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Perfect Home Theater Ultra Low-Profile Aluminum HTPC Case Review

Building the HTPC

Building a system with a thin mini-ITX motherboard in this enclosure couldn't be easier. The upper case is removed with two screws on each side of the bottom, and the interior layout is very straightforward.

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The motherboard installs in seconds onto the pre-mounted standoffs, but all components should be installed on the thin mini-ITX board before this stage.

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Which brings us to the biggest (or possibly smallest) issue with a case that measures only 40mm high from the base. With the motherboard installed there is only 23mm of vertical space for a heatsink. Additionally, no expansion cards can be installed without a 90-degree adapter, which is available separately.

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To make things simpler, P.H.T. sent along their own low-profile CPU cooler and a 90-degree PCIe adapter, both of which are offered for purchase on their site.

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If your motherboard supports it, an adapter like this allows for an expansion card up to PCIe x4

I didn't install any expansion cards but I used the cooler for the build as well as all temperature and noise testing.

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The extremely low-profile PHT HSF cooler installed

With CPU, cooler, memory, and an mSATA SSD installed on the motherboard this build is nearly finished already!

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All that remains is the optional installation of additional drives. This model (T-ITX-6) allows for up to three 3.5 hard drives (or two with ODD bracket installed), which mount to standoffs and attach to the bottom of the enclosure. I installed two drives as I wanted to installed an optical drive as well. The optical drive attaches easily to the included bracket, which doubles as a 2.5" SSD mount if desired.

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The optical drive bracket can also support a 2.5" drive, mounted below

Next I installed a pair of hard drives. One of the advantages of the width of this enclosure is space for 3.5" drives, and I took full advantage with 8TB of total storage with a drive on each side of the chassis.

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Drives are mounted on standoffs and secured with 4 screws each

After installing power and data cables the build is nearly finished.

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The final step is reattaching the upper chassis, which is vented above the motherboard to allow for better cooling.

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Now we're ready for some testing!

Video News

November 5, 2014 | 07:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I build something similair, but then fanless, and with a FM2 mobo and APU, and its completely silent.

Streacom FC5 Evo Fanless black
AMD A10-7850K Black Edition
Mini-box picoPSU-150-XT

And the Streacom case look real good, at least as good as the one from the article.

November 5, 2014 | 08:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How do you put the heat sink on your CPU in this thing?

November 5, 2014 | 10:10 PM - Posted by serpico (not verified)

It has heatpipe connections to the finned parts of the case. Basically, the case is the heatsink.

November 5, 2014 | 08:42 PM - Posted by Rantor (not verified)

Every time I look into something like this, the slim optical drives are what lose me. Given the average cost of an internal one, its easier to go external (or set top) with a NUC type box or build a bigger machine that can hold a 5.25 drive.

November 13, 2014 | 05:45 PM - Posted by PHT

There is a version without ODD drive and without slot as Sebastian mentioned in his review - T-ITX-5

November 5, 2014 | 08:52 PM - Posted by alkarnur

What a horrific use of limited space. 3.5" hard disks? Full-size (as opposed to slim) optical drive? Really?

They could've removed those, put in (or at least left space for) a full-size graphics card, used 2.5" HDDs and a slim ODD instead.

The Steam Machine beta prototype that Valve shipped is still by far the best ultra-compact, single-card system.

November 5, 2014 | 11:19 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

This case only supports a slim optical drive. It's a standard slot-load notebook drive (I'm using a DVD-RW drive from a Dell laptop for this build). Full-size ODD wouldn't fit.

Also, the Intel thin mini-ITX format doesn't support full-size graphics cards. You'd need a little more height to support regular mini-ITX and a dual-slot video card.

November 6, 2014 | 01:40 AM - Posted by dj_aris (not verified)

I think thin mini-ITX boards do support GPUs (of course with a bandwidth cap of only x4 instead of x16) but their slot doesn't provide 75w of power (only 25w instead), which means that an aux PCIe power is required fo the card. Granted, all this kind of defeats the purpose of sff, but I'm just saying...

I also agree about the lost internal space for the HDDs. Maybe they also could remove the optical altogether (who uses disks anymore?) and make the power supply internal as well). And perhaps leave some room for say a 2.5" drive.

November 6, 2014 | 08:08 AM - Posted by collie

Htpc with optical is very common, specialy for audio-heads. Blue ray is dieing but it ain't dead yet

November 6, 2014 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Shane (not verified)

While I don't see the need for 2 (or 3) HDDs in an HTPC, it is because of noise and extra heat, more so than the loss of space. They had the space, since they wanted to make it the same width/depth dimensions of typical home theatre hardware, so they put it to use.

Arguably, moving the power supply out was extremely wise, since now it can be passively cooled, instead of forcing the chassis fans to go into overdrive venting the excess heat. Looking at the temps of a Pentium, without the addition of a graphics card or power supply, they really didn't have the headroom to put any other heat producer inside the chassis.

November 6, 2014 | 12:38 PM - Posted by Dusty

The extra cost for 2.5" storage drives is ridiculous. For a Media Center PC, getting some 3.5" 2, 3, 4 TB drives or two is a much better use of space.

November 12, 2014 | 06:38 PM - Posted by Rich (not verified)

I agree, but it's not just the cost - it is also the capacity, power, and suitability for video recording. Low-power, video/surveillance 3.5" drives are available up to 6TB now, while 2.5" drives tend to max out at 2TB. If you are building a DVR which can record 6 or more programs at once, supporting 1 or 2 3.5" hard drives (as the reviewer showed) makes a lot more sense than using four 2.5" drives.

November 6, 2014 | 01:20 AM - Posted by CrankyDave

Hellooooooo, Nurse! I built a cheap mini-ITX HTPC recently with an embedded Celeron motherboard, but this would be so much more responsive. And look a lot better. (I have a CableCard setup, so I'd never, ever use Windows 8 in an HTPC, though. 7 only.) I'm bookmarking their site for any future builds.

November 6, 2014 | 06:31 AM - Posted by Justin150 (not verified)

This is not perfect, not even close, but a good start.

HTPC should be silent. Fans are not acceptable. There are plenty of examples of good fanless design which would give similar thermal performance.

I know not everyone uses an ODD - I still do mostly to rip blu rays down to my NAS. It would be a good idea to have the ODD fixing incorporate some form of anti-vibration/noise dampening as the ODD is the biggest noise in my system.

Like the IR option.

November 12, 2014 | 06:49 PM - Posted by Rich (not verified)

Since this chassis is clearly not intended for hard core gaming, but rather as a media player, cable settop/DVR, or streaming video box, the workloads typically do not stress the CPU as heavily and do not require high RPM to cool adequately. There are plenty of super quiet fans on the market which cannot be heard at a distance of 3-4 feet. The optical/hard drive(s) should set the lower threshold for audibility. For this type of application, a fanless design would be overkill and a waste of money.

November 6, 2014 | 10:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Placing the motherboard in the center was a mistake as it severely limits what PCIe boards you can install alongside. Too bad.

November 10, 2014 | 09:36 AM - Posted by Shane (not verified)

Thin mITX tends not to have anything more than a half-width pci-e slot, so you are pretty limited right out of the gate.

November 12, 2014 | 06:56 PM - Posted by Rich (not verified)

For Thin-Mini ITX, the power supply is built into the motherboard and is not sized to power high-end graphics cards. External AC/DC converters are available for Thin-Mini ITX up to 160W. The half-height slot is adequate for low-end graphics cards or TV/cable tuners.

November 6, 2014 | 11:42 AM - Posted by Shrapnol (not verified)

Really awesome!

November 7, 2014 | 11:53 AM - Posted by Matt (not verified)

I'd recommend that you guys check out the HDhomerun prime for your next htpc article. It takes a cable card and rebroadcasts the channels over your network to WMC devices. It was a little bit of a pain to set up with Time Warner, since you need the fancier Cisco Digital Tuning Adapter that the techs don't have on hand. The upside is that you don't need a cable card for every device and you can use relatively thin clients to view or record the channels.

November 13, 2014 | 06:08 PM - Posted by PHT

I didn’t know that review has been published already until now, so this is a reason for delayed corrections and comments.
Sebastian, thank you for nice review and award.
My corrections and comments:
1. Price $200.00 was set for few units taken from factory by air (expensive). Actual price for chassis arrived by sea is $160.00.
2. I designed these series of ultra slim chassis, but final technical project was done by Zhiyang (engineer/designer) in China and he deserves recognition as well.
3. We have several platforms good for HTPC application, starting with Raspberry PI. Let’s focus on Intel CPU platforms only.
As far as I know the smallest Intel CPU motherboard is a NUC, then there is Thin-Mini ITX, then Mini ITX and up. Thin-Mini ITX has been designed to fill the gap between NUC and Mini ITX. Some of Thin-Mini ITX don’t have PCIe at all, some of them, have only PCIe x1 and some PCIe x4 like presented here. They are starting with only one SATA port up to four SATA ports. Max CPU TDP is 65W and max power on PCIe is 25W by design.
There is plenty of NUC chassis and a lot of chassis based on Mini-ITX and up, but very few based on Thin-Mini-ITX, so I decided to fill this gap and I designed full width, ultra slim T-ITX 5÷8 series.
4. These chassis have been design for three applications only: Music servers, HTPCs and TV Enthusiasts. With limits mentioned above – this is not for gaming for sure.
5. As a music server chassis can accommodate SOtM tX-USBexp Audiophile PCIe to USB Audio Card and there is a space for SOtM In-Line SATA Power Noise Filter as well.
6. As HTPC or TV Enthusiast this chassis can accommodate Ceton InfiniTV 6 PCIe and up to three 3.5” HDDs.
7. We offer HQ 19V, 150W AC/DC converter made by Mini-Box. This adapter is covered by 12 months warranty.

Reviewer mentioned noise from 60mm chassis fan when he put system to the limit.
From this review I assume that he didn’t use Fan-Xpert to control fans. It is easy to read fans specs and then set up speed properly and safe for CPU and motherboard. Information:
I built system around exactly the same motherboard but I set Fan-xpert to control fans speed.

Recently I installed Cave-Tec software and started CaveTec Center. I was recording four and playing four HD programs simultaneously. My HPTPC is ~7 feet from me. I muted sound several times and didn’t hear any noise from HTPC. I will repeat this with CPUID HD Monitor ON and report here after then.


January 2, 2015 | 02:57 PM - Posted by DVV (not verified)

I'm curious as to whether or not the Intel BXHTS1155LP reference Thin-Mini-ITX cooler would work with / fit in this case. It appears that there is sufficient room to the front or left side of the board, but I can't tell if the chassis has been predrilled for the fan. While I commend the manufacturer for providing a fan solution, I would think that the Intel cooler would provide better heat dissipation (given the overall surface area is larger) at a slightly lower dB level.

September 15, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by quest_for_silence (not verified)

What "Celcius" degrees are? It's a mispelling acceptable (barely) when coming by a forum poster, not on a PcPer review graph. Thanks in advance for the necessary correction.

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