Thermaltake DH 104 Page: 1
Introduction
 
When you think Thermaltake, most of us would think 'Armour' or 'Xaser' cases. It therefore may be quite a surprise to know that they also make HTPC chassis. This is going away from their normal line of 'ultimate' cooling and unique styling.
 
Thermaltake was formed in 1999 and has been growing ever since. Thermaltake's main line of products are thermal solutions: CPU coolers, Chassis, water cooling, as well as a few storage related products. Here is a little extract taken from their website:
 
We live in a world where most things seem to move at the speed of light. At Thermaltake, we feel the same way and that is exactly how Thermaltake conducts itself to deliver innovative, reliable and customer-centric solutions to the worldwide market.

Since the beginning of Thermaltake in 1999, it has been at the forefront of creating new and exciting products at a time where most computer users were provided little to no choices for components that may seem irrelevant, but in reality crucial to the performance of a PC.

With its comprehensive line of products available, it enables Thermaltake's core customers to enjoy a one-stop-shop experience, reduce product design-in evaluation period and most important of all, flawless integration process. Each of Thermaltake's strengths enables its customer to focus on their core business while taking advantage of the skills and efficiency of a single thermal management solution partner.
 
Today we will be looking at the DH 104 case. This case is aimed at the Home Theatre PC Market (HTPC);  it has an impressive list of features, all aimed at making your living room a more pleasurable place. Here is the full specification taken from Thermaltake's site:
 
Model: VH4001BNS
Case Type: Home Theater Media PC
Dimensions: (H x W x D) 211 x 464 x 430 (8.31 x 18.27 x 16.93 inch)
Net Weight: 10.8 kg / 23.78lb
Color: Black
Material: Panel- Al / Body- SECC
Cooling System: Front- 120mm fan x 1, 1300rpm Rear- 120mm fan x 1, 1300rpm
Drive Bays: External 5.25” x 1 Internal - 3.5” x 5
Expansion Slots: 7
Motherboards: ATX & Micro ATX form factor
Media Kits: Built-in all new revolutionary 7” touch screen hot keys module
Front I/O: USB 2.0 x 2, IEEE 1394 Firewire, HD-Audio
 
The specs certainly look impressive, the 7" touch screen being  the headline function. Head on over to the next few pages to find out our initial impressions.


Thermaltake DH 104 Page: 2
Packaging & Up-Close
 
The case comes well packed, and the need for any extra packaging is fairly low, which is a good thing, especially when a case costs this much. The box is fairly heavy, and taking this up a few  flights of stairs would certainly test your strength!
 
Thermaltake DH104 Box Thermaltake DH104 Packaging
 
As you can see, the case is wedged between 2 pieces of stiff foam. This is a method employed by more and more manufacturers, and it seems to work well. The case is then inside a cloth bag, stopping any scratches or other marks getting onto the chassis.
 
DH104 Front DH104 Back
 
Once out of the box, I was immediately stunned by the case's beauty. The paint used on the case is extremely glossy, and looks amazing. The front of the case is dominated by the LCD and volume dials, whilst at the back you can see the PSU hole and 120mm fan grill.
 
DH104 Side DH104 Controls
DH104 Feet DH104 Ports
 
As you can see, the DH 104 is a high quality metal construction. The side of the case looks a bit like a heatsink, and although we can't see it really aiding with cooling, it still looks nice. Under the volume dial are various controls, similar to those you would normally find on a DVD player. These are all useful for navigating menus on the LCD when your other half has lost the remote.
 
We don't normally look at case feet, as they're not really a selling point of a case. However, on the DH 104 they are very nice indeed. They are a golden colour and made of metal with rubber 'soles' which should stop vibrations. Finally, there is a little flap which pops down to reveal the 2 USB ports, Firewire port and headphone & mic jacks.
 
DH104 Volume Dial DH104 Power Button
 
It was good to see Thermaltake not skimping on the places where it really matters. Volume dials can often be light and 'tacky'. This, however, had a nice heavy feel - a solid piece of metal construction. The power button also makes a quality click, making turning a PC on with the DH 104 a pleasant treat.


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Bundle & Internals
 
As expected, the bundle with the DH 104 looks fairly impressive. However, whilst it may look like you get a lot more than you would with a normal case, all of the bundled kit is pretty essential for a HTPC.
 
DH104 Bundle DH104 Remote
 
Going from left to right, top to bottom we have: the user guide/manual, Screws/Stand-offs for installation, 5.25" Drive Bay Adapter, Software Installation CD, Batteries and a Remote. As you can see, the remote has quite a range of buttons, all for various functions, which should be very useful.
 
DH104 Internals
 
DH104 Internals Dh104 Internals
 
Unlike a lot of HTPC chassis, the DH 104 has a full ATX interior. This means you can use pretty much any system you want inside the case, apart from E-ATX or extra large motherboards like Asus's new Rampage II. However, building something of that caliber in something so small would be pretty moronic. At the front you have all the drive mounts, with room for three 5.25" drives, although only one is accessible from outside the case. Round the back we have the 120mm fan, PSU slot/hole, PCI slots, and the external VGA pass-through for the touch screen.
 
DH104 PSU DH104 LCD rear
 
On the left we have the PSU 'bay'. Thermaltake have sensibly padded this out with foam, which will reduce the amount of vibrations coming from the PSU reaching the case. Then on the right we have the back of the front panel buttons. They restrict some room on the 5.25" bays below the top bay. However, as these aren't accessible from the front anyway, their uses are limited.
 
DH104 HDD tray DH104 Cabling
 
Above we have the HDD cage and connector cables. The hard drive cage can take up to 5 hard disks, and once again measures have been taken to reduce vibrations. The rubber grommets should mean the hard drives are much quieter, and special screws are provided for attaching hard drives to them. On the right we have all the motherboard connection leads, which include a PSU jump cable for remote power-ons and a USB connection for the front panel.


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Test Setup
 
For testing we wanted to replicate a fairly high-end HTPC, one that was capable of modest gaming. If you're a regular to the site you will know that the 4830 is currently our favourite mid-range card, so one of those was on our list. Although the rest of the system may be a little overkill for watching hi-def videos, it means the DH 104 was pushed further than it normally would, which will hopefully highlight any faults.
 
The full specs are as follows:
 
Q6600 'G0' @ stock
Cooler Master Z600 Cooler
4GB Crucial Ballistix
Asus Maximus Formula
Raptor X 150GB x2 'boot drives'
250GB Seagate 7200.0 'media drive'
HIS Radeon 4830 512MB
X-Fii Extreme Gamer sound card
LG DVD-Ram drive
 
As you can see, it wasn't going to be easy for the DH 104 to cope with the heat generated by the system chosen. We also chose to include a high-end cooler, which would allow lower fan speeds so we could determine how much noise was being generated by the case fans.
 
 
Installation
 
Installation seemed to go well; all the components fit well and there were a few nifty features that really aided the build time.
 
DH104 Stud
 
At first we thought something had gone wrong when the stand-off was made. However, once we got around to installing the motherboard, all was revealed. The stud goes in the centre of the motherboard and holds it in place. Installing a motherboard usually involves trying to hold it in place, holding a screw driver, lining up the screw and trying to screw them in all at the same time. The stud simply holds the board in place, freeing up your hands... Well done Thermaltake!
 
DH104 HDD rack DH104 HDD Problem
 
Next up, we installed our hard disks in the rack. We decided to space them out as much as possible, so that they wouldn't bake each other. However, once we put the cage back into the case it became apparent that there was insufficient space to use the slot. The bottom slot in the cage means the disk is right next to the motherboard. The 24 pin ATX connector on our board was directly below the drive, blocking off the power connector. Since the placing of the ATX connector isn't exactly unique, this is perhaps something Thermaltake needs to look at.
 
 DH104 Modular PSU problem
 
The final problem we encountered is almost unique to our PSU, but is still worth noting for readers who may have the same PSU. The 120mm fan overhangs underneath the PSU, meaning we couldn't install in the final row of modular ports on our PSU. To rectify this, we had to remove the bracket on the fan, shortening it by about a centimeter. This gave us enough clearance to attach the plugs.
 
DH104 Installed
 
Finally, after an hour or so, our PC was ready to be used. The cable management in the DH 104 is pretty poor, and we struggled to make a neat looking system. This will most likely affect the cooling performance of the case, and perhaps something Thermaltake should look at fixing with a few routing holes or similar.



Thermaltake DH 104 Page: 5
Testing
 
If you are purchasing a case like the DH 104, you are obviously not getting it for its cooling capacity. Cooling is still important, but we wanted to focus more on its functions as a HTPC, as these are far more important in a living room PC.
 
DH104 Screen DH104 LCD
 
After the initial boot, you can extend your desktop onto the LCD. Once you have got the screen working, you can press on with installing the supplied software. After installation has completed sucessfully you will need to calibrate the screen by pressing a series of crosses.
 
DH104 Front View DH104 Front View
 
Once you have set this up, you are confronted with 'Front view'. This displays latest news, CPU usage, the time and various other pieces of information, some more useful that others.
 
DH104 LCD front view setup DH104 LCD setup
 
Going into the menu lets you select another task. You can also change settings for the screen, as well as change what the front view displays. If you leave it in the menu for around 30 seconds without touching anything, the screen will default back to front view.
 
DH104- Music DH104- Library
DH104- Now playing
 
Performing a task, such as opening an image, playing music or watching a video follows pretty much the same process. You first select the task, such as 'Music'. You are then presented with your library. Unfortunately, we couldn't get ours to sync with our iTunes library properly. However, once we'd got a song or two loaded, you are presented with the 'now playing' screen.
 
Once we'd had a play with the screen, we set about a 20-minute torture test. This involved 4 instances of Prime95 as well as artifact scanning with ATI Tool. During the testing, the case remained pleasantly quiet, with the loudest part being the hard disks. Although Raptors are loud, we were surprised we could still hear them with the anti-vibration stoppers installed. Temperatures were then taken with Everest Ultimate Edition after the 20 minutes:
 
 DH104 Temps
 
Looking at the graph above, it would seem the air within the DH 104 got to around 60°C. Either that or all the components selected had incredibly close load temperatures. Despite the high temperatures however, the case kept the system perfectly stable, and we were not subject to throttling or any BSODs.



Thermaltake DH 104 Page: 6
Conclusion
 
After the testing period, we were left with mixed emotions. Whilst we were very impressed with the case, and the ability for it to hold a full ATX motherboard is great, we felt a bit let down by the LCD usage. There was nothing essentially wrong with it, but for the amount it adds to the cost of the case, it really needs to leave you thinking 'wow'.
 
Value is the biggest short full for this sort of case. The cost of the LCD's themselves rocket the price up, and with the expected price to be around the £300 mark, you've really got to want it. Unless you have fallen in love with the LCD, we would recommend going for the cheaper model, which features a VFD display. This should cost a substantial amount less, but is an identical case.
 
Based on just the case, this is a superb product, and we would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a HTPC. It had enough cooling for our high end rig, whilst also remaining quiet. It was a fairly simple set up, although cable management does leave a lot to be desired.

 
The Good:
+ Can house a full ATX motherboard
+ Managed to cool our mid-range gaming rig with relative ease
+ Extremely nice looking case
+ Remote control allows you to control your pc from the sofa
 
The Mediocre:
* A few design flaws
* The LCD, whilst good, pushes the price up
 
The Bad:
- Routing cables neatly is difficult
 



 
We would like to thank Thermaltake for providing todays review sample. Discuss in our Forums