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Antec Veris MicroFusion Remote 350 HTPC Case Review

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AkG

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Antec Veris MicroFusion Remote 350 HTPC Case Review





Manufacture Product Page:
Antec - MicroFusion Remote 350
Model Number: MicroFusion Remote 350
Availability: now
Price: Click Here To Compare Prices
Warranty: 3 years



The Home Theatre PC market which only a few years was once a niche market has really started to grow in popularity. This increase in popularity is due to many different maturing technologies. Some would argue people (thanks to TiVO and other PVRs) have started to get a taste for recording TV without the need of external media, which at the best of times was a mix of low quality and short duration. We like to think this is only one such area which has allowed the HTPC market to flourish and is in fact more a bonus side effect than the actual true cause.

The real cause of HTPC popularity is due in part to technology getting faster, smaller and cooler running while becoming more and more accessible to regular consumers. Being able to have a dual core MicroATX based system is at the heart of the expansion; but without newer, fresher case designs the HTPC would still be nothing but a good idea whose time never came. No one besides the hard core uber geek wants to have a big, bulky, loud and all in all ugly beige box in their entertainment center, no matter how many shows and movies it can record. People will put up with a lot of things but when it comes to making a decision and spending hard earned dollars “beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes to the bone”!

Regardless of why it is expanding, the fact of the matter is the HTPC market is growing and as with any growing market, it is becoming quite diversified. This is for the simple reason different people like and want different things and manufacturers are more than willing to cater to our every desire and whim, as long as they see profit to be made. On one end of the spectrum you have relatively massive HTPC cases which can house any enthusiast / PC gamer / etc’s dream system and looks a lot like a massive 7.1 amp. Meanwhile, at the other end you have cases which are no bigger than an old fashioned first gen DVD player (or to show my age a VHS / Betamax player). For this review we will be looking at the smaller end of the spectrum as it is certainly an interesting niche in which our review item just happens to fall into.

As we have said in the past: the market for cases is expanding rapidly and smart, forward thinking manufactures are quick to turn a good idea into reality if it means increasing their market share. Today we will be looking at a one such company’s latest design: the MicroFusion Remote 350 from Antec. This is a “powerfully petite” HTPC case camouflaged in such a way that it perfectly integrates into even the most stylish of home theatre entertainment systems.

This case is an update on the original Fusion 350 as it now comes with an IR remote but the fun doesn't stop there. It also comes standard with a IR Remote but also 350watt 80Plus Antec power supply and retails for anywhere from $180 to $200+ Canadian dollars. As for availability, it is starting to become available through e-tailer and some specialty retailers around the country. Where this is an Antec HTPC case, we fully expect availability will only get better in the coming months.

As with any HTPC purchase ,you have to carefully balance your needs vs wants. We can’t tell you if a MicroFusion 350 Remote is right for you but by the end of the review we will be able to tell you if it is a good example of the genre; and if everything goes according to plan, be able to help you decide if this is even the right style of case for your needs. Best of all we will be able to tell you all this before you spend any of your hard earned dollars. What could be better than that? So without further ado lets get this review party started.


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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications



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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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When we first laid eyes on this package we knew we were dealing with something special as this is one small box to fit a case inside of. It really did harken us back to the days before tower cases roamed the earth and all we had were desktop cases (and we liked it…dang nab it). Though in all honesty, it is even a little bit on the small side for that as this is a Micro HTPC; so space inside is going to be at a premium and you can probably forget about using this case to house your HTPC / GamerPC with monster video cards and a dozen hard drives.

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Size of the box aside, you can see this package is nicely done with more than enough information listed on it as well as some photos of the case. However, there is one thing which we think deserves mentioning before we continue on to the inside of it. The unique item (which some of you eagle eye readers probably already have noticed) is the brand name proudly and boldly being proclaimed is not Antec (though the Antec name is there); rather it is the brand name VERIS which sticks out on this case. In a nut shell Veris is Antec’s brand name for its HTPC case lineup.

In a concerted effort to distance its own HTPC cases from its already great reputation, Antec has certainly taken a bold but risky move. Don’t get us wrong, it does work as when you look at the name Veris you certainly don’t instantly think “Antec”, but by doing so you don’t necessarily equate Veris with Antec’s well deserved reputation. These HTPC cases are certainly not your average Antec design, which is usually (but not always) on the more conservative end of the spectrum. By their very nature HTPC cases are anything but ordinary, so calling them Antec HTPC may have seemed a little counter productive to the marketing department at Antec.

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When you do get over the peculiarities of the outside of this small box and open it up for the first time you get to see that Antec did indeed protect their precious bundle with more than adequate padding; and yes this case really is that small! Just as with many larger designs, the Fusion 350 Remote is nestled in between two large pieces of Styrofoam which allow it to blissfully hover in the middle of the case without any part of it touching the outside box. The case itself is also enshrouded in a cotton like material to keep it from getting scratched. This potent combination should protect it from all but the most extreme of abuses.

With this being an HTPC case, we were expecting to see better provisioned “goodie bag” of accessories included than what is found with most standard cases and Antec did not disappoint. This may also be another reason Antec has added the brand name VERIS to their HTPC line, as a typical Antec case may be a very good and durable product but they usually are not known for coming with a long list of swag either.

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You of course get all the assorted sundries associated with a new case like a bag of screws and this is completely expected and certainly not out of the ordinary. We will get into more detail about this later in the review but for now lets just say getting a PSU wasn’t that surprising but getting a high quality 80+ certified PSU was. Another very nice touch -and its main claim to fame over its predecessor- is the included IR remote. This little remote seems to pack a lot of power into such a small package, and its receiver's seamless integration into the front of the case makes for a very stylish but oh so functional one-two accessory punch. We are looking forward to seeing how well this feature really works!

Also of note was the inclusion of plastic extenders for the modular air deflector. Like the remote and PSU, we will take a more in depth look later in this review but overall this was a very nice touch and the icing on a cake which seems to be made of nothing but icing!
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions


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Here is two very nice profile shots which underscores exactly how different a HTPC case is from your typical one. As with all HTPCs, this case is designed to blend seamlessly in an environment consisting mainly of A/V equipment. In most circumstances the MicroFusion 350 is going to be mistaken for an overly large DVD player rather than a full blown PC. Heck, even amongst your typical size HTPC, this case is going to be considered small; and in this sub niche that is the biggest compliment to can give to a case. When you buy a MFR350 Remote you are not looking for a flashy case which will stick out like a sore thumb; no, when you buy one of these bad boys you are buying it because you want people to think it is anything but a computer. If this is not what you are looking for, and you are more interested in a flashy "Look at me" case which sticks out amongst your typical A/V equipment, then maybe you need to rethink what kind of HTPC case you need as this chameleon like case certainly won't make you happy.

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Besides it ability to help camouflage the case, the top of the case also play a very important role in keeping the system contained within it cool. Towards the back you have two rows of relatively large ventilation holes which allow hot air to passively rise out of the case while also allowing fresh air to be sucked into the case.

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As you can see in the above photos both the left and the right side of the case have ventilation holes built in for two fans. The only big difference between the two is that on the left you have one towards the front (to cool the hard drive zone) and one towards the back which is for the PSU’s fan; whereas the right side has both of its vents towards the back of the case. This double ventilation is for the two 80mm fans which act as exhaust fans for the hot air generated by the CPU and motherboard area. This setup highlights the airflow pattern and internal cooling zones the Antec engineers have purposely built into this small HTPC case.

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The front of this case is tastefully done in brushed aluminum and just like a good ghillie suit that hides a hunter from their prey, this front will help the Fusion blend in with the majority of entertainment systems and helps keep it immune from a bad case of the uglies. As we mentioned earlier, a lot of people who saw this case thought it was an optical disc player and a lot of this mistaken identity was due to this facade.

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The front of the Fusion may be dominated by its chic brushed aluminum look, there is still quite a bit of real estate taken up by the IR receiver and LCD panel. This LCD panel by iMON has been designed to seamless work with Windows MCE / Vista and can be setup to display just about anything you want from titles of the movie or music you are currently playing to system information.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions pg.2

Exterior Impressions Con`t


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Next to the integrated LCD screen is a hidden bay which is very perfectly done and does not look out of place when seen from afar. This hidden bay door flips down when you press the integrated eject button and your drive tray opens up. We have had issues with misaligned / misplacement of the eject button versus its location on a drive, so make sure your drive’s button lines up. It should, but some companies have from time to time refused to place it in the normal and logical location and boy can it be a real pain if this happens to you. If it does, we recommend cutting your losses and buying another drive as it is not worth your time, effort or frustration to try and fix.

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Directly below the hidden drive bay are the fully visible front panel connectors. From left to right you have a lone eSATA port, 2 USB ports and headphone and MIC jacks. Meanwhile, on the extreme right you have your typical reset and power buttons.

Some people may like having these ports exposed but we don’t and really wish Antec had taken their design philosophy to its logical conclusion and hidden these ports behind a flip down panel. As they say, each to their own; but either way this is certainly a minor issue and can’t be considered a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination.

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The back of this HTPC case has your standardconfiguration, if you consider everything running from left to right instead of up and down “standard”. On the right hand side you have your motherboard’s I/O panel followed by 4 half height / “low profile” peripheral slots. Then at the extreme left side you have your power supply. While it may be smaller than what many people are used to seeing, it is a fairly typical layout.

What is slightly different than you standard fare (yet is very common on this style case) is the fact there are no rear exhaust vents. Simply put, this case is too small to accommodate both the motherboard and a fan on the back of it unless Antec further downsized the fan to 60mm (or most likely 40mm). In all honesty, we are glad Antec didn’t do this as 80mm is not only about as small as we like to see, but more importantly it is about as small as what we like to hear! While it is possible to have relatively quiet 80mm fans, it gets a lot harder to make a quiet 60 or 40mm version which moves any worthwhile amount of air. The lack of frivolous extras such as this is something we have come to expect from Antec and we are glad that they didn’t stick a little buzz saw in the back just to keep up expected appearances.

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The most interesting thing about the bottom of the MicroFusion 350 Remote is the feet Antec has gone with. Unlike many cases, Antec has struck an interesting balance between ascetics and vibration dampening, in that the front feet of this case are completely different than the back two. These front two feet are your standard electronics feet found on most high end A/V equpiment and even if Antec had just gone with four of them it would have been noteworthy. Instead of taking even this high road of design features for the back feet, Antec has instead opted for two larger feet which are made of a soft and pliable rubber compound which do a darn good job of dampening vibrations.

Since most of the fans are located on the back half of this case, this small tweak will keep the MicroFusion 350 Remote from sounding like some modern day Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Since the motherboard is also located towards the back, these feet will also help reduce any low frequency vibrations (for example from your overpowered 800 watt sub woofer) from reaching the motherboard and potentially damaging it or one of the peripherals. This is what we like to call long term thinking and it is very nice to have seen Antec do this.

The MicroFusion 350 Remote case itself continues to impress to us with its high quality construction and its combination of style and sophistication show us the hallmark of a great HTPC case. You can easily tell Antec’s designers spent a lot of time and effort on getting it right.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions


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Unless you look very closely, the Fusion with its panel removed looks a lot like your typical bottom mounted PSU case. To us this is a good thing as this design (whether it’s a left to right or bottom to top orientation) does an effective job at cramming a lot of electronics in a small area; and more importantly, doing it in such away as to be easily cooled by just a moderate amount of fresh air.

When you take a closer look at the nudie geek pr0n picture above a few interesting things stand out. Of course, both 3.5 and 5.25 bays are rotated 90° which would look silly on a regular tower case, but are necessary in a desktop/ horizontal case. These little things are neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things; the real interesting tweak is all surfaces which come in contact with the removable lid have been gifted with copious amounts of vibration dampening material. This should keep any vibrations -which could turn that case lid into a big bass drum- from reaching said lid.

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Lets continue this tour with the Power Supply which is included with the MicroFusion 350 Remote. This is not your typical size power supply, as it is undersized though to be fair, we mean the physical size and not the power size as this PSU is 80+ certified and 350 watts should easily meet and exceed most people needs.

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As for the connectors on the PSU itself: you get the typical 20+4 power supply cable, one 4pin 12v cable, 3 SATA, 4 Molex and even an FDD cable. What is missing is the 8 pin 12v cable and 6-pin PCI-E connector. However, as this is not a case designed for overclocking and is in fact designed for low noise environments we can understand why these are missing.

Some people may find the 350 watt output to be a bit on the low side but we think it should be more than powerful enough to run any and all peripherals you could actually fit inside this case. The only real down side to its small size is more psychological in nature as consumers have been brainwashed into thinking ALL computers require (at a minimum) 600 watts to run and you should really go with 1kw+ monsters to be safe. This is marketing hog wash, as very few computers will ever suck more than 300 watts of power unless you have a heavy duty video card (or three installed). Since this case only accepts low profile cards, which by their very nature are “low powered”, massive amounts of power are not needed for anything other than the CPU.

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It is a shame the Peripheral slots only accept low profile cards, but given the size of this case this really wasn’t unexpected. All in all you get 4 slots which while technically enough, may cause air flow issues if you actually try and cram 4 cards into this area. The area is not badly laid out but when you are dealing with really small HTPCs, their air flow and cooling potential are usually the first things to suffer from the necessity of down sizing.

In the case of the MF Remote 350, the PCI slots are not tool-less and rely on the old (yet tried and true) method of screwing the peripheral card into place. It may be old school of Antec, but it does make for a more secure mounting point. In addition, most HTPCs are not going to be opened up all that often yet are going to be near sources of some mega vibrations so makes sense to have everything which can be bolted down BE bolted down. Let’s face it, in today’s world where entertainment centers with their 7.1 surround sound and 800 watt sub woofers are becoming more and more prevalent, massive amounts of vibrations are going to be one of the biggest challenges of any computer system located nearby. Anything which stops you from having to worry about any AGP/PCI/PCI-E card vibrating loose can only considered a good thing.

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The hard drive bay is located just in front of the PSU area and gets its own Tri-Cool 80mm fan. This cage can accept a lone 3.5 hard drive and uses rubber grommets along with rubber feet on the cage itself to help dampen noise and vibrations the drive may create. Of course this has the added benefit of protecting the drive from any of the mega vibrations we just talked about.

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Directly in front of the hard drive cage is the built in IR remote and LCD screen which distinguishes this unit from the older Fusion 350. This small sub unit is easily removed and boy is that a good thing! We get into details later in the review but to actually finish your build this needs to be uninstalled and then later reinstalled! Luckily, all this iMON creation requires to work is plugging in its USB connector to your motherboard and the power connector; so yanking it out is not an overly tedious affair fraught with fighting a Gordian knot of cables. On a side note, the actual USB connector is in fact a external male USB connector with a external to internal adapter on it. It may be strange but it does make this unit “adaptable” to say the least.

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Moving further along we come to the lone 5.25 bay. Just as the cooling components had to be severely curtailed to obtain its svelte Calista Flockhart -5 size, so too did the number of drive bays available get severely cut back. Though in this day and age of super multi-mega moca granda half caf, double decaff burners which can not only read and write CDs/DVDs/Blu-Ray discs but STILL give you a place to hold your cup of joe, one bay should be enough for most people. If you need more drive bays than one then, sadly, this sub niche of HTPCs is not right for you.

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Just as with most encolsures, the motherboard area of the MicroFusion 350 Remote dominates the interior of the case. Since this is called a “Micro” enclosure, and there sometimes really is truth in advertising, this motherboard area is on the small side. We would not exactly call it cramped; rather it is very snug to say the least. This case conforms to the MicroATX standard and only the MicroATX standard. As you can imagine there is no way of fitting a standard ATX motherboard in this area (let alone an E-ATX mobo). It would be unfair of us to call this a negative as it clearly states this is a MicroATX motherboard and in all honesty if you buy a Micro anything and expect your shiny new i7 compatible ATX motherboard to fit in here we hope you are into chainsaws, duct tape and have a butt load of solder on hand.
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions pg.2

Interior Impressions Cont’d


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In keeping with the rattle free, vibration free, low noise philosophy of this case, the motherboard area is not removable and is an integral part of the chassis. This also has the added bonus of giving this case a good bit of rigidity. Also on the positive side is the inclusion of what Antec refers to in its mechanical drawings as a Link Bar. This bar braces (or links) the back of the case to the front, adding a good bit of rigidity and minimizing longitudinal flexing, which can be a major concern with cases of this type. Of course, this bar is easily removable by simply flipping it up vertically and then sliding it out of its notch. This makes installation of the motherboard possible but we do highly recommend reinstalling it when the installation process is complete or you may end up with some unwanted noise or vibrations and flexing.

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As with laptops, the ability to properly cool the various hot running computer components is a major concern as you cannot just stick more fans in without increasing the size of the case. The most common way to help alleviate this issue is by making cooling zones which with the help of air restrictors and air deflectors make separate cooling chambers inside the case. This is exactly what Antec’s designers have done with this HTPC case.

In this instance air enters the hard drive area, cools the drive and is then passively exhausted out the top of the case. This is what Antec calls the “first chamber” in its two chamber design while the second and larger chamber is the motherboard area. As this chamber houses the majority of the hot running components in any computer system, it gets two fans versus the one for the hard drive chamber.

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This small yet ingeniously cleaver piece of plastic can be unscrewed and then repositioned into any of three pre-configured places along back of the case, allowing you to properly position the air deflector / restrictor for maximum effect. This in and of itself is very clever but this little bad boy is modular and has a total of 4 extenders. If you want a long deflector, use all four; if you want a small one use only one (or none!). In a nut shell this allows you the ability to tweak the size, shape and air flow characteristics of the two air chambers.

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This combination of recycling the air and forcing it to cool what would be considered multiple cooling zones in a standard size case gives the MicroFusion 350 the ability to keep the major components of your system cool with only a moderate amount of air. Since it does not need copious amounts of air, it does not need a large number of large, high-RPM fans; which in turn allows this case the luxury of being fairly quiet in operation. This at least is the theory but reality has a nasty habit of turning theories on their ears and end up being something all together different. In a nut shell, the MicroFusion 350’s noise profile all depends on what setting you chose for those three 80mm TriCool fans (the integrated PSU fan is self regulating based on heat levels).

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The three 80mm fans included with this case are, as noted earlier, Antec TriCool 3 speed fans. These 80mm 7 bladed fans are rated to move 34CFM with an impressive 3.04mm H20 static pressure. Of course this is only at their top speed of 2600rpm. In a great move, Antec has included the full specifications of these fans in the MicroFusion 350 Remote’s manual. At their medium setting (a nominal 2000rpm) they move 26CFM and only have 1.79mm of static pressure. At their lowest speed (1500rpm) they will only move 20CFM and have a down right anemic static pressure of 1.0mm H20. On the positive side they are extremely well behaved at medium and slow speeds and are in fact down right quiet at their lowest setting. It is too bad they have to sacrifice so much static pressure and air movement to do so.

The 3 samples which came with this particular case did have the typical whirring and clicking noise we have come to associate with the TriCool lineup. However, the amount of vibration and noise was very reasonable even at the medium setting and it is only at their highest setting did the amount of vibrations and noise created by these fans become truly noticeable. With all that being said, these fans are quite tight and displayed very little shaft slop and almost no off axis slop. All in all they are decent 80mm fans and I personally wish they had been around years ago when 80mm was the “king of the hill”, as it would have saved me many hours of volt mod’ing my fans. The only thing we wish Antec had done was make them temperature speed adjustable as you physically have to crack open the case and slide a 3 position slider on the fans “pig tail” to manually change their speed.

From a structural, design, feature list and even ascetics point of view this is a very, very sweet case. It has a lot of things going for it, all of which have been intelligently designed and laid out in a dual chamber design to maximize the moderate air flow afforded to it by its 3 small fans. With all this being said the only negative design aspect we can point to is the limitation the height restriction puts on CPU (and to a lesser extent GPU) cooling potential. If this was even two years ago this limitation would be a real deal breaker; but as there are now numerous cool-running dual, tri and even quads core processors out there (all of which should fit inside this self imposed limitation) it is not such a big deal. Just remember to be careful in your CPU and HS&F purchases! Later in the review we will go over these options and discuss their relative merits of them.
 
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Installation

Installation


Just like all great stories have a beginning, a clearly defined middle and an actual ending, so too does a computer installation have a beginning a middle and an end. This case is no different and like all computer installations begins with the removal of the side, or in this case, top panel. After all if you cannot access the interior your “story” is going to be an awfully sad and short one.

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To open this case up all you have to do is remove one thumb screw and slide the top panel towards the back and then up. For all intents and purposes this too is typical of more standard cases with the exception being there is only one screw to remove.

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Once the top is off the MicroFusion Remote 350 the next thing to do is remove the Link bar (aka brace bar) as it has to be removed at some point and we might as well add it to the “Do not lose / Safe Place” Pile.

Now that the side panel is off and the Link bar has been removed the next thing we would usually do is install the Power Supply Unit. Luckily, this has already been done for us.

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Good feelings or no, and continuing on with the installation, the manual calls for installing the motherboard next. While this may seem to be a bit counter intuitive to the more experienced builders among us, it is necessary to start here. The reason for this seemingly backwards installation process is actually fairly simple: if you don’t start with the motherboard you won’t be able to fit it in later when other parts are installed into the cramped space.

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Installing our motherboard into this case really underscored how small an area you have to work with and I strongly recommend against a motherboard with 90° SATA ports. This is ironic as we have strong preference for this style of ports but in this case (boy that pun NEVER gets old) there just is not enough room for them. If you do have this style of SATA ports and you absolutely need to use these them (i.e. your motherboard has no standard mounted ports) we would actually recommend installing your SATA cables first, then install the motherboard.

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In all honesty, the Fusion may be small but we didn’t really have any issues with fitting the motherboard into place. What we do take issue with is Antec has only included 3 brass standoffs for this case. The three standoffs (two of which are not threaded) are already installed for you but we recommend moving the threaded one to another position for optimal mounting conditions. We don't mind moving a standoff or two but what we do mind is only having thee of these oh so important items included with the case. For all things you consider holy, please Antec, please include enough standoffs to properly secure a MicroATX motherboard with your cases.

Once your motherboard is installed, and properly secured, you can then proceed to the installation of your video card. We actually don’t recommend using one in this case, and prefer to use one of the many great integrated graphics solutions which AMD and Nvidia have to offer. If you want a low-profile video card, there are a few on the market but remember that the installation of one will resul in a different airflow pattern within the Fusion.

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Installing the hard drive is a relatively straightforward affair, if a bit more complex than simply sliding it into a 3.5 bay slot and tightening it down. The first thing you have to do is unlock the hard drive cage from the case. This easy task is accomplished by simply removing a thumb screw on the left side of the hard drive area and then removing a secondary screw from the top right corner of the cage assembly base.
 
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Installation pg.2

Installation Cont’d

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When the cage is freed from its retaining screws you would think the next logical step would be to grab the integrated handle and gently pull the drive from the cage. Well you would be wrong! The next thing you have to do is uninstall the iMON LCD assembly as it sticks far enough back into the hard drive area as to block the cage from lifting out!

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To yank the LCD assembly out, you simply press in on two long black plastic retaining wings (one per side) and then push down on the top of the iMON assembly. It will rock back and out of its hole allowing you to GENTLY remove it. When this is accomplished you can then continue on with the hard drive installation.

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As with many drive cages, you have to use the integrated bottom screw holes to mount your drive to it. This in an of itself is not a big deal but what makes this a convoluted and curse worthy process even more annoying is this drive cage is oversized so your drive doesn’t just slide into place. Rather, you have to position the drive in the cage so its screw holes line up with the drive cage holes, then snake a finger inside the top of the cage and press down while at the same time screwing in one of the four screws. If you have large fingers this can be considered a royal PITA to accomplish. Where space is at such a premium why did Antec waste so much here? Was this originally going to be a dual drive setup and was later changed to a single?

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Regardless of the reasons, once your drive is in position you can reinstall the drive cage, the retaining screws and then the LCD assembly. Which segues nicely into out next issue with this case: which designer thought it would be a good idea to have the end-user muck around with the fragile LCD assembly in order for them to install a simple hard drive? Space may be at a premium in these little encolsures, but they could have either taken a quarter of an inch from the drive assembly area to allow the cage to clear the LCD assembly; or simply have made the case a quarter inch deeper. We are not talking about inches or feet here, and an extra quarter or even half of an inch would not have been noticeable. Instead we are left with this seemingly Rube Goldberg installation process. This to us is unacceptable and more importantly makes the iMON LCD / IR receiver feel like an afterthought which had to be shoehorned in late in the design phase to appease some PHB or PR wag.

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The next phase of the installation process is the optical drive installation. The optical bay cage is removable and flips up and then out for easy installation of your drive. Just like a regular 5.25 bay, you slide your drive into position and then freeze it in place with standard screws. To make sure the drive is in position, the mounting hole has an alignment notch to make this a snap. When this is accomplished we simply slid the cage back into place and lowered it back into position.

Once the optical drive is in position, the ejector button built into the case should line up with your drive button. If it does not you are going to need to find a work around or replace it with one that has the button in the standard place.

With the majority of your shiny new HTPC complete the only major things left to do is the installation of your CPU (and its heatsink) and your cables. We like to start with the CPU and HSF and then move onto the connectors.

As for the various connectors and cables which need to be plugged in we like to start with the front connectors (power, reset, USB, eSATA, etc.), then install the power connectors starting with any and all peripherals and then finishing off with the motherboard power cables. However, since the LCD screen and IR receiver need to be installed we would recommend starting here and then going on the rest so you don’t end up forgetting them. There is nothing more embarrassing then having to tear down your new system, trouble shoot why the LCD and remote is not working and after hours of searching figure out you simply forgot to plug in the power and USB connectors for it.

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With everything done you can reinstall the Link Bar and replace the top panel since you are now done. Of course you still need to plug in the power cord, your monitor (or TV) and your various peripheral goodies but this is variable from entertainment center to entertainment center so we are going to call it a day here and leave it up to you to meld your new HTPC into your existing setup.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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Software Installation

SOFTWARE INSTALLATION


As with nearly every piece of all in one software we have ever used, the installation of the iMON manager is as easy as inserting the included CD into your optical disc drive and letting it load.

imon1.jpg
imon2.jpg


As with a lot of software you have the annoying nag screen to navigate through, though in this instance it is nagging you to “RTFM” before installing. If you are like us, we blindly clicked “read it” and promptly ignored the rest of the installation. When it is finished you are the proud new owner of a surprisingly comprehensive piece of software.

imon_manager_sm.jpg

In a nut shell the iMON manager allows you to customize and tweak numerous settings all with the simple remote control; heck they even included a fairly decent OSD (On Screen Display) Virtual Keyboard! The obvious goal of the iMON software designers was to allow you the luxury of not needing to use a keyboard and mouse so once set up, you should be able to do almost everything from loading your favorite application (movie or music player for example) to changing the resolution of your screen to even turning the unit off.

This is a laudable goal and from the software end of things iMon did a decent job. The manager is laid out in a very intuitive and user friendly way and while it may not be as slick as the Apple TV interface, it is also a heck of alot more useful. This is where the easy to understand (and also very intuitive) manual comes into play.

As user friendly and easy to navigate and use as this software is, the one area in which iMON falls a little flat is in the remote control. You can have the best, most intuitive interface in the world but if the device which allows the end user to access the UI is less than optimal then so is the overall experience for the end user. In the next section we will go into a bit more detail on why we did not have a great experience with this accessory. For right now lets just say it really was a crying shame iMON (or Antec) didn’t spec out a better IR receiver and a better remote and leave it at that. In the end, it’s not the worst accessory we have ever used and it does come with some pretty good software.
 
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