A Wooden Media Center Computer Case!


nMediaPC HTPC 8000

Recently nMediaPC added an interesting case to their HTPC line up, the HTPC 8000. The thing that makes it interesting is that it’s made of wood. I know I have never owned wooden case, or seen one that wasn’t custom built, so it’s different to see a wooden case as an off the shelf option. At 19.3(W) x "14.3"(H) x 11"(D) the HTPC 8000 is a bit on the big side for an HTPC case, but it can hold a full size ATX motherboard, full length expansion cards, and a standard ATX PSU. Before we get too far let's look at the specifications of the HTPC 8000.

Specifications

  • Expansions: 7 Slots / Full Size
  • Cooling: 140mm Case Fan x 1
  • Front Connection:
  • LCD Display (Optional, not included): 20X2 Programmable LCD display module with Internal USB connector, support Windows, Media Center Edition 2005, Vista and Vista Media Center Edition operating system. (MODEL# PRO-LCD)
  • Packing

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    The case comes in a simple but sturdy cardboard box.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    Opening the box we can see the case wrapped in plastic and the ends of the case are encased in foam packing. The box would have to take a decent hit to get through the foam and damage the case.

    External Impressions


    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    With the case out of the packing we can get a good look at it. One thing is for sure; you will need certain décor for the HTPC800 to blend in. With the case resembling a 1940’s radio I don’t think it will fit in with most of today’s sleek AV equipment. If that is more your style, nMediaPC has those too.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 front panel

    Looking a little closer at the front panel we can see it's done in a style to resemble brass, but it’s actually plastic. There is a space for an LCD screen -- more on that in a moment. Just below the screen are the card reader and front I/O ports. The I/O ports include three USB ports, eSATA, IEEE1394, and the Audio ports. Now the big knob is not a knob, but a big power button. First thing I did when I got the case out of the box was try to turn the knob, as did anyone else I know that’s looked at the case. To the lower right of the power button is the reset button. To the lower left is the hard drive LED.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 front vent

    On either side of the front panel are the front vents. These have a mesh screen behind them and as I’ll show later, they are not removable so cleaning dust off may be interesting.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 sides

    The sides of the HTPC 8000 have plastic handles inset into them to help move the case around. With the case being made of wood it is not light. Fully packed with parts the HTPC 8000 is a bit on the hefty side.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 top detail

    The top of the case has a two small groove details in it. Other than that the top is blank. The top is also the access panel to the inside of the case. It is held on with four screws, one in each corner.

    back of the nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    Around the back we can see the only fan in the case, a single 140mm fan. The directions also say you have the ability to add two 92mm fans that you can purchase on your own in the front behind the panel.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 expansion slots

    Looking closer to the expansion slot area we can see that the slot covers are stamped. The black piece with holes is a vent, but is also removable for installing expansion cards.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 bottom

    The bottom of the case is not as finished as the rest of the sides. The case feet are the rubber stick on type. The four holes in the center are left from the manufacturing process.

    Moving Inside


    removing the top of the nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    To gain access to the inside you have to first remove the four screws that hold the top on.

    inside the nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    With the top off we can see the hard drive and optical drive tray. This is held in place with two small wood screws.

    deep inside the nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    With the tray removed we can get a better look at the back of the front panels. The front I/O wiring is more than long enough to reach in this case, and it may even be a touch too long for the tight quarters. The motherboard tray has some standoffs pre-installed.

    inside of the nMediaPC HTPC 8000 front vents

    Here we can see why the front air vent screens are not removable. They are stapled in place.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 LCD mount

    Looking closer at the front I/O ports you may notice that the area behind the LCD screen is a little empty. That’s because the case doesn’t come with one. nMedia has one, # PRO-LCD, but it is another $30 on top of the $99 price tag of the case itself.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000 drive tray

    The drive tray has space for four 3.5” hard drives and one 5.25” optical drive.

    Installing Parts


    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    I first set the motherboard in place to check the cooler clearance. I decided to use the cooler I already had installed on the test system, the Cogage TRUE Spirit. When I set the drive tray in place I noticed that the cooler fan was not going to allow for the tray to mount properly.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    After removing the fan the drive tray cleared the heatsink fins just barely, but it fit so far. Wider tower coolers like the Thermalright Ultra-120 or the Noctua NH-U12P won’t fit as their cooling fins are wider than the Cogage fins.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    Next I put the power supply in and started hooking up wires. Here things started to get interesting as I watched what little space the case had quickly start to disappear. Being particular about wire routing will be a must, as will a modular PSU, to keep good air flow through the case.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    Also, the space for the PSU is a little snug; getting it in there is much easier with the motherboard out of the way. This allows for the PSU to slide into place, rather than rocking it into place under the drive tray supports with the motherboard in the way.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    I then mounted up the drives into the drive tray. The optical drive mounts using the bottom mounting holes on the drive. With all the drives installed the tray is quite heavy. I would be leery of moving the system long distances with only the two small wood screws holding the drive tray.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    With the tray set in the case I started to plan the wire routes for the drives. It would have been much simpler if all the drives were in the same orientation as the lower drives. With the top drives turned 90* to the lower drives the cables have to be twisted around; this puts stress on the somewhat fragile SATA connectors.

    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    I noticed another issue with my cooler and optical drive choices. The power connection was blocked by the top of the cooler. Even an SATA optical drive power connector hits the top of the cooler. For this reason tower coolers taller than 140mm should be avoided, 140mm (5.5 inches) will be below the tray and should allow room for the drive connections.

    Final Thoughts and Conclusion



    nMediaPC HTPC 8000

    The HTPC 8000 from nMediaPC is different to say the least. With its almost all wood construction it’s unlike any case I have ever had. With its style being that of something out of the 1940’s it might look a little out of place in most of today’s sleek AV setups. I have had more than one my woodworking nut friends say they loved the looks of it, and I had several people ask me where I got the old radio. That got me thinking that it would be a nice case for a rec-room, man cave, behind a bar, or could even make for a nice garage juke box.

    The case itself is very well built, looks nice, and has room for full sized parts. Its shape combined with the way parts are arranged inside of it will make you focus on your wire routing more than you normally would on a standard case, but this is also true for most HTPC cases. With the HTPC 8000 filled up with hardware it made the already heavy case really heavy. If this ends up on a shelf in a cabinet it better be sturdy.

    The HTPC8000 can be found for $98 plus shipping, now compared to the price of some other HTPC cases the price seams okay as most sub $100 HTPC cases don’t have them, either. With the LCD it’s another $30 and puts it up in the range of HTPC cases that come with LCDs.

    Legit Bottom Line: An off the shelf wooden HTPC case, if you have a need for it nMediaPC has you covered. No need to hit up the local wood worker.