I like to think of myself as a descriptive storyteller. I’ll happily deliver up metaphors and analogies for just about anything. Granted, at times I’ve flexed my creative muscle at the expense of scaring the straights: I’ve alluded to the descent to the colony LV-426 in Aliens to dramatically portray what it was like to fly in the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. This might not be the most accessible comparison for most. Despite causing employees to occasionally avoid me in the lunch room, I find that being adjective-happy is a worthy trait to have if one of your job requirements is to describe black boxes all day. Is it discreet, mountable, fanless, smooth, rugged or all of the above? The information I provide must paint an accurate and telling picture of what a computer system will be like once you hold it in your hands. This can be exceptionally easy or… well, let’s just say I like a good challenge.
When I’m really excited to talk about something, I have very little restraint—the adjectives abound like worms on wet pavement after a storm. See? I can’t help myself. So, with our new ML200 Fanless Case, which I’m ecstatic about, has me radiating with descriptors; I’m a literary Doctor Manhattan.
What’s neat about this enclosure is how deliberate the design is. It’s like how Howard Roark in the Fountainhead strove for harmony between the environment and his architecture; it’s an entire ecosystem being constructed, not just a stand-alone building. (I promise that is the last analogy.) Okay, so our ecosystem begins with the Intel DN2800MT “Marshalltown” Thin-ITX mainboard. Just a side note: Thin-ITX is Mini-ITX, just thinner. It has the same PCB footprint (170 mm x 170 mm) as a Mini-ITX mainboard, but the overall height of the board is about half that of standard Mini-ITX. Intel is working hard to create a standard form factor for do-it-yourself All-in-One systems (AIOs).
For now, we’re pretty satisfied with the low-profile height of this board, allowing the ML200 enclosure to maintain a slim design of 1.3-inches thick. The dimensions of the case stay as true to the Mini-ITX form factor as possible, adding a few millimeters to the sides and depth to make room for an expansion daughterboard providing 2 USB 2.0 ports and a power button, cabling for two additional RS-232 COM connectors off the front, internal mounting for an automotive power supply, and external mounting for two antennas and a P4 power connector (if you opt for the automotive PSU).
The Intel DN2800MT mainboard offers HDMI, VGA, Intel Gb LAN, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and 2 high-current USB 2.0 ports, audio, and a 12-volt DC jack (supports 8~19 V range) off the back panel. Onboard, it has two PCIe Mini Card slots with one being able to support mSATA flash. The mSATA flash shares a lane with one of the board’s SATA connectors, so the most you can have at one time are two SATA devices. That means you can get a cost- and space-effective way to have an mSATA SSD for the OS and a 500GB+ HDD for lots of storage.
With the new Cedar Trail platform from Intel, we get dual core processing, native 1080p graphics, HDMI output, and low power consumption—all in a fanless design. So while fanless cases and dual core processors have married before, the passive cooling system for those combos require tall fins or a lot of fins, adding to the height or width of the overall footprint. As you can see in the picture above, the ML200 employs a solid aluminum cooling block with a thermal pad to cool the 1.86 GHz dual core N2800 CPU. This radiates heat to the fins on the top of the case, which are nice and low key. With the cover screwed on there are no cooling vents or holes. This is an ideal feature to have in an industrial environment. No fans and no vents mean all the internal components are protected from exposure to dust, dirt, and grime.
The case comes standard with mounting brackets that have bi-directional slots and DIN-rail holes, making it super simple to install your system wherever you need it. There are two antenna punch-outs off the back panel for Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth connectivity.
Because the system is fanless and has been designed to preserve the ultra-thin small footprint, assembling it requires a bit of skill. However, the Assembly Guide available on the product page for download makes it straightforward enough for those who prefer the DIY route. A full system that is built and tested in house is available as the AG150. You can choose memory, storage, wireless, and an operating system, too.
And, if you want to meet the ML200 up close and personal before getting one for yourself, check out the video of yours truly presenting it below. Although I appear to be schooling a classroom of 10-year-old kids (I take presentations quite seriously), I really am just brimming with enthusiasm for this case on the inside.