Streacom FC9 HTPC Case Review
First impressions are important, and boy does the FC9 make a good one. Slipping it out of it's fabric sleeve from it's nest amongst the expanded foam packing you're immediately struck by the weight of the case. "Hang on" you think, "this things 100% aluminium, why does it weigh so much"? A glance at the specification explains all, informing you that the sides are 9mm thick and the front is 4mm thick. prizing out the slim box containing the accessories you find a collection of immaculately packed and intimately laid out copper heat pipes and Aluminium contact plates. It's these components that enable this cases main feature. You see, the FC9 is a silent case. Not just "quite quiet" or "practically inaudible", but totally utterly an unequivocally silent. You've most likely sussed already (because you have of course read the rest of the review) that the reason the case is made from thick Aluminium is because the case sides themselves are the heat sink for the CPU. Streacom call the technology direct touch and it is much the same as the technology used to move the heat up and away from the CPU in a conventional tower heat sink except with the FC9 the heat is directed towards the right hand side of the case where shaped Aluminium blocks clamp them to the sides with the aim of ensuring maximum thermal transfer.
That's all well and good, but does it work? Well yes, and quite well actually, but there are some caveats in there, the main one being that Streacom strongly advise that you select a CPU with a Max TDP of 65W. As you're most likely going to be putting a HTPC set up into the FC9 then thankfully these days there's a fair amount of choice of CPUs from both Intel and AMD. You're also going to have to be mindful of how much kit you put into the Streacom. However the 150W of power on tap from the silent fanless Streacom 150 Watt PSU will be plenty to enable you to feed an HDD, ODD, SSD, TV/Sat card along with the Mobo. CPU and RAM. What you're not going to be able to do is build a living room gaming rig as the power available and the TDP constraints just aren't compatible with those required.
If the assembly of the Streacom had a Facebook status it would most definitely be "It's complicated". Having opened up all the packets and realised this was no straight forward assembly job we surrendered our Man cards and got stuck in. Although the instructions are full colour and full size we didn't find them particularly helpful in the way they recommended the direct touch elements be assembled. Not actually wrong of course, but not clear. Of more use were the diagrams which when viewed enabled is to work out for ourselves the easiest way to put things together, and as such re-claim our Man cards.
As the FC9 is truly silent the only thing to alert you to the fact it is on is the gentle blue light from just above the power button. Our testing showed that Direct touch technology employed was more than able to dissipate the heat generated while playing an HD video, a test representative of the sort of activity the system can be expected to perform. OK so it might not be able to dissipate the heat from our standard torture test but then this was perhaps a trifle unfair of us. Comparative readings from temperatures along the direct touch system also show how good a job is done of conducting the heat away from the CPU.
The only real thing not to like about the Streacom FC9 is the price. At £204 it's not exactly cheap. Throw in the additional £80 that the Nano 150W PSU will set you back and perhaps the optional £20 heat sink riser to expand motherboard compatibility, an IR receiver and remote control and and you'll be nudging up against the £400 mark. And that's before you've even put a gram of Silicon inside it. The price pretty much makes it a niche product. something for the PC/home AV enthusiast, for whom money isn't so much of an object. If that's you and you're looking for a totally silent case then you won't be disappointed. For the rest of us, well we're just going to have to persuade our good ladies that once the film is on they won't hear the fans in our ugly black cases.