Under the hood
Even with a dent in it from my courier from hell, the HTPC 2000B's lid came off smoothly after I loosened the two thumbscrews anchoring it at the back.
The internal layout divides the front and rear areas of the case, with all the drive bays up front and the motherboard and power supply at the rear.
The entire drive cage assembly lifts out in one easy step, giving you unrestricted access to the guts of the enclosure. No fewer than three internal USB headers are needed to fully exploit the external USB jacks, card readers, and the optional LCD screen. With all of these front-panel goodies, one will need to plan cable routing carefully in order to avoid clutter.
The power supply remains the toughest component to place in an HTPC chassis, and nMedia's decided to go the simplest route and squeeze it right next to the motherboard, like in a standard desktop case. This placement should make cable reach from the power supply a non-issue.
Considering that home theater PCs often perform DVR duties, abundant storage capacity is a necessity. With four 3.5" hard drive bays equipped with rubber grommets, another internal bay that lacks vibration-dampening materials, and an external 3.5" bay that can accommodate hard drives, the 2000B offers plenty of capacity. My review sample arrived missing a couple of grommets, though, and it's odd that they're not used on all the internal drive bays. The external 5.25" optical drive bay doesn't have them either.
With most all-in-one drive cages, at least one bay ends up being difficult to access because its mounting holes are blocked by other drives. nMedia avoided this problem with the 2000B's 5.25" drive bay by drilling the cage for anchor points located on the bottom of most optical drives. They've done this for the top two 3.5" drive bays, as well, but because the bottom-mounted anchor points for 3.5" drives are closer together, drives installed to the lower cages will block access to them.
After fastening our motherboard assembly into the case, I put the completed drive cage in place. It was then that I noticed how cramped things were getting in the HTPC 2000B. The Asus motherboard we use for testing has those popular edge-mounted jacks for SATA and IDE drives, and while they might help to avoid clearance problems and clutter in traditional desktop towers, they make system assembly more tedious in this particular case. I found it easiest to use a pair of needle-nose pliers to get the SATA cable connected, but one could also simply connect the cables first before carefully folding them under the drive cage as it's lowered into position.
Unfortunately, the drive cage area wasn't the only place where we experienced problems due to the cramped HTPC 2000B/s cramped internals. Like most PSUs, the Enermax unit we used for testing has a protruding metal grill protecting its intake fan. When installed inside the 2000B, this grill butts right up against the case's 80-mm exhaust fan. The exhaust fan won this little scuffle, bending the fan grill in slightly, but thankfully not enough to interfere with the power supply fan. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem; I'd just flip the PSU so the fan faced the other way. However, unlike many recent enclosures, the 2000B doesn't support multiple PSU orientations.
A GeForce 8800 GTS 512 card was the last piece to go into the system, and it was also a tight squeeze. The card itself fit fine, but to get auxiliary power plug connected, I had to feed it through the drive cage. This graphics card is 10" long, which is pretty common, but anything even an inch longer may not fit into the 2000B at all due to the close proximity of the drive cage. Of course, a lot of folks outfit HTPCs with only moderately-powered discrete GPUs or integrated graphics in an effort to keep noise levels low. The smaller graphics cards associated with lower-end GPUs should have no problems squeezing into the 2000B. Graphics cards with power plugs protruding from their top rather than rear edges will be easier to install, too.