Introduction: The HTPC Slims Down
We check out an incredibly thin aluminum HTPC enclosure
There are many reasons to consider a home theater PC (HTPC) these days, and aside from the full functionality of a personal computer an HTPC can provide unlimited access to digital content from various sources. “Cord-cutting”, the term adopted for cancelling one’s cable or satellite TV service in favor of streaming content online, is gaining steam. Of course there are great self-contained solutions for streaming like the Roku and Apple TV, and one doesn't have to be a cord-cutter to use an HTPC for TV content, as CableCard users will probably tell you. But for those of us who want more control over our entertainment experience the limitless options provided by a custom build makes HTPC compelling. Small form-factor (SFF) computing is easier than ever with the maturation of the Mini-ITX form factor and decreasing component costs.
The Case for HTPC
For many prospective HTPC builders the case is a major consideration rather than an afterthought (it certainly is for me, anyway). This computer build is not only going into the most visible room in many homes, but the level of noise generated by the system is of concern as well. Clearly, searching for the perfect enclosure for the living room can be a major undertaking depending on your needs and personal style. And as SFF computing has gained popularity in the marketplace there are a growing number of enclosures being introduced by various manufacturers, which can only help in the search for the perfect case.
A manufacturer new on the HTPC enclosure scene is a company called Perfect Home Theater, a distributor of high-end home theater components. The enclosures from P.H.T. are slick looking aluminum designs supporting the gamut of form-factors from ATX all the way down to thin mini-ITX. The owner of Perfect Home Theater, Zygmunt Wojewoda, is also the designer of the ultra low-profile enclosure we’re looking at today, the T-ITX-6.
As you can see it is a wide enclosure, built to match the width of standard components. And it’s really thin. Only 40mm tall, or 48mm total including the feet. Naturally this introduces more tradeoffs for the end user, as the build is strictly limited to thin mini-ITX motherboards. Though the enclosure is wide enough to theoretically house an ATX motherboard, the extremely low height would prevent it.
The “Thin” Mini-ITX Problem
I like to think of the “thin” mini-ITX variant as essentially the platform Apple has been using for years with the Mac mini. And while this reviewer thinks that thin mini-ITX is great, since users can create their own Mac mini-like Windows (or Linux) PC to their own specifications – and for less money – there are naturally those who might be against the thin form-factor. The height of the slimmest enclosures limit cooling choices severely, and usually prevent the use of full-size expansion cards (though this enclosure does not, but more on that later).
First we'll take a look at the full specs from Perfect Home Theater (there are two versions of this enclosure; the T-ITX-5, and this T-ITX-6 which adds slim ODD capability):
Our thanks to Perfect Home Theater for providing the case for our review!
Material: 100% Aluminum
Available color: Black / Silver
Accepted MBs: Thin-Mini ITX
HDD: 1×2.5' and 2x 3.5'' standard hard drive mounts
Cooling Devices: One 60x60x15mm ultra-quiet fan – installed
Extension Slot: One half size slot
Front Interface: None
Dimension: 435mm×310mm×48mm (LxWxH) [17.125"x12.25"x1.875"]
Net Weight: 2.2 kg (4.85 lbs)
Maximum height of CPU cooler = 23mm. (Recomended: PHT HSF or Akasa AK-CC7129BP01)
Cost: $200. Available direct from Perfect Home Theater
The enclosure arrives in what looks like a laptop computer box, right down to the handle on top.
Inside the enclosure is extremely well protected with dense foam, and wrapped in a soft material to prevent scratches.
This case is light. There is a very attractive milled appearance to the black aluminum, and I was immediately impressed with how solid this wide enclosure feels. No hint of wobble.
The front view showcases the extremely low profile of this enclosure. There is a slot on the right side for an optical disc drive, and note the IR window for an optional internal receiver next to the power button.
The top panel has rounded edges and the fit to the lower chassis is excellent.
The rear of the enclosure contains an opening for the thin mini-ITX motherboard IO, and a single half-height expansion card (installation requires an optional 90-degree PCIe adapter).
The bottom of the enclosure is vented beneath the motherboard for better cooling, and we also see three 60mm fan mounts (one fan comes factory installed). The feet are sturdy and the enclosure sat level on every tested surface. The feet also have a rubber-like material on the base to help with vibration isolation.
Next we'll look at the build process!