Home Entertainment PCs or HTPCs have, over that past couple of years become increasingly popular and Microsoft has tried to push the concept even further with its Windows XP Media Center Edition.
However many people find the Windows operating system cumbersome and besides, you canâ€™t purchase Media Center Edition except on a new PC. This has led to a lot people building their own HTPCs using solutions such as GeeXboX, which is free to use and has fairly low hardware requirements. Other solutions include stripped down versions of Windows 98 with just the basic operating system and media playback applications installed.
The biggest challenge has been to find a good case, but with the increasing popularity of the HTPC concept, the case manufacturers have followed suit and there are some pretty cool cases out there.
Here weâ€™re looking at two contenders for the HTPC case crown â€“ the Kanam Electronics Accent HT-101G and SilverStone Technologies SST-LC03V-B, which are both very stylish looking cases available in a range of colours that complement common AV equipment. The HT-101 comes in silver (read aluminium), black and gold, with the review unit being gold. The SST-LC03V-B is black, although a silver version is also available.
The two cases arenâ€™t entirely comparable as the Accent is a mini-ATX case whereas the SilverStone is a standard ATX case, but since they take up a similar amount of space under your TV, the main differences are in functionality.
Starting with the Accent, it has an 8mm thick solid aluminium front and a 1.5mm thick aluminium lid. This gives the case a very nice finish, especially as the aluminium used has a very smooth surface. The rest of the case however is made from mild steel, like most PC cases, which should make it sturdier, but doesnâ€™t look as stylish as an all aluminium affair.
Luckily the steel part of the case will never rear its ugly head, since itâ€™s covered by the lid. The steel frame is exposed at the rear, but youâ€™ll never see that once the device is put in place. The fascia features power and reset buttons finished in machined aluminium, as well as power and hard drive activity LEDs.
There is also a window for an LCD or VFD display, but this is a cost option, which is a shame. That said, it allows for greater flexibility since youâ€™re free to choose one that suits your needs. The HT-101 features a single accessible 5.25in drive bay, but if this is not enough, then the HT-201 model might be the one to go for as it has two.
The 5.25in drive bay is covered by an aluminium flap thatâ€™s held shut by two small magnets â€“ thereâ€™s a small groove next to the flap for pulling it open. Below this are two USB 2.0 compatible ports and one FireWire connector.
Thereâ€™s plenty of space inside the HT-101, but it seems like some of it could have been utilised better - there is only room for two 3.5in drives on top of the 5.25in drive. This leaves a lot of dead space that canâ€™t really be used for anything. I better mention that the front of the steel frame can be sharp in places, so be careful not to cut yourself.
There are no fans supplied with the case and the PSU is also optional, which seems stingy considering the price. The manual is a small pamphlet in English and Korean which covers the basics as well as instructions on how to fit the LCD or VFD display and what software to use with it in Windows. You also get a bag of mixed screws for fitting the components.
QuietPC supplies all Accent cases sold through its website with an iMON remote control, which we will bring you a separate review of at a later stage. The model supplied can be fitted internally and QuitePC has instructions on its website on how to install it.
It will get messy around the back though as the VFD module connects to the parallel port and the front mounted FireWire port comes with a cable that has to be attached to an external FireWire connector. Not exactly a tidy solution, but there are limitations on how things can be connected.
Another problem is that the HT-101 will be quite noisy if you need to add fans to it, since youâ€™re limited to two 60mm fans, which tend to have a high spin rate.
The bottom of the case features four feet, the two in the front look like something from a high-end AV component, while the ones at the back are just plain rubber. Overall the HT-101 has a fair few flaws which could do with being corrected; especially when you consider that this case on its own will set you back Â£176.25.