Taking this puppy apart is surprisingly simple. To begin, you must lay the chassis flat with the screen facing down, then undo two screws sitting at either end of the system's bottom edge. Once those screws are removed, the glossy rear panel slides toward the top, exposing the internal components.
If you've never seen a Thin Mini-ITX system before, the insides might look a little intimidating. You might wonder about all those small, green circuit boards scattered here and there. Do they need to be tinkered with? Are they third-party components that are required to make the system whole?
The answer to both those questions is no. In reality, you only need to worry about the motherboard, which occupies a small corner of the hardware compartment, and the storage, which fits at the other end. Everything else, as far as I can tell, is pre-installed and ready to hook up to the motherboard via included cables and connectors.
Plugging in those cables is easier than it sounds, too. You just need to match headers with corresponding plugs and watch for missing pins in order to determine alignment. Or, you know, you can read the manual. Even without one, I managed to take the machine apart and put it back together without breaking anything.
Here, we can see the 2.5" mechanical hard drive and the DVD burner, which are both mounted upside-down from this angle. Installing those devices is simpler than you'd think. The big metal cage that holds the hard drive is secured in place only by two screws. Remove them, slide the cage toward the top of the chassis a quarter inch or so, and it all pulls free. As for the optical drive, that green converter board above it doesn't interfere with installation. The optical drive actually slides in from the side, and it's held in place by an L-shaped bracket and just two screws. (The bracket winds up sitting between the drive and the CPU cooler when everything is installed properly.)
Speaking of the CPU cooler, MiTac elected to include its own solution rather than the standard Intel Thin Mini-ITX heatsink, which we used last year. Happily, the MiTac cooler is just as easy to mount. There's no need to touch the fan—only the base plate and fin array, and they're really a single component, sort of like a squished tower-style cooler. The base plate is strapped to the CPU with four screws, and the fin array is held in place by a single screw at the other end, just to make sure it doesn't wiggle around and exert undue stress on the heat pipes.
Curious to see how hot our quad-core CPU would get, I left the machine running a Small FFT Prime95 load for about one hour. Temperatures peaked at around 79°C, according to CoreTemp—a little on the toasty side for a desktop processor, but not enough to cause thermal throttling. Keep in mind that it's not uncommon to see laptop CPUs running even hotter than that. Also, Prime95 is kind of a worst-case scenario; real-world applications don't usually cause CPU temperatures to climb quite so high.
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