In the past, computers could be awkward to use as home media machines. A full-sized desktop is just too big for most people’s entertainment center. A laptop, meanwhile, can be difficult to upgrade, and storage space is often limited. Not to mention, they take up a lot of shelf space, and they’re not designed for stacking.
A mini PC can be a great solution. Using a mini ITX or Micro ATX case, you can get good performance in a small package. At the same time, a mini PC is easier to upgrade than a laptop. You can do it with standard tools, and the various components are more widely available. This makes a mini PC a good choice for a home theater PC (HTPC).
We’re about to review five of the best HTPC media cases we could find. If you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick-and dirty rundown.
- The Silverstone ML05B HTPC Media Case is a no-nonsense mini ITX case that can still hold an optical drive.
- The Silverstone Grandia Series HTPC Case is a larger Micro ATX case with space for six drives and three GPUs.
- The Fractal Design Node 202 is a mini ITX case that’s purpose-built for streaming and use as a home media server.
- The Goodisory MX01 HTPC Case is ultra-compact and fanless, the perfect choice when space is at a premium.
- The Silverstone Raven Z is also fanless, but has a larger form factor and more room for expansion.
Want to learn more about these cases? We’re about to take a deep dive, and tell you everything you need to know. Let’s begin!
Best Overall: Silverstone ML05B HTPC Media Case
- Mini ITX case.
- Space for four 2.5” storage drives.
The Silverstone ML05B HTPC Media Case is tougher than your run-of-the-mill PC case. It’s manufactured from steel rather than aluminum, with an acrylic front panel. The finish is entirely matte black, and it does a good job of not collecting fingerprints.
The housing measures 13.78 inches wide, 8.03 inches deep, and 3.9 inches thick, which is definitely on the small side. It’s designed to accommodate a mini ITX motherboard, which is the smallest standard variety on the market.
Despite the small size, the case provides plenty of cooling capability. There’s a large vent on the top right of the housing, with a smaller vent near the top back. The sides are also vented, which allows air to flow freely through. And you’ll be able to install up to two 80mm fans in addition to a 120mm CPU fan.
On the front of the housing, you’ll notice a pair of diamonds. The larger one to the right is the power button. The smaller button to the left is the system reset button. On the right side of the housing is a pair of USB Type-A ports with blue inner tabs. These tabs make it easy to properly orient your USB plug. In the same area, there’s a 3.5mm headphone port and a 3.5mm mic port.
Inside the case, there’s room for up to four 2.5-inch storage drives. These can be HDD, SSD, or a combination of the two. You’ll also notice a slot at the top right of the front panel. This is designed to support a compact, trayless optical drive in front of the power supply. Because of the small size, you’ll have to use a small form-factor (SFX) power supply. You’ll also have to use a low-profile graphics card if you choose to install one.
Best Runner-Up: Silverstone Grandia Series HTPC Case
- Micro ATX case.
- Space for four 3.5” and two 2.5” storage drives.
- Comes with three 120mm fans.
The Silverstone Grandia Series HTPC Case is a touch larger. It measures 22 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and 10 inches thick. As you might expect, it’s designed for a Micro ATX motherboard, which is larger than mini ITX. It’s constructed primarily from black aluminum, with a plastic front panel and other components.
Cooling performance is excellent, with venting on the sides as well as the top. Not only that, but there’s a set of three 120mm fans included in the package. That’s one less thing you have to worry about buying while you complete your build.
The front panel of the Grandia Series flips down to reveal an access panel. At the left is a pair of two hot-swappable 2.5-inch storage drive slots. You can easily pop new drives in and out, which is a great feature for a home media server. To the right is an optical drive slot, although you’ll need to supply your own drive. Beneath the slot is a pair of USB Type-C ports, along with 3.5mm aux and microphone ports. There’s also a power button for controlling your PC.
Inside of the housing, there’s room for four additional 3.5-inch storage drives. You can also insert expansion cards up to 11 inches long, with space for up to three GPUs.
Best Slim Design: Fractal Design Node 202
- Mini ITX case.
- Space for two 2.5” storage drives.
The Fractal Design Node 202 is a mini ITX case, and it’s just about as slim as they come. The footprint is 14.84 inches wide and 12.99 inches deep, with an ultra-slim height of just 3.23 inches. That’s comparable to the size of a game console.
The frame and most of the housing are constructed from black anodized aluminum. The exception is the front and sides, which are molded from ABS plastic. You’ll find a large metal air vent in the right side, with a second one in the top near the right. This positioning is deliberate, since the vents will work whether the case is vertical or horizontal. A plastic base is included for vertical positioning.
The front of the case has a poser button near the bottom left, with a built-in indicator light. Even further to the left, you’ll find a pair of USB Type-A ports and 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks. The rest of the front is bare, but be warned – there’s no slot for installing any optical drive.
The inside of the housing can hold a pair of 2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs. That’s not a huge amount of capacity, but it’s nothing to sneeze at, either. More to the point, you can install a full-sized video card despite the narrow design. This is because of the way the motherboard mounts, and it’s a much-appreciated feature.
The case can also support up to two 120mm fans. Unfortunately, the second fan would mount in the same slot as the GPU. This makes it an either/or proposition.
Best Budget: Goodisory MX01 HTPC Case
- Mini ITX case.
- Space for a single storage drive.
The Goodisory MX01 HTPC case is also designed for a mini ITX motherboard. It has a vertical design, and stands 7.9 inches tall, with a depth of 8.4 inches and a width of 3 inches. This makes it the slimmest of all today’s options, if only by a fraction of an inch.
The main housing is constructed from durable alloy steel, with venting on the top and left side panels. The front is made from polymer, which helps to keep the weight down.
The kit includes a black plastic base, which keeps it stable when it’s upright. Alternatively, you can even mount it to your wall or the back of your TV. There’s a set of VESA mounting holes drilled into the right side panel.
All the built-in ports and controls are located on the front. To begin with, there’s a power button near the top with an indicator light around it. Beneath that is a pair of USB Type-A ports with plain black tabs. You’ll also find the standard 3.5mm headphone and microphone ports.
The downside of the compact design is that you can only fit a single storage drive inside. With a 3.5-inch drive, you’ll be able to use a 1.3-inch CPU cooler. There’s no room whatsoever for a GPU. On the plus side, the design is also entirely fanless. Your CPU fan will be sufficient to cool the entire system.
Best Alternative: Silverstone Raven Z
- Mini ITX case.
- Space for two 3.5” storage drives.
The Silverstone Raven Z is another vertically-oriented case. It measures 14.96 inches tall, 14.57 inches deep, and 3.43 inches wide. At this size, it’s perfect for installing a mini ITX motherboard. The housing is constructed from black plastic, with an aluminum frame for support and durability. It’s vented on the top, left, and back, which allows for plenty of airflow. And a plastic base is included to provide extra stability.
The front of the housing has a unique V-shaped panel with a “Raven” emblem embossed on it. It also has a power and status light along the bottom edge. This panel slides down to reveal a pair of blue USB Type-A ports with blue inner tabs. You’ll find the mic and headphone jacks in the same spot.
Inside the housing, there’s room for a pair of 3.5-inch storage drives. You can also install a full-sized graphics card measuring up to 13 inches. It only accepts a small SFX power supply, but the design is totally fanless. The fans on your CPU and GPU – if any – will move more than enough air for cooling.
Does my HTPC Need a GPU?
Whether or not you need a graphics card will depend on what you’re trying to do. For pure video playback, none is really necessary. Even an early-model Intel Core i3 is capable of playing back 1080p video. Modern chipsets can play 4K video without any trouble. If you’re building a new computer, playing Blu-Ray discs will be no problem for your processor. The only time you need a GPU for video is if you’re trying to play back 8K video or get into VR headsets.
The reason for this is that the GPU has little to do with decoding pre-encoded video. GPUs are primarily sponsible for rendering, not for simple playback. That said, rendering is essential for playing any modern AAA game. If you want to game on your HTPC, you’d be well-advised to build one with a GPU.
These are all good quality media cases. But how do you decide to use one over the other? Let’s go over what we’ve discussed today.
We began with the Silverstone ML05B HTPC Media Case. This mini ITX case is very slim, even for a mini PC, so it will only accept low-profile power supplies or graphics cards. That said, it has plenty of space for storage, with up to four drives. That’s particularly impressive considering the fact that there’s room for an optical drive.
After that, we reviewed the Silverstone Grandia Series HTPC Case. This is on the large side for a mini PC, but it’s exceptionally capable. You’re looking at enough space for four internal drives, with two more hot-swappable 2.5-inch drives. And with three 120mm fans and space for up to three GPUs, it’s even great for gaming.
Third on our list was the Fractal Design Node 202. This slim case can support a full-sized GPU despite the small form factor. It doesn’t have an optical drive slot. But with a pair of 2.5-inch storage drive slots, who needs Blu-Ray?
Next, we examined the Goodisory MX01 HTPC Case. This is the slimmest of the bunch, which is perfect if you need the most compact machine possible. It’s also VESA-mountable, which can be incredibly convenient under the right circumstances. On the downside, you can’t install a GPU, and there’s only room for a single storage drive.
Last but not least, we looked at the Silverstone Raven Z. This case is also fanless, but it’s a little bit bigger. You can install a full-sized GPU as well as a pair of 3.5-inch storage drives. We also liked the unique front panel with the slide-down cover.
1 thought on “Best HTPC Media Cases [2023 Updated]”
Great article. I’m trying to free up floor space so getting a PC case that fits into my entertainment center will really help there.