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SilverStone has been putting out some really nice HTPC and SFF cases recently. With recent updates to the Grandia and Sugo series, it’s time for the Milo series to see an update. This series consists of slim HTPC enclosures that integrate easily with other home entertainment equipment. Today we’re reviewing the newest case in the series, the ML03. With a reinforced top cover, the ML03 is capable of stacking with other devices making the slim enclosure an ideal fit in the media cabinet of your choosing. The dimensions of 440 mm (W) x 105 mm (H) x 340 mm (D) ensure a nice fit for your parts without needing to occupy a whole shelf by itself. Micro ATX, Mini-DTX, Mini-ITX motherboards are supported in this model, so the case can accomodate some nice parts for whatever system you intend to build.

The ML03 has some nice features like USB 3.0 ports in the front with an adapter cable included so builders can connect to USB 2.0 motherboard headers if desired.  The USB 3.0 cable is the final specification for internal USB 3.0 headers, so it is ready to go when a board with the proper header is installed.  Also included is a magnetic air intake filter (FF141) for the top of the case to help prevent dust from entering. We were surprised to see so many mounting points for hard drives, most of which were easy to access. How did the ML03 do in our testing? Read on to find out. For full specs on the ML03, check out SilverStone’s product page.

Packaging

The packaging for the ML03 is a plain brown box with descriptive printing on it. The contents arrived in perfect condition as usual.

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Accessories

The accessories consist of:

  • Case screws
  • Wire ties
  • Wire mounting clip
  • Fan filter
  • Hard drive rubber grommets
  • USB 3.0 adapter cable
  • User manual

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Exterior

The ML03 exterior is understated and plain except for a strip of textured aluminum that covers the front. There is no worry of the case standing out too much in your home theater furniture which is most likely the point of the design. The front panel has the power and reset buttons, two USB 3.0 ports, mic and audio ports and the power and hard drive activity LED’s. The case has a full size 5.25″ drive bay that can house an optical drive or any number of drive bay devices.  The right side of the case is completely vented with mounting holes for four 80mm fans (not included). The left side also has vent holes, but only part of the way across.

The back of the ML03 has four half height expansion slots and a full slot above the I/O area. The top of the case has a vent area right above the CPU area and an included magnetic filter can be placed over the opening to keep dust out of the system. The recent offerings from SilverStone have been utilizing the positive air pressure design to cool components where the fans all act as intake sources. The ML03 doesn’t follow the same principal as the optional fans should be installed as exhaust fans.  This way, the top air filter can do it’s job keeping the case insides clean. 80mm fans installed as intake fans would not be filtered and would introduce a lot of dust to the internal components. Luckily, the exhaust fans are still able to drop temps by a fair margin over running the system fanless.

The bottom of the case has a filtered opening for the PSU. If your power supply has an exhaust fan you should install it with the fan facing down to pull cool air from outside of the case. You can also see the included rubber sound dampening grommets for the hard drive. There are also spare grommets included that can be used to mount a hard drive to the optical drive tray if none is installed.

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Interior

When we first opened up the ML03 we were surprised by the number of available hard drive mounting points. This point alone makes this case much different than the other ones from the Milo series which only supported one or two hard drives.  The ML03 can hold Two 3.5″ drives (compatible with one 2.5” HDD each), one 2.5” drive, and if an optical drive is not used an additional  3.5″ or two 2.5″ drives can be installed. Micro ATX, Mini-DTX, and Mini-ITX motherboards are supported in this model. Standard ATX power supplies can be used, but they must be no larger than 140mm in depth (more on this later). Overall, the inside seems spacious enough for a great system build.

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The Build

  • Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 Motherboard
  • Intel Core i3-530 2.93 GHz LGA 1156 Processor
  • Intel stock CPU cooler
  • G-Skill ECO Series DDR3 1333 memory (4GB)
  • Western Digital Scorpio Black WD3200BEKT 320GB 7200RPM notebook hard drive
  • SilverStone ST50F-P 500W PSU

The majority of these parts were recently used to test out SilverStone’s SG07 SFF case.  The ST50F-P is 140mm so we thought it would be perfect for this case, but after consulting the user manual it became clear that this case should not be used with modular PSU’s for the most part. The PSU is installed directly across from the optical drive cage. If a drive is used, the backside will bump up against the modular cable brackets on the PSU. This problem can be overcome by removing the optical drive or installing a 140mm PSU that has regular cables. The ST45SF small form factor PSU is non-modular and only a fraction of the size of a standard PSU (100mm deep) and is a perfect choice for a build like this.

Originally, we wanted to install an optical drive in our system but knew it wouldn’t fit with a modular PSU. We then installed the ST45SF which fit great except for the fact that our motherboard’s power cables were located on the opposite side of the board than where the PSU is at. We were not comfortable stretching the PSU cables over the CPU fan and ultimately decided to go with the ST50F-P PSU and build without an optical drive altogether. This build will be used for a Windows Home Server and won’t actually need a drive once the OS is installed (this can be done with a USB drive anyway).

There were a few issues we came across while building our system in the ML03. First, to remove the 5.25″ drive bay cover to install an optical drive the user manual shows to remove it by pushing it out the front of the case. We tried this method, but felt like something might break if we put any more pressure on it. So we removed the metal optical drive tray and unclipped the bay cover and it easily came off by pulling it inside the case. The next issue we had was trying to install a 2.5″ hard drive in the black plastic mounting bracket. There are mounting holes for a drive of this size, but the included screws are not long enough to thread into the bottom of the hard drive.  When the drive was mounted at the lowest part of the case we could not plug in the sata power cable because it was too fat. We needed to use a molex to sata straight adapter cable to power our drive. This is a small price to pay for the option of additional storage but one you should be aware of.

Finally, after our build was complete, we noticed that the aluminum front had started to peel away from the front panel. This piece is attached with double sided tape and was not too secure on our review unit. We prefer the front panel design that we saw on the Grandia series GD05 case where the aluminum skin covered the entire front panel and was secured on all sides. We cannot conclude that all users will have this problem but it definitely left us feeling a little less excited about our build.

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3.5" drives mount easily to this bracket but 2.5" hard drive screws did not fit

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Lots of places to install hard drives. The laptop drive here needed a molex to SATA power adapter to power it up

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If no optical drive is used, this area can be used for hard drives

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Dual laptop drives installed on the optical drive tray

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DVD drive and hard drives installed

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Drive bay cover should be removed from inside the case

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Included hard drive sound dampening grommets

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No room for power cables if modular PSU is used with DVD drive

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Our board unfortunately had power connectors on wrong side to route cables cleanly

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Half height video cards must be used with the ML03

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The finished build with optional case fans installed

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Four 80mm exhaust fans installed

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Modular PSU cables work great with no DVD drive installed

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Front panel peeling off

Thermal Tests

Thermal tests were run using RealTemp 3.6.0. Two instances of Prime 95 were used to max out each CPU core for max load. Ambient room temperature is 78 Degrees Fahrenheit.

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Conclusion

So our time with the ML03 left us with some mixed feelings. There are a few minor bugs to be worked out, but generally it is a nice case to work in. It’s hard to argue the fact that the ML03 is a great value with pricing at $59.99. We would love to see the bottom mounted hard drives raised up slightly to make it easier to plug power and data cables into them. The 2.5″ hard drive mounting issue can be fixed by supplying the proper length screws (an issue that SilverStone is looking into). The final thing that we were disappointed about was the aluminum front piece peeling off on one side. Perhaps we got a bad one, but a slightly different front panel (maybe even all plastic) would probably be better than a piece of aluminum glued on there. For a budget build, the ML03 is hard to beat for it’s price. The build quality of the chassis is sturdy and the room inside is incredible for a case this small. The thermal tests produced great results and the addition of four 80mm fans helped the internal temps considerably without adding a substantial amount of noise to our build.  We loved the USB 3.0 adapter cable that is included. You can run the front ports as USB 2.0 if your board doesn’t have the new USB 3.0 headers or run as USB 3.0 if it does have them.  Builders on a budget might want to take a closer look at the ML03.