Home Theater PCs are the fastest-growing trend in home computing. Hereâ€™s an in-depth look at enthusiast case maker NZXTâ€™s first HTPC case, the Duet. With its tasteful looks, clever design, and ample cooling, this case has serious potential.
With its combination of thoughtful design and pleasing aesthetics, NZXT’s Duet sits comfortably in a category already populated by more established manufacturers like Antec and SilverStone. The Duet uses a unique internal layout to allow support of full-size ATX motherboards while remaining narrow enough to match the form factor of most stereo components. At just under $80 without a power supply, it costs about as much as the Antec Solo mid-tower. It’s not an inexpensive case, but it’s well within reach of more budget-conscious enthusiasts. In my opinion, this is a good thing. If you’ve already dropped all kinds of cash on your home theater equipment, why shove a cheap-looking case into your rack? When it comes to looks, the Duet really shines.
That aside, despite the healthy asking price for this case, some of its features simply felt cheap, such as the tear-off expansion slot covers and the included dual-80mm fans. Instead of including the 80mm fans with the case, I would much rather have seen dual 120mm fans pre-installed in the large vents at either end of the case. In addition, the idea of mounting hard drives over the case vents is just silly. I much prefer the solution we employed here, using converter rails to mount a drive in one of the 5.25â€ bays. The Duet is a nice case, though the devil seems to be in the details for NZXT. None of these things are real deal-breakers by themselves, but once they combine they are just enough to deprive this case of true high-end status.
Bad points aside, it took relatively little work to take advantage of the Duet’s cooling potential, and the case performed quite respectably with our dual-120mm crossflow configuration. The included fans are adequate enough for the sort of hardware likely to be used in an HTPC, however. Despite the unorthodox internal layout, the case was unexpectedly easy to work on. I was impressed by the Duet’s ability to contain a system that didn’t even fit particularly comfortably in the larger SLK3700, thanks to a bit of creative cable management made possible by the roomy space behind the front bezel.
All in all, NZXT does not disappoint with the Duet, providing a fashionable case with a solid structure, good cooling, unique solutions to engineering challenges, and a classy external design. If the high prices of the Antec and Silverstone offerings scare you away, the NZXT Duet may be just the ticket for your home theater PC.
Solid-feeling brushed-aluminum front panel accents and smooth-operating door
Plenty of ventilation
External width matches stereo components
Tear-off input panels
Meager stock cooling solution
Two-pin front LED connection which doesn’t work with motherboards that require 3-pin connections
PSU mounting isn’t a simple task
Mounting hard drives over the case vents impairs ventilation
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