Zalman HD160XT Plus review

Price when reviewed

Korean company Zalman has forged a reputation for cases and modifications for super-cooled and super-quiet PCs. So you’d expect a Zalman media-centre case to be almost silent and arctic-cool – and this one doesn’t disappoint.

Zalman HD160XT Plus review

It doesn’t come cheap, but with four almost noiseless Zalman fans scattered around the perimeter of the chassis, the HD160XT has excellent airflow and enough internal space for passive cooling too.

Build quality is excellent, and the stylish aluminium case feels reassuringly solid. It’s very large for a front-room case, though, dwarfing a Sky+ box in both size and weight.

The six back-plane slots are over-generous for a media machine, and while it’s good to be able to accommodate a full-sized graphics card, other cases allow this in a smaller space. It still manages to feel cramped inside, too, once you’ve installed drives and a power supply.

On the front of the case sits the HD160XT Plus’s most interesting feature: a 7in LCD touchscreen. This provides media control functions and some welcome extra functionality, though it’s awkward to hook up at the outset as the hard disk and optical drive mountings get in the way.

Once installed, it functions as an extension of your desktop, running at a resolution of 800 x 600 (though it will downscale a 1,024 x 768 input if required).

It’s both bright and clear, and really comes into its own when you want to play music without turning on your TV, which is supported by the provided software. The only downsides are that the screen feels cluttered, and, for a touchscreen, it smudges easily.

Beside the LCD screen, the front panel is well-appointed, offering a brushed-metal flap which opens up to reveal a pair of USB sockets, a FireWire port and microphone and headphone sockets, as well as a multi-format card reader.

If anything is going to put you off the HD160XT Plus, it’s going to be the price: £399, from Quiet PC is an awful lot to spend on just a case when others are available for much less.

If you’re willing to ditch the LCD screen, mCubed offers its monster HFX case for half the price. Indeed, Zalman itself offers simpler media centre cases for far less.

But if you’re feeling flush, and you don’t mind its bulk, it’s hard to find fault with the HD160XT.

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