Silverstone ML06-E Mini-ITX HTPC Case Review


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Building in the ML06-E

Building a system in a case is the simplest way to reveal any peculiarities, and with an enclosure as small as the ML06-E there’s bound to be some to uncover. Let’s get to it!


Installing drives is easy enough – simply remove the drive cage from the floor of the case where it is fastened by three screws (one on the floor, two on the inside/front panel). While I appreciate SilverStone’s confidence in my assembly capabilities, I always find myself wishing this was a tool-less drive tray. Once your drives are screwed in, you have to remove the drive cage again to access the two screws on the front side of the cage in order to remove/add any additional drives. Remember, it’s a niche case in a niche market though – perhaps the additional convenience might not be worth the additional cost? I can’t imagine anyone would complain, even so…


With the drives in, it’s time for the PSU. A quick glance might suggest it’d be easier to install the (SFX only!) PSU first, but it’s tricky to access that floor screw to fasten down the drive cage with the PSU cables in the way. Either approach should work with enough effort. Interestingly enough, the manual does a very good job with a recommended sequence for installing components; the drive cage is the last in the order. I, of course, in my infinite wisdom and countless years of (not) reading manuals, decided to do it the hard way my way. Thankfully, I didn’t encounter too many issues installing the drive cage first, but if you do it the way SilverStone recommends you’ll definitely want to remove the support cross-bar first.


The motherboard installs easily enough on the built-in standoffs. You’ll have to spend a little extra time keeping cables out of the way while trying to position the motherboard in place, as there isn’t much clearance at the front panel – just tilt it, rear-side down, to swivel it in place.


Mini ITX motherboards aren’t quite as standardized as their larger brethren, so your results may vary. On the Gigabyte GA-F2A88XN-WIFI FM2+ board pictured here though, the 24-pin ATX connection (as well as the SATA ports and USB3.0 header) is right up against the PSU edge.


Despite the tight fit, it actually ended up being a little more ideal than the previous ML05 where that thick cable had to run across the front of the case to connect to the motherboard. I should have just removed the stability bar to make it a little easier on myself, but it wasn’t too bad to connect.


If you looked closely at the previous image, you’d see the power/data ports of that 2.5″ SSD right up against the main 24-pin ATX cable. It’s pretty close quarters – you’ll have to choose your SATA cables carefully. I had some very slim cables on hand, but many of the connector housings on the cables most would receive with their motherboards will be an uncomfortably tight fit. 90-degree connectors might be an option, but only for one or two drives. With mini-ITX there are a lot of variables, but if you do lots of small form factor builds it might be worth picking up some purpose-built components. SilverStone actually has quite a few accessories in this segment like their short cable sets and CP06 SATA connectors, which makes sense given their focus on the SFF category.


The revised internal layout of the ML06-E turned out to be a nice match overall for the GA-F2A88XN-WIFI board (with the exception of the 4-pin CPU connector). The USB and front port cables (power/reset/LED) were pretty easy to tuck away and fasten to the front panel, keeping the overall motherboard free from most of the cables.


The front panel audio connector and 4-pin CPU/AUX cables weren’t in the most ideal locations, but they were workable nonetheless. It would have been a simple matter to tie up the CPU power cable along the back of the case but it really wasn’t in the way. The audio cable could still be snaked under a GPU if one was installed; that wasn’t a major issue either. Really, for such a tiny chassis, the ML06-E was surprisingly easy to build in.


Now to place everything back together. The multi-purpose bracket ends up right on top of the CPU cooler – wait a second, those stock AMD coolers are pretty tall, will there be enough room for the slim fan AND stock cooler? The Intel stock coolers aren’t quite as high, so let’s look through that side mesh and double-check before these fans start spinning.


I’d measure it, but I think we’d need some of those metal gap-thickness feeler gauges to check! (I’d estimate it’s about 2mm, if anyone’s really curious.)  While this is one of the closest clearances I’ve seen lately, it performed flawlessly in operation. I’d recommend checking page 20 of the ML06-E manual for specific clearances (with the slim fan, there is 50mm available for a CPU cooler) to avoid any surprises – especially if you’re considering aftermarket cooling. 50mm leaves just enough room for aftermarket heatsink fans like Cryorig’s C7 or Noctua’s NH-L9a. Of course, SilverStone’s Argon line of coolers has a few options as well, although only the AR05 will fit along with the slim 120mm fan (the AR06 will fit without it).


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