Building in the ML04
Now that we’ve seen how much space there is for mATX and mini-ITX boards, let’s place the rest of the components in and see how it looks.
A 3.5″ drive fits in this bay and mounts to the holes that already have rubber grommets installed (an extra set of these grommets is included for mounting a 3.5″ drive in the optical drive bay). This is probably the best location for a bigger hard drive, and the vibration dampening grommets should help cut down on noise that is transmitted to the chassis.
If you’d like you can also use the plastic stand to install either a 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive. The screws to secure this stand to the chassis are located on the right side, so to keep them accessible the drive hangs off quite a bit to the left. The entire assembly needs to be removed to attach drives – it’d be nice to find a way to avoid that if possible.
2.5″ drives fit a little better on the stand (although that doesn’t impact performance whatsoever, that’s purely a cosmetic observation) but again the bracket needs to be removed to install or swap drives.
If you need the storage space and are willing to give up the optical drive bay to get it, two more 2.5″ drives (or a single 3.5″ drive) can be installed in this location, just remember to install the additional vibration-dampening grommets for the 3.5″ drive.
If you opt for a full length Blu-ray drive (or DVD burner/combo drive – although these are easier to find in shorter sizes), you’d better be using the recommended 140mm sized power supply. SilverStone sent along one of their Strider Essentials 80+ series of PSUs (the 400W SilverStone Strider Essentials, model SST-ST40F-ES, $44.99 Newegg / Amazon) which is a great match for this case. Its 140mm length allowed a full size (Sony Optiarc BR-5100S, 190mm / 7.48 in long) Blu-ray drive to fit if only just barely – there isn’t another millimeter of wiggle room here. A right angle SATA connector is a must, and low profile SATA leads would be helpful too (the ones on the Essentials series PSU from SilverStone fit nicely). You may even want to remove the support bars from the top and side of the case (to take advantage of the case flex) to help line up the mounting holes for the optical drive – I didn’t need to, but I had to apply an uncomfortable amount of pressure to get the Blu-ray drive secured. At least I know the power/data cables won’t jiggle loose!
The mini-ITX motherboard frees up a lot of room, and most of the cabling I could just tuck under the optical drive bay. To clean up the wiring a little more, I’d probably spend some time bundling the LED and switch wires together and sleeving them to make them easier to route and manage. The A10-5800K APU I’m using means I can get by with the integrated graphics, but wiring could get a little more interesting with a full micro-ATX motherboard and all PCI expansion slots filled. The cable ties included with the case and the adequate tie-down points in front of those expansion slots will undoubtedly help though, and with a little work you could have very tidy wiring (that plastic drive bracket will actually redeem itself a bit with micro-ATX boards, as cables can be routed underneath it pretty easily – in fact, looking at these pictures later helps me realize I should have used it for routing the main 24-pin ATX cable on this build).
With the system assembled there’s a couple more things to cover – or uncover, perhaps? The entire front face plate (made entirely of a hefty aluminum) flips down to expose the USB 3.0 / headphone / mic ports, optical drive and power/reset buttons. It also manages to hide all of the logos prevalent on optical drives for a cleaner appearance (perhaps the SilverStone logo would have been better located on the inside panel as well for a completely uninterrupted look – even just the “snowflake” logo in the corner would be better). On the back of the opened cover, you’ll see a latch that slides down to “lock” the external power button, preventing that button from powering on or off the system which is a wonderful and welcome option for an HTPC case.
The power LED shines through the front face, but it’s dim enough to not be distracting. If you disagree, place your finger right underneath the LED and you’ll feel a little slider that allows you to adjust the brightness (or just block the LED entirely). These little touches are what getting a dedicated HTPC case are all about, and are thoughtful additions for HTPC users. The magnet used to hold the hefty aluminum face plate could stand to be a bit stronger, but one good “squeeze” depressed the plastic covering enough to get a little stronger attraction between the magnets. I’d assume there’s probably some variation between the magnets used, so your experience may differ.