Building in the ML08
So let’s get to it! Don’t worry, I read the manual this time…
…and promptly installed the PSU upside down. No, it’s correct in the photo above, but…let’s just say this wasn’t the first photo I took. Anyway…see those two holes right below the PSU? You may not find it necessary, but those two holes are for the plastic PSU bracket included in the accessory package. If the PSU/CPU area is facing “down” when the ML08 is used horizontally it may help prevent this area from warping, but it seems more for peace-of-mind when transporting the ML08 than anything else (most users would probably omit it entirely).
The motherboard installs easily enough alongside the PSU. There’s even enough room for cables beside the RAM and along the chassis sidewall, although there aren’t any holes in the frame to assist in ventilation like the first “Z” cases.
There are cable routing holes in that side wall though, making it a little easier to keep cables out of the way of the CPU fan. The PSU bracket gets in the way of the main 24-pin cable on the Gigabyte B85 Phoenix WiFi board pictured here, but only marginally.
Those front panel header cables need a lot more room than the PSU bracket could give them. The reset button’s cable only just reached – I had to route it directly over the CPU fan in order to connect it to the front panel header on this motherboard. Most ITX motherboards tend to include this front panel header by the RAM slots, which would be ideal in the ML08. Still, for a worst case scenario, with some dedicated cable routing skills it probably isn’t impossible. If you’re using an ITX board with the front panel header in the same location as pictured above you may want to consider picking up some extensions.
At least the USB 3.0 and audio cables didn’t suffer the same fate. There was even enough room to route the front panel audio cable along the PCI-E slot – remember, this will use a riser card anyway, which should nicely bracket the cable and keep it out of the way.
Remember that part about reading the manual? Well…I was so excited that the ML08 had tool-less 2.5″ drive trays (my main complaint from the first “Z” cases) that I figured I was safe. They’re very easy to use – just pop up one end and slide your SSD in. There’s even markings on the drive tray to orient your SSD correctly! Who needs a manual, right?? I lined up the connectors with the markings and slid in the Samsung 840 to the stops, then connected the power/data cables and…couldn’t snap it into place. What have I done.
A quick check of the manual highlights my error. I had lined up the SATA connectors marked on the tray with the SSD upside down (drive label facing out). At least they’re tool-less…it took mere seconds to pop it out and flip it around. It even gives us a nice opportunity to see how SilverStone cleverly dealt with the two main sizes of SSDs on the market (7mm/9mm): a series of four nubs that keep tension on a slim 7mm drive (or slide out of the way of a thicker 9mm drive).
Ah, there we go. Frankly, this orientation is much better for cable management – the power/data cables will overhang the PCI-E slot, which won’t be a problem since the GPU doesn’t mount there anyway! Drives are easy to connect at any point and easy to move/add later. These tool-less drive trays are my favorite part of the ML08 and one of the best improvements to the second iteration(s) of the “Z” chassis.
Let’s move to the graphics. The PCI-E riser card slides in easily enough (even after the first drive tray is filled). To secure it in place, we’ll need to move to the GPU compartment by flipping the case over.
The brass standoffs are fastened to the chassis by two screws, which makes this portion of the assembly very secure. Adding and removing GPUs from this point on feels much better than any case I’ve worked in previously, since there’s no hint of the motherboard warping/sagging etc. Simple and effective engineering.
In order to clear the chassis frame that separates the two sections an additional riser (included) will need to be used. It works the same as the extension included with the RVZ01/ML07/FTZ01 cases – simply slide it over the PCI-E connector and it will span the gap to the riser card.
The whole thing slots directly into the PCI-E riser assembly. There’s quite a bit of room here – even the 10.5″ Nvidia reference cooler, longer than the (9.5″) pictured GTX 660, would fit with room to spare. It’s actually pretty nice not having to worry about clearing motherboard components or reaching around a large GPU to connect SATA cables/USB motherboard headers/etc. – this whole area is very easy to work in and a noticeable improvement over the (already quite accessible) GPU compartment of the earlier chassis.
The ML08 has room for graphics cards up to 13″ in length (and 4.78″ in width) which would accommodate cards as large as the R9 295 – not that there would be any place to mount the radiator portion… The most powerful card likely to see use in this case would probably be the GTX 980ti (although the Titan X would have the same dimensions, if all used the NVTTM reference cooler), which would fit with ease.
Even wider cards like MSI’s Twin Frozr series fit just fine in the ML08. How can that be, you ask? After all, the official width limit is 4.78 inches (121.4 mm) and the GTX 960 pictured above is 5.5 inches (not quite 139mm) wide! The main purpose of the width limit is to prevent any conflict right at the corners, where the chassis frame is braced. The middle is completely clear out to the outer panel that wraps around the top. While it’s an approximation, the red line in the photo above should show how much room there actually is in the ML08’s GPU compartment (about 165 mm).
An optional GPU support bracket is included with the ML08. It won’t really fit the wider cards like the MSI GTX 960 shown above, but it does expand to fit most other cards and mounts in a series of holes in the frame. It probably won’t be necessary if the ML08 is used in a vertical orientation, but it’s a welcome option for a case that is likely to be transported often.
Three distinct mounting points allow for a range of card sizes/widths. There is another set of mounting points for shorter GPUs further towards the back of the case.
I wanted to include a quick snapshot of the “bottom” of the ML08, since there is actually some cable management area here. The ATX power supply can be connected without having to remove the entire assembly, and the CPU power cable routes easily through here too. It’s too bad the front panel cables aren’t long enough to route up here, there’s certainly enough width to accommodate more cables.
The tinted “I/O window” does an excellent job of subduing the (already pleasant/not blinding) blue power LED, which is lit indirectly (ever an important detail for any chassis potentially used as an HTPC).
Even with the tinted panel open the power and HDD activity lights aren’t overwhelming. The USB ports are recessed a few millimeters, but there should be enough clearance around the port for most devices (exceptionally wide flash drives might have a bit of trouble, but at least you’ll be able to use both ports without a device blocking the other one).