m-ITX Cases: SEED MA-280B and Cooler Master Elite 100

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FINAL THOUGHTS

The SEED MA-280B is well-built and its sleek appearance makes it an attractive addition to a home theater. However, it seems to be designed specifically for the Atom boards produced by Intel. The I/O shield cutout is tailored for the Intel D945GCLF/2, although 60W of power is much more than what Atom requires. The Intel Atom boards have loud fans but they can be tempered with fan control, so a reasonably quiet system is definitely possible with such a configuration. Unfortunately, they don't make great HTPCs due to their underperforming hardware and lack of features.

Our attempt to use a Zotac IONITX board with the MA-280B ultimately failed due to the lack of a fan which seems to be a necessity to keep the GPU cool when under heavy stress. The fan for the CPU/chipset heatsink could not be installed due to interference from the hard drive and the case has no fan option aside from the 40mm one for the power supply (which has no impact on system temperatures). Using an ION configuration would heat up the box quite a lot and you would have to restrict yourself to 2D operation unless the case were modified to improve cooling.

SEED MA-280B
PROS

* Attractive
* Solid construction
* PCI riser included
CONS

* Subpar power supply
* Insufficient cooling for ION systems
* nonstandard I/O shield

The Cooler Master Elite 100 seems to be an industrial product — it is well-constructed, but its appearance is underwhelming and it has a large footprint. Its much bigger footprint is a direct result of support for microATX boards and to accommodate the included FlexATX power supply, which single-handedly tanked the product in our view. The noise from the power supply fan, even without a load, was just plain nasty — bad enough to forgo testing altogether. FlexATX power supplies are typically not the greatest acoustically, but this one was particularly bad. Replacing it with a picoPSU is obviously an option, but you could just as easily purchase a different, smaller case and save yourself the trouble.

The Elite 100's microATX support is a curious choice — it extends the footprint of case significantly and given the power supply's location, none of the extra expansion slots afforded by the microATX form factor can be utilized. That leaves the microATX option only one advantage: price. Comparable mini-ITX boards are much more expensive than their microATX brethren. That would mean you would have to use a desktop processor though, which would be difficult to cool quietly in the Elite 100 due to the height restriction — the case is just tall enough for a low profile Intel stock cooler. However, if you use the stock power supply, a loud stock CPU cooler would be your second worse problem.

Cooler Master Elite 100
PROS

* Solid construction
* Supports mITX & mATX
CONS

* Loud power supply
* PSU blocks mATX expansion slots
* Large footprint

Our thanks to SEED and Cooler Master for the MA-280B and Elite 100 case samples.

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Articles of Related Interest
Cases: Basics & Recommendations
Luxa2 LM100 Mini: "Exquisite & Desirable" m-ITX HTPC Case
Silverstone Sugo SG05 and SG06: Gaming mini-ITX cases?
Antec ISK 300-65 mini-ITX case
Moneual MonCaso 301 Desktop HTPC Case
Coolermaster's Fanless TC-100 mini-ITX case
Zotac IONITX-A: An ION / dual-core Atom Mini-ITX Board

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