ML04 Detailed Features
Now that the external features are covered, let’s pull off the cover and look inside.
There aren’t many additional accessories included with the ML04 but the magnetic dust filter and reusable cable ties are welcome items. The plastic key to unlock the front panel is a must of course, and there’s an additional set of yellow rubber gaskets for dampening vibrations from hard drives – as well as a simple manual and a bag of screws. I still struggle to understand why 2.5″, 3.5″ and 5.25″ devices all have different screws, but it doesn’t make sorting through a collection of screws any easier (I’ve been irrevocably spoiled by cases that separate these screws for you…).
Anyway, this is a SilverStone case – and an HTPC case at that, so you should know to have a screwdriver close by. I’m not sure if any HTPC case I’ve worked on had extensive tool-less features, so this is to be expected. Removing three screws from the back releases the top lid and exposes the internals. The layout is actually pretty spacious for a micro-ATX HTPC enclosure, and I’m glad to see I won’t need to cram my hands in tight spaces to attach drives or route cables.
The layout is pretty straightforward as well (essentially the same as the previous ML03), and everything is readily accessible. I didn’t need to remove the bracing rod (necessary to keep the sides square) for any part of the install, but that’s easily removed too if it bothers you. In fact, I found those two metal rods to double as convenient handles for lifting and turning the system during the build process.
This unique apparatus is a stand for mounting either a 2.5″ or 3.5″ hard drive (or SSD, of course). You’ll get a better idea of how it works on the next page, but I can’t help but wonder if there could have been a better solution. The stand helps drives clear the motherboard, but it just seems very inefficient – to mount drives, you’ll need to remove it and flip it upside down to gain access to the mounting screw locations. Honestly, there’s already a 3.5″ drive bay under the optical drive, I would have preferred to stack a couple 2.5″ drives on their edges next to the front panel instead of having to deal with this bracket.
There isn’t a lack of 2.5″ drive mounting locations though as two can be mounted instead of an optical drive up top, one in front of the power supply and one under the optical drive bay (attaching SATA power cables might get tricky on these two). At least there’s quite a few tie down points to help direct and manage cables to these drives since they’ll be pointing in different directions.
Since this is a mATX home theater PC case, I wanted to at least show what that size of board would look like installed. This Biostar board is a little “narrower” than some mATX cases (most with four DIMM slots will extend to the additional set of standoffs, right in front of the plastic drive bracket). You can see that stock coolers (and only low profile aftermarket CPU coolers, up to 70mm in height) will be able to fit easily in the ML04.
I chose to utilize my ASRock FM2A85X-ITX board for this build, as I like having the additional graphics power of AMD’s APU processors in systems without discrete graphics. Mini-ITX boards free up even more room, although if you really want to have a small HTPC you might want to take a look at SilverStone’s 7-liter ML05. The relatively compact ML04 looks almost cavernous with a mini-ITX board, but there’s enough space in front of even a micro-ATX board to do a decent job of managing cables.