Cases play an important role in the computer building process. They are the foundation of the computer and it is really important that the foundation is strong, or else the rest of the computer will have trouble. It is also important that the case meets the specific needs of the type of computer that is being built. I am building a Home Theater PC (HTPC), so I need a case that is solid, expandable, and will look good next to my other A/V components. For that reason I am looking at the Antec Fusion Remote case.
- Aluminum plate front bezel
- IR receiver
- LCD screen
- Front-mounted multimedia ports
- Triple chamber structure
- Advanced cooling system
- Deluxe 56-button remote control
When you look for a HTPC case you need to keep a few things in mind. The first is size. A HTPC computer needs to be smaller than a traditional desktop because it needs to match the other A/V components in your system. The Antec Fusion Remote has dimensions of 5.5″(H) x 17.5″ (W) x 16.3″ (D), so it is a little smaller than a traditional desktop and about the same size as a stereo amplifier. This case is much bigger than the MSI Media Live that it is replacing. Thankfully that extra space is not wasted — it is used to make the case expandable, and to add extra cooling.
Antec did a good job designing the case to look like other A/V components. There are three main features that help it blend in. The first is the Aluminum plate front bezel. The second is the LCD screen. The third is the Large volume knob. The only things they are missing are the multimedia controls like a pause, play, fast forward and rewind.
Next, it is important that the inside of the case is as well designed as the outside. The inside of this case is designed with three chambers. This design is great for keeping the biggest heat sources separate and manageable. As you can see from the pictures there is a section for the motherboard, another for the power supply, and the third is for the hard drives. On the side of the motherboard chamber there are two 120mm exhaust fans which are used to expel all the heat that is generated by the various components in the computer.
The case also comes with its own remote. The remote is specifically made to work with the iMON software which is used to power the LCD and IR receiver. Fortunately, the case is also compatible with any other Windows Media Center compatible remote including the Harmony One.
Now it’s time to take a closer look at how the case is designed. The version of the case I am using is all black, but there is also a version that has a silver front. The front is made of metal that has lots of horizontal grooves in it. These grooves give the metal a texture and prevent it from being too reflective; however, these grooves are also magnets for dirt. When I rubbed my hands against the front, it always left a trail of dirt and skin — if you have ever rubbed your hand against a nail file it is very similar. Luckily, it brushes off easily, but it is annoying.
As I mentioned before, the front is home to the LCD screen and volume knob, but there is more. Immediately to the right of the LCD screen is a small IR receiver and below the LCD screen is a DVD door. If you choose to install a DVD drive this door is pushed open when the DVD tray is ejected, and closes automatically when the DVD tray retracts. The front also has 2 USB and a Firewire port, Headphone and Microphone jacks, a power and reset button, and a hard drive activity and power light.
The back of the case is very similar to any other desktop or tower, there are spots for expansion cards, motherboard inputs and outputs, and a spot for a power supply.
The inside is where this case really shines. It is designed for one purpose and that is keeping the individual components cool. The case has a 3 chamber design which isolates the heat from the 3 main components, the hard drives, motherboard, and power supply, then using strategically placed fans and vents it removes the heat. There are vents under the hard drives, next to the power supply, and in the rear by the motherboard. The power supply vents use the fan in the power supply to circulate the air and keep it cool — make sure yours has one. The vents under the hard drives have air drawn through them by the exhaust fans that are located on the right side of the case. These same fans also draw air from the vents in the back of the case and use that to cool the motherboard.
There are a couple of special features that help the case to stay cool. The first one is a special air guide that will direct the air from the rear vents over the CPU and motherboard and out the exhaust fans to provide extra cooling. Second, there is a small door that separates the motherboard section from the power supply section. This door can be opened for putting the wires through, then the door can then be closed so that the air flow is optimized. I don’t have a way to measure the air flow so I don’t know how well these work, but just from observation, it seems like the air guide next to the motherboard would not be very effective because the air could easily go under the guide.
If you look closely at the hard drive cage you will notice that there are small silicon pads that are really nice for buffering the sound and vibration that hard drives can cause. There are also a matching set of silicon pads on the bottom of the case. The hard drive screws that are provided are extra long so they can go all the way through the pads into the hard drives.
One problem I found with the design is where the power supply is located. Normally the power supply is located on top of the case which is on the other side of the motherboard. The Fusion Remote puts the power supply on the opposite side of the case, which would be the bottom if it were stood up. This can cause problems if the power supply cables are too short.
Now that we have gone over all the features and talked about the design, it is time to put this all together and use it. Putting everything into the case is fine, I did not have any trouble with cables being too short or with pieces not fitting. As you can see from the pictures there are a couple of trouble spots for wire tangles. The first is right next to the hard drive cage, and the second is next to the Power Supply. The hard drive area could be cleaned up by using shorter cables and better cable management built into the case, and the power supply area could be helped by choosing a PSU that had removable cables.
A couple of suggestions I would make at this point is to say that Antec should move the sliding door a little closer to the PSU. As you can see from the picture above, one of the cables had to stretch all the way across the motherboard. Doing this caused the cable to be fairly tight, closing the door on the cable hole made it even tighter. It still fits fine, but it would have helped if the door was closer to the back of the PSU. On second thought, the door may not be able to be moved because it has to have enough room for larger PSUs. Instead the door could be replaced with two doors that come together, then they could be adjusted to the left or right as the user sees fit.
In order to install a DVD drive, the DVD cage must be removed. Keep in mind that even though the DVD cage is large enough to hold two drives, only the bottom part of the cage can be used because only the bottom lines up with the DVD door. Installing the DVD drive is really easy because the cage easily lifts out.
Now here is something really strange that I encountered. There are two power wires for the case. One wire is black and white and the other is red and black. The red and black wire goes into the motherboard and allows the button on the front to turn the computer on and off. The black and white wire goes into the back of the front panel and allows a remote to turn the power on and off. I am confused why Antec decided to even give this option, let alone design it this way. I wish Antec had just wired this all together without making the user decide, then they could provide a switch or something to disable the IR receiver; however, I don’t know why anyone would want to. It is also extremely annoying because it is very easy for this cable to fall down in front of the DVD drive, which then prevents the DVD drive from opening and closing properly. It took quite a bit of patience to get it adjusted so it would work correctly.
Once I was able to get power to the case I noticed that the LCD screen turns on as soon as the case gets power, and it only turns off when the machine is unplugged. Nothing is shown on the LCD at this time, instead the LCD just turns on all the symbols and dots, as you can see in the image below. If you want the LCD to actually show something, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t, then you need to install the iMon software. The iMon software, which is included, provides several options for the display. Things that can be displayed include the name of the TV show being watched, news headlines, weather, and much more. The iMon software is also responsible for turning off the LCD screen when the computer shuts down; however, if you unplug the computer and plug it back in, the LCD comes back on, and will not turn off until you turn on the computer and shut it down again. I would personally prefer it if the LCD defaulted to off, and only turned on when instructed by the software.
So how does the three chamber design work, and does it keep things cool? As far as I can tell it does a really great job. As you can see from the image below the CPU temp stayed very low, even when working really hard. If you place your hand near any of the vents you can feel the air being drawn into the case. If you have more heat generating components like an additional hard drive, more powerful CPU, graphics card, or more memory, then you can easily increase the speed of the exhaust fans by flipping a switch, each fan has its own. I keep mine on low, and not only does it do a great job cooling, but it is also extremely quiet.
Part of keeping the system quiet is also reducing the vibration that can come from the various parts. The silicon pads on the hard drive enclosure help reduce that; however, if I got really close I could still hear the hard drive clicking. There is really nothing that can be done about that. The feet on the bottom of the case also help reduce vibration. The rear feet are very soft and they feel like they are also made of silicon, and the front feet, which have a metal design, have a soft foam bottom. When I first noticed the difference in the front and back feet, I thought it was odd that they were different. However, after thinking about it more it makes sense that the front feet are more visible so they need to match the rest of the case design more than the back feet do.
One other thing you may notice is that when you install expansion cards, part of them sticks out of the bottom of the case. This is because the case is slightly too short to support the full height of the card. I think this is a very clever way to keep the case small and still allow full-sized cards in the case.
The IR port on the case also causes some problems. For example, sometimes it will register each button push twice. This makes it almost impossible to navigate menus because if I only want to go up one menu it goes up two. I even tried using the remote that came with the case to see if that would work better. Unfortunately, that remote did not work at all. No matter what button I pushed on the remote nothing registered with the case. There may be some setups that I missed, but I didn’t look very hard because my other remotes worked just fine. To solve the double button problem I installed a separate IR receiver and placed it by my TV, far away from the case, so it wouldn’t conflict with the one built-into the case, and everything seems to work much better. The other problem is that sometimes the built-in one does not register the button that is pressed, instead it gives me the error sound. Again having the separate IR receiver fixes this. I just need to figure out how to disable the IR receiver on the case because it does not work as well as the one I added.
One other problem I have encountered is that the volume knob stopped working. I was not paying attention so I don’t know if it happened after installing a Windows Update, or the iMon software update.
The case has a three year warranty; however, the LCD screen only has a one year warranty. I always find it interesting when some parts have a good warranty and other parts of the same machine don’t. It really shows where the companies think the most problems will happen. I would hope that if there was a part that had lots of problems the company would increase the warranty so that customer satisfaction would also increase.
Despite the problems I had with the case, this is literally the best HTPC case that I have ever used. It is not very expensive, but it is very well built and has all the features that an enthusiest would need. I am really happy with how quiet it is and the fact that it has several extra expansion slots so I can add additional TV cards, videos cards or whatever else I want. I could technically turn this into a TV gaming machine if I wanted to, by simply adding a graphics card. I highly recommend this case to anyone who is looking to put together a HTPC, and they want it to be expandable, quiet, and very cool. The Antec Fusion Remote case can be purchased from either Newegg or Amazon.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|