HTPCs can be put into many kinds of cases, but if you want one that will look perfectly at home in your home theater you'll probably want a slim HTPC case. There are many slim HTPC cases to choose from, but I've rounded up my three favorites.
Slim and Trim
When it comes to HTPC cases, size is important. There are many who wish for their HTPC to simply blend in with their other home theater equipment, like receivers and DVD players. This requires a good slim HTPC case - but finding one worth buying can be difficult. It isn't easy for a case builder to make a case which is spacious, cool, and quiet which is also only four or five inches tall. There are some good buys out there, however, and the three slim HTPC cases listed here are my picks.
Silverstone has pursued small cases aggressively. I have recommended the Silverstone Sugo SG05 before as it is one of the best mini-ITX cases around. The Silverstone LC11M keeps alive Silverstone's reputation for build quality, as it is quite sturdy in its construction and, just as importantly, easy on the eyes. At less than four inches tall and about seventeen inches wide it will fit comfortably in most home theaters. Its only real problem is one shared with other Silverstone cases - intensely bright indicator LEDs which can be annoying in a dark room.
In terms of space, the Silverstone LC11M doesn't have much, but that is to be expected from a case of this size. It is one of the smallest cases, both in height and width, capable of fitting a mATX motherboard. Yet it still can host a full array of hardware, including an optical drive and two hard drives. PCIe Express cards require the use of a riser card, but all cases on this list have that requirement. The Silverstone LC11M's price is usually around $160, which is very reasonable. If you want a basic slim HTPC case this is a great option.
Thermaltake Mozart SX
If you want a slim format HTPC case, but you feel most of the options available are a little too small, then take a look at the Thermaltake Mozart SX. While the Mozart SX is only a little bit over 4 inches in height (with optional case feet attached) the Mozart SX is also 18.5 inches deep and 17.5 inches wide, larger than most cases in this class. This results in room for a full ATX motherboard. It also simply makes the Mozart SX less cramped and easier to work on.
Unfortunately, the extra room does not translate to more space for hard drives, as it has only two 3.5" internal bays. Nor does it enhance cooling much, as it has the same 80mm fans as any other slim HTPC case. Still, the Mozart SX is your only logical choice if you find most slim HTPC cases too cramped or want to use a full ATX motherboard. It will set you back about $200 dollars at most retailers.
If having the slimmest HTPC case around is important to you, then consider the LC19. This insane little HTPC case is only 2.7 inches tall. Yes, that's right - 2.7 inches. That is as slim as a modern DVD player. It also measures 15.5 inches wide and 13.8 inches deep. Overall, it is easily one of the smallest HTPC cases available today.
As you might expect, this comes with some sacrifices. While it does fit mATX motherboards, most other components will require compromise. The Silverstone LC19 can't fit a standard optical drive. You'll need to use an expensive slim optical drive instead. Only one 3.5" hard drive will fit, and while the specs do say you can fit a PCI card with the use of a riser the PCI card you use will have to be extremely small. Only 50mm fans can be used, and the case comes with its own 120 watt power supply because normal supplies won't fit.
Are these sacrifices worthwhile? Well, how badly do you want the slimmest HTPC possible? I think that most will be happier with the other two cases, which are much easier to work with. But if you're dead set on building a slim HTPC, the Silverstone LC19 is your case. And at $189.99, you'll be happy to know you at least can get it for a reasonable price.