Going with mobile parts also seems unnecessary considering that the regular desktop Conroe is already an efficient beast compared to the older Pentium D and Pentium 4. What’s more, having specified mobile parts it seems odd that they’re housed in such a large chassis as the LC03V Silverstone case used here. A half-height case would have been sufficient.
The large case does have an impressive fascia with a smooth anodized metallic finish. The power button is a smart large silver affair with discreet blue lights next to it. The reset button is placed behind a pinhole cover though, which makes it awkward to get to should it ever be required. The case has a large fold down flap that hides the two external optical drive bays, one of which is occupied by the Blu-ray drive. One of the annoyances of this case is that it doesn’t feature any front mounted USB ports. Hi-Grade has got round this by fitting a card reader with a single USB port integrated into it. This sits behind a second flap. The card reader will handle MemoryStick, CompactFlash, SD and Smart Media. There are no front FireWire or audio ports though.
In the left hand corner of the case is a small two-line VFD display. Hi Grade has set this up properly and it therefore displays what Windows Media Center is doing, such as the section you are in, what channel you’re watching or whether content is playing or paused. It also shows the time of day.
However, the VFD needs to be connected to a parallel port to get its signals. Unfortunately, this means that you need to have a wire running out the back of the case that then plugs back in to a parallel port that sits on a blanking plate. It would have been more elegant to have the cable connected to the parallel port header on the motherboard.
Aside from this the internal set-up is impressive. There’s plenty of free space, which is good as this particular Silverstone chassis is not the easiest to work inside. The power supply is rated at 300W, which is sufficient for the components supplied, while the motherboard is an AOpen MOTD (that’s Mobile on the Desktop, not Match of the Day). It’s based on the i945GT chipset, with the chipset passively cooled. As it’s mobile based, it features two SO-DIMM sockets, which Hi-Grade has filled with two PC2-4300 1GB DIMMs. As it’s a Merom, only a standard CPU cooler is used, doing its job without making too much noise.