Choosing a Case for Your Media Center

July 19, 2011, By Christian Cawley

If you’re embarking on a new media center build project, one of the first things you will need to do is shop around for a suitable case. While you might be happy enough with an old PC case this might not look too great in your living room, and let’s face it, PC cases don’t easily sit on shelves designed for DVD players.

What you want instead is a purpose-designed media center case, and there are plenty of these on the market.

However, choosing a case for your media center isn’t simply a matter of hitting eBay and finding the first suitable case that is listed. Instead, you will need to match the case to your requirements and your hardware.

This might prove quite tricky.

Choosing a case for your media center

Standard Hardware Dimensions

The first thing you will need to do is match up a case to a motherboard. This should be pretty simple, particularly if you have already purchased the motherboard, although bear in mind that the form factor of the case might prevent you from using particular processor/heat sink combinations.

Additionally, you might be unable to use any memory module heat sinks due to the same reason – the low profile of a typical home media player is intended to help the device blend into the usual home theater setup, hence the narrow profile or “form factor”.

Look out also for the physical dimensions of your optical drive and hard disk storage devices, which can cause additional problems if they have too great an overhang or demand too much cool air. Additional cool air demands requires an extra fan, something that isn’t easily added to a low form factor case. If you suspect that your hard disk drive might be rather inefficient in this respect, it is better to purchase a new device rather than press on with storage that might be slow and lead to other issues.

TV Card and Graphic Card Profiles

Another place where you might fall down by purchasing the wrong equipment is with the TV adaptor card and/or graphics card. Many media center cases are designed to be low profile in order to slow them under TVs as a replacement for devices like TiVo and general DVD/Blu-ray players, something which can reduce the available choice of TV/graphics cards that are available to you.

If you’re planning on using any existing equipment of this kind, unless they shipped with alternative brackets then you will need to replace them. Some cards ship with a secondary bracket that can be attached to the device for use on low form factor computer cases, and these are the cards – which themselves will be quite narrow – that you will want to use on your media center.

With the right choices purchased, you should then be able to install these in your system and enjoy the media center without having to revert to any drastic measures, such as performing extreme case customizations to accommodate standard-sized TV adaptor and graphic cards.

The bottom line is this: by making sure your hardware components are suitable for use with your media center case, you’ll avoid an expensive mistake!

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