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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [07.05.04]
Manufactured by: SilverStone


The Results

I installed WinXP on the RDRAM-based system to test the HTPC capabilities of the Hauppage PVR-250 and BeyondTV 3 (which we'll cover fully in a future article). The first thing I noticed? After about 5-10 mintues of flipping through channels, the temperature-controller CPU and video card fans were spinning faster and faster. So much for the fanless silent case!

10 minutes later, the fans were spinning at an amazing level. FREEZE. The PC locked up. Overheated. With a 3 GHz Northwood (which aren't known to be hot by any stretch) and 9600XT (also quite a cool-running video card in most cases), I was stuck with a totally unstable system.

This isn't so much a limitation of the slim design - surely the case could have incorporated some fans to help expel the hot air. But instead, the hot air is all trapped inside the cramped little case, and we were seeing SYSTEM temperatures upwards of 60 degrees Celsius. To prevent the video card from locking up under the pressure, I underclocked it by 100 MHz. Surely enough, it stayed stable for a while, but not much longer.

As you could tell at the beginning of this review, I was very excited at the prospects of a beautiful, slim HTPC case that supports full ATX motherboards. I was dreaming of installing the latest and fastest motherboard and CPU, and backing it up with a pretty decent video card. Add to that a TV tuner, and you have yourself quite a nice HTPC setup that is more than capable of handling any game you throw at it for the next while.

However, it was not meant to be. Not with this case, at least. I ran into several roadblocks along the way:

-Because riser cards are required for this slim horizontal installation, most of the motherboards released in the past year will not be fully compatible with this case. Not if you plan on adding a PCI card, anyway...

-Even then, only a single PCI card is available if you plan on using an AGP video card. So much for that 24 bit, 192 KHz soundcard with 8 channel outputs! It should be noted though, that a double PCI card is available for those who are using integrated video (which many HTPC users will do, for boxes intended for movies and TV only)

-Once you do find a motherboard that is fully compatible, you'll find it to be a VERY cramped install, with little to no airflow at all. The only fan on this case is a small PSU exhaust fan. That is simply not enough for a decent performing video/CPU combo.

It seems to me that SilverStone was thinking in two different directions when they designed the LC02 case - on one hand, they wanted to allow full ATX installation, which should  allow for incredible versatility. However, it appears that they also wanted to make a fully silent HTPC box without fans. Well that is a good idea in theory, but if you can't go all the way with a silent system, you shouldn't bother trying. So what they have done is crippled the versatility you would normally have with full ATX compatibility by limiting what CPU and video card you can install due to lack of cooling ability.

So in the end, the LC02 loses one of the biggest advantages it would have had over other small HTPC cases, but is still left with limitations other such as the need for a slim optical drive.

Therefore, I am left waiting for the 'perfect' HTPC case for my killer gaming HTPC. For now, I am still stuck with using a large, full-ATX desktop AV-wannabe case.

If you plan on going the mATX route in the first place, however, the LC02 would make an excellent choice. It is a gorgeous aluminum case that will always fit in in any AV setup. It's just not as great as I had hoped.

  • Absolutely gorgeous - will not stand out at all in a nice HTPC setup
  • Comes with PSU
  • Good price for such a full-featured, all aluminum case
  • Supports full ATX motherboards (kinda - I am reluctant to give this a 'positive' mark)

  • Small form factor eliminates the full ATX advantage
  • Other limitations, such as requirement of slim notebook optical drives
  • Severely limited expansion port compatibility
  • Very cramped, and with poor airflow characteristics