Silverstone ML05 mini-ITX HTPC case

Cases|Damping
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ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system inside a case as small as the ML05 is always a bit tricky, because there's little room to move. Small hands help, as does practice runs of fitting a part before actually bolting it into place.

There was some indecision about which CPU would be best for testing this little case. Silverstone sets no guidelines about thermal capacity, but everyone knows that smaller cases generally can't dissipate as much heat as larger ones. On the other hand, the side panel closest to the CPU location is completely vented, and there's the huge vent atop the motherboard area. The tossup was between a 55W TDP Pentium G2120 and a 65W Core i5-3470S. Not much of a difference... but the latter was chosen, the same as for the Streacom FC8 Evo review. It is about as powerful a CPU as any normal user would want for a small HTPC.

The CPU heatsink/fan usually we usually choose to test small, low profile cases like the ML05 is a Noctua NH-L9i, because it fits on any board and case. But we wondered if the higher performance and considerably larger Scythe Big Shuriken 2 might fit. The Shuriken 2 has a height of 58mm, while the ML05 is spec'd to fit coolers of 37~70mm height. The large extreme would have to be with the multi-function bracket removed, which would limit storage to 2.5" drives. It had to be tried.


A Scythe Big Shuriken 2 does fit, with about a centimeter to spare when the multi-function bracket is removed.

Ultimately, the Big Shuriken 2 was not used, because we wanted to test the effect of vibration from a 3.5" drive, which cannot be installed without the multi-function bracket.

System Configuration:

Sharp readers will notice a power supply is not included in the above parts list. The case calls for an SFX form factor power supply, about half the size of the typical ATX PSU. We have a Seasonic or two to use, but Silverstone actually sent us a pair of their own SFX power supplies to use with the ML05, so it was only natural to use one of them.

The two PSU samples:

Both models are said to feature "Silent running 80mm fan with 18dBA minimum", but the 450W model offers both modular output cables and higher efficiency, so it was chosen for this build. This meant, of course, that we had to throw it on to our PSU load test system for at least a quick snapshot of its noise, heat and efficiency characteristics.


Silverstone 450W 80+ Gold SFX power supply is completely modular.

A condensed test was done of the ST45SF-G 450W SFX power supply, limiting the power load to just 150W since the maximum power draw in our test system will not reach even 100W, anyway. The noise of the PSU was very low; only at 90W and higher did it become significantly audible. The overall character was benign, not exactly silky smooth but not very tonal, either.

Silverstone ST45SF-G 450W SFX Condensed Test Results
DC Output (W)
AC Input
(W)
Heat loss
(W)
Efficiency %
Power Factor
Exhaust
SPL
(dBA@1m)
21.3
30
8.7
70.9
0.95
24°C
13.5
40.4
50
9.6
80.9
0.98
25°C
13.5
64.4
76
11.6
84.7
0.99
26°C
15
90.1
104
13.9
86.6
1.00
27°C
16
150.3
167
16.7
90.0
1.00
29°C
18
+12V Ripple: <15mV
+5V Ripple: <12mV
+3.3V Ripple: <12mV
AC Power in Standby: 0.3W
AC Power with No Load, PSU power On: 7.9W / 0.58PF
Ambient: 11 dBA, 21°C

The ST45SF-G PSU should not contribute significantly to either the acoustics or heat in the system.


Completed assembly, cover off.

Assembly Notes

  • The front panel cables interfered quite a lot with motherboard installation. It was necessary to fold them back as far as possible to keep them from rubbing against the front edge of the motherboard.

  • The PSU cables are well sized, generally about the right lengths for a small mini-ITX case.

  • The 140mm maximum space cited for the PSU seems highly optimistic. The Silverstone SFX PSU has a depth of just 125mm, but its output cables had to be squeezed very tightly against the 2.5" drive cage. The modular cable connectors actually add perhaps a centimeter of stiffness to the cable; the non-modular PSU would probably have fit better into the alotted space, as the cables would be more flexible (where they terminate at the PSU).

HDD mounted on bracket.


Very little space for intake of CPU fan.


There is room on the side, but additional 80mm fans are best avoided due to cable management issues.
  • Fitting just two drives, an SSD and a 3.5" HDD, would have been simpler if shorter than standard SATA cables were available. Typical SATA cables, even the ones supplied with mini-ITX boards, are 16~18" long. Cables roughly half that length would have been welcome for this case. It's too bad neither the ML05 nor most mini-ITX motherboards include them.

  • Even the super low profile Noctual LH-9i heatsink was a tight fit under the 3 .5" hard drive. The space between the top of its fan and the edge of the hard drive above it was well under a cm. This could prove troublesome for cooling. An 80mm fan or two could be installed on the side vented panel, but with the cabling issues, this could be a tricky matter.
  • It would be a tight fit, but a half height PCIe card could be fitted without too much trouble — assuming the card isn't very thick.

The dust filter is very fine and virtually see-through but it does inhibit airflow quite a lot. Not recommended unless you have lots of thermal headroom. It's magnetic, so you can try it easily; just place it over the top vent on the cover. It sticks in place. Removes just as easily.


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