Decisions, Decisions...

Why a HTPC? To be able to play Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, all my TV episodes, and then anything else I could squeeze out of it. I did not really need to worry about recording TV, as I have a PVR that is very missus-friendly, but I may have a look at HD-Freesat when it comes along.

I spent a VERY long time researching before taking the plunge. Probably a good 3 to 4 months of reading and deliberating parts, and I still changed my mind when the time came, from the Antec Fusion case to the Zalman below.

Build

All of my parts, and my final kitlist and the reasons for part choices can be found on the kit-list page, came from Scan - helped along by the free delivery from being a member of AVForums. They arrived one glorious morning, an assortment of goodies that where to create my new HTPC, as well as upgrade my exsisting PC.

Eleventy boxes!

The Zalman HD160+ Case in all its glory.

Once I had all the bits ready, I started on the case. As a side note, the case has plenty of opportunity for ventilation. There are four round vented holes in the sides of the case, two on each side, but only one (front left) has drilled holes ready for an extra fan. Note that the fan mountings for this do not go all the way through the case - you would have to fix the fan from the inside. There are two rear fans (included) and a ventilation hole in the base of the case not far from the PSU, and another in the lid, which can be closed with a slide action.

Firstly I removed the two rear fans, then I took out the hard drive caddie case which was securely fixed at the bottom and side. I then installed the hard drive in the caddy which is supplied with rubber grommets in all four bays on both sides. I chose the second slot from the bottom, as there is a grilled hole in the side of the case (where a fan could be installed) and so its level with the air vent, rather than 'below' it.

Drive caddy with rubber grommets

I then removed the optical drive caddy, and added my LG drive. Using a tiny screwdriver, I popped the drive and then gently prised off the front bezel. The CD drive is the only bay that does not have rubber grommets, and I removed the grommets from an unused bay and added them, but the cd drive would not fit in the drive afterwards, so I had to remove them once more.

Motherboard, CPU and RAM came next. I removed them all from my old PC, and sat it within the new case. As you can see from the shots below, I left the Arctic Freezer 7 heat sink on as reference, as it does actually fit in the case, but with millimetres to spare with the cover on. I would not recommend this heatsink in this case however, as if you set something on top of this case (like another piece of AV kit for space reasons), the top of the case could touch the top of the heat sink!

Starting the Build....

I then screwed the board in, and removed the Arctic heat sink. I started unpacking the Scythe mini ninja, and blimey it’s a beast! Not sure where the ‘mini’ comes in, as it only stands a centimetre or two shorter than the arctic. It’s a very nice heat sink, and comes with all the attachments to supply different CPU sizes as well as an 8cm fan and the attachments to add a 92mm fan if you want something bigger. One thing though, you need a large thin screwdriver, as the depth of the heat sink is very tall.

Put it this way, I ended up having to go out and buy a new screwdriver to fit it!

The 'not so mini' Scythe Mini Ninja

The heat sink goes in and one of the Golf fan’s goes on. I started by putting the fan to the left side as the RAM is in the way, but then the graphics card would be in the way, so thankfully the wireframe that holds the fan can be moved higher, allowing me to fix it above the RAM. This then sucks air across the CPU, out the back, and straight into the out take of the rear fans.

I then fitted the Golf fans on the back. These fans came with rubber grommets and mountings, a massive bonus as I nearly bought these separately. I ended up having to take the PSU out again to securely fix the rubber fixings on the rear of the case.

Rubber Gromet Fixings

Rear Fans and Mini Ninja

The cables are all fixed in, and routed as best as I can – I will fix some to the side (the case has sticky pads that can hold cables) and I have temporarily held them in place with Velcro cables ties. One thing I will mention is that my graphics card gives off a ton of heat! You can feel the heat with your hand a few centermentres away.

Passive Graphics Card

Everything is now all in - although I did have a massive panic attack as I found the eject button was missing! I finally found it in the bag containing the case, and so quickly and thankfully added. With all the parts in and screwed down properly, I took the plunge and plugged it in.....and the beast lives!

Although there is a huge amount of room in this case, I really would recommend a modular PSU for someone trying a new build. I used my old PSU because there was no way in hell I was going to bin an £80 Tagan PSU, and so I have alot of cables stuffed under the DVD Drive. Thankfully I have no intentions of using the spare 3.5" bay, as if I did, I would have some severe cabling issues.

Looking Good...

As you can see, my hard drive caddy is tidy, and I will have no troubles adding another 750GB or 1Tb Samsung drive, leaving space between the drives for heat disapation.

My Golf ball fans are spinning at between 800-1000 rpm, and so are basically inaudible, and the only noise I have is when the DVD drive kicks in, which sounds like a washing machine in comparison. I will be looking into this, and I do have the front off of it as well, just making sure its all ok before I start chopping bits off the caddy of a £125 bit of kit to fit the front bezel.

I then flashed the LG's firmware, as it was still very loud even when the front bezel was attached, and happily the noise was greatly reduced. In contrast now, my Thomson PVR HD is very loud in comparision!

Front Bezel attached, and powered on

My HTPC is all setup now, with Vista Home Premium, motherboard drivers, and the iMon software for the remote control all installed and the unit in place under the cabinet. I added a G+ MIMO wireless card a day or so later - I dont intend to do any streaming from my main PC, but need the internet for updates, web browsing and Media Portal to retrieve data.

Rear of case showing MIMO card, Optical Out, Wireless Keyboard dongle and DVi to HDMi cable


Conclusion

Chuffed is an understatement. I haven't had a good build project in a while, and then two come along at once, this and my PC upgrade. My missus loves the fact that I can get the internet on the TV, and I can store tons of TV, and HiDef films really are supurb. Put it this way, if you so wish you can see just how craggy Lawrance Fishbourne's skin is in the Matrix films you can - the detail is just that good.

For the software configuration, please check the Software pages.

 

My HTPC web pages were hobbled together by me.