South Korea has the reputation for manufacturing the best coolers and cases. Looking at Moncase972 we can see why. This HTPC (Home Theater PC) case target to media PCs (i.e., computers to be hooked to your home theater system for playing movies and songs) from Moneual provides an outstanding quality using thick aluminum parts (not thin panels like more inexpensive products) and the looks of a home theater device, with a 7” LCD display with touch screen capability, remote control and a big volume knob, plus several other features. Let’s take an in-depth look at this case, which is definitely the Ferrari of the HTPC cases.
This case is available in two color versions, to match the other devices you already have on your home theater setup: black or platinum (a.k.a. silver).
It is also important to notice that the manufacturer provides a home theater PC already built using this case, using the same product name. So you have the option to buy the PC already built or build your own HTPC from scratch.
Figure 1: Moneual Moncaso972 case.
Figure 2: Moneual Moncaso972 case.
The first thing that caught our eye was the size of the case, far bigger than other more inexpensive HTPC solutions. It is 17” (43 cm) wide, matching exactly the width of home theater receivers and DVD/Blu-Ray players, so you can stack them up and a layman would never tell that the device inside this case is a regular computer. This also means that you can install a regular ATX motherboard inside this case, not being limited to microATX models like happens with several other HTPC cases.
As already mentioned, this case comes with a 7” LCD display with touch-screen capability. The display is connected to your system through a standard 15-pin VGA cable. You system will have two displays, the LCD panel and your TV, obviously connected on separated video outputs. If you are not going to play games, you can buy a motherboard with on-board video with two outputs, one VGA for the 7” display and one DVI or HDMI for your HDTV. Even though you can install any operating system that you want, it is recommended the use of Windows Media Center or similar OS. The touch screen which is applied on top of the LCD display is connected to the system through a USB port (the cable uses a USB A connector, but it comes with an adapter to allow you to install it on any USB header available on the motherboard). This same USB cable is used to connect the IR sensor, the volume knob and all extra switches available on the upper right section of the case (see Figure 4). Of course you will need drivers for all these devices, and the case comes with a CD with all of them.
Figure 4: Extra buttons not found on other cases.
Below the LCD screen the case has a 5.25” bay for your optical drive of choice (probably a Blu-Ray unit). In Figure 3 the hole seems to be too short, that happens because for better aesthetics this case was projected to allow you to view only the drive tray, not the entire drive. Also for better aesthetics this case comes with an aluminum cover for your optical drive tray with only the DVD logo printed on it, so you and your friends won’t see the typical plastic tray with several stuff printed on it, which tells that you have a PC optical drive. This way your HTPC will definitely have a more professional looks.
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On the lower section of the front panel Moncaso972 has a door which hides the audio, USB and FireWire plugs, plus a complete memory card reader. It also reveals the “open” button for your optical drive. This door is held to the case using a magnetic latch.
Figure 5: Front panel with door opened.
Figure 6: Jacks from the front panel.
This case has a FireWire port, which is great, but features only one USB port.
In Figure 8 we have the rear panel. You can see the video cable from the LCD display, which uses one of the expansion slots to get outside the case. This case comes with two 80 mm fans on its rear. They use three-pin motherboard connectors, so you can connect them to your motherboard and monitor their speed. As mentioned before, this case supports regular ATX motherboards, so we have seven expansion slots here.
In Figure 8 you can also see the feet from this case, which look like feet used on home theater receiver. This is a very nice touch.
In Figure 9, you can see the extra parts that come with this case: the remote control, the mentioned aluminum cover for the optical drive tray, a pen for using the touch screen, a screwdriver, screws and the driver CD.
Now let’s see how Moncaso972 looks like inside.
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This case is opened by removing its top panel, which is fastened to the chassis using thumbscrews, which is great. All parts from this case are made in aluminum.
In Figure 11, you can see the rear panel from this case viewed from inside. You can see that the daughterboards use thumbscrews, which is very nice and, in our opinion, better than the use of screwless mechanisms, as most of these mechanisms don’t work well. You can also see the two rear 80 mm fans.
Figure 11: Thumbscrews for fastening daughterboards and rear 80 mm fans.
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This case has one 5.25” bay and four internal 3.5” bays for hard disk drives in two cages.
Figure 12: The two hard disk drive cages and the optical drive bay.
All cages can be removed to make the installation of the drives easier. On the hard disk drive cages you can install an optional 80 mm fan, if you like. The side panels are meshed in front on the hard disk drive cages to allow the correct airflow when these fans are installed.
Figure 13: Hard disk drive cage outside the case. Notice the holes for installing an 80 mm fan.
Figure 14: Air intake for the optional 80 mm fan.
The cages are fastened to the chassis using regular screws. We think a case with this quality deserved at least thumbscrews here. This case also doesn’t use any kind of screwless mechanism to fasten the disk drives and no anti-vibration mechanism is used on the hard disk drive bays, which is a desirable feature on HTPC cases.
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Moneual Moncaso972 case main specs include:
- Application: ATX and smaller form factors derived from this one.
- Material: Aluminum (1 mm thick).
- Power supply required: Doesn’t come with the product.
- Available colors: black or silver.
- Dimensions: 6 3/4″ x 17″ x 18 ½” (17 cm x 43 cm x 47 cm) (H x W x D)
- Net Weight: 16.6 lbs (7.5 Kg)
- Bays: One external 5.25” bays and four internal 3.5” bays in two hard disk drive cages.
- Expansion slots: Seven.
- Fans: Two 80 mm fans on the rear. One optional 80 mm fan on each hard disk drive cage.
- Extra features: 7” LCD display (800×600, 15:9 ratio, 15-pin VGA connector) with touch screen, remote control, set of navigational buttons and volume knob.
- More Information: https://www.moneual.com
- Suggested price in the US: USD 530.00.
Moneaul Moncaso972 is one of the most high-end HTPC cases available on the market today, targeted to users that want to build a home theater PC that looks like a home theater receiver. A layperson won’t be able to tell that a computer built using this case is really a PC. Here is a summary of what we found about this case.
- Outstanding overall quality, using thick aluminum.
- 7” LCD display with touch screen capability.
- Infrared sensor and remote control.
- Several extra buttons like volume and navigational controls.
- FireWire port.
- Optical drive is covered by the front panel. Case comes with an aluminum tray cover for your optical unit to give your HTPC a more professional looks.
- Daughter boards are fastened to the chassis using thumbscrews.
- Only one frontal USB port.
- No anti-vibration mechanisms for the hard disk drives.
- Cost, cost, cost.
In summary, this is the Ferrari from the HTPC cases. And like the car, only a few people can have it because of its cost. Though we can’t recommend this product to Average Joe, for the audience that this case is targeted to – high-end home theater enthusiasts with bottomless pockets – this is a practically flawless product and will achieve its goal: to be a case where your HTPC won’t look like a computer, but a top-notch home theater receiver.
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