Affectionately dubbed the “RallyBox” by the mechanical engineer who designed it, our new MV101 Automotive Case is like my grandfather’s basement. Odd analogy, I know. Just wait for it, I’ll explain. As a kid, I would venture into my grandpa’s cellar to peruse the array of collectibles he amassed over the years. Every time I thought I had uncovered the full gamut of button jars, thread spools, and coins, another exciting discovery awaited me: look at those awesome sewing machines! All the parts and pieces were neatly organized and arranged for some potential use—poised to be employed for a greater, functional purpose. It was the deliberate collection of a man who planned for the future. Or maybe that’s how my memory would like to keep him. Either way, for these purposes, I’m painting my grandpa as the ultimate boyscout: Be prepared.
When looking at the MV101, it feels like I’m making a lot of the same little discoveries I had made when I was young, wide-eyed and filled with wonder. At first glance, the case looks like an industrial enclosure—basic, black, and sturdy. It’s what you would expect when you hear the term, “ruggedized.” No fluff, just a clean, simple design meant to serve a purpose: perform in an industrial or automotive environment. The enclosure is constructed out of 1.5 mm thick galvanized steel making it incredibly durable.
Some people here like to say it looks like Johnny 5. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Anyway, this is just the outside. Why don’t you come on in and explore the careful, calculated arrangement of metal on the inside?
Come on in, it’s spacious and cool inside
Because not all mainboards are created equal, having a case that can be as versatile as possible is always a plus. This means the following: create a design to accommodate as many mainboards as possible. Be prepared! So, one of the challenges with mainboard-case compatibility is tall mainboard components (e.g., cpu coolers) interfering with the HDD/ODD tray. Ideally, you want the HDD mounting bracket to either be positioned/moved horizontally along the top of the case (the M350 Universal Mini-ITX case does this quite nicely) or you can position the HDDs in different locations along the bracket. The MV101 does the latter. So, now if you have a board with a tall CPU cooler (remember the mega heat sink on the original Little Falls mainboard? Huge!) or other tall peripheral components, you can accommodate these items by just installing your HDD in a more compatible spot.
If you don’t have any issues with tall components, the MV101 HDD mounting bracket offers the ability to install two drives along it. And it’s equipped with vibration isolators for both drives, so when this case is mounted in a moving vehicle, the drives will stay protected from vibration and shock. The bracket is also designed to be removed and installed into the case without any additional screws. It relies on the tension created from the enclosure’s frame to keep it in place. Pretty handy, I think.
Moving beyond the HDD mounting, you have the cooling system. This is comprised of dual ball-bearing cooling fans and a cleanable, replaceable air filter. Both items keep things nice and cool inside and prevent unwanted particles from being sucked in, then settling on your delicate computer hardware. We also opted for quieter fans, so noise shouldn’t be an issue. The case has been tested to support processors with a TDP of less than or equal to 35 W. So, most of the Intel Core mobile CPUs are supported.
Just east and west of the cooling system, there are punch-outs for additional I/O break-outs off the mainboard. We get a lot of requests from customers who need extra USB or COM (or VGA) ports, so why not just make some space for them? The ports are covered by default; again, this helps to keep out dirt and dust until you’re ready to utilize the I/O. You can get two USB or two COM (or VGA) ports stacked on top of one another.
Then, there’s the power supply connector options and how they mount into the back panel of the case. Here, we want to provide more options than just one power supply solution. There are two antenna or DC jack holes above the backplane. A DC barrel jack can be installed if you prefer to use this case with an ATX power supply like a picoPSU. If you don’t use a DC jack, you can mount two antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
If the case will be used as an automotive solution, you have two options for power connectors: P4 or a P8. Our engineer provided a simple solution for installing either connector into the same opening. There is a plate with a P4 connector opening cut into it that can be mounted against the P8 opening. We have a cable kit that we’ll offer with this case that provides different power cable harness options. You will want to use a P8 connector if the computer will be installed close to your peripheral devices and if you want to pass on the Automotive Power Supply Intelligence to them. You can pass on the intelligence to items such as a display, modem, GPS, or other data acquisition devices.
One of our pet peeves is seeing tall components on the bottom of mainboards. We get why they are there—attempting to pack in more features in an already limited real estate—however, this can make it challenging to then put the boards into common Mini-ITX cases. So, when we designed this case, we planned in taller than average stand-offs to accommodate boards with components on the bottom (e.g., CF card, RAM slot, PCIe slot).
We also include mounting brackets as a standard accessory with this case. They have bi-directional keyholes so you can position the case just so. The brackets also have DIN-rail hole layouts, so the case can easily be installed in standard DIN-rail configurations.
There are two metal hooks that slightly stick out from the back panel of the case. These allow for ease of cable management (easily zip-tie the cables to the hook) so things stay neat and tidy under the seat or dash or in the trunk of the car.
The MV101 aims to address as many challenges one would face when installing a system in an industrial or automotive environment. The design is one of preparedness. In the end, maybe my grandpa didn’t need all those buttons at the time, but if I lost a button while in his care, I know he had a replacement for sure.