Due to an upcoming work/holiday trip, I was in need of an even more portable workstation solution. I had a Silverstone Milo ML08b with an i5 Broadwell CPU serving as home/media computer. Unfortunately, the Milo case was still too big and heavy for a backpack. While I have an NFC S4 Mini on pre-order, it won't be delivered till 2018. After trawling the forums, I came across another Silverstone case, the ML09b, an updated version of the ML06. Unfortunately, there weren't many build reviews around using high powered parts and there was only one youtube video gaming build.
I moved the parts from the ML08 to the ML09 and also upgraded the CPU cooler with Termalright AXP-200 muscle. It had 140mm fan and a rated 180w tdp. I wanted something to accomodate light CPU overclocking and possible CPU upgrades. With an AIO, it was possible to overclock the i5 5675C to 4.2Ghz, but on air cooling in a compact case, 4Ghz was probably more realistic. I won't go much into details regarding the Broadwell 5675C, it is regarded somewhat as an exotic CPU. It comes with the Iris Pro 6200 IGPU which still packs a punch for most graphic and light gaming requirements in an HTPC. Unfortunately, it's still lacks power for professional 2D/3D applications use.
The focus is on the Silverstone ML09b. The case only allowed low profile GPUs to be installed. After some research, it came logically to the GTX 1050ti. The low profile card by Gigabyte was slightly shorter than the MSI offering. Only downside was the single fan design but low noise was a benefit.
It was quite a challenge to fit everything inside the case. As you can see from the pictures it is really packed tight. The side panel barely closes. I may have gone overboard with the AXP-200 because it was really difficult to connect everything to the motherboard.In hindsight, I should have connected the wires before dropping in the cooler. The HDD cage is a nice addition to the case which needs to be removed if you want to install an SFX-L PSU.
I really like how compact the case is but there are a few quirks which really annoys me. Like the ML08b, the ML09 shares similar problems. The side panel is really hard to remove. Once the screws are removed, sliding the panel off is really difficult. I needed some rubber gloves to help my grip on the panel. I wish they made it tooless and change the design of their slot system. Finally, using an aluminium material would help keep the weight down.
Here are my pros and cons for the ML09b: Pros: - Compact size - SFX / SFX-L PSU compatible - low profile GPU compatible - 2.5" HDD cage - Optical drive option - 120mm case fan included - really useful magnetic dust filter
Cons: - Not nearly enough vent slots - Not tooless side panel - Very difficult to remove side panel - Only low profile GPU compatible
Why go to this trouble and not just buy a PC laptop? Well, I wanted to use my hardware as I was familiar with its performance. I didn't want to shell over $1k for a decent machine. The only new cost were for the ML09b case, the 1050Ti and AXP-200. Another argument was I had all my apps installed just the way I want. With Windows PCs, not everything comes across smoothly when you upgrade your motherboard. You have apps licenses going haywire and compatibility issues not there before.
I love small form factor builds. Gone are the days where I have this huge monolith under or on my desk. Its real estate is at a premium for my monitors, Wacom tablet and various other pro accessories. Also big cases on the floor attract much more dust while too many led lighting makes the bedroom light up like a nightclub when the machine is powered on and rendering. No, I’ll take a small discrete, low noise, high power, upgradable machine any day of the week. The only big machine I have at the office is a 2012 twelve core Mac Pro. That monster is a pain to lift and clean. Apple actually had a good idea with the 2013 trash can. The only downside was its limited upgrade path with standard parts. I really think the future of desktop PC is in small and beautiful.
Thanks for reading and I hope this will inspire other sff builds.
Great card in a small package. Power consumption is amazing and doesn't require additional pcie connectors. Performance is very decent and will play 99% games at reasonable settings. Temperature is kept in check. All in all very happy with this purchase.
Good small case for budget builds. It has all the space you need for a decent media PC. There's room for an SFX PSU, HDD cage for 4 2.5" drives, mini ITX motherboard, low profile GPU and an optical drive bay. I would have given it 5 stars if not for the awful panel removal system. Once the screws are removed, the panel is incredibly tight so you need a good grip in order to slide it off.