Moneual 301 First Impressions

October 12, 2008

The case has arrived, and with all the components on hand (minus the CPU cooler), at last it’s time to start this project!  Here are my first impressions of the case, complete with the prerequisite unboxing pictures.

The case was shipped double boxed with a generous amount of foam protection around the plastic bagged case.  The first thing noticed when unboxing the case is the black wireless keyboard box, which surprised me since this case wasn’t advertised as having a keyboard included.  Alas, when I removed the box it became apparent that this is just an empty box – a placeholder.  The same packaging is probably used for Moneual’s pre-built 301 HTPC which includes a wireless keyboard.  Another small box niched inside the foam packing includes the Imon pad remote control and batteries, Windows Imon driver CD, optical drive bezel plate, mounting screws, and a special power cable for the VFD.  Oddly, these parts were loose in the box, free to bump and bang around each other, and the drive bezel unprotected in any way from the other components in the parts box.  I expected there would be a booklet or simple instruction sheet, illustrating how to connect the case components to the motherboard, but oddly there was zero documentation included with this case.  There’s also no contents list which would tell me if I received everything I should have.  I don’t know if these negatives are the norm, or if it was simply forgotten about when my case was packaged.  Perhaps the contents were previously opened and returned and stuff misplaced.  I don’t know, but it is a bit discouraging given the fairly high cost of this case.

Aside from these distractions, the case arrived in great condition and looks very nice.  Luckily, the connections for the front panel card reader, firewire, etc. are well marked.  A couple of the connections for the VFD panel were a bit confusing.  I eventually deciphered the connections after a trip to the Soundgraph website.  More on that later…

The case is very well made and constructed from 16 gage steel with a matte black finish on both the interior and exterior surfaces.  The front panel has a brushed finish and the optical drive bezel has been made to match this finish.  While the brushed finish looks great, it’s prone to fingerprints.  There are several ventilation grills stamped in the case, two on each side, two on the top of the case and one on the underside to accommodate PSUs with 120mm fans.  Five flush mounted flat head screws secure the cover.  There are four slots in the rear to accommodate half-height expansion cards.  The front panel is minimalistic with only a lighted power button, the two line VFD display and the optical drive button.  A hidden door can be pressed in the upper right corner to reveal a combination memory card reader, firewire port, USB port, audio out jack and a microphone jack.  This combo reader is a removable standard 3½” sized drive.  The door drops down with a fluid motion when pressed, lending a high end feel to the atheistics of the case.  The smoked VFD window and optical recess are both beveled adding to the high end look.  The case sits on four plastic chromed finish round feet finished off with rubber dampening pads on each foot.

The interior of the case is equally impressive and features rounded corners and deburred edges.  I couldn’t find a sharp point inside the case anywhere.  The case comes fitted with one silent case fan, which exhausts hot air from the hard drive area.  Mounting holes exist on the opposite side of the case for another fan of the same size which would probably help in cooling the secondary hard drive area.  This fan is fitted with both a male and female Molex connector and is powered directly from the PSU.  I was a bit disappointed to learn that there are no noise dampening features built into the hard drive cages, a feature that I failed to evaluate when researching this case.

Despite the minor annoyances with the lack of documentation, I am very happy with the look and feel of the case.  It’s heavy, feels rock solid, and should serve my needs very well for many years to come.  Here are some pictures of the bare case showing construction, connector markings, etc.

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Shopping nearly complete

September 29, 2008

Well, I couldn’t wait any longer.  I grew impatient waiting for the OrigenAE cases to become available again.  I found another HTPC case that caught my eye, and cheaper.  The Monauel 301 is a low profile case that supports a full size PSU and micro ATX motherboard.  It has a vacuum fluorescent display and a sleek attractive design.  It should work out nice for my needs.  I’ve ordered all parts for the build now with the exception of the CPU cooler.  This will be determined after the components are assembled in the case when I can see how much (or little) clearance there is.  Here’s the final parts list, minus the cooler:

 

Motherboard: Abit AN-M2HD

CPU:              AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400 2.8Ghz Black Edition

RAM:             Corsair, 2GB (two sticks of CM2X1024-6400C4)

PSU:              Seasonic SS-330GB 330w        

Hard Drive:   Samsung HD103UJ 1TB

Optical:         LG GH20NS15 black DVD burner

Case:             Moneual Moncaso 301B

 

 

Moneual 301 B HTPC Case

Moneual 301 B HTPC Case