nMEDIAPC HTPC 7000B Micro-ATX / Mini-ITX HTPC Case

Mar 06 2012

nMEDIAPC HTPC 7000nMEDIAPC has made a name for itself in the home theater PC (HTPC) community for consistently delivering well-built, good-looking, and reasonably-priced chassis comfortable in the A/V stack. Offering a brushed aluminum front panel and a street price of $80, at first glance the HTPC 7000B seems to carry on this tradition. Coupled with two 120mm fans, we should expect excellent cooling from this full-height enclosure, but with a depth of just over twelve inches there are sure to be trade-offs where the form factor is both an asset and a liability; keep reading to find out how this case measures up.

The Case

Specifications

Dimensions (W x H x D):17” (430mm) x 5.47” (139mm) x 12.15” (308mm)
Motherboard Support:Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
Power Supply Unit (PSU):Standard ATX
Front Panel I/O:1x Mic, 1x Headphone, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0
Case Construction:Aluminum (front panel) and steel
Storage:1x 5.25”, 3x 3.5”
Expansion:4x Full Height PCI/PCIe
Active Cooling:2x 120mm (1x 3-pin, 1x 4-pin Molex)
Extra Features:- Support for optional VFD modules, like nMEDIAPC’s PRO-LCD- IR Window

Like most modern chassis, the nMEDIAPC HTPC 7000B was packaged securely;--while the box displayed clear evidence of abuse suffered in transit, its thickness, the quality of shipping materials, and buffer space provided within proved more than adequate to deliver it unscathed. The fit-and-finish of the case’s thick, brushed-black aluminum front panel is excellent, and while the texture difference found on the steel panels does not have the same level of visual or tactile appeal, it would be unjust to judge too harshly on this point given the “value” price targeted by the enclosure. However, the blemishes found on the unfinished PCI blanks unnecessarily detract from the presentation, and while the impact is limited because they are only visible from the rear, nothing should be tarnished this early in its life-cycle. Thought was clearly paid to HTPC use with muted LEDs for both power (blue) and hard drive activity (red); in fact, there is little to complain about regarding the exterior, just some nitpicks regarding the inputs on the front (I would have preferred they were hidden either behind a panel or placed on the side) and I found nMEDIAPC a bit too generous when it came to labels on the case – “Blu-ray” = good, “PHOTO/VIDEO/MOVIE/MUSIC/WWW” = not so much.

Like most of their cases, the HTPC 7000B supports nMEDIAPC’s PRO-LCD vacuum florescent display (VFD) module for displaying status. The software included with the optional hardware is adequate for Microsoft Windows Media Center (WMC) users, but support for other popular applications like SageTV, JRiver Media Center, or XBMC is lacking so their users will need to find another solution (e.g. LcdWriter) that either provides native status sinks or the ability to write your own. Unlike many other chassis, the HTPC 7000B includes a window for a user provided infrared (IR) device without forcing the purchase of a bundled, often sub-optimal, receiver. Access is somewhat restrictive (I had to tape a CIR module diagonally), but the fact that it is there is a significant bonus for those with a motherboard that offers support. Hopefully more OEMs will follow suit and we can see some standardization around aftermarket IR modules in the future.

Two 120mm fans are provided on one side of the HTPC 7000B. Although they are both the same model, the power connecter, and therefore voltage, is different for each--one is a three pin, and the other a four pin Molex. Intake vents are provided on the other side of the case, next to the set of 5.25”/3.25” mounts, along the rear above the power supply unit (PSU) and I/O panel so good cross flow is possible. Depending on the components installed in the chassis, it is likely that only one of the fans will be necessary to provide adequate cooling (more details on this later), which is a good thing because while the three pin version is quiet enough for all but the most demanding, the 12V (four pin Molex) is more audible than I prefer.

The Builds

Intel Build

CPU:Intel Core i5-2500K
GPU:Intel HD 3000
Motherboard:Intel DH67BL
HSF:Swiftech MCX-VCore heat sink + 92mm Arctic Cooling PWM fan
RAM:G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (1.5v)
Optical Drive:1x Lite-On iHOS104-06
Storage:1x Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD1x Samsung F1 1TB 7200RPM
Expansion:1x Ceton InfiniTV 41x Hauppauge Colossus1x AverMedia DUET1x Hauppauge HVR-1600
Power Supply Unit:Antec Earthwatts 380W 80+ PFC

AMD Build

CPU:AMD A8-3800
GPU:Radeon HD 6550D
Motherboard:GIGABYTE A75M-UD2H
HSF:ARTIC Alpine 64 PRO Rev.2
RAM:4GB (2x2GB) Patriot Gamer 2 Series, Division 2 Edition DDR3 1600MHz (1.65v)
Optical Drive:1x Lite-On iHOS104-06
Storage:1x Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD1x Samsung F1 1TB 7200RPM
Expansion:1x Ceton InfiniTV 41x AverMedia DUET1x Hauppauge HVR-16001x Hauppauge Colossus
Power Supply Unit:Antec Earthwatts 380W 80+ PFC

The nMEDIAPC HTPC 7000B supports full length GPU, but as a non-gamer my parts bin does not include anything sufficient to adequately test this claim--yet in looking at the pictures of the chassis with a motherboard installed, I find no reason to doubt it either. Without a giant GPU on hand, two integrated processor graphics (IPG) from AMD and Intel where installed inside the enclosure alongside four tuner/encoder devices to look for issues and restrict air flow during the stress test.  In general, both builds were very straightforward, with little demanding specific attention except the ease with which each went into the case - in fact there was only one area which requires special attention.

The HTPC 7000B’s specifications note that it supports three 3.5” hard drives, and while that is technically true the conditions under which three normal-sized drives can actually be installed into the chassis are narrow enough that the claim should at best carry a giant disclaimer. The easiest way to understand the issue is by looking at the gallery above where it should quickly be obvious why two of the three mount points are not suitable in most scenarios. When a Micro-ATX motherboard that places the 24 pin power connector at the front (read “most”) and an optical disc drive (ODD) are selected only the one located under the 5.25” bracket available. That said, since the front bracket supports 2.5” devices, it is possible to get an SSD (or laptop HD) and a full-size HD in the chassis, so the situation is not as dire as it would be otherwise- but this is clearly an area where some compromise is required by the enclosure’s shallow design. Fortunately the worst of this issue should be limited to this generation because nMEDIAPC is planning to add 15mm (0.6”) to the depth of the HTPC 7000 in the next production run. The date for this change is not known at this time though, so if it is a blocking issue for you please let us know in the comments and we provide an update as it becomes available.

To test the HTPC 7000B’s thermal capabilities, a looping file transcode session was run using Handbrake to keep each of the four-core CPUs maxed out for twelve hours with CPU, PCH, and HD temperatures captured at each hour alongside the current fan speed in two sessions; first, with one case fan (the three pin) connected, and again with both the three and four pin fans moving air. Unfortunately, the four pin model does not provide a monitoring lead so its speed is not represented in the graphs above, but we can see the effects both in slightly lower temperatures and the speed of the other fans in this test condition. Room temperature was 25.5-26°C (78-79°F) during Intel Build testing and 24.4-25°C (76-77°F) when evaluating the AMD Build, which is likely cause for differences in HD temperatures measured. In each of the four scenarios, we can see that that each metric was well-controlled and held within acceptable constraints for both component temperature and fan speed, although as mentioned previously, the 12V fan was a little louder than I generally prefer. Given the results with one fan, those utilizing an IPG or low-end GPU should find that configuration comfortable; more demanding environments with strict noise requirements may find a replacement with a 4 pin PWM fan desirable.

Conclusion

nMEDIAPC consistently delivers home theater PC chassis that strike an excellent balance between form, function and value. With a high quality aluminum front panel that fits comfortably in the A/V stack, [just] enough expandability to satisfy most users, and a price (~$80) that will not break the bank, the HTPC 7000B slots cleanly into this tradition.  Its shallow depth limits the chassis’ potential for significant amounts of storage, but for those who require this form factor or do not need more than an SSD + HD in their HTPC there is little reason to hold back when shopping for a full height Micro-ATX enclosure.

Pro:

  • Attractive
  • Price
  • BYO IR Support
  • Cooling performance
  • Power LED is perfect for HTPC use

Con:

  • 3x 3.5” claim a bit disingenuous in current revision
  • Front panel a bit too “PC”

Thanks to nMEDIAPC for the review sample.

Comments

Looks very nice. Very similar to my Silverstone GD04B and the Lian Li PC-C50B lay out wise that is. 

This form factor is one of my favorites. 

I like that this has a display which the others lack. And the space for IR is a smart idea. I hate having to drill holes to have a custom built in IR.

Yeah, having a place for IR is huge.

Not like my Silverstone GD04B; it has a smarter design to move the optical drive away from the CPU heatsink area; so, more space for a thrid party CPU heatsink.

Great review.

 

This is true. But I was speaking more of the general form factor. 

I wish they had a version without the LCD/VFD. I just don't much like them but I do like the case. I might use it for my next build, that or the Silverstone Milo ML03. Smile

 

 

I have this case and a Gigabyte GA-Z68MX-UD2H-B3 Rev 1.3 motherboard in it. I was able to fit a WD20EARX HDD in the front mount with probably 5-10mm of clearance from the board components, including the ATX power connection.

 

I installed a Lite-On IHBS212 Blu-Ray drive and had ample room to mount a SSD in the HDD space above the PSU. The Lite-On is 170mm long and a 3.5" drive would just squeeze in behind provided the cables from the optical drive exit the plugs at the correct angles. A longer drive would cause problems. The nMediaPC website does highlight that a short drive is required, but could probably be clearer in providing some maximum length dimensions.

 

On the Gigabyte motherboard, the USB3 header is located directly under the 2nd HDD bay which is below the optical drive bay. The front USB3 cable in the case is quite stiff and if I had a HDD mounted in this location I believe it would cause the internal USB3 connection to bend over and potentially place too much stress on the components. I also used the space here to store the excess cables from my PSU so there isn't much room left to stick the 2nd HDD. In hindsight, I probably would have gone for a modular PSU to restrict the cabling to what is actually required.

 

Initially I thought the Molex connected fan wasn't too noisy, but after an hour of use I changed my mind and disconnected it. I would have preferred if both fans had a 3-pin connection so that I could hook them up with a splitter and run them through the motherboard fan control. There is a position to mount a third 120mm fan which the specs say can be up to 25mm thick, but there is really only half that space. I may end up replacing both case fans if cooling proves insufficient. One option could be to modify the Molex connector from the fan so that it runs on 5V rather than 12V, which I’ve been considering doing.

 

Despite many recommendations not to get it, I did buy the PRO-LCD anyway. The screen is ok when it’s at eye level and you’re within a metre of it but it becomes illegible very quickly with distance and angles. It appears as if the contrast is set too high, because not only is the text very bright, but the rest of the screen also appears to be illuminated, making it difficult to read. I’ve played around with the brightness settings in the supplied software, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. The LCD window on the case also is quite reflective which compounds the issue. The clear plastic should have been made matt rather than gloss.

 

The HDD activity light is quite dim and at first I didn’t think it was working until I got real close to it.

 

I don’t have a discrete GPU so I can’t comment on how one would fit, but I would need to reroute some of the cabling in order to accommodate a long one.

 

I thought the door covering the ODD bay would be flimsy plastic but it is solid aluminium and makes quite a loud thud when it is opened, but then the drive I’m using does spit the tray out very fast. A drive with a slower ejection mechanism would probably be quieter.

 

Overall I’m quite happy with the case, and with a few rearrangements could probably fit two HDDs and an SSD with some tweaking, based on my setup. It is important to thoroughly check the dimensions and connection locations on your motherboard prior to purchasing to avoid any clashes with components.

 

 

 

 

 

Website design by Yammm Software
Powered by Drupal