Streacom FC5 Silent HTPC Chassis
Before we begin, let’s take a look at the specifications and requirements for using this case. As you might expect, with the heat pipes placed from the right side of the chassis directly across to the CPU, there is a limited number of motherboards that are supported by the Streacom FC5 chassis. There are several different mounting plates available to help which we’ll explain later.
|Type:||Super Low Profile Fanless Chassis|
|Chassis Material:||100% Aluminum|
|Dimensions:||435mm x 325mm x 60mm (L x W x H )|
|Color:||Black or Silver|
|Cooling System||Six heatpipe passive fanless heatsink System for LGA775/LGA1156/AM2/AM3 Socket CPU**For AM2/AM3 socket use four heatpipes.|
|Expansion||Internal 3.5″/2.5″ Drive Bays 3x 2.5″ HDD bay/ 2 x3.5″ HDD bay
Expansion Slots 1 Full Height Single Slot PCI/PCIE Card (Riser Required)
Internal MCE IR Receiver Supported
The chassis arrived in an outer brown box, and inside was a sleek black box from Streacom, both boxes showed no sign of damage from shipment. Inside everything was packaged very professionally, with Styrofoam enclosing the borders of the case, and an inner “Accessories” box holding the additional screws and manual. A full user manual was not included, is definitely necessary, and is available online at www.perfecthometheater.com.
As with most chassis of this nature, it had four feet on the bottom, and also vents on the top lid directly above the CPU to assist with convection cooling. On the rear of the unit there is one add-on slot for an expansion card if one was desired, but will require the use of a riser card to seat it horizontally. There is also a hole in the rear for the internal power supply connector to conveniently be connected to its external power supply. Unfortunately, the internal PSU tested had the connector cord about one inch too short, so it did not reach. Keep that in mind as you are planning your components for the build.
Here is the system hardware we used for our build.
|Motherboard||MSI H61I-E35 Mini-ITX|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-2500T|
|Memory||G.Skill 2x2GB DDR3-1600|
|Hard Drive / Solid State Drive||1 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1TB SATA|
|Optical Drive||Optiarc BC-5600S Blu-ray Slot Load|
|Power Supply||Internal 80W PSU|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit|
As with any build in an unconventional chassis with unique features such as passive cooling, you have to anticipate a learning curve and some extra effort in getting things to just the way they should be. The biggest challenge with a case like this, as was implied previously, is in the selection of motherboard–choose the wrong one, and you will have to stop your build before it even begins. Be sure to pay close attention to memory and capacitor locations, as those components must not be too tall to the right of the CPU or they will interfere with the heat pipes.
With the hard part out of the way, the remainder of the build is seemingly very traditional. Remove the optical tray to install a disc drive if you feel so inclined–we say this knowing that some of you would opt for the non-optical disc version since this would be a fantastic bedroom client due to the noise benefits. The internal PSU is standard installation, and was nice having so much space to work with inside the Streacom to route the cables. There were three connectors coming from the front–the front panel power switch, power LED and then the internal IR receiver (RC260), an optional component but one that was included with our review unit. This receiver is upgraded from the version found in other chassis and includes support for the standard Media Center remotes as well, which is a great convenience factor if you’re not a fan of the included remote’s form factor.
You may be wondering about the hard drives, which we have saved for last. This case actually can accommodate up to…three hard drives internally! We use the exclamation mark because it has become so customary for chassis of this nature to have minimal space on the number of slots for hard drives, even if we felt there was space for extra. The Streacom FC5 includes screw holes underneath the chassis to save space, and thus can accommodate two 2.5” hard drives and up to one 3.5” hard drive. If completely silent operation is your objective, we would highly recommend the usage of a solid state drive since that would allow for an entirely silent system, but we would forgive you if you had to save a few pennies and use an existing hard drive. Trust us when we say it will be the only thing you hear in the system.
TESTING & PERFORMANCE
With everything built, it was time to test the Streacom FC5 and see if it was up to the task of full time HTPC duties. We installed the standard Windows 7 Ultimate x64 edition on our hard drive and started to closely monitor the temperatures coming from the system. From that point, we wanted to see how bad things could get. With it being winter, it was impossible to simulate a summer heat in Los Angeles, but we did our best to make the testing conditions brutal. Since CPU cooling is of great concern in a chassis with zero active cooling (there’s not even a slot if you were concerned and wanted to accommodate one), it has to not falter.
To maximize the capabilities of the cooling, we setup our test bed with two stress testers whose objective is to max out the components being tested to their maximum threshold to see if the thermal temperatures remain stable. We used Prime95 to stress the CPU, and RTHDRIBL to max out the video card’s capabilities–again, these tests aren’t to test the capabilities of the on-board graphics, but to ensure that the CPU and GPU are both working at their maximum capacities.
|Idle||50C / 120 F||66C / 150F|
|After 5 Mins||78C / 172F||69C / 156F|
|After 10 mins||77C / 172F||72C / 161F|
|After 2 hours||78C / 172F||71C / 159F|
As shown above, the temperatures are well within the limits of the processor, with quite a lot of room with which to work. Given the lack of any active cooling, this is quite impressive. This particular motherboard even had the option of underclocking the CPU to run a bit slower if you are concerned or desire even lower temperatures, but I found this result more than acceptable.
With an MSRP of $350 (on sale at the time of this writing at PHT for $262), the Streacom FC5 is a chassis in a price range reserved for only the most lavish and feature rich cases on the market. Unlike gaming customers, where size, fans and lights are desired by many and increase costs, in a home theater chassis the exact opposite is what you are paying a premium. Such is the case of the FC5, which features the unique heatpipe cooling technology. Previously, chassis such as this would be limited to one or two motherboards, or found only in OEM systems such as the now defunct Niveus Media Rainier (full disclosure, I was the Sr. Product Manager for Niveus Media back in the day). There has always been a reason why these types of heatpipe chassis are extremely limited in the market, as the installation has often been difficult and the risk versus reward of having no active fans in the chassis was never caught valued as much. Cost is the most obvious reason–the heatpipes, the chassis’s aluminum heatfins on both sides (even though only one side actually uses them), and the heatsink for the CPU itself, all with their own material and engineering development expenses, all bring the price up to what we have here, a $350 chassis. But knowing its price and the lack of similar competitive options, we take this at face value for what it is, and accept that the chassis simply works. The heatsinks work wonderfully and even remain relatively cool even after significant stress testing and internal temperature rising.
Streacom has built a solid case in the FC5 with no unnecessary flashy lights or showmanship, and stuck to its sleek and attractive brushed aluminum exterior. While the installation is not simple, it was also not as difficult as anticipated. As noted earlier, there is an upcoming version of the FC5 without the optical drive slot coming soon, available for $25 less.
- 100% silent chassis
- Gorgeous brushed aluminum
- Supports both AMD and Intel platforms
- Built-in IR receiver
- Expansion capabilities–3 hard drives, 1 add-on card
- Advanced installation
- Limited number of motherboards supported
Thanks to Perfect Home Theater for providing the Streacom review unit, as well as the motherboard and RAM used in this review.