Thin is in, particularly when it comes to small computers like HTPCs. Although there are advantages to buying a large case, as outlined in the Smidgen PC HTPC case buying guide, many simply do not have the room for a massive case in their home theater. There are also aesthetic reasons to pick a slim HTPC case, as such cases don’t attract undue attention, although your grandparents will wonder how a PC can fit in such a slim enclosure!
The slim HTPC case market is still somewhat untapped, but there are some good cases to pick from. The three slim HTPC cases listed below are my personal favorites.
Thermaltake Mozart SX
Slim, yes, but small? The Thermaltake Mozart SX isn’t. Although it is only 90mm tall (without optional “feet” installed) the Thermaltake Mozart SX is quite large in terms of width and depth coming in at around 19 and 17.5 inches respectively. There is reason for this, however, as the size allows for installation of both full ATX motherboards and most normally sized ATX power supplies. That’s rare for a slim HTPC case. The extra room may not matter to some, but to those looking to re-purpose an older machine as an HTPC the Mozart SX is a very attractive slim HTPC enclosure.
Besides size, the Thermaltake Mozart SX has a few other features of note. It can fit up to 3 3.5″ drives, which is a lot for a slim HTPC case and enough that a HTPC built in the Thermaltake Mozart SX could double as a home file server. The Mozart SX also comes with VFD, remote and media software, although none of it is class leading. Typically priced under $200 dollars, the Thermaltake Mozart SX is competitive on price. On the whole it is a solid offering, although its size in width and depth will make it impractical for some.
Although I once considered Silverstone only for their high-end cases, Silverstone has really been churning out the small enclosures. The LC11M is Silverstone’s slim HTPC case product, and it has the typical look and feel of a Silverstone product. Silverstone has been doing a good job of ensuring that their HTPC cases look handsome from the front, and the LC11M is no different. The only problem is the excessively bright blue LEDs on the front. These same absurdly bright LEDs are found on some of Silverstone’s other products as well.
Given that it is around the same height as the Mozart, but several inches smaller in width and depth, the Silverstone LC11M feels a bit cramped. It comes with its own tiny PSU and a few small 80mm fans. In practice, though, the smaller usable space inside the Silverstone LC11M doesn’t feel like a problem. The case fits mATX boards, two hard drives, and requires a riser card to use the PCI slots. Besides an extra hard drive there isn’t anything useful that can be fit into a Mozart SX that won’t fit in the LC11M.
The only real downside is that the Silverstone LC11M usually retails around $220, and it is arguable if the higher price is worthwhile. It isn’t easy to find, either, even online. If you want one and find it at stock at a reasonable price, grab it!
Moving down the Silverstone family tree in price, but not necessarily in price, we have the SilverStone LC19. While both the Thermaltake Mozart SX and Silverstone LC11M are thin, the LC19 takes it to a different level. It is only 2.7 inches tall, making it one of the slimmest HTPC cases available. In fact, this slim HTPC case is no larger then a modern Blu Ray player. It isn’t particularly large in other dimensions, either, at 15 inches wide and 14 inches deep.
Despite this, the SilverStone LC19 still supports mATX motherboards, PCI cards through riser cards, and a full size 3.5 inch hard drive. There sacrifices in other areas, however. The SilverStone LC19 only supports slim optical drives, which are more costly then normal ones. It is also lacking in air flow as it has only a single 50mm exhaust fan and the power supply is an external model, such as with a laptop, which can make wire clutter in your home theater worse.
These downfalls are to be expected, however. When buying a slim HTPC case this thin one should expect to have to jump through a few hoops. While the SilverStone LC19 does have some competitors in the ultra-slim HTPC case market, it is the slimiest HTPC case I’ve found consistently available in the United States. And while a price of around $200 bucks isn’t cheap, it isn’t any worse then the LC11M.
Word of Warning
While the three slim HTPC cases here are my personal picks, I do want to warn those new to HTPCs that these cases are all radically different then normal PC cases and even normal HTPC cases. They all require the use of riser cards in order to use PCI cards. The also are cramped and difficult to work with. One can never assume when building PCs this small that any particular part will fit just because it works in a mATX tower. Slim HTPC cases allow for the creation of some very impressive HTPCs, but be sure to do the research before you buy.