike Chin

Product Ahanix D.Vine5 HTPC case
Manufacturer Ahanix
Supplier ExoticPC
Price US$230

The D.Vine5 sample reviewed here has been sponsored by ExoticPC as their prize for Silent PC Review's Summer 2003 Promotional Giveaway. The case has been supplied with two additional extremely quiet Ahanix-SilenX brand 60mm fans (retail value of US$20 for the pair). This case will be carefully repackaged and shipped with the 2 fans to the winner announced on August 21, 2003. (No PSU is included.)


With a name like D.Vine5, expectations naturally get raised. A divine PC case? A PC case meant specifically for use as a Home Theater PC. The number 5 is significant-- it is the 5th version of this case. Presumably, they've made refinements and improvements since V.1. First impressions are significant, and in this case (pun intended), they are, well, impressive.

The often-used PR photo above shows a case that looks nothing like the usual PC. It looks like a piece of audio gear. Not just any ordinary audio gear, but the understated, minimalist lines and natural brushed aluminum preferred by expensive high end audio gear. Very nice.

Here are some other images that reinforce the high end audio first impression:

With some other closely matched audio/video components, it certainly fits in nicely.

One of the front feet, looking for all the world like the bottom of a high end CD player.

The back feet are a bit more ordinary. Note the 60mm holes for the case fans and the opening for a STX12V power supply

The aluminum door trim is supplied as part of the case so any optical drive can be matched.

On the front panel, only the reset button gives the D.Vine5 away.

SO WHAT IS THE REALITY?

First, specifications from the manufacturer.

  • Size - W: 430mm H: 135mm D: 452mm (16.9" x 5.3" x 17.8")



    Material
  • Front Panel: 8mm Aluminum
  • Top Panel: 1.5mm Aluminum
  • Side Panel: 3.5mm Aluminum
  • Bottom Panel: 4mm Aluminum
  • Cover: 1.5mm Aluminum
  • Color: Silver or Black
  • Options: DVD-ROM, EiOS HDTV Receiver

Please note the dimensions: The D.Vine5 is larger than some of the photos suggest. It is, in fact, very close to a standard size mid-tower case placed on its side. The main difference is in the short dimension (the height here; the width in the case of a mid-tower), which is too narrow for a CD or DVD drive. This shorter height gives the unit its appealing wide and low look.

The CD case gives a sense of scale; the D.Vine5 is larger than first impression.

There is no room for 80mm case fans. Instead, as mentioned earlier, the case has holes for two 60mm back panel case fans behind the CPU area. While the more standard 80mm size has a much wider range of quiet fans that move more air for the same noise as smaller fans, because there are 2 openings for 60mm fans, it's a decent compromise. The total area of a 60mm fan comes to about 4 square inches. One 80mm fan is 7 square inches, so the total area of dual 60mm fans is 1 sq inch larger, but offset by the lower airflow / noise efficiency of 60mm fans.

Normally, the D.Vine5 is supplied with one 60x15mm case fan with 4-pin connectors for direct hookup to the power supply. However, it is not particularly quiet. As a special consideration for SPCR members, ExoticPC have generously supplied two extra fans for this giveaway prize sample. They are Ahanix rebadged fans, rated at just 0.08A. Given previous experience with Ahanix / ExoticPC products, it is probably a safe guess that model could be a Hypro-bearing fan.

At 12VDC, they are virtually inaudible, in the territory of a Panaflo FBA08A12L1A (or 80L -- our reference 80mm quiet fan) running at 7V or less. The down side is that they have low airflow, considerably less than a Panaflo 80L at 7V.

The interior of the case is big enough for most full-ATX motherboards.

There are 7 PCI slots plus a larger opening at the extreme left that is marked for the EiOS HDTV Receiver. This is an add-on accessory that adds HDTV tuner capability into the D.Vine5. The EiOS HDTV Receiver has not been released for sale yet; ExoticPC says it will be within the next 6~8 weeks.

The image above shows the button on the far right side which switches between PC and HDTV mode when the EiOS HDTV tuner module is installed.

The image above is deliberately backlit to show another aspect of the case, the smoked translucent cover for an optional Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD) shown behind the display in the first and second photos above of the D.Vine5.

The VFD is packaged with a remote and the ExoticPC SilenX 200W SFX power supply unit for US$129.

ABOUT SFX12V POWER SUPPLIES

The US$55 ExoticPC-SilenX SFX 200W PSU meant to be used with the D.Vine5 is somewhat different from others we've encountered in the past. It uses a very quiet 60mm SilenX fan (like the ones supplied with the case). Other SFX PSUs have an 80mm fan on the side that usually faces the CPU. The 80mm fan PSU has the obvious advantage of being able to blow more air at the same noise level than one with a 60mm fan.

However, the D.Vine5 case appears to be designed specifically for the SilenX-200W SFX PSU. The 80mm fan SFX power supply simply does not fit properly, the protrusion for the 80mm fan being the main problem. It can be done with long screws, but it is not a good fit and may cause problems with fitting the motherboard in place. So unless you find a PSU with the same form factor, the Ahanix SilenX 200W PSU is recommended. It also also has an unusual 3-pin 2-wire connector (carrying 12V?) meant specifically to power the VFD. Here it is below, installed in the case. It is very quiet on startup but seems to get to a much higher speed at a modest load. Given the low airflow noted for these SilenX fans, it may be necessary. The noise emitted by this PSU is not the lowest encountered, but it is modest.

Behind the front panel, there is a small PCB for the switches on either side, with a drive bay in the center. A hard drive is meant to go on the top, an optical drive beneath it.

As the photo below shows, a series of intake slots is beneath the drive bay. These are the only intake vents for the case. There are 3 strips of 15 slots measuring 3/4" x 3/16". The total intave vent area comes to a little over 6 square inches, which is significantly less than the exhaust vent area of two 60mm fans (8 sq inches), plus a 60mm or 80mm fan in the PSU. For a system of hot components, or if you wsanto maximize airflow for minimum fan noise, cutting this intake grill open into a large square hole is probably not a bad idea. Because it is located on the bottom, and the feet are tall enough, there's probably room for some type of filter to keep dust out as well.

Because the VFD is quite shallow, for silent modders, there may be enough space beneath the optical drive bay to suspend a HDD. Alternative, there is space behind the power switch for some kind of HDD suspension setup.

The space behind the PC / HDTV switch is predrilled for installing something. One would expect this is part of the yet-unreleased EiOS HDTV tuner.

A bag of parts is supplied. This includes the matching aluminum cover replacement for the optical drive.

While an instruction sheet or manual is not supplied, the Ahanix web site has a detailed, illustrated on-line assembly manual. Very nicely done. It is probably worth printing up to have handy before starting system assembly.

ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

So how suitable is the D.Vine5 for its intended role as a Home Theater PC case? It seems quite suitable.

  • First and foremost, the D.Vine5 looks like it belongs in a high end audio / video system like no other PC case we've ever seen. Few could quibble with the looks of this case.
  • The internal design is well set up for a Spartan complement of components, albeit with some very specialized accessories.
  • The fit and finish of the case is excellent, although some of the cover mounting screws did not want to seat down all the way; perhaps they are too long.
  • Some care should be taken if opting for a very high power CPU or many hot components like a hot VGA card, gobs of high speed RAM, a 10K RPM SCSI drive, lots of PCI cards, etc; while airflow potential does not seem inadequate, it is less than in a good mid-tower ATX case.
  • The choice of an STX form factor PSU is somewhat limiting: They are not usually available with more than 200W capacity and tend to be a bit less efficient at evacuating hot case air. This case may only fit the 60mm fan 200W SilenX SFX PSU sold by ExoticPC.
  • It's not inexpensive, but it's not vastly overpriced either. High end aluminum mid-tower cases cost in this ballpark, although they do tend to be more full-featured. It's the usual thing about competition and what the market will bear. There doesn't seem to be much serious competition to the D.Vine5 and perhaps the market is willing to bear the current price.

Final word: I'd like to keep it! :)

Our thanks to ExoticPC for sponsoring this Ahanix D.Vine5 sample. And congratulations in advance to the lucky winner of this prize in Silent PC Review's Summer 2003 Promotional Giveaway!

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