How To Build A High-Class Media PC With Antec's Fusion Media Center Case - InformationWeek

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How To Build A High-Class Media PC With Antec's Fusion Media Center Case

If you're a true media fan and a do-it-yourself technogeek, you don't want to buy some ugly tower whitebox PC. Here's how to build a top-of-the-line system in a really snazzy case.

It was love at first sight when Antec introduced its Fusion Media Center PC case at the beginning of the year. What else can a true media fan feel about brushed aluminum; a big, round knob; and a lit vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) that "talks" to you about everything going on inside the box?

The Antec Fusion Media Center PC case offers everything a true media fan wants.

Mixed in with my anticipation of the arrival of the Fusion was no small amount of anxiety. I had already built a small form factor (SFF) system, enclosed in Apevia's X-Qpack case. While the end result had been successful, getting from start to finish involved much knuckle scraping, mouthing of words unsuitable for use in refined company, and even the occasional adult beverage to steady the nerves.

So is the Antec Fusion Media Center PC case everything it promised to be? Stay tuned -- what follows is a blow-by-blow account of how I built myself a new media PC.

Originally, the Fusion was tentatively scheduled for an April release; it finally showed up on my doorstep in August. Oh man, it's beautiful. Forget the X-Qpack. This is artwork. No, it's better than artwork: It won't just sit there and stare back at me. Let's get through the specifications:

  • Aluminum plate front bezel with VFD and volume control to work with Media Center applications; includes space for user-mounted infrared receiver
  • Triple-chamber structure to separate the heat and noise of the power supply, hard drives, and motherboard
  • 430-watt ATX 12V v2.0 power supply with universal input and active PFC
  • Removable hard drive brackets with soft silicone grommets to reduce vibrational noise
  • Cooling system with two side-mounted 120mm TriCool three-speed fans
  • Low-profile desktop
  • Three drive bays: one front accessible 5.25-inch and two 3.5-inch internal
  • Four expansion slots
  • Micro ATX form-factor (9.6 x 9.6-inch) motherboard
  • Front-mounted ports: two USB 2.0, one IEEE 1394 (FireWire i.Link), audio in and out
  • 0.8mm cold rolled steel construction

Those are twin 120mm fans. And the compartment on the left side actually holds two 5.25-inch drives -- although the one on the top is truly a bit of a stretch of the imagination. With the VFD out front, there's nothing you'd want to put there of any consequence because you can't access it through the VFD panel.

The lower bay is custom-tailored for a CD/DVD drive. The button pushes through the panel and the drive drawer slides out through a drop-down panel section. By the way, the two-bay bank on the left not only tilts up, it also slides right out of the case. It's one of the easiest drive-installs you're likely to do.

There are two additional 3.5-inch vertical bays on the right side. Perforations in the bottom of the case, toward the front, allow for the intake of air, which passes over those two 3.5-inch bays, and then gets sucked out of the case by the fans. Even so, until I could get temperature indications from inside, I elected not fill those bays, even though theory says that the cooling system -- part convection, part forced air -- should work well. And the fan in the power supply cares for some of the cooling needs in its compartmentalized section of the case.

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