Modding the Popcorn Hour A-200 With A 3rd Party Case

by Damian on May 24, 2010 · 18 comments

in News

One of the biggest criticisms of the Popcorn Hour A-200(see my full review here) revolved around the design. The Popcorn Hour A-100, A-110, and C-200 (see my full review here) had all used an aluminum case and were fanless. This helped ensure that the devices ran quiet and cool, two very important things for any A/V setup. For whatever reason Syabas decided to take a different approach with the Popcorn Hour A-200 and instead opted for a cheap plastic case and an internal fan. What made the plastic case even worse was that all ventilation holes were placed along the side and bottom of the case. As we all know heat rises, and with no ventilation holes at the top of the case all the internal fan does is simply recirculate the hot air. So far I have not had heat issues with my A-200 (but in all fairness it is on top of a TV stand out in the open and not in an enclosed cabinet) and although audible I don’t find the fan loud (and can definitely not hear during a movie). However, other users have been more sensitive to the fan noise and/or heat issues, so modifications have been popping up. Simple mods such as drilling a few holes in the top of the case to allow for better airflow to designing brand new cases have surfaced. One company called Moovika decided to create a custom case for the PCH A-200. Since I am just not creative enough to design my own case I decided to purchase the Moovika case. The case can be purchased through Popcorn Hour France for EUR 39.00. Since I live in the States that translated into USD 74.98 including shipping. The PCH A-200 cost me USD 196.95 including shipping, so the total cost for the A-200 with the mod comes out to USD 271.93. Cost is definitely something to consider because at this price it comes awfully close to the PCH C-200. I finally received the case last week and had a chance to put together yesterday which I documented below.

Before proceeding I should mention that replacing the case WILL NOT invalidate the warranty on the PCH A-200. However, removing the fan WILL invalidate the warranty. The Moovika case comes with a heat sink that can be used to replace the fan. Since I did not want to mess around with the warranty I decided to stick with the fan (the warranty is for 1 year so after the year is up I may remove the fan).

- As a quick reminder, below is what the plastic PCH A-200 case looks like.

- There is really not much to the new case parts. Included are the front/back panels, top/bottom of the case, 2x side panels, mounting screws, heat sink, thermal paste, and rubber feet

- The first step is to remove the motherboard and A/V daughterboard from the PCH A-200. The motherboard is attached to the case by 3 screws, and  the daughterboard by 2 screws. Once the screws were removed it was just a matter of maneuvering everything out of the case

- The front of the PCH A-200 case has a little plastic strip with icons for the various indicators (i.e. power). This gets reused in the new case. To remove I used the eraser end of a pencil to push out the strip from the inside of  the case.

- With the motherboard/daughterboard and plastic strip removed it is now time to assemble the Moovika case. First, screw the boards onto the bottom panel using the screws provided (3 screws for motherboard and two screws for daughterboard).

- Next, take the plastic strip and place along the cut out area of the front panel.

- For each side panel place two silver nuts along the grooves at the top. These nuts are what the screws will grab on to to secure the top and bottom plate. Place the side panels along the bottom plate, pushing so it is flush with the front of the case. One side of the side panel has one groove, while the other side has two grooves. The side with two grooves should be facing the outside of the case.

- Flip the case over, screw the bottom plate to the side panels (you may have to move around the silver nuts to get them to line up properly with the screw holes) and attach the rubber feet.

- If you are replacing the fan with the heat sink, at this point this is where you would install. However, since I am sticking with the fan I skipped that step and went right to installing the front and back panels.

- The original PCH A-200 case comes with a HDD plate that is used for installing an internal hard drive. Even if you don’t plan on using an internal hard drive it is still worth setting up just in case. If you look at the top pf the plate there is a little tab that sticks out. With this tab the plate will not fit in the new case, so it needs to be clipped off (I just used a pair of scissors).

- With the tab clipped off the HDD plate can now be screwed into the new case.

- The last step is to secure the top plate.

- Some comparison pictures of the old case versus the new case. You can see the size remains the same.

Final Thoughts:

In total it took me about 30 minutes to put everything together and it was very easy to do. The case did not come with a set of instructions but I was able to find them on the Popcorn Hour France site under the case download section. Overall I would say I am very happy with the case. It definitely gives the PCH A-200 a more “professional” look that fits in better with most home theater setups. I appreciate the sturdy feel of the new case instead of feeling like I have a plastic toy. Modding the PCH A-200 case is definitely not necessary, especially considering any added costs will offset the perceived value of the A-200. Whether modded or not though there is no doubt that this is what the PCH A-200 should have looked like in the first place.





Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found Mediasmartserver.net, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for Mediasmartserver.net you can find me over at my blog at http://www.adigitalhomeblog.com or follow me on twitter


{ 18 comments }

Jason May 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

Can’t wait till mine shows up… it is in the 2nd batch but still shows that it is waiting to be dispatched out of France.

Damn slow French post office! :)

Alex Kuretz May 24, 2010 at 10:57 am

That definitely looks nicer, in my opinion, and quite simple to install. Thanks for showing us how it’s done!

ladino May 25, 2010 at 1:44 pm

My A-200 is in my bedroom & I could still hear the fan from over 10ft away, I got the new case removed the fan & threw away the plastic case. I love the new gun metal look

Damian May 25, 2010 at 2:50 pm

As y ou know there is nothing special about the new case, but it is amazing what a difference it makes. I don’t know if Syabas was trying to keep costs down but I would think that with nothing more then a $20 max increase in price the A-200 could have had an aluminum case and no fan. Well worth it if you ask me.

Hrki June 12, 2010 at 6:58 am

In the plastic case my hdd wd black 1 TB is very warm, which made me very worried. Somehow I think if you put a 200 in new case that will automatically and my HDD to be colder. I have been thinking about passive cooling for the HDD if it is possible to incorporate? What do you think?

Damian June 12, 2010 at 7:24 am

@ Hrki,

If you keep the original A200 case one thing you may want to do is make holes in the top lid to allow for better airflow out of the case. That is part of the problem with the current A200 case, all the vents are on the side/bottom of the case which makes no sense since hot air rises. I wouldn’t worry about the HDD as much as getting proper airflow in the case

Hrki June 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Damin if I buy this new case; is it possible to put the other a passive cooler on the chip, or only this one that comes with a new case, (and If you have experience) I would still put a passive cooler (tiles) on the HDD. But I’m not sure if they fit into the case. Of course I look for more on the chip coolig but I am also worried for hdd it because is indeed quite hot, and I would not want to lose data. because
Thank you for your advice Damian

Hrki June 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

Is in this alu case enough space to put a passive cooler for HDD like thishttp://www.acousticpc.com/images/a_zalman_zm2hc2_hardr_drive_heatsink_intaled_pic.jpg ??? Because my hdd is really hot when you put your fingers on it, much more than chip…

Damian June 13, 2010 at 1:37 pm

If I am being completely honest I think there is zero need to do any cooling for your HDD. I have used internal hard drives in many players, and have a 16HDD Server. If I were to touch the Hard Driver directly it is very hot but I have never had heat related issues with a hard drive. Mine typically sit in the 30-40C. Just make sure you have good airflow in the case and the CPU is properly cooled and you will be fine.

Hrki June 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Thanks Damian I needed an experienced opinion. :)

Hrki June 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Damian, what is your opinion on the CPU-s – L cooler (which comes with aluminum case) is it enough or is it better to leave (if you do not mind too much of its volume) his original active cooler?

Damian June 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

@ Hrki,

I honestly would have gone with the L heatsink that came with the case. The reason why I decided not to is because by doing so it would void the 1yr warranty on the A200. I have an A110 that went bad right before the 1yr warranty, so I decided to play it safe with the A200.

Hrki June 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Yeah, for this reason I will wait until the expiration of the warranty. Thanks

complexorange July 15, 2010 at 4:19 am

Hi Damian, great work mate.

My question. My fan is really loud and disrupts the quiet scenes in movies. What would you think about making holes in the plastic lid cover and removing the fan? Would that be sufficient to cool the product? Cheers!

Damian July 16, 2010 at 4:06 am

@ complexorange,

hard to say. I recall reading on the nmt forums mixed comments. Some people said they were able to successfully leave the fan off by adding ventilation to case (holes). Others said even with the holes the system gets fan hot if no fan. Probably best to do a trial and error

nagual July 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Damian,

Is it worth it to go a-200 with the case modding as opposed to c-200?

thanks

Damian July 23, 2010 at 3:51 pm

@ nagual

Honestly, unless you are concerned about the size of the C200, if you plan on replacing the A200 case after you purchase you might as well just purchase the C200. The price will end up only being slightly more, you will have the option in the future to add a blu ray rom drive, and you will get full blu ray menus. I would compare the prices first, and then decide

Joaquim Santos January 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi.

My father is a metal worker (almost retired but still is..) and i am thinking of asking him to do for me a metal case for my noisy a200, yeah noisy at startup because i have a fan problem..
Anyways, my father will do it almost certainly but he needs measures and i want to make sure i give him the right measures so all works fine and then i don’t need to bother him for any more work as he got many work of his own..

So..
I here ask you.. Do that metal case had delivered with it some page with the measures of the metal parts? Some equipments do..
If any paper with the measures exist could you digitalise it or write me the scheme/measures?

I would “not” kill for that measures.. If possible please help, many thanks in advance!

Comments are closed, visit the forums to continue the discussion.

Previous post:

Next post: