Many people like the idea of having a completely transparent case and with the popularization of HTPCs – computers built to be connected to your home theater system for playing movies and songs – Sunbeamtech released an HTPC acrylic case. Since heat is one of the main concerns when building a PC inside an acrylic case (since acrylic can’t dissipate heat, contrary to what happens with steel or aluminum solutions) Sunbeam’s acrylic HTPC case features four 80 mm fans. Let’s take an in-depth look at this case and see if lives up to our expectations.
Sunbeamtech offers their Acrylic HTPC case in two versions: using a clear non-UV reagent acrylic (HTPC-T) or using a bluish UV-reagent acrylic (HTPC-HUVB), which was the model we reviewed.
Even though the final result is really beautiful, acrylic is a very complicated material. It can be easily scratched or cracked and, as we mentioned, it tends to make the computer internally hotter compared to steel and aluminum cases, as it doesn’t dissipate heat very well.
To avoid scratches and cracks during transportation, acrylic cases come disassembled. So you will have to assemble them yourself and because of that the whole process of building your PC will take a lot more time (at least one extra hour). If you don’t like building kits this case isn’t for you, but if you are a geek that loved to build model kits when you were a kid you will love this case.
In Figure 1, you can see the case package – which is far smaller than the package used by traditional cases – and on Figures 2 and 3 the parts that come inside the package, i.e., the disassembled case.
This case comes with two screwdrivers to help you in the assembly process. A pair of gloves was also added so you can build the case without leaving your fingertips all around it.
The assembly process is somewhat similar to the 9-bay acrylic case from the same manufacturer that we reviewed some months ago. In fact we found this case easier to assemble than this other acrylic case from Sunbeamtech and we had no trouble putting it together. Because of that we won’t go through all the necessary steps to build this case. On next page we will describe this case with it already assembled.
The only thing that happened with us was that the rear panel came cracked. But that is the risk you take when buying an acrylic case. If this happens to you, simply return the product to get another one that isn’t broken.
[nextpage title=”The Acrylic HTPC Case from Sunbeamtech”]
On the pictures below you can have an overall look from this case after it has been assembled. It comes with four 80 mm fans that glow blue when they are turned on. Two are installed on the front panel, cooling down the hard disk drives, one is installed on the middle of the case and can be moved around, so you can decide where is the best position for this fan to be depending on the components you have inside your PC, and another one is installed on the rear panel.
You have to pay close attention when building your case in order to install the fans on their correct positions (correct direction of airflow). All fans must be blowing air from the front of the case to the rear of the case. If you invert any of them you may face an overheating situation. The fans included with this case blow air from their “open side” to the side that has some plastic supports holding the fan frame to the center of the fan. So all fans must be installed with side that has these supports facing the rear of the case.
All fans use a three-pin connector (coming with 4-pin adapters), so you can connect them on your motherboard to monitor their speed.
As you can see this case is big enough to hold ATX motherboards. Several HTPC cases in order to be smaller can only hold microATX boards.
The panel with the audio jacks and USB ports can be seen in Figure 6. The two USB ports are too close to each other, preventing you from installing two “fat” USB devices at the same time there.
This case doesn’t come with a memory card reader, feature commonly found on HTPC cases. On the other hand, this makes this case to be cheaper than other HTPC solutions.
Finally in Figure 7 we have the rear panel. No mystery here: you can see the rear 80 mm fan and the seven slots.
[nextpage title=”Inside The Case”]
Talking about what is inside an acrylic case sounds funny, but we wanted to show you two details. First the rear panel viewed from inside (Figure 8). No kind of screwless mechanism or thumbscrews are used to fasten daughterboards to the case.
And in Figure 9 you can see the middle fan, which is physically attached to the top panel. As mentioned before, you can move it to get a better airflow depending on the components you have inside your PC.
[nextpage title=”The Disk Drive Bays”]
This case has two external 5.25” bays, one external 3.5” bay and eight internal 3.5” bay
s for hard disk drives, in two hard disk drive cages. As mentioned this case doesn’t come with a memory card reader and you will probably want to add one on the external 3.5” bay. You can add a ninth hard drive on the external 3.5” bay if you don’t have a floppy disk drive or a memory card reader, but since the holes there are in the position to match a floppy drive not a hard drive, you will only be able to use two screws, not four as it should be.
In Figure 11, you can see the two hard disk drive cages outside the case.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
Sunbeamtech Acrylic HTPC case main specs include:
- Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one.
- Material: Acrylic.
- Power supply required: Doesn’t come with the product.
- Available colors: Transparent (HTPC-T) or blue (HTPC-HUVB).
- Dimensions: 7 43/64” x 17 21/64” x 18 45/64” (19.5 cm x 44 cm x 47.5 cm) (H x W x D).
- Net Weight: 10.6 lbs (4.8 Kg)
- Gross Weight: 12.3 lbs (5.6 Kg)
- Bays: Two external 5.25” bays, one external 3.5” bay and eight internal 3.5” bays in two cages.
- Expansion slots: Seven.
- Fans: Two 80 mm fans on the front, one 80 mm fan on the center and one 80 mm fan on the rear (all glow blue when turned on).
- More Information: https://www.sunbeamtech.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 70.00.
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
Sunbeamtech Acrylic HTPC case is a 100% transparent case targeted to the user that wants to build an HTPC with a very different looks. Its looks, however, will not please everyone. Some will find it exciting, while some will find it ugly for an HTPC that will be on the living room. Here is a summary of what we found out about this product.
- Excellent material.
- Excellent cost/benefit ratio.
- Good ventilation with four 80 mm fans.
- Very light.
- A delight for DYI users.
- Impressive number of hard disk drive bays (eight) will please even the most demanding user.
- You have to be very careful to not scratch or crack your case.
- Requires extra time for you to put the case together, increasing the PC building time by around one hour.
- No memory card reader, feature commonly available on HTPC cases (on the other hand this makes this case to be cheaper).
- No screwless mechanisms or thumbscrews for holding daughterboards, optical drives or hard disk drives.
- No anti-vibration mechanisms for the hard disk drives, which is a desirable feature on HTPC cases.
- Could have dust filters for the fans.
- The two USB ports are too close to each other, preventing the installation of two “fat” devices at the same time.