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Silverstone LC11m - Review

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by Duggy, May 12, 2005.

  1. Duggy

    Duggy
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    Given that I am probably one of the first people to build a PC using the new Silverstone LC11m case (unknowingly, I placed an order with the only UK retailer on the day they received their first stock!) I thought I'd post a quick review of it.

    The original LC11 case is an unusual, stylish HTPC case design for MicroAtx motherboards. The Silverstone website http://www.silverstonetek.com/products-lc11.htm gives links to several detailed reviews at the bottom of the page. The LC11m merely adds a built-in VFD display and IR receiver, so here I'll concentrate on the differences from the original LC11. My model is in silver. Sorry I didn't take any pics as I built it - if people want photos, I'll take some and add them later...

    Cables
    My first thought on opening the case was how many cables there were. There are already quite a few cables coming from the front mounted USB, firewire and audio ports, along with the power and reset buttons and LEDs. But the VFD adds to the spaghetti-quotient with a (very long) usb lead and motherboard header adaptor, a lead to connect to the power button, another one to connect to the motherboard, and yet another one which draws power via a huge 24-pin ATX power lead extension cable. All of these spew out from behind the 3.5" drive cage like some many-tentacled sea monster emerging from its lair. Routing all these cables to allow clean airflow was a very long job, and I'm still not particularly happy with the results.

    PSU
    Some reviews of the LC11 have complained of a relatively noisy PSU fan. Either I'm very lucky or Silverstone have done something about this for the LC11m, because my one is completely inaudible - honestly - I had to peer through the grill to check that the fan was actually spinning! Lovely. Oodles of connectors for Molex and SATA power.

    Fans
    The other two 80x25mm case fans were surprisingly noisy in comparison, with a nasty buzzing noise even at lower speeds that was clearly audible from many feet away. If you buy this case, expect to have to change the case fans for something quieter. I used SilenX fans, temperature controlled by the motherboard BIOS, and the result is pretty good - just a very quiet whooshing if the PC is working hard, otherwise silence from more than a few feet away. I may try Panaflo fans to see if I can improve this further. The mountings for the fans are not very flexible. There's no room for gel fan mounts or gaskets to reduce vibration noise. The front fan uses one screw at the top and for the bottom it uses two of the two-part plastic fan rivets (have a look at http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/info_2407.html to see what I mean) to hold it in place. These rivets don't seem to be easily reusable so don't forget to put some of them on your shopping list. The side fan slides between two rails and is held in place by two standard fan screws. It would be difficult to mount fans thinner than 25mm securely, and impossible to use thicker or larger diameter fans.

    VFD and Remote Control
    The case incorporates an iMON 16x2 VFD display and IR receiver combined module. This is connected via a long USB usb cable which can either be passed through a thoughtfully placed knockout on the back of the case and into an external USB socket, or straight into the motherboard using a small dongle with a USB socket on one end and a motherboard header on the other. The module is powered from the main motherboard ATX supply using a flylead to a 24-pin ATX extension lead, and another couple of flyleads intercept the case power button connection to the motherboard - this means that the unit is always powered and you can use the remote control to turn the PC on and off. In practice, I'm not sure how useful this is. The display cannot be updated while the PC is off, so can't display anything useful, like a clock. It merely shows the last text displayed before the machine switches off. The included iMON software can be used to set the text displayed when the PC is turned off (provided it is shut down gracefully) - I have mine set to say "Standby" - but so what?

    The module seems to be a relatively new device and has NO software support other than what iMON provide themselves. As far as I can tell there is no way of using the display with LCDSmartie, Frontview for MCE or other popular LCD software. Worse still, the IR receiver works at a non-standard frequency and will ONLY work with the included iMON "PAD" remote control. The iMON software is OK but somewhat buggy (I used the latest version for Silverstone case users from the website, and the "Options" button on the main app causes it to crash!) and is restrictive in what you can do, but its saving grace is that the VFD software does work very well with MCE, showing TV program names, channel numbers, music tracks, DVD chapters and track times etc as appropriate - so it wasn't a complete waste of effort...

    The iMON "PAD" remote control is fine, and has a nifty 8-way pad for controlling the mouse cursor, but it isn't as clearly laid out and comfortable to use as the Microsoft MCE remote. There is a set of key mappings set-up to use the iMON remote in MCE, but bizarrely by default it doesn't include a shortcut for the "Big Green Button" (though you could set one up). Instead it has a "Big Blue Button" which starts iMON's own Multimedian media front-end.


    The LED

    I'm still sad enough to think that a blue LED looks kewl, and the power LED on the front of the case satisfies me in this regard. It does have one problem though: it is extremely directional. Viewed from an angle it emits a pleasant blue glow, but sitting directly in front of the case you feel like a startled rabbit in the headlights! I noticed the other night that it actually projects a clearly-defined disc of light on the opposite wall, it's so bright. Very distracting when watching movies - any suggestions for toning this down?

    I can't comment on the HDD led 'cos I've done my usual trick of plugging in the connector the wrong way round, and I can't be bothered to crack open the case merely to correct this, yet... :suicide:

    Overall
    My comments above may seem rather negative, but remember that these are only the differences from the original LC11. The case itself is beautiful, with fantastic build quality and innovative design, and I'm well pleased with it sitting there in my bookcase. I'm just not convinced that the extras in the LC11m are worth almost doubling the price of the basic case. The iMON VFD and IR are just not flexible enough. In the end, I butchered a Microsoft IR receiver and stuck the sensor behind the VFD next to the iMON one and velcro'd the receiver circuit board to the drive cage. A bit messy and a lot of effort, but it works well, and I can now use the MS remote with MCE. Maybe Silverstone could released a version of the case with just a bare window for you to fit your own display and IR sensor :lease:

    Cheers,

    Duggy
     
  2. Kamakazie

    Kamakazie
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    nice review, its made me think about getting the LC14 instead of the m version now though... i like the idea of an incorporated VFD but if the iMon remotes a bit sh*tty im not fancying botching the MS reciever on it like you did.... hmmmm.

    Pics of it in your setup would be nice :)
     
  3. sholao

    sholao
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    Duggy,

    When you get a chance, could you get a picture of the finished product in stui.

    I'm considering my options, need to decide if a HTPC would fit in.

    Thanks
     
  4. u32t5645

    u32t5645
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    It is probably a ‘super bright’ LED. Replace with a ‘normal’ LED or a higher voltage LED for less light output. I ordered some LEDs for a special application from a fellow on your side of the pond. If you can replace that LED, shoot him an email (sent you a pm) and let him know what you need. Shouldn’t cost more than one of those goofy “L” things you guys use: £
    :)

    Suggestion: if you don’t know the LED voltage, ask Silverstone or probe for it. You’ll need to let the LED guy know the voltage.
     
  5. Gazebo2

    Gazebo2
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    Just to add that this chassis seems to be churning out of Chinese factories and is available from manufacturers other than Silverstone.

    I wanted to replace my older low profile Silverstone case (which runs incredibly hot even with a low power P3 system) but didn't like the fascia of the LC11 - I just didn't like the row of USB sockets on the front panel. I found this CTL HTPC case at http://www.koolnquiet.co.uk/index.php?main=catalog&id=71 which is the same case with a different fascia.

    While the mixture of aluminium and black plastic may not appeal to everyone, it's quite tastefully done and looks okay to me and everything on the front panel (5.25" drive, 3.5"drive and USB etc ports) are stealthed.

    Its also only £79, a bit cheaper than Silverstone.

    I'm rebuilding my system this week - so I'll let you know how I get on.
     
  6. Gazebo2

    Gazebo2
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  7. Skunkpipe

    Skunkpipe
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    I think their wesite is a bit screwy - add it to your basket and you get some other case; view it and then add to baske you get yet another case, but look in new items http://www.aqtj53.dsl.pipex.com/newitem.htm and it's listed for £89.99 - but add to your basket again and it's yet another different case.

    :suicide:
     

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