Ahanix D.Vine 4Dec 27th, 2004 | By Archive
Ahanix D.Vine 4
: 12/27/04 – 01:22:44 AM
Page 1 : Introduction
: ~200-215 USD depending on retailer
Ahanix is a well respected chassis manufacturer in the HTPC world. They were established in California in 2001. There very first case, a rather interestingly design for its time, was the Nobelesse and it was released early in 2002. In less than 1 year's time, Ahanix released the D.Vine HTPC series, since then they have never looked back.
Today we'll be looking at the D.Vine 4 model. Although it's not the latest model, the D4 is an ideal suit for those looking for an HTPC system that can support multiple optical drives and hard drives.
Without further ado, let's begin.
Page 2 : Package
The Ahanix D.Vine 4 case was shipped to me in a rather plain looking box. Their logo was printed on it several times and the model's specifications were also listed.
As you can tell, this box has a few dents in it. The corners are pretty banged up, but there is no need to worry just yet because when we open up the box we see there are a good couple of inches between the cardboard and the case!
Wedged inside the box are the power cord, a manual outlining how to install components inside the case for all D.Vine models and a sheet of paper listing the compatible hard drives that can be supported by the power supply.
Page 3 : Specification
Straight from Ahanix, here are the listed specifications:
Available Color: Black, Silver
Material Front & Cover : Aluminum, Chassis : Metal
M/B Type (Max. Dimensions): mATX / Standard ATX (12" W x 10" D)
PSU Type (Dimension): Standard ATX 350W (5.88"W x 3.38" H x 6.32" D)
VFD Type: 2×16 character Samsung VFD / Parallel Port Connector
Rear Fans: 1x 60mm Pre-Installed / 29CFM / 16dBA
External 5.25" Bay: 2
External 3.5" Bay: 0
Internal 3.5" Bay: 2
Expansion Slots: 7
Installation CD: User's Manual, VFD Software, VFD Driver for Media Center Edition
Compatible OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP/XP Media Center Edition
Weight: 13 lbs (w/o Package) 16.5 lbs (w/ Heavy-Duty Package)
X232 D4 Media Center Enclosure/Black/Silent HTPC 350W PSU/VFD/1 Silent Fan/Windows XP Media Center Edition Driver
X233 D4 Media Center Enclosure/Silver/Silent HTPC 350W PSU/VFD/1 Silent Fan/Windows XP Media Center Edition Driver
Page 4 : Exterior
Once you pull out the actual case, you see that a very thick Styrofoam pad prevents dents and a plastic bag prevents scratching. The first thing I noticed was how light the case was. This is my first completely aluminum case.
The front of the case looks very sleek. Clearly visible is the 2×16 character Samsung VFD display, 2 stealthed 5.25" drive bays, 2 USB ports, FireWire port and the power and reset buttons.
The front panel is spaced about 1 inch away from the rest of the case. There isn't anything too special about this, although it gives the case a very sleek look without having to worry about how the optical drives will blend in.
At the bottom left portion of the front, you'll notice two sleek circular buttons.
As indicated, the larger button is for power and the smaller one for the reset. There is 1 LED for the power while missing in action is the classic hard drive activity LED.
Just across from the buttons and LED's is the VFD screen. Although not apparent in the picture below, the screen is a dark blue color. One must note that this shield size is not the actual size of the VFD. The actual display is smaller. You'll see it in action a little later in the review.
At the other end of the case is the stealthed drive. The two drives are covered by 1 large sheet of aluminum. The sheet is originally glued down, but once that bond is broken you'll see two very small magnets holding the cover closed.
Directly below the stealth drives are two USB and one FireWire ports. Nothing too fancy, given that this is an HTPC case, you won't find a speaker/mic output.
The bottom of the case is pretty plain. It's painted black and there are 4 padded feet. The rubber base will absorb the vibration and minimize any excess noise that would ruin your HTPC experience.
The back of the case reveals a fair bit…
You can easily see the 2x60mm fans installed in the back. This actually deviates from the standard specifications as you should only get 1.
The cable with the parallel port connector protruding from the expansion slots is for the VFD.
The cable comes out of the expansion slot via a cutout. This minimizes the amount of open space into the case and therefore minimizes the dust build up. With only 3 fans, including the power supply, there isn't too much air flow. However the benefit of a solid aluminums chassis is that it will act somewhat like a natural heatsink.
The top of the case is pretty plain. To remove it, you must remove the 4 screws at the bottom of the case and slide it out.
Page 5 : Interior
The inside of the case is all black. It looks rather roomy, but you need to keep in mind that a motherboard, a heatsink and various drives are going to be all crammed in here. Not so big once you factor that in.
If you look at the back, you can see the two 60mm fans; one is clearly larger than the other.
Another shot of the fans and the IO plate. The IO plate will fit most standard motherboards, but it is removable and reusable.
The connectors for the USB and FireWire are removable if they are not supported by your motherboard.
For such case with so little area, I have no idea why the power, reset, and LED cables are so long, but they are all here.
The VFD controller is tucked in the front of the 3.5" drive bay. Whether or not this will get in the way of the hard drive installation, we'll find out very soon.
The last topic to cover is the power supply enclosed in the case. It's a standard 350 Watt unit. Ahanix is notorious for developing many silent products, and their power supplies fit nicely into this category.
The first thing I noticed was the lack of an on/off switch.
The second thing I noticed was that there was only a single 80mm fan. This power supply lacks the dual fan system used to ventilate heat from the power supply and the case. The dual fans would have been nice because the case doesn't support too many fans elsewhere.
Other than that, the case sports your usual bunch of features.
AD: ADDA Brushless DC fan
H: High speed
S: Sleeve bearing
A: 25mm thickness
7: 7 blades
0: Motor protective circuit and third wire by impedance
GL: Low noise
From my research, at a full speed of 3000 RPM it outputs 38CFM and 34 dBA. Seems a tad high but in my testing I found these two fans to be rather quiet.
For this last picture of the power supply the thermal probe is attached to the heatsink.
Page 6 : Installation
For the installation I decided to move my current rig from the BeanTech BT-85 into the Ahanix D.Vine 4. Here are the specs for this system:
NB cooled with ZM-NB47 J
AMD Mobile 2500+ XP @ 200*11 1.65V
Volanco 9 w/Vantec 80mm Stealth Fan HSF
Ultra Products 2*512 MB PC3200 DDR RAM
HIS 9550 Video Card
Generic 8X DVD-ROM
10GB WD ATA 100 Hard drive
To start, I began by removing the 3.5" drive cage and the power supply. This was actually done well in advance. Neither of these removals posed any challenge.
Installing the motherboard is a pretty easy task. Slide in the board and screw it down. For the CPU, I chose to go with my Mobile 2500+ XP. At first, I was going to use my Thermaltake Silent Tower, and for those who don't know, this thing is massive! It's tall. As a matter of fact, it's so tall that I can't install it because it gets in the way of the support beam across the case. I contemplated pulling out the dremel and cutting a chunk of the beam out…then I realized there was more to the problem. I'd have to cut a hole to let the heat pipes out. To make a long story short, I decided it was way too much work and just swapped my Silent Tower for a Volcano 9. The moral of the story: stick with the small, less than 15cm tall heatsinks with this case.
Once the motherboard was in, I had no problems installing the video card. My small 10 GB hard drive slid into the 3.5" cage without any problem. The VFD connectors did prevent me from pushing the drive in all the way, and if you have a video card larger than 19.5cm you're going to hit the hard drive.
Everything else went smoothly. Ahanix boasts the fact that their chassis can support any standard PSU. If you ever have the urge to put something that can give you more power, don't hesitate. The 350 Watt unit will do nicely for an HTPC case, but if you want to turn it into an HTPC/gaming rig, you'll need more juice. The one thing I noticed about other power supplies is the unnecessary amount of cabling. For instance, Enermax is notorious for having cables that are over a meter long, and although the power supply would fit, the cables would be all over the place. This creates one hell of a mess!
The VFD is a pretty basic toy. I've built one before and it's not very hard. To get it working you must download the Port95nt driver and the smartie51 software. Both of which are available on Ahanix VFD Support. It's not all that fancy and the support page provides ample information on how to get it started.
Here's a shot of what I quickly made:
To test out the power supply I'll be measuring the voltage of the 3.3, 5 and 12 volt rails under idle and loaded conditions through a digital multimeter. The system will be held steady under load conditions for 1 hr, measured then allowed to run at an idle state for 1 hr before measuring again.
Although these values are taken from a new power supply, it's impossible to say how well the unit will work in a few months.
I didn't have too many components installed and already it seems that the 12 Volt rail is starting to show weakness. What will happen in the next few months I won't be able to comment on. Nevertheless, my system ran completely stable at the specifications I required.
Given that I've changed a few components, I won't be comparing the temperature values with any other machine I've had.
CPU: 52.5 °C
Case: 39.0 °C
CPU: 45.5 °C
Case: 35.0 °C
The room temperature hovered around 22 °C.
The noise level was bearable. All the noise was concentrated in the one corner of the case where the power supply, CPU HSF and 2*60mm fan were located. If placed in a room where a movie is blasting, then such noise wouldn't be noticed.
Here is a shot of everything installed.
Page 7 : Conclusion
This case clearly has its ups and downs. Although the D.Vine 4 could not be blamed completely for all the problems, it did play a very small role. The engineering behind this device was marvelous. You won't find very many HTPC cases that sport VFD, support for multiple optical and hard drives and that can utilize any standard ATX motherboard and power supply. The problems I had were easily solved and didn't require any modifications to the actual frame.
A modular power supply would truly come in handy in this case. The pre-installed power supply more molex ends than most will ever need.
All aluminum frame
Supports ATX motherboards
Can't install tall heatsinks
Weak 12V rail on included PSU
All in all, I'm very happy with this product. Over the next few months it'll do nicely for my family's movie needs. The ability to have a sleek HTPC case without needing a new motherboard is great. For that fact, and others, I'm proud to give this case our editors choice!
Thanks Ahanix for making this review possible.