Sunbeamtech Acrylic HTPC-style ATX Case Review

Cases & PSU/Cases by BillHill @ 2008-06-16

The Sunbeamtech Acrylic, HTPC-style case is excellent for display and demonstration purposes. In this in-depth review we´ll find out if this case is up to the task of keeping our system cool under stress while looking flashy with some LED lighting.

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First a few words on Sunbeamtech, Inc.. It was founded in 2000 with CCFL tube products for case modders. Since then, many other lines have been added including LED case accessories, fan controllers and lately they have expanded into system cases on or in which you can use many their other products (clever, eh?).

I'd venture that most denizens of the techie sites are most familiar with their first fan controller, the "Rheobus". It is a simple, 4-channel, analog design that has little or no effect on the attached fans (other than adjusting the voltage to them, of course), unlike many of the early PWM designs (buzzing or bearing rattle). I have one and every fan that arrives here gets a good workout on it. It is still an excellent product with the most common complaint being the excessive brightness of the voltage indicator LEDs, but they are socketed and easily removed or replaced with lower output units.

Sunbeamtech has also spun off a higher end line named Tuniq, with which I'm sure most readers of this review will be familiar - they share the same home page for their web sites. I have found some Sunbeamtech products under other brand names as well. A browse through their web site should turn up something to tempt you.

I'll preface my review by noting that I am prejudiced against acrylic cases for routine use. First they provide no RFI/EMI (radio frequency/electromagnetic interference) shielding in either direction (outgoing or incoming) and have no inherent grounding system, so if you want to ground your drives to aid in bleeding off the static energy generated by the rotating systems (a best practice), then you will have to supply your own chassis ground wires (at least 18 gauge is recommended - the heavier the better) to the power supply chassis - this applies to any case that isolates the drives from the chassis metal path to ground - not just acrylic cases.

Secondly they are dust magnets and show fingerprints clearly - store displays will require the usage of Meguiar's (or similar) plastic care products to keep it looking new. The kit even comes with a pair of white fabric gloves for handling the parts... The hard plastic conducts noise better than steel and is about on par with aluminum.

Finally, the cooling potential generally suffers due to the tradeoffs necessary to keep the price reasonable. On the other hand, there are legitimate uses for such cases: science fair displays, trade show demonstrations, store displays, classroom instruction and the like.

So I'll approach this review assuming that the Sunbeam HTPC case will be used in one of the appropriate settings. For normal use in personal, home office or business settings, metal cases are highly preferred.
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Comment from skitzin @ 2008/06/18
The chase looks pretty nice, but is it also strong?
I remember when I had my old sunbeam chase it felt it could break down every second -.-
Comment from jmke @ 2008/06/19
the panels are quite thick and won't break easily