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Steiger Dynamics LEET Home Theater PC review: Extremely powerful; quietly elegant

Michael Brown | March 12, 2014
Microsoft and Sony boast how their latest video-game consoles can form the core of your home-entertainment system, delivering the best in games, movies, and music. But the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 look like dime-store toys compared to Steiger Dynamics' supremely powerful LEET Home Theater PC (LEET being gamer slang for "elite"). If you can swing the budget, this monster will deliver the best entertainment experience you can imagine, in an elegant enclosure that you'll want to show off.

This machine is designed to be the heart of your digital entertainment system, so Steiger Dynamics equipped it with plenty of storage: It boots from a pair of 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSDs (operating in RAID 0 for blistering speed). These drives are augmented by four 3TB Western Digital Red-label drives. WD designs its Red drives specifically for network storage applications, so they're an excellent choice for a system like this that could be used to stream music and video all around your home.

The Red drives operate in software-based RAID 5 for data security (if one drive fails, you can recover the data from the remaining three). The system comes with Windows 8 Pro, including Windows Media Center, and a media-center remote control. If you're a cable-TV subscriber, you might want to consider adding one of Ceton's InfiniTV multi-channel tuners to the package (this was not included in the system we reviewed).

This beast is whisper-quiet

With all that power under the hood, you might be worried that the LEET will sound like a kitchen appliance next to the rest of your passively cooled components. Don't worry: Steiger Dynamics liquid-cools the entire system, including the CPU and both video cards. This entails using one large radiator with dual fans inside the left side of the very deep enclosure, and a second radiator with a single fan that exhausts out the rear of the box.

The radiators, CPU water block, Blu-ray drive, and the top grille on the power supply are painted a stark white, delivering an elegant visual counterpoint to the black chassis. The coolant, pumped through clear tubing, is also tinted white, as are all of the interior power and SATA cables. This adds to the system's visual flair. An acrylic ventilation panel on the top of the machine lets you gaze down into the interior system, which is subtly illuminated by an LED rope light tucked into a lip at the top of the case.

But there is a slight downside to having white components beneath a clear acrylic lid: You'll want to open the case to wipe them down every once in a while, as dust and lint inevitably accumulate and become very visible.

The 1000-watt Seasonic model SS-1000XP power supply Steiger Dynamics selected doesn't add much in the way of noise, either. A thermal sensor keeps the PSU's fan turned off until its internal temperature reaches 25 degrees Celsius, at which point the fan spins up just enough to keep the PSU cool (Seasonic claims it's barely audible at 16 dbA). The fan spins at full speed only when the power supply is carrying a 100-percent load, which never happened in our tests.


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