So, our first look at the ARCTIC MC101-A10 in the flesh, and it looks pretty good. That brushed aluminium finish is excellent and the ARCTIC inset is a nice styling flurish. The clean lines of the unit is only marred very slightly by the IR Sensor in the bottom-right of the unit near the floor, but that's very unobtrusive. During power-on the combo switch/light bar glows white, which for this reviewer is preferable over both red and blue as the light tends not to diffract when viewed through corrective lenses, making it significantly less distracting.
Users of aluminium chassis will be well aware that sweat transfer can mar the surface; be careful to install the MC101 with clean and dry hands!
The rear of the unit is the location of the majority of the MC101's external connectivity, and ARCTIC have shown an unusual attention to detail by also finishing this panel in brushed aluminium. Left-most is a mini-RF in for the integrated DVB-T/ATSC TV Tuner, designed for the bundled RF aerial and adapter, followed by three audio ports: line-out, microphone-in and Optical SPDIF.
Next up is a bank of four USB 2.0 ports, fairly tightly packed but not generally an issue for keyboards, mice etc. Centrally located on the rear panel is the DC 12V power socket, for use with the bundled external PSU. The right of the MC101 has a further two USB ports, this time USB 3.0, HDMI and Gigabit LAN port. Note that the close proximity of the HDMI port to the USB ports may cause clearance issues with some USB devices such as thumb drives.
As well as cooling vents, the left side of the board includes a number of external connectivity options. One USB 2.0/eSATAp combo port will be useful for hooking up external eSATA drives and thumb drives, whilst the USB 3.0 port would allow you to take advantage of the additional bandwidth offered by a USB 3.0 drive. To the left of these two ports is a 4-in-1 media card reader, compatible with SD, MMC, MS and XD cards commonly seen in digital camera's the world over. The final port is something of a novelty - a TRRS headset audio port which combines headphone stereo audio and mic into one plug. The location, easily accessible from the front rather than requiring fiddling around the rear, is ideal.
The right panel is composed entirely of venting for cooling. Both sides should probably be kept clear during operation, ensuring a healthy supply of air to the APU cooler.
The floor is almost entirely composed of a 1mm thick rubberised foam, serving to deaden transmitted vibration and hence reduce overall noise. The textured surface also serves to hold the unit in place - though not particularly lightweight itself, tension on thick HDMI cables may otherwise have dragged the unit over slippery glass or wooden TV stands. Removing all five screws from the floor plate, and two from the rear, allows access to the MC101's internal components.