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.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

August 14, 2006

3 Min Read

A Little Improvisation
A note for folks who, like me, have several systems to store: While the Fusion will (just barely) fit into a standard A/V rack or easily into most component bays in the average IKEA TV table, those side-mounted fans need to vent. That means two to three inches of open area on the right. (Or a quick field alteration to your rack with a hole saw.)

And if you're like me, the fact that the Fusion doesn't have a bay for a floppy drive may cause you some consternation. Sure, you're an adult and you don't believe in floppy drives any more. That's fine, even though there can be times -- like when upgrading or restoring a system BIOS -- when only a floppy drive (and not a USB drive) will fill the bill. And how about a media card reader? That would also work well in a floppy bay. Without one, you're using the external USB variety -- one more thing sitting on top of the case.

So if you do want a floppy, you'll have to settle for an external USB version. Because I wanted both a source and destination hard drive, I added an external hard disk (USB again). Luckily, the ASUS P5LD2-VM DH motherboard has four USB ports out back. (Remember, I used one for the VFD.) There are also two front-mounted USB ports that connect to the motherboard, along with mic and headphone jacks.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a place to connect the Fusion's front-mounted FireWire port on the P5LD2-VM DH. Looks like the second PCI slot will soon hold a FireWire card.

Lasting Impressions
Surprisingly enough, the integrated video solution works great with the Hauppauge TV tuner. TV play, capture, or playback is unaffected by what I consider to be one of the lowest forms of PC graphics available. I wouldn't try game play with it, but that's not what this particular system is all about.

The only downside to this case is that it's loud, but that's not its fault. At first I thought it was the two 120mm fans, which are Antec's tri-power models with low, medium, and high speed settings. I backed them down incrementally, figuring that the noise would diminish as I did. Didn't work.

Then I had an epiphany: It wasn't the Antec fans. It was the stock Intel CPU fan causing the ruckus -- and the reason I could hear it with all of the Fusion's panels buttoned up was because of the fan grilles used for the case's two 120mm fans. They let the sound waft through. There are aftermarket CPU fan alternatives that will quiet things down significantly.

Perhaps under the category "small things for small minds," the biggest hoot so far has been the volume control. Having to grab the mouse, click the audio icon on the taskbar, adjust the volume, and then click somewhere else on the screen to get rid of the volume control is now passé. All I need to do is reach over for the knob and twist.

The graphic equalizer display in the VFD is also mesmerizing. (Small mind, remember?) To see it, you need to use Media Center, and not Windows Media Player, to play your tunes.

The Bottom Line
Antec's Fusion is probably one of the most affordable Media Center PC cases on the market right now. Originally, I was put off by the price (which runs through the streets starting at around $153 on PriceGrabber) but it works as advertised and does actually fit into a living room environment without provoking a second glance -- something none of my mid-sized towers can do.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights