I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been genuinely excited about a computer case: most recently when I first received the Silverstone GD02-MT. Its most prominent feature is a built in LCD touch screen and I could not wait to get my dirty little digits on it. I’m sure it has a lot of other nice features, but come on, a touch screen! Eventually, I settled down enough to take some pictures as I explored this unique HTPC case.
The packaging of this product was top-notch, which is what I’d expect when spending close to $400 on a case. The exterior of the box did have some minor dings and scrapes from the journey to my doorstep, but everything on the interior was pristine.
Included in the box is a software CD, a power adapter for the fans, an assortment of screws, an IDE adapter for a slim optical drive, a manual, an infrared remote control, two cable ties, and an Allen wrench for the lid. It’s important to note that no batteries were included, so you’ll have to find your own.
There’s not much to say here, because the pictures really are worth a thousand words. The front is made of brushed aluminum and the rest of the case is painted in matte black. The whole thing looks like a very high end piece that belongs as part of any home theater system.
As you can see from the pictures, the main body of the case is made of regular sheet metal. Most of the edges are rolled over but there are still a few sharp edges. Space runs out really quickly when things are installed so you’ll have to do your best to tuck the extra cables away as best you can. The space between the PSU and the HDD can get eaten up depending on how large a PSU you are using, so SATA cables with a 90 degree connector would definitely work best. In my case, I only had the regular “straight out” cables, which worked, but had to be bent severely because they hit the PSU.
Installing parts in the case is fairly easy. I had to remove the back fans to install my heatsink since I decided to do it with the motherboard in the case. With my particular motherboard, I had to screw some external antenna adapters to the I/O shield, so I don’t think installing the CPU and heatsink outside the case would have even been an option for me. Despite that minor inconvenience, everything else went smoothly. I’m glad the ODD rack supports regular 5.25″ drives and has an adapter for slim drives. That saves me a little money since I can just grab any old drive I happen to have laying around from an old system while giving me the option to get a lower powered slim drive if I want to.
Two things to keep in mind while installing your parts are to remember to remove the ODD cover if you have an ODD drive and make sure you run the power switch cable to the IR receiver. Since the ODD rack screws in, it’s a little bit of a hassle to go back in and remove the drive cover if you forget to do it the first time. Plugging the power switch in to the IR receiver isn’t completely necessary, but it then gives you the option to turn on the computer using the remote. There should already be one cable plugged into it, which would then be plugged into the motherboard.
The LCD screen gets its power from an adapter that plugs in the main power plug from the PSU and the motherboard. The touch screen operates via USB and can be plugged in to either an external port or an internal header on the motherboard.
IR Controller, Touchscreen, and Software
The remote and touchscreen are both made by Soundgraph. The controller is the iMON Pad, and I belive the screen is the FingerVU 700M. The CD included in the package has drivers for the touch screen and infrared receiver as well as software to use both effectively: iMON Manager and iMEDIAN HD. The iMON Manager has all the settings for the controller and touchscreen as well as starts the GUI program for the touchscreen. iMEDIAN HD is media center software and actually works very well. You can navigate it with a mouse, a keyboard, or the controller.
The iMEDIA HD software has some very nice features, especially the ability to play FLAC and MKV files, which is an absolute ‘must have’ for me. Using the controller is somewhat of a pain though, because the directional pad is far too sensitive. Almost every time I pressed a direction, the selection moved in a different way. It was quite irritating, but not as irritating as how the controller functioned with XBMC and Windows Media Center. In these two programs the controller stayed in mouse mode, moving the regular mouse cursor around. Pressing the mouse/keyboard mode button on the controller had no effect.
For linux users, it’s great that both the controller and the touchscreen work out of the box in Ubuntu 10.10. I did not try any other flavors of Linux, but I’d assume any distribution that comes with a relatively recent kernel and lirc will work just as well. Unfortunately, the iMON software doesn’t work well with WINE so you’ll have to figure out another solution for a front panel GUI.
I have created a short video demonstrating the use of the touchscreen and the iMON front panel GUI. The first part demonstrates how the front panel displays information from RSS feeds and from media that is playing. Later, I display what I think is the best function: the front panel media player. All of the other functions, like showing the weather and news feeds are interesting, but only functional if you’re sitting with the case 12 inches in front of you because of the small size of the screen. However, the front panel media player makes the most sense to me. The ability to browse and play music without turning on my TV is what i’ve been missing in all my other HTPC setups. You can play videos the same way, but they will display on the small front screen, which is obviously not ideal, so I’d stick to the regular full screen media player for that.
I have to say, the novelty of the touch screen did wear off after the first day of use. However, the ability to browse and play media on the front panel gives it a useful purpose. The IR controller isn’t anything special, but does work well in both Linux and Windows. The case itself is extremely well built, has great ventilation, and has a stylish brushed aluminum front. Without considering price, this case is great. In reality, it comes with a nearly $400 price tag which makes it hard to recommend. The same case is available without the touch LCD screen for $150, which is a little easier to stomach but doesn’t have the same wow-factor. When it’s all said and done, I really like this case and the touchscreen, so keep your fingers crossed that it goes on sale.