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  1. #1

    case review: NMedia Red Wood HTPC 8000

    Ever since I read a review of this case, I knew that I would have to give it a try. I love the 1930s-style looks and it works perfectly with my living room media center. I'd been planning to rebuild my htpc for some time with these components (upgrading the CPU, memory, graphics cooling, and storage from my previous build):

    CPU: Intel E3110 3 GHz
    Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P31-S3G
    RAM: 2x2Gb A-Data DDR2-800
    VGA: BFG 9600GT + Thermalright HR-03-GT
    PSU: Corsair VX450
    TV tuners: 2xAver M780 PCI-e
    HDD: Samsung Spinpoint T 300Gb, WD Caviar Green 1 Tb
    DVD: NEC 3500A (PATA)
    Audio: TurtleBeach Audio Advantage Micro
    WLAN: D-Link DWA-140
    OS: Windows 7 Professional x64 RTM

    FIRST IMPRESSIONS

    This case is HEAVY. Thankfully the case also has handles on the sides. It is solid wood with a steel motherboard tray and back panel (not removable). The case was well packaged in styrofoam with a protective plastic bag. Inside the case you’ll find a baggie with loads of screws, some zip ties, a couple of adhesive cable clips, and an utterly worthless manual. The wood is stained to give it a reddish tint. The stain is uniform and there are no blemishes. The front panel is plastic molded to look like brass. There is a little window where you can add the additional LED display (for another $30) or leave it covered. I decided that being able to peek into the innards is my kind of cool so I left it uncovered. Overall, the case’s exterior is beautiful and striking.

    There are three reviews of this case from major sites. I’m writing this one because none of them were of any practical help in rebuilding my HTPC and one of them had a particularly bad suggestion. There are a few “gotcha” moments with this case that turned a two-hour project into an all day affair. I’m still pleased with the results, mind you.

    The bad piece of advice was to remove the plastic front panel before installing the DVD drive. To do this, you have to remove six screws from the case’s inside front, but you’ll never get them out (or back on) with a motherboard installed. Just leave it in place and you’ll be fine.

    As it happened, I had to remove it to fiddle with the DVD drive door in the front panel. The problem was that the bottom of the door was a tiny bit uneven and would catch when opening and closing. While this was annoying at first, rubbing the uneven spot a few times with my fingernail quickly resolved the issue.


    THE INSTALL EXPERIENCE

    The inside of the case is very roomy and easily accommodates ATX motherboards and full size power supplies. In fact, it is so roomy that you aren’t penalized for not using a modular PSU which was a real plus since I’m using a Corsair VX450. One word of warning: you need good lighting and a lot of patience at times. Once you’ve got everything in this case, it is not easy to dig inside to make minor adjustments.


    There is a giant 140mm fan mounted on the inside and two sets of ventilation holes in the front. The fan’s label only says nMedia so I’m unsure of the make. Unfortunately it makes a soft but audible clicking/humming noise that gets annoying very quickly. The fan’s cord is very short, as well, and only has 4-pin power connectors. I immediately replaced it with a 140mm Yate Loon. As you can see in the pic, the hole in the case for the exhaust fan actually seems fit for a 120mm fan as it’s just a bit smaller than the 140mm fan. The fan is held in place by thick steel wood screws meaning no vibration dampening (silicon mounts won’t work here, either).

    The biggest problem with the fan is its placement. I’m using a skinny ATX motherboard (Gigabyte GA-P31-S3G) which means that everything’s a little closer to the edge than a normal ATX motherboard. Once I installed my Ninja Mini heatsink and placed the motherboard in the case for sizing, I found that the 140mm fan was in the way of the heatsink.


    You could potentially use a tower heatsink and I briefly considered using an OCZ Vendetta 2. A quick eyeball inspection suggested that the 120mm fan on the tower would bump into the hard drive/DVD tray which sits in the top portion of the case. My solution was simply to move the 140mm fan outside the case, reversing the mounting screws and using some spare fan screws to install the finger guard.



    Once the fan problem was resolved, installing everything else was a breeze. Owing to its size, this case is great for cable management. I particularly liked how the shelf for the DVD/HDD tray is flush with the PSU so that you can loop the spare PSU cables behind it to keep them out of the way.


    The only nettlesome issue with installing the graphics card and tv tuners was the absence of thumb screws. I’ve never seen a case that didn’t include them, but I soon understood why: they bump up against the small removable plate that fits above the slots. I don’t have a pic here but you can see what I’m talking about in this review. No big deal, though, as regular case screws work fine.

    The DVD/HDD tray is ingeniously designed…mostly. The tray is held in place by a couple of wood screws so there will be some wood dust the first couple of times you install and remove the case. In fact, this goes for the whole case: it is a wood case and you’ll get wood particles in the case as you install your system. Keep some compressed air handy to blow it out periodically as you work.


    The DVD is held in place by screws from below the drive while the HDDs are mounted using rubber grommets in the top compartments. You can only mount the HDDs upside down, however, which I suspect increases noise somewhat. While they are out of the way of other components, the HDDs do not benefit from air flow in the case. They are directly beneath the wooden lid so they have nowhere to vent and can get a bit hot (my drives hover around 40-41C).

    One word about the DVD. In other HTPC cases, I’ve always had to remove the front plate from the drive to fit with the case’s drive door. I thought this would also be the case when I saw that the drive’s front plate was bumping up against the edge of the recessed area for the case’s front panel.


    As it turned out, this was not a problem—in fact, you need the drive’s front plate. If you remove it, the button in the case’s front panel won’t make contact with the drive’s button. Leave it on and you won’t have to worry about using a spacer between them.

    A great thing about the DVD/HDD tray is the spare compartments on either side of the DVD, which are great for tucking away spare cables to keep things nice and tidy inside the case. Here I’ve got everything installed and there is no clutter to impede air flowing from the front vents to the rear exhaust.


    With everything installed, I fired up the case and started to tinker with configurations. The large button on the front glows a soft blue around the edges. I discovered to my dismay that the HDD led in the front panel appears not to work. I’ve tried flipping the motherboard jumper around a couple times but to no avail. It doesn’t really bother me, but sometimes you want to know if your computer’s frozen up or if it’s just thinking very hard.


    Also, the HDDs were louder than I expected—again, probably a combination of them being mounted upside down and so close to the lid.
    Aside from that, however, the case with just the Yate Loon 140mm fan (~1400 rpm) is very quiet. I couldn’t get away with running my 9600gt fanless so I mounted a 92mm fan on the heatsink and slowed it down with a fanmate (I used Velcro to stick it to the side of the case). The air flow through the Ninja Mini is excellent with the exhaust, PSU, and graphics card fans all pulling air through it. Adding another fan to the heatsink only made 3C difference for my E3110 core temps:

    CPU with 80mm fan
    Core 0 idle 34 load 45
    Core 1 idle 41 load 53

    CPU fanless
    Core 0 idle 35 load 48
    Core 1 idle 42 load 56

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Make sure to measure your space to ensure there’s enough room for this monster. Installing the case in a recessed media center is not painful as long as you can connect everything (USB, DVI or HDMI, tv cables, etc) before sliding it into place. Once it’s there, however, reaching behind or inside the case to make minor adjustments is very frustrating. If you’re prone to digging inside your case a lot, this probably isn’t your cup of tea. Make sure you’ve got everything exactly as you want it before you put it in its final resting spot in your living room.

    Once all is said and done, this thing looks fantastic and tops the "wife approval factor" ratings. It's large enough to accommodate a decent gaming system (I love having Fallout 3 on a large tv screen) and/or a home theater setup. Just be prepared to invest in a new exhaust fan and you might want to think about additional hard drive cooling. Get everything you want to go into the case prepared in advance because you won't want to have to open this thing up again later to add CPU or exhaust fans. In the end, it's well worth the effort.

    The case can be bought from newegg or directron for surprisingly cheap given the case’s quality and features.

    Last edited by kovboi; 10-15-09 at 11:50 PM. Reason: fixing typos
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

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  2. #2
    Member Neuromancer's Avatar
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    Very nice. A case like that would get my Aunt interested in HTPC
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  3. #3
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    jhanby's Avatar
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    Great writeup.

    YGPM

    Dell Optiplex SX260 running ubuntu
    PS3 <Optical> Compass DAC/Amp -> Audio Technica AD700

  4. #4
    thanks, guys. i really enjoyed putting this together.

    @jhanby: replied
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

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  5. #5
    xtkxhom3r's Avatar
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    wow nice setup bro
    [2600K - 4.5GHZ | Swiftech HeatKiller- MCR 120.3 - 6 Fans]
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    Dont forget to hit that thanks button!!

  6. #6
    Member sHape oF gReY's Avatar
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    That is beautiful my friend, two thumbs up.
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  7. #7
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    very nice htpc case, and good review as well
    Main Rig - i5 2500K 3.3 ghz...2x4gb Hyundai PC3-10700...AsRock H77M...Nvidia GeForce GT740...Corsair HX620...Hanns-G 19" LCD...1 x 80GB Intel SSD...2 x 1TB Samsung HDD...Zalman CNPS9700...Fractal Design Define R4 Black Pearl Windowed...Win 7 Ult x86
    HTPC - AMD A6 3650 under volted...2x2gb Crucial DDR3 1600...Gigabyte GA A75M D2H...Seasonic 300W PSU...Samsung 64GB SSD...Silverstone MLO3B HTPC Case...LG 55" 6700 series 3D LED LCD...Onkyo HT Receiver...Onkyo 5.1 speakers and sub...Win 7 Ult x86

  8. #8
    Member Flurp's Avatar
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    Nice case... and I like the speakers up top

  9. #9
    thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flurp View Post
    Nice case... and I like the speakers up top
    hehe, yeah, i liked the mid-sized speakers better than the satellites. they're hard to conceal so i just put them on top of the media center.
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

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  10. #10

    Some additional thoughts

    Now that I've had this case for a while longer, I thought I'd add some new later thoughts. I still think the case is fantastic and there are just a few things that I would change or mod in retrospect.

    1. The drive tray: airflow
    I like the design, but the airflow over the HDDs is virtually non-existent. I'm a little nervous about running my hard drives at 40-42C, but this appears to be unavoidable without modding the case's lid for ventilation.

    2. The drive tray: accessibility
    As predicted, the wood screws used to secure the drive tray will become looser and looser as you must remove them to get at anything on the motherboard. My solution is to use velcro instead of the screws (in all fairness, I may have read this somewhere but can't locate the source, if so). Now I can get in and out of the case a lot easier without worrying about wood dust or dropping screws into a dark, cavernous case.



    3. The drive tray: noise
    Last thing about the drive tray: once you've silenced your fans, it is the loudest thing in the case. Even with the rubber mounting grommets, it still picks up enough vibrations from the HDDs to create a low, constant humming noise. You can also hear the HDDs much better than in other cases because they're right underneath the lid. To put this in perspective, they are only audible when the house is dead quiet (but inaudible if the air conditioner's running). If you're really concerned about noise, go for laptop HDDs and suspend them in the drive tray.

    4. Exhaust fan mounting
    My solution to mount the 140mm fan outside the case works well but the thick steel screws still pass vibrations on to the case. I replaced my Yate Look with one of these new Thermalright fans, which seems to be comparable air flow but a bit quieter (perhaps).

    To mount the fan, this time I used the long rubber screws included with the fan, only reversed so that the stopper's on the inside of the case.



    To secure the fans, I then tied off the ends of the rubber screws to keep them from slipping.



    I also noticed that the fan was bumbing up against two screws that secure the metal frame to the case - another source of vibration noise. One solution would be to shave down the edge of the fan casing. I chose simply to wedge some foam rubber between the fan and the screw.



    5. Dust
    After a couple of weeks there is hardly any dust buildup in the case, which is nice to see. There is visible dust accumulation on the front air filters. I think they make the case look vintage, but it's easy enough to clean up with a quick blast of compressed air.

    6. Aesthetics
    I still want to make use of the front window! My original idea was to get a Fallout-style vacuum tube to go behind the window, but that would generate a lot of heat. Now I'm thinking about sticking an LED light underneath the drive tray to light up the heatsinks inside. I'll post pics once I've resolve this.
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

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  11. #11
    Guess who's on the front page!
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

    My Heatware

  12. #12
    OK, I got the blue LED cluster installed and here are the pics. I should note that the first cluster was defective but jab-tech replaced it with no hassle.





    I'm pretty happy with it. The only potential downside is that some of the light bleeds through the front dust filters (you can sort of see it in the bottom pic on the left side) though it doesn't bother me one bit.

    That's it! I'm done tinkering with this lovely thing and putting in the top bolts to stay.
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

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  13. #13
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    Thumbs up

    I like this case...I am thinking about buying it

    Good review,
    Thanks

  14. #14
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    Greetings! I am going to be picking up this case and am looking to get all my stuff ordered pronto! However I do not know how tall of a CPU cooler I can use as it seems the drive cage will get in the way. I emailed nMediaPC and this was the response I got...

    Quote Originally Posted by nMediaPC
    Hi;
    Sorry for the late reply.
    We donít really familiar with all the CPU cooler out there.
    Please check below end user review. Hope it will give you some ideas.

    http://www.overclockers.com/forums/s...d.php?t=621345

    Regards,
    Customer Support Center
    support@nmedia.com
    Can you do me a favor and measure the distance between the drive cage and your CPU so I can finally pick out a cooler. I am hoping to go passive so the cooler can get pretty huge.

    Thanks!
    -David

  15. #15
    Member SeanBest's Avatar
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    Motherboard -------- BIOSTAR TPower I45
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    Memory -------------- 8GB Corsair Dominator DDR2 1066
    Cooling --------------- Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme
    HDDs ----------------- Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB 10k RPM
    Graphics Card ------- MSI R9 280 GAMING OC
    Soundcard ----------- Creative X-Fi Xtremegamer
    Case ------------------ Antec Nine Hundered
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    OS -------------------- Win 7 Pro x64

  16. #16
    Member jmdixon85's Avatar
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    Great review! Even my grandma would be happy with this in her living room, lol. Good work!
    Main System/File Server/IESXi Server
    CPU: I2500K @ 4.7Ghz (H2o cooled)//AMD Athlon 215 x2/2x XEON L5520
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    i7/i5/i3 Overclocking Guide/Intel Core2 overclocking guide/AMD AM2 overclocking Guide

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Davbro View Post
    Can you do me a favor and measure the distance between the drive cage and your CPU so I can finally pick out a cooler. I am hoping to go passive so the cooler can get pretty huge.

    Thanks!
    -David
    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I measured the distance from the bottom of the drive cage to the case's base, which is 6 3/8 inches. If you add in motherboard, cpu, and standoffs, then you're probably looking at about 6 inches even. Bear in mind that most tower coolers are unlikely to bump against the drive tray unless they are ginormous like the Scythe Mugen 2. I've read elsewhere that people managed to fit a TRUE with no problem. I did attempt to fit my old Vendetta 2 which looked very feasible if the fan was lowered just a bit.

    Hope this helps and let us know what you decide to use!
    MAIN RIG: i7 3770k @ 4.5GHz * Asrock Extreme3 Gen3 * 2x4Gb GSkill DDR3 1600 * Nvidia GTX 670 2Gb * Samsung 830 256Gb + Seagate 2Tb + SH-S203B + LG BluRay * Corsair AX750 * Silverstone RV02-E

    HTPC: i3-4130T * Gigabyte H81M-HD3 * 2x2 Gb DDR3-1333 * Samsung 830 64Gb * Samsung 500Gb HDD * WD 1 Tb Green * Silverstone ST30SF 300W * Silverstone ML03

    My Heatware

  18. #18
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    Volume Knob

    Heres a write up of changing the power button to a volume knob.

    http://www.overclockers.com/forums/s...d.php?t=636162

  19. #19
    Is there plenty of room for just about any gfx card? Say HD 5850

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