How stylish can a computer case be?

As you can see the HD160 is by no means small. Indeed, it is designed to take standard size desktop hardware to allow you a wider range of components to build it with. Its dimensions are 435mm x 420mm x 160mm so it is designed to fit in perfectly with your current Hi-Fi/Home Cinema equipment.

It is available in black and silver, the black example we were sent is in a very well made brushed aluminium finish. The case is manufactured entirely in aluminium, increasing heat dissipation and decreasing weight. Another added benefit is it would be easily moddable if you were considering hacking it up - aluminium will cost you less Dremel cutting discs, that's a certainty!

Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look
On the front you will find power and reset buttons, LEDs for system power and hard drive activity and a VFD display with built in IR receiver. There is also a volume knob, which through the Media Center software should come in quite handy. Front connectivity is important for multimedia PCs so with delight, behind a well concealed flap, we found two USB 2.0 ports, a Firewire port, microphone/headphone jacks and a 17-in-one card reader, ideal to view your photographs directly on your display panel.

Finally the optical drive slot, perfect for a DVD writer and later upgradeable to whatever the latest media format the industry forces us to move onto. There is one of the first benefits of an HTPC: upgradeability. In 12 months time you may well have a Blu-ray BD-ROM optical drive in there with only a few screws and a couple of connectors to deal with to upgrade.

Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look
Moving onto the top of the case, you will notice the vent hole, a simple screw mechanism will allow you to open and close the openings with a coin to increase or decrease the airflow over your components. The side effect will of course be increased noise, so experimenting during installation for the ideal noise/cooling trade off is essential. During testing we will let you know what the differences are with it open and closed, for now it's nice to know that there is such an option available.

Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look
Moving onto the side, there are three mesh covered openings to allow for extra ventilation. The graphics card will benefit from one of them and if your PSU has a fan on its underside or top it will definitely benefit from venting directly outside the enclosure through the one on the opposite side.

On the rear of the case there is the usual ATX I/O panel (which will probably never be used seeing that most motherboards come with their own and probably wouldn’t fit on this one), the PSU mounting hole (in the picture occupied by the accessory box), a seven card expansion panel and a pair of super quiet 80mm fans. These are covered by finger guards - absolutely essential considering that you are likely to be fumbling around the back of the case when installing into situ. A random cable or human appendage could very well be damaged inadvertently if they were not there.

Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look Zalman HD160 HTPC Enclosure External Look
These tiny little screws are what hold the lid on. At first we were a bit confused about what screws needed to be removed to get inside and we gave a sigh of disappointment at the lack of thumbscrews.

On further thought it makes sense to use these though: a HTPC is essentially looking to replace the commercial off the shelf piece of hardware that records and plays back your optical media, decodes your sound, receives your broadcasts and records them. This means it needs fit into the image most people have of such hardware, no visible screws, solid and vibration-free assembly, and most of all it has to look good.

The screws provided do exactly that; comparing the HTPC to my trusted Yamaha DSP-A1 you would be hard pushed to tell which one took just 5 tiny screws to open up. Therein lays the only problem we have really encountered so far however: how to get inside. The manual that tells you how to open the case is actually located in a box inside the case... thank goodness for the downloadable instructions on the Zalman website.

Once we got the lid off, let's take a look at what we found inside...
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October 14 2021 | 15:04