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Ahanix D5 Media Center Enclosure Ahanix D5 Media Center Enclosure: Full tower or cubed cases may be suitable for HTPC users, but they don't look nearly as nice as what we have here today.
Date: October 29, 2004
Written By:

Installation (cont'd)

I removed the drive bay and started to install an ATX motherboard. Everything fit snugly, with even a little room left over for good measure. There are some mid-towers that don't fit ATX motherboards this nicely. I connected all of the front panel interfaces and the power supply connectors to the motherboard (the PSU is ATX 2.03 compliant, so while it does include the 4 pin P4 connector, it doesn't support the newer 24 pin ATX main board connector).

I installed the DVD-ROM drive and attempted to initially install the hard drive in the lower section. Although there is physically enough room for the drive to fit in this location (and I thought it the better location as the fresh air is coming in directly underneath allowing some sort of cooling for the HD) the motherboard I am using has the IDE connection directly underneath/behind it making it all but impossible to connect the DVD Drive and the HD drive (especially using a SATA HD). If the IDE connectors had been in a different place or I had been using an IDE Hard Drive, this would have worked out and I could have possibly installed a 2nd 3.5" drive. There would however have been a shortage of Molex connectors as the Ahanix included PSU only comes with three, (one has an included Molex to SATA converter) and as I mentioned earlier one of the rear fans requires one.

You need to be careful in the selection of your CPU HS/Fan combination. The D.Vine5 is built to hold full height PCI cards, so there is no worry there, but that is absolutely where it ends. There are a lot of HS/Fan combo's that would be too tall for this enclosure. You are pretty much looking to keep the height of the entire setup (CPU / HS / FAN) to sub 4". I went with the Cooler Master Aero just because it draws air from the sides and not a reduced overhead draw point. The only other concern would be PCI add on cards that have top mount interfaces such as some SCSI controllers (although I don't see that as a typical scenario for the D.Vine5).

Cabling inside the case is a breeze, there is plenty of room to maneuver and several hiding places for your cabling. The only thing that isn't as clean as I would like is the Drive Bay, but I realize the external function is more important then the internal design in this case.

The new DVD cover plate and front panel look clean and blend in well with the rest of the Home Theater equipment when finished. Anyone would be proud to have this sitting in their Home Theater rack.

Installation of Windows goes without fanfare and everything is loaded just as any other case, with the exception of the VFD Panel. The VFD panel is an information display that has plugins to programs such as Winamp, System Info (CPU Usage, HD Space available, etc.) and Motherboard Monitor. The VFD Panel is plugged into the system via the parallel port. For full information and display you need to have Microsoft XP Media Center Edition. However if you do not have XP MCE you can use a program called Smartie that will drive information to the panel. The main difference is that Smartie has to be running to get a display, whereas in XP MCE, there will always be a display. I found the VFD to be much more than just a gimmick, especially when playing Winamp with a couple hundred MP3s; it's nice to see what is playing, what bit rate it was encoded at, etc.

Installation Notes

You're going to want a few things for installation of this enclosure. First and foremost you will want a magnetic Philips screwdriver as there are some spots where it is almost necessary (Drive Bays). You want to make sure you install the drive bay back into the case before installing the HD on the top rack as you won't be able to access the screw from the HD blocking it. This requires you to use a snub Philips to install the HD, not allowing you to torque it down as much to eliminate vibrations. Be careful of plugging in the power and IDE cables as there are no screw mounts at the rear of the case, this is in the case of either an ATX or Micro-ATX motherboard.

Cooling Performance

Test system will be: Foxconn 875A02-6EKRS, Intel P4 2.4C (CoolJag Copper Skiving HS / Cooler Master Aero Fan), Hitachi 80GB 7200RPM 8MB Cache SATA Hard Drive, ATI Radeon 9600XT 128MB

I'm using the XP Cases Alien Case as a reference point, although please be aware that these two cases are for different markets and therefore have different design ethics which effect their cooling.

CPU (Full Speed)
CPU (2348rpm)
Video (Using ATI SW)
Alien Case

The Cooler Master Aero is of the adjustable variety. I set it to run full speed for the initial tests and then silent in the D.Vine5 (noting the RPM - 2,348) and setting it at that speed for the other case as well. Although there is a slight increase in temperature for everything but the Radeon Graphics card and Motherboard (cooler in the room that night too), everything is still well within specifications. The D.Vine5 is not meant to be the best cooling enclosure in the market place, but good enough to keep things stable while giving you the look you desire in an HTPC solution. Taking this into consideration, Ahanix has done a fine job. The only possible concern I would have is the Hard Drive, but even that still falls within tolerances.

Final Words

The exterior of the is the show stealing feature here, from the finish of the black brushed aluminum to the overall design that blends in so well with regular high end A/V equipment. The VFD display is a welcome feature, providing information on the current media that is playing, and while it is primarily designed with Windows XP Media Center Edition in mind, Smartie will run the display as well. Since Windows XP Media Center Edition (2005) is now available as an OEM purchase item, it might be worth giving this some thought, although I know that Scott favors . Ahanix also include a matching black CD ROM cover which will allow you to use any drive rather than having to either modify or purchase a black unit.

The interior could be better but it serves its purpose well enough, providing system temperatures that are within tolerances for all components. Do keep in mind the overall height of the case as you only have around 4” to play with, which could be an issue for some HSF combinations and reduce CPU cooling performance. The included items such as the fans and PSU might be something an end user would want to exchange for better quality items, but it will all depend on the hardware you wish to run. I personally had no real big issues with them, but considering the price of the D.Vine5 it was a little surprising higher quality internal items were not included.

Ahanix has a well built, aesthetically pleasing case in the D.Vine5. Internally there are some quirks but they are forgotten quickly when you rack this unit next to your amp. For what this unit is built for, it hits the mark nicely while giving you the added flexibility to use micro or standard ATX motherboards, a rarity in the HTPC market.

Pros: Very Stylish Design, Decent cooling with minimal noise levels, VFD information center for what's playing, Ability to use either MicroATX or Standard ATX motherboards, Ample internal space even when using a Standard ATX Motherboard, Near silent operation (this is of course dependent on the CPU fan you use), Front Panel Buttons are the best I have seen to date. Did I mention this case looks good?

Cons: Drive Bay must be removed to install / remove motherboard, Power Supply only secured by the back of the case, with no internal support, Internal Fans are of differing depths and connectors (looks built with what is at hand), Cost

Bottom Line: Ahanix has delivered an enclosure that gives you everything you would desire in an HTPC. The versatility of using MicroATX or Standard ATX motherboards, the look and feel of high end audio/video equipment and a VFD information center that gives the added information of what is playing. It comes at a hefty price tag mind you, but in this particular situation, you get what you pay for.

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