Thermaltake DH-101 HTPC Case
First I'd like to thank Thermaltake for supplying this case.
For several years Thermaltake has been making "cool" hardware for the enthusiast. This includes heatsinks, fans, cases and other cooling solutions. Today we take a look at the Thermaltake DH-101, a very stylish HTPC case with an aluminum front and steel body. Thermaltake offers a variant with remote and graphical VFD in combination with the controls, while you may also opt for the one without these extras.
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<tr><th colspan="2" style="font-size:larger;text-align:center">Specifications</th></tr>
<th width="100">Case type</th>
<td>Home Theater Media PC </td>
<td>ATX and mATX</td>
<td>1 x 5.25" external & 3 x 3.5" internal</td>
<td>7 (depending on motherboard)</td>
<td>2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Firewire, Microphone & Headphone jacks</td>
<td>Built-in Media LAB LCD with 10 buttons hot keys module</td>
<td>- Front: 120mm fan x 1, 1500rpm & Rear: 60mm fan x 2, 1800rpm</td>
<td>426.5 x 435 x 153.5 mm / 16.8 x 17.1 x 6.0 inch</td>
<td>SECC steel body & Aliminum case front</td>
<td>DH101 - VF7001BNS (VFD & Remote) and DH101 - VF7000BNS (w/o VFD or Remote)</td>
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Thermaltake ships the DH-101 in a full color cardboard box. It is very sturdy and you will find all the necessary information on either side of the package. As with most Thermaltake cases, there is a handle on top of the case, so you should be able to carry the enclosure home comfortably.
The case itself is held in place by foam spacers. These will survive a fall and return to their original shape, while Styrofoam will simply break. A sturdy cloth bag further protects the DH-101 from scratches.
As the display used is made by Soundgraph, the case holds all the accessories of the VFD. This includes the iMEDIAN remote and application CD. Besides that you will also receive all the nessecary screws and a black & white installation manual. The DH-101 features a so called "piano mirror coating" paint job, which tends to be a fingerprint magnet. Thermaltake also includes a cleaning cloth to clean such smudges off.
The Case - Outside
The front of the case is made of aluminum and is a combination of black and gray panels. On the back you will notice that Thermaltake has decided to paint it the same way as the chassis cover.
I did notice that the cover had a fairly large paint chip on the corner of the case. This corner was exposed, as it did not line up perfectly with the front of the case. Let's hope this is just a small defect of the sample and not the retail units.
Both case sides look identical and feature large air vents. While this should keep the temperature inside the case to a minimum, it will also allow noise from the computer parts to be heard on the outside.
Thermaltake covers the graphical VFD with a thin foil, which we will leave on until after the installation has been completed. The same goes for the volume knob. As you can see all the Media Lab controls are present, just like the one on the Soundgraph iMON Ultra Bay we reviewed. These controls work flawlessly with Windows XP MCE and Vista, which make it a perfect addition to this case.
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The front I/O is hidden behind a little drop down door in the center. This cover looks a bit unfinished with manufacturing marks all over the inside, but - luckily - none on the outside. The DH-101 has the usual connectors: two USB 2.0, one Firewire and a pair of jacks for a microphone and headphones. All the way to the right of the case, you will find a small hole, which holds the IR receiver of the remote control, right above the DH-101 branding.
Toward the left you will find the PSU bay, which gives you the option to mount the power supply in any way you whish. Next to that is the mainboard backplate above which are two 6 cm fans, which blow warm air out of the case. The PCI covers have air vents in them, but are still sturdy enough, thanks to the steel construction. There are two black plastic locks which hold these covers in place, but more on that later.
The Case - Inside
To take off the cover, simply remove three thumb screws and pull the entire top off. Thermaltake has decided to paint the interior black as well. The only parts not painted are the fan contraption above the CPU, the drive bays and the inside of the case cover itself. While the latter two are not visible from the outside, the metal bar above the CPU is. It would have been great if Thermaltake would have painted this piece black as well. In this case a normal black paintjob would suffice, as it will not shimmer through the air vents of the case, as it does with it's natural grey color.
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The PCI covers are held in place by a plastic retention module, which is secured with the two afore mentioned plastic locks on the outside of the case. This system seems a bit fragile, but holds the cards in place very well. The two fans in the rear utilize Molex connectors. It would have been great if Thermaltake would have utilized mainboard headers and added Molex adapters. Modern ATX boards have ample fan headers to power and control case fans. Above the fans is a little device, which will warn you if the case has been opened. While this is a great little addition for a chassis which is intended to be transported or placed in public spot, it does not make much sense for a HTPC case. The DH-101 will most likely be placed in your living room right under that expensive HD TV. If someone wants to steal something, odds are both the TV and the HTPC will be gone.
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The 5.25 inch drive bay holds a nice surprise. Even though Thermaltake advertises only three 3.5 inch drive bays, this case can hold up to five hard drives. Only one of the 5.25 inch bays can be used for an optical drive, while the bottom two are not accessible from the outside and should be great for additional hard drives. Another oddity is the hard drive cage. It seems like that it was assembled wrong and was shipped crooked, as it was not inserted correctly. This was quickly fixed by removing it and installing hard drives. Right behind the graphical VFD is a 120 mm fan, which also uses a Molex connector. Once more the mainboard header goes unused.
Installing the mainboard is an easy task, as the case gives you ample room to work with. The connectors are of the usual kind and the trusted and true Soundgraph installation method for power and USB connectivity is also present.
The hard drives can easily be installed outside of the case. Two of the three bays offer a one sided screwless design, which works well, while the third bay requires normal screws. This is then inserted into the case. As you can see the fan blows air across the end of the drive.
Installing the optical drive, requires the removal of the entire front. You better install the drive before anything else, so that you can pull the front off far enough. I made the mistake of installing the board first and using zip ties to clean all the cabling up, before installing the DVD+/-RW drive. The power supply is placed inside the DH-101 exacly as you would into any other case. Once all the cables were connected you can see that there are a lot of cables. As this is a HTPC case, the NVIDIA DualTV tuner was installed and the onboard HDMI capable graphic card of the AMD 690G chipset was used.
Turning it on may really make you think of this unit as a DVD player or home theater receiver. The blue glow of the graphical VFD fits perfectly to that of the power button. I will not got into a lot of detail about the display at this point. We have covered the unit extensively in the Soundgraph iMON Ultra Bay "Software Installation" and "Display in Action" pages. Feel free to take a look at these, as the display provided in the DH-101 comes from Soundgraph as well. It should be mentioned that the graphical VFD has a lot of very unique features and can display actual fonts and symbols from all languages. Windows XP MCE or Vista can also access the display to show all the needed information about a movie or song you are playing on your HTPC. While it offers more than a home theater enclosure may need, more is always good.
Value & Conclusion
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<td>The Thermaltake DH-101 is a great looking HTPC. This is the most important aspect of such a case. It has to fit into your AV rack and offer the functionality you would be used to from a DVD player or video recorder. You get all that in form of a large volume knob, remote control and graphical VFD. The interior of the DH-101 sports the same piano paint job as the outside which looks just as great and it would have been nice to see every part within the case - including the inner side of the cover - to be painted the same way. While the case can not fit a top of the line graphic card, there are plenty of entry level variants available today, which can handle all the intended tasks of a HTPC. While the price in Europe seems to be on par with other, similar enclosures, it does seem to lack some of the overall construction quality of these other offerings. In the end what counts for such a case is the look and feel. The DH-101 certainly delivers on looks, but seems to fall a bit short on "feel".</td></tr>
Never fails. Great cases with VFDS for HTPCs are usually expensive. Id like an Antec one with VFD for under $175 USD. :(
These VFD's are getting much better.. They are still no match for origens 12.1in TFT... lol. But thats 2 grand!! I really want to make one of these media centres one day...
Another plus is that it can accept a full size atx mobo.
Hi, and thank you very much for you're article :):):)
a have a question, is it possible to use a cpu fan like OCZ vandetta or Noctua NH-U9F ???
or what is the size limit .... thank you very much for advance and sorry for my english :):):)
Hi, and thank you very much for you're article .
I'm much interested in that case for mi future HTPC, but i only have a 145mm. of height on my piece of forniture in the living room. my answer is if the height of the case is incluiding feets or not? Can you help me please?
I recently purchased a dh101. I was very disappointed.
1. Finish. Ok, but nothing special. Not nearly as well done as my Antec Solo.
2. Hardware. Poor. The PCI card quickmount system is cheap and does not work well. Brackets (without cards) still require screws to hold them in place. Quick mount for drives are only partially quick mount (still require a screw driver), and are cheap. I expect that I will break one soon,
3. Fans - LOUD - factory fans at 12V (no adustment and no MB header) rival a 747 at takeoff. Replaced 120mm with a Noctua and brought the 2 60mm fans down to 5 volts - still louder than I would like, but acceptable.
4. IMON LCD. Works ok - have trouble setting contrast so to limit ghosting on text crawl. Would ideally like system info to show temp and CPU utilisation. I do not need the display to tell me that I have a q6600 in the MB.
5. IMON Remote. finicky and difficult to set up. not great transmit distance and does not penetrate glass. Most be directly in front. I wish it has a remote (USB) reciever/transmitter like the micorsoft remote.
6. Airflow - does not seem to be good. Motherboard temp sensor seems to be at 45C no matter what the fans are doing (even at full 12V) - Interestingly, CPU is at 35C - 42C max under load. When I take the cover off the case, the motherboard temp drops to 36C.
7. Motherboard compatability. Perhaps this is more of a motherboard problem, but i had trouble fitting a Gigabyte ga-p35-dq6 into the case. The cooling fins interfered with the 60mm fans in the back.
I agree the toolless Features are cheap and more of a pain than just using screws so i just use screws anyway. Also the little clamps that attach the front panel to the actual case are cheap and break easily so be aware thermaltake does not replace these easily and does not sell them i couldn't find them anywhere if anyone knows where to buy these a link would be much appreciated. All in all this is a great case plenty of room for two 8800 GTS 512's in SLI i have owned this case for about a year and a half.:)
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