The MS-Tech MC-380 is a great value HTPC case that allows you to re-use an old ATX board. The case has a traditional, yet sleek look which makes it fit in most living rooms.
For many PVR and HTPC builders, money is often an important concern. Since this is just a hobby and you don’t really need that computer, it’s hard to explain splurging on parts. So often one looks at that old PC, gathering dust in the corner. Even a 10 year old PC is still capable of running a HTPC and with the proper capture card and some tweaking it can function as a PVR.
However, that old PC looks completely out of place in your living room, so the logical next step is looking for a nice case. Turns out many HTPC cases are pretty expensive. And if you want one that can fit in a traditional ATX size motherboard, choices are limited.
Enter the MS-Tech MC-380. It is your gateway drug. It’s cheap, it has ok built quality and it can fit most of your old hardware.
MS-Tech is a German company, so I’m not sure if this is available to our American readers, but for all Europeans, the MS-Tech MC-380 case can be found for about €65 / $82 in many online shops.
Opening the package reveals the case itself, a media center remote (with batteries), rails for the disc drive, two options for case feet, the necessary screws and one page of assembly instructions. Those instructions turned out to be for a different case (but with a similar internal design).
The case is surprisingly small for an ATX case. Everything feels and looks solid, however the little sticker over the front panel connections is loose in the corners. I’ll need to fix this at some point. One thing I notice immediately is that the case is going to be a magnet for finger prints.
Opening the Case
The top panel can be removed with two thumb screws.
Looking at the insides, it’s again obvious that this is a fairly small case. The power supply needs to be placed in front of the case, not in the usual location at the back, next to the motherboard. We’ll revisit that choice a few times during this review.
The case comes with a pre-installed is a 80mm exhaust fan.
Installing everything in the case is pretty standard work. There are a few things worth noticing though.
The power connector on my motherboard is directly underneath the power supply. Given that this power supply has the standard ATX size (6×3.4×5.5 inch or 150×86×140 mm), it would have been better if the case was just a little deeper. However, upon measuring my media cabinet, it’s clear that it wouldn’t fit in there if the case was any larger. So this clearly was a trade-off.
Making the case just a little bit larger would also solve my next problem: I’m unable to fit both my graphics card and my existing DVD-ROM drive into the case. The graphics card is 215 mm (8.5 inch) and the drive is 180 mm (7 inch). This would normally fit, if it wasn’t for the power connector at the end of the graphics card. It’s right in the way of where they drive should go.
A slightly smaller drive combined with an angled power connector will probably take care of this.
Two 3.5″ drives can be mounted in their cage which easily slides in and out of the case from the front. The front panel itself snaps on and off with a little force; no screws required.
Here’s a shot before installing the harddrive and before doing any cable management.
The case itself has room for 4 fans. One 80mm fan is pre-installed as an exhaust. The back has room for 2 60mm fans. And finally there’s room at the bottom for what appears to be a 80mm or 92mm intake fan, but the mounting points are incorrectly aligned and the holes are too small. I couldn’t find anything that would fit there.
The power supply location is clever, but fairly bad for airflow. It has to be put in the front of the case and upside down. Directly in front of the fan is a metal plate, which means the power supply will be exhausting its hot air right into the case.
Apparently older ATX power supplies were designed to take in air and exhaust it into the case. I can see that working a little better with this particular case. Or you may want to look into fanless options, but make sure they work upside down.
As always, you should take great care of cable management. The case makes it fairly easy to tuck away most cables without needing to go crazy with tiewraps. Just tucking away the cables helped reduce temperatures of the various components by about 5°C, so it’s worth the effort.
The good stuff:
- Looks perfectly at home in your living room
- Very affordable
- Has room for an ATX board and can fit most components
Look out for:
- Small issues with finishing
- Room is limited, so it’s possible your combination of hardware has just too little room
- Orientation of power supply limits choices and does not create good air flow