The 2018 Router – The Case

Hello again! I see you’re back for some more 2018 router goodness… time to talk about the enclosure!

Here, we have the M350 Universal Mini-ITX Enclosure – selected for primarily it’s small size. It is covered in ventilation holes on the front, the top and the sides – which is essential for this build. I figured that (most) other routers don’t have cooling fans so why should mine need one? It’s just another part to go wrong in my opinion – plus without a router you basically have no internet. Can’t have that now, can we?

Internally the case does not have very much – it’s basically a motherboard tray with a lid. With a Mini-ITX board installed you can see that it could not possibly get any smaller! The CPU in my system is passively cooled – the ventilation in the case is important for natural convection to do its thing. I can happily report that running temperatures are very respectable!

The back of the case has a standard motherboard IO panel fitting and a spot for a DC-in connector. The case does not come with any DC connector fittings – my PSU came with one that fit the mounting holes on the back perfectly. There is no PCI slot space – though you may be able to use a PCI card with the bracket taken off if it doesn’t interfere with the DC jack.

The front cover comes off to expose two right-angled USB ports on the inside. This is really handy for things like Home-Theater setups where things like keyboard & mouse dongles can be hidden. I could have put the USB drive on the inside of here to keep it hidden and inaccessible (useful if you have kids, for instance) – but I kept it plugged into the back for USB 3.0.

This front PCB also has a little jumper that, when enabled, will start up the PC when it receives power by shorting the power button pins (simulating pressing the button). It must work off the 5V USB supply. This can be very handy if your motherboard does not support powering on when AC power is connected. Fortunately, mine does – so I don’t need this. It is very handy for people whose installations require the PC to always be on. I’d logically expect it to check to see if the power LED is lit – if not then it presses the power button (not tested it but this is how I’d expect it to work).

There is also a power LED (blue) and HDD activity LED (red I think – not sure since I don’t have an internal drive).

Speaking of internal drives – there is a metal bracket included that sits over the top of the motherboard. You can use this to mount a 2.5″ drive or 40mm fans – here’s a link to a page showing the different configurations. There is also a front fan intake spot for a 40mm fan.

The case can be DIN rail mounted or VESA mounted onto the back of a monitor – though the brackets required are separate addons.

Overall, I am very happy with this case! It fits all the requirements I had for this system:

  • Small size
  • Plenty of ventilation
  • No fans needed
  • Reasonably priced (£36 from mini-itx.com).

The only quirks I had with this case:

  • No PCI support in the slightest
  • The front panel connectors (eg power button) leads are a bit short

A great case for a router! Next up, is the most important part of this whole project – the motherboard!

2018 Router Introduction
The 2018 Router - The Motherboard

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