Zalman HD160XT - Ultimate Home Theater Case - HTPC System Installation and Features

Article Index
Zalman HD160XT - Ultimate Home Theater Case
Case Specifications and Test Setup
HTPC System Installation and Features
Software Installation and Usage
The Remote - Up Close
Conclusion and Final Thoughts

HTPC System Installation & Features:

As soon as you open up the case, you will notice there are a lot of wires that need to be tended too. Cable management isn't a whole lot of fun, and it takes quite a while to get the cables routed half-decently, luckily there is no window in the case so you don't have to be too fancy, but naturally you want thing nice and neat for airflow reasons.

 

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Top View
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Bottom Exhaust Fan

 

 

Installation of the board and other various components went pretty smoothly, until I went to plug in my new 8800GTX video card....

 

As you can see in the below pictures the 8800GTX is a big video card, and it doesn't fit into the case. I had to remove the hard drive rack just to get the video card to fit into the case. As you can also see from the pictures, it was very close, another couple centimeters and I would have been able to get the card in. This is definitely an issue since removing the rack eliminates spots for 4 more hard drives, and without the rack you are going to be limited to one Optical drive and two hard drives maximum. For my test rig this wasn't the end of the world since I am only using one Optical Drive and one hard drive, but many system builds could use more drives.

 
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Video Card and Front HDD Rack - Almost Fits....
 

 

Luckily, even though the video card won't fit into the system with the front HDD rack installed, you are able to remove the HDD rack, which isn't a perfect solution, but at least it's an option. As you can see in the below pictures I was able to easily remove the rack in order to get the video card installed.

I'm not really faulting Zalman too much for the card not fitting, as the EVGA 8800GTX was released well after the case was released, so there wasn't really a way for Zalman to test this, thankfully Zalman didn't rivet the HDD rack down, but made it easily removable which made installation of the 8800GTX possible. Even with the rack removed you can still install a CD-ROM and 2 HDD's on the other side, so if you were to use this case for a gaming PC or wanted to have a top-end card in your home theater case, you're still able too.

 

 
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Front Rack Removed (Top View)
 
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Front Rack Removed (Side View)

 

7" Touchscreen LCD

Ok, this is really the main selling point of the case, the Zero Pixel Defect (ZPD) 7" Touchscreen LCD. This LCD is very sharp looking at is capable of 1024x768 resolution. It's pretty neat to be able to push a button on the front of the case which brings up Windows Media Center, and with a couple taps on the screen you've got a movie playing on the front of your case, it's really quite impressive.

 

 
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Rear of the LCD (Reset and Adjust Controls)
 
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LCD in Action (Windows Media Center)

 

 

Fan Controller

One of my favorite features of the case is the fan controller that is built in, this is perhaps the greatest feature that a case can have. I personally hate listening to screaming fans and if the pc can be as silent as possible, I'm happy. When I first fired this case up, it was LOUD, but after I got the fan control software working I was able to set the fans to a bearable level, and my opinion of this case skyrocketed.

I've owned my fair share of fan controllers in the past, and I must say this one works as well if not better than any I've used. The fan controller allows you to select any speed you want the fan to run at (0-100%), yup that's right, with the controller you can turn them right off, or run them at a silent 5%, whatever you feel like. With the combination of a quiet CPU cooler and a quiet GPU cooler and a quiet power supply, you won't be able to hear this PC, which makes is ideal for a home theater PC, no one likes having to crank the TV way up just so you can't hear the computer running. I found that running the fans under 40% made them almost silent; the only sound I was able to hear was the EVGA 8800GTX video card cooler.

 
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Fan Controller (Side View)
 
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Fan Controller (Top View)

 


Fire It Up!

As soon as you fire up the system for the first time, you think to yourself "Wow, that's loud", yes its loud and from the sounds of the case airflow should not be a problem. Don't worry though, it's not always that loud, thanks to the fan control software that comes included, you can easily turn these fans down to the point where you can't hear them, and that's the type of fans I like. I will cover the fan control part of the case later on in the review.

Anyways, now that the system is all up and going, we can move onto the software, which most cases don't have, but this one has a bit of setup required to get all the features working properly.