Specifications and Features

When people start looking for a home theater pc case they often look for the smallest rack sized one they can get. What happens when you say to hell with the small form factor? You get something like the Thermal Rock Circle case. This case is an attempt to blend a full-sized case with the aesthetics of home theater. When I first saw the case my initial reaction was ?damn that?s ugly,? but pictures do it no justice. As soon as I got the box I was pulling it open to take a better look at what I thought was going to be a monstrosity. So what do you get when you buy this unusual case?

Features:

Specifications:

Model RH-F030-2SW Motherboards 12" x 9.6" (ATX),
9.6" x 9.6" (Micro ATX) ,
12" x 13" (Extend ATX)
Expansion
Slots
7 Slots
Case Type Full Tower Cooling
System
Front -
120x120x25 mm fan 2000rpm (intake)
Rear -
120x120x25 mm fan 2000rpm (exhaust)
Thermal
Test
Tambient: 38C
Intel thermal requirement validated
Side Panel Arch Shape Window Color Silver Coating I/O Ports USB2.0 x 2, IEEE1394 x 1, Micro phone & Ear phone ports
Dimension
(H*W*D)
205.0 mm ( W ) x 500.0 mm ( D ) x 540.0 mm ( H ) Material SECC 0.8mm (Chassis)
Aluminum (Front Panel)
Carton Dimension
(D x W x H)
630 x 295 x 590 mm
( 219 pcs / 20' ; 441 pcs / 40';
570 pcs / 40HQ )
Net Weight 35lbs Drive Bays 5 x 5.25", 2 x 3.5"
(Front Accessible)
6 x 3.5" (Internal)
   

Packaging

The ThermalRock Circle arrived in good condition with only normal shipping abuse to the box. I must say I was surprised by the wait of the case, according to the shipping label its 35lbs. The packaging was adequate and I found no dents or scrapes on the exterior of the case. ThermalRock also covered the acrylic with plastic to prevent scratching during transport.

The front of the box has an attractive full color image of the case both with the lights on and with them off. On the back of the box photos show off the key features of the case, including the colored CD-R's on the front of the case. The layout is simple and nice making it easy to see what this case has to offer before even opening up the box.

Styrofoam inserts hold the case about an inch away from the sides of the box. They ship it with the front panel facing up so you can see what you're getting as you open the box. It's a subtle psychological thing but I know I appreciated it, made it feel like I was getting a present. Further protecting the case is a plastic bag ensuring that water and moisture are kept out.

The Looks

Inside the case there is a box that contains drive rails, a manual and 4 red CD-R’s for the front of the case. There are three styles of drive rails, 6 CD-ROM, 5 Hard Drive and 2 Floppy Drive rails. The box also includes a key for locking the case door. I decided to test fit my case with my home theater and I must say it looked good and like it belonged. The styling did not match what I already have on the plus side it does not look like a computer case either.

I swapped out the purple CD-R’s for the red ones because I find that they look better, though that’s my taste. Opening up the case door you can see the five exposed 5.25” drives and the two 3.5” bays. Also visible is the front grill which actual allows for some air flow. The front door to the ThermalRock Circle is raised off the front bezel allowing for air to come in from the top and bottom as well as a gap in the bezel it’s self.

Sadly the cool looking arm on the front of the case is not able to read CD’s but who knows it could happen in the future?. With the front door open there are two thumb screws that hold the arm in place loosening the screws allows you to adjust it from the top position to the bottom position.


Spinning the black disks on the back of the door reveals the CD holder. Not much really to say about this because I don’t think it’s all that functional more of an eye candy thing really. It is a decent design and I had no problem loading in the red disks and screwing back on the black covers.


On the top of the case are two USB ports and a firewire port. I am very glad that ThermalRock put them on the outside of the case rather than behind the door as this makes them far more functional. In the bottom left corner of the front bezel are the headphone and microphone jacks. This time around I am not thrilled with the placement. This case is large and heavy so there is almost no chance that it will ever be on a desk where the ports are actually accessible.

The back of the case is simple and has a spot for the power supply at the top with a large 120mm fan grill on the exhaust. The only thing of real note is the side panel locking system. Four plastic latches held down with screws snap into place locking or unlocking the side panels. While neat in concept I did not find the latches to work all that well, luckily they do not detract from the overall functionality or design of the case.

Inside the case you can see how much room there really is to work with. Up to six hard drives can be mounted vertically below the power supply allowing for the heat to be drawn up and out the back. You can also see that the motherboard is mounted upside down allowing for the two 120mm fans to create decent air flow over the cpu and heatsink.


Here is a simple close up of the hard drive mounting cage and the extra 80mm fan slot that could help cool the graphics cards and create some air flow above the cpu region.


Here are the two fans that cool the system. They are very quiet I really don’t notice them, but then in my room anything under 45dB is quiet. The fans are powered with two 4pin Molex connectors and have a separate tachometer wire that connects to the motherboard.

The last thing were going to look at before I start installing they system is the tool-less PCI slots. The black clamps snap up allowing you to insert the PCI card and then snap closed pushing down on the PCI cards tab holding it firmly in place. Also shown is the power supply bracket that you can mount the power supply to before attaching it to the case.

Installation

Installation:

I had two major problems with my installation. The first was the power supply; because the case is so large and tall the ATX power cable was not quite long enough. I check with another power supply and it was fine showing that I was correct in stating that SkyHawk needed to lengthen the ATX power cables. Thankfully they have already passed that onto the engineers. But the lesson stands this case is large make sure that your power supply has long cables otherwise you could find your self stretching, fudging, and manipulating to get it in there. The second issue I encountered also had less to do with the case than my motherboard. The DFI Lanparty UT Ultra-D has a audio riser card. This card impacted with the rear exhaust fan and its housing.

In this picture you can clearly see where the audio card hits the fan. If you look at the profile shot there is almost 1cm of distance between the backplane and the card.

To fix this situation I removed the fan housing and attached the fan directly to the back of the case. This gave me the room I needed to fully seat the motherboard. The audio riser card still makes contact and is ever so slightly angled by the fan, but I was able to fit the motherboard in the case and that’s what is important. Just keep in mind that if your motherboard has any vertical cards in the vicinity of the rear exhaust fan then there may be clearance issues with this case.

I had to drill out the mounting holes on the back in order to fit fan screws here is the before and after picture. This is what allowed me to mount the fan directly to the case.

Finaly we have the system up and running. I connected it to my TV just to get a feel for what a home theater PC would be like and I have to say I want one. My next build will probably be for the living room. Once the computer was powered up the CD-ROM’s on the front of the case were illuminated by LED’s in the door creating a nice blue glow. If you’re a 24/7 computer user then you will not want to connect the front LED’s as the generate quite a bit of light. One of the best things about this case is its thermal properties. The two 120mm fans create lots of air flow over the CPU and keep it much cooler than some other cases. My Lian Li PC52 had a load temperature around 55c while the ThermalRock Circle case kept it around 50c.

Final Thoughts

This was an interesting case; it has very distinct and bold styling. I think it looks much better than some of the cases out there in terms of uniqueness. It will also be a conversation piece as most people will look at it and wonder what it is. While I like its style, spaciousness, and tool-less design the ThermalRock Circle may be to large for some power supplies. It is also very heavy, don?t buy this case if you frequent LAN parties.

Good:

Bad:

Legit Bottom Line:

The ThermalRock Circle is a head turner, and a back breaker. If it?s your thing then by all means you will likely be happy with this case. If price or mobility is a big part of your buying decision then this is not the case for you.