Thank you for the well-reasoned reply.
I, too, remember the dark old days of PC computing...of swap meets and hamfests and "computer shows" to find deals, and toiling through the back pages of Computer Shopper to try to find a vendor who seemed worthwhile and wasn't ripping people off. Of trolling the local electronics surplus store, hoping to find a 5-pin DIN male-to-female non-coiled cable.
Where a Tseng ET4000 outperformed others because it was better at bus throughput, when it really, really mattered. Of setting IRQs, and learning the pitfalls (and successes!) of how to share them on an ISA bus.
I remember a $1900.00 10MHz XT with a CGA monitor, dual low-density floppies, a 20MB ST-225 hard drive, and a Star NX-20 9-pin monochrome tractor-fed printer. Of 8250s vs. 16450s vs. 16550s. Of the RTC in this machine being a separate card with a battery, and requiring a program that ran in autoexec. Of wondering if an NEC V10 CPU was a pin-compatible replacement for my i8088, but never having been able to get my hands on one. And of having printed, bound manuals for every. last. bit. of. hardware, included.
But I digress, which I suppose is easy enough to do. Let's get on with that case:
It looks solid. Like there's plenty of aluminum there. Like it would fit in nicely next to the exquisitely-machined billet that comprises my $8k Krell CD player (which was an unexpected gift, so don't think that owning a Krell piece means that I'm spendy).
From pictures, if it were oriented like a desktop tower, the heatsink at the top looks to be excellent for dissipating heat without forced-air cooling (lots of gaps for airflow) and heavy enough to conduct that heat to the furthest reaches. The back plate looks plenty thick enough to do much of the same tricks, which is good because that's where voltage regulators seem to like to hang out on motherboards -- radiating their own heat.
The heatpipes themselves look like overkill, which is not a bad thing in the slightest. It's exactly the right size for a mini-ITX motherboard, an SSD (or certainly mSATA), and (presumably) an optical drive. IR support looks like an option from the OEM.
The box, to be clear, is nice. From these high-points, it would make an excellent box for an HTPC, or a small home-oriented desktop that doesn't ever see modern 3D gaming.
Obviously, it's $190. Even in the dark old ages of computing, I was spending no more than $80 on a case...and usually closer to $30 (which was worth more then, than it is now).
The concept of the Pico-PSU scares me. Here I am trying to find the best, quietest, and most-efficient Seasonic PSUs for my builds for general reliability, and this thing wants a ratty $40 buck converter fed from a sealed-up Chinese wall-wart. (Of course I could put a quality 12V supply there instead of a wall-wart, but that's got its own issues.) I don't want to be surprised to understand what failure-modes can be encountered with a Pico-PSU.
The future. You espouse that this thing, being mini-ITX, is going to be useful in the future for all of its benefits. I disagree: It's a one-trick pony. HTPC requirements are slowly creeping up (with 4k and all), but power dissipation is dropping like a stone down an open well. By the time such a build needs upgraded, we'll probably be back to passive, CPU-mounted OEM heatsinks like in the 486 days (think Cyrix's 486DX2/66 clone).
Further, the mini-ITX format is due to be eliminated RSN, according to my crystal ball, with modern SoC's and ridiculously low-powered RAM: We just won't need it anymore. How much room do we need for a CPU/APU with graphics, a couple of SO-DIMM slots, a few SATA connectors, some outboard IO, and mSATA (or whatever) for local storage? ITX is huge.
I've built silent PCs. For a long time, I had a K6-2 350 with a huge and open heatsink, running passive, in a gutted (but tall, for chimney effect) box with no removable storage, and a CF card to run Windows XP instead of a hard drive (this predates modern SSD). The fan in the PSU was unplugged.
I used it to run KX Audio on a SB Live 5.1, to perform EQ and crossover functions for my office stereo: Really, the whole OS was only there to load up (and occasionally edit) some DSP microcode...presumably, most of the machine could've been turned off at that point and it would've continued to work just fine as long as the PCI clock was intact via some hack or other so the sound card would keep its DSP alive.
It was fun building and finding parts for. It ran quite warm, 24/7, and never BSOD'd or misbehaved once. It served perfectly the job I intended it for, until I no longer needed it for that job. But it wasn't $190 -- it was $4 for the passive IDE-CF adapter, $25 for the sound card, and $30 for the CF card.
I've also build very quiet PCs, but I didn't spend much money on them. Kicking around here is a fully-functional Athlon box, from the bad-old hot Athlon days, which has a solid copper Zalman heatsink on it, with a big temperature-controlled fan, which itself is further slowed by running at 7V instead of 12V. It's enough to change the air over the heatsink, and it's certainly a measurable amount of noise, but not enough for my ears to hear at working distance. (The PSU has similar mods.)
Uptime on that box was measured in years, not weeks or months. I never did figure out why it locked up once or twice in its life -- maybe non-ECC RAM. *shrug*
I like silent, or at least very quiet. I've listed a couple of extreme examples here of what I've personally put together, and I can go on for a dozen more paragraphs about audio gear that I've quieted down. But none of this PC-quieting required a $190 box.
And these days, $190 buys a lot of excellent USB/HDMI extension gear and cabling. You can put an adequate used laptop/desktop in a closet or basement, thus silencing it, and run the HDMI output to wherever. Add USB (some good extenders do both) and an external DVD or BD drive, and you've got all the connectivity you need.
Or: Just run a VM on a bigger/better machine somewhere else and do the same thing.
In terms of total dollars and cents: My next build for myself is going to be based on a hypervisor, not a hardware platform. It will be a little noisy, but not loud, and that will be OK. It will be the silent HTPC for my HT (because it will be located remotely), it will be my gaming rig on my desk, it will be my fileserver, and it will be my lab for playing with all manner of geekery. And it will do all of these things all at once, at all times, and still be cheaper than building both a proper desktop and a silent HTPC.
And it will be totally generalized.
When upgrades happen, I'll just replace the board/CPU/RAM, move the video cards over (or buy new), and power it back on.
And it still won't have a $190 box.