Perfect Home Theater (PHT) FLS-8 Silent Chassis
There are a number of factors to consider when searching for an HTPC chassis--size, heat dissipation, noise level, materials, and construction are just a few--and the Perfect Home Theater (PHT) FLS-8 performs incredibly well in all of these categories. But is it truly “perfect”? Read on to find out.
If you are a regular on Missing Remote you may be thinking “I’ve seen this case before,” and you would be partially correct. The FLS-8 is the larger cousin to the Streacom FC5 that we reviewed back in 2011. Like that case, the PHT FLS-8 is a fanless chassis constructed entirely of aluminum, which keeps it fairly light (about 12lbs) for a case of its size, and also quite sturdy. Unlike the FC5, this chassis supports ATX motherboards in addition to Micro ATX and Mini ITX motherboards. There are a few other design improvements which we will cover later that make this a worthy successor to the FC5.
Extruded and Sandblasted Aluminum in Silver or Black
ATX, Micro ATX, Mini ITX
2 x 3.5”
3 x 2.5”
Passive Cooling System
2 x Full Height Expansion Slots (Riser Card Required)
2 x Side Facing USB 3.0 (3.0 Cable Required)
160W or 150W PICO PSU with External AC/DC Adapter Recommended
Dimensions (L x W x H )
435mm x 319mm x 100mm
Packaging & Hardware
The PHT FLS-8 came well protected with the Perfect Home Theater branded box packed inside a standard brown shipping box. Unlike other cases, this meant the standard shipping box took the abuse and the branded box and chassis inside were in great shape. The chassis was well protected by Styrofoam padding and the accessory box was nestled within the Styrofoam as well.
The accessory box held the standard heat sink pipes, attachment plates, thermal compound, screws, etc. The optional short heat sink pipes and IR receiver kit which we received with the review unit were packed inside the case. The packages for the heat sink pipes are numbered, so it’s very important to keep them in their packaging until you are ready to install them. Like the FC5, a full user manual was not included, is very necessary, and is available here (PDF).
While the sandblasted aluminum on the FLS-8 makes for a beautiful finish that fits in nicely with any media rack or entertainment system, it shows rub marks very easily. Fortunately, those are quickly removed by rubbing lightly with a damp cloth; just be ready to do this any time you work on or move the unit. Our review chassis is black, so we cannot comment on whether the silver also shows rub marks this easily.
The four feet on the bottom and the dual row of vents on the top allow for ample air circulation and the sides of the unit are fins that work as radiators for the internal heat sinks. The two onboard USB 3.0 ports are located between these fins, which makes for a clean look. However, it can be tricky getting smaller USB devices, like Logitech’s unifying receivers, into and out of this space. We recommend using these ports for standard thumb drives, USB data cables, etc, and plugging anything smaller into the motherboard USB ports in the back. There are two add on slots on the back of the unit for expansion cards, but you’ll need a riser card to utilize this feature. There is also a hole for the internal power supply connection, and learning from our experience with the FC5, the PSU we tested this time reached without issue.
Intel(R) Celeron(R) G1820
Passive Cooling System with Optional Short Heat Pipes
Mushkin Essentials 2GB DDR3 SDRAM
Intel HD Graphics
Seagate Barracuda ST1000DM003 1TB 7200 RPM
Mini Box PicoPSU-150-XT 150W DC ATX PSU with 12A/144W External AC Adapter
Windows 7 Enterprise
This is where the differences between the FLS-8 and FC5 become apparent, and where the FLS-8 separates itself from its predecessor. That said, our advice regarding unconventional chassis such as this still applies here. Do your research and choose your components carefully.
We strongly suggest downloading the user manual and paging through it before starting your build. Just getting the case open can be a chore without it. The secret is the screws holding the cover are located between the radiator fins on the sides of the case. The top of the case slides off easily once these are removed.
The key feature for building with this case is the metal bracket that secures up to two 3.5” and three 2.5” HDDs/SSDs and an optional slim slot-loading optical drive. This keeps the HDDs away from the motherboard and CPU and allows for more airflow around each component. The bracket tilts up for easier access to the interior of the case, including the connections for the two built-in USB 3.0 ports, the IR receiver, and the power button and LED. The IR receiver was an option, so we had to mount the control board using the stand-offs located next to the USB 3.0 control board. You’ll want to make sure all of these connections are installed and ready to go before you do anything else with your build. We made the mistake of not securing the IR controller before installing the motherboard, making it was a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
In addition to allowing access to the front panel connections, the 3.5” HDDs are installed on the underside of the bracket, and can only be accessed when it’s tilted up. The bracket is just wide enough to accommodate the drives, so it’s a very snug fit. We secured our HDD with the included thumb screws and it was onto the motherboard.
The FLS-8 has a number of pre-installed stand-offs to accommodate the motherboard of your choice. It also includes four smaller stand-offs that are attached to the back of the motherboard before you install it. They are necessary for attaching the CPU cooler to the motherboard later on. Once those are in place you can find the correct stand-offs for your motherboard and secure it to the chassis. Install the CPU and you are ready to add the passive cooling system.
The install manual suggests dry-fitting all of the cooling system components (CPU cooling pad, heat sink pipes, pipe brackets, etc.) before adding thermal compound or securing anything with screws, and we wholeheartedly agree. It can take some fussing with the different pieces to get them all lined up like you want, so you don’t want to do anything permanent until you’ve got it all figured out. Once it is laid out correctly, the trickiest task remaining is securing the brackets that hold the heat sink pipes against the side of the chassis. Like the USB ports and cover screws, the screws securing the brackets are threaded between the radiator fins. Those with large fingers may find it difficult to get them in place.
The rest of the install was a breeze, with the FLS-8 providing ample space to run the various cables and connectors. If you are using a slot-load optical drive, you’ll be happy to know that the eject button on the case is centered under the slot allowing for the use of an optical drive with either a left or right eject button. The build out in the FLS-8 required a bit of thought and some careful layout, but overall it was a smooth operation.
Testing & Performance
We put the PHT FLS-8 through its paces expecting solid performance similar to what we saw with the Streacom FC5 and were not disappointed. Once again, we installed Windows 7 and used Prime95 to stress the CPU and RTHDRIBL to stress the onboard GPU. Ambient temperature was 74 degrees Fahrenheit (~23 degrees Celsius).
35C (95 F)
31C (87.8 F)
After 5 Mins
59C (138.2 F)
56C (132.8 F)
After 10 Mins
64C (147.2 F)
60C (140 F)
After 2 Hours
74C (165.2 F)
69C (156.2 F)
76C (168.8 F)
71C (159.8 F)
As with the Streacom FC5, the FLS-8 performed admirably with temperatures never reaching the limits of the processor. One caveat we need to add is this build was meant to create a budget friendly HTPC that does the basics well. We were aiming for solid HD video playback, music, and some light gaming (flash games and the like). We did not use a discrete video card or high-end processor that produce more heat, so we can only say again to think about what you want out of your system before purchasing a case and components. That said, if you’re building a setup for more intense gaming or graphics processing, you’ll probably want to consider cases with active cooling since the powerful video cards will have fans on them anyway.
So is the PHT FLS-8 the perfect HTPC case? In a word, no. There is no such thing as a perfect case, as each will have their own advantages and disadvantages. That said, the FLS-8 is a fantastic option, especially if you are looking for passive cooling and silent operation. The FLS-8 has a lot to love from the aluminum construction to the roomy interior, multiple motherboard options, and most of all - the silent operation. In a near silent room, the only thing we could hear was the HDD spin up, and that was only if we put our ears close to the unit. If you were watching a movie or listening to music, you would never notice it. Better still, you could add a SSD and not even have to worry about noise from platters spinning up.
There are things we did not like about the case, but they are relatively minor and/or easily fixed. The price point is going to be an issue for some at $420 (on sale at the time of this writing for $294 at PHT), but like the Streacom FC5, you are going to pay a premium for a chassis of this quality, built for a specific need (silent operation). The build is complicated enough that we wouldn’t recommend it to a first-timer, but not overly difficult if you read the manual. Being that it is so important, we would like to see the manual included with the case, rather than having to download it from the PHT website. The bright blue power LED will also be a concern for some, though you can always opt to leave it disconnected. The onboard USB 3.0 ports are a bit awkward to access, and at this price point it would be nice if a USB 3.0 control cable and IR control board were included with the case.
If you are looking for a silent HTPC rig, then you can’t go wrong with the FLS-8. You won’t be doing any hardcore gaming on it (although with Steam’s new streaming capabilities maybe you will), but playing HD movies, music, and television will not be an issue. There’s even room for a CableCARD/tuner using one of the expansion slots. While the price point is higher than many other cases out there, the features and performance of the FLS-8 make it a good value for the HTPC enthusiast who values solid construction and silent operation above all else.
- 100% silent operation
- Outstanding construction and design
- Supports multiple motherboard configurations using both AMD and Intel platforms
- Expansion capabilities up to 5 HDDs/SSDs and 2 add-on cards
- Finish marks up easily
- Complicated installation
- Manual and USB 3.0 control cable not included
Perfect Home Theaterfor providing the PHT FLS-8 review unit, IR receiver, and short heat pipe kit used in this review.