REVIEW CFI 8-bay SAS box

Discussion in 'Storage & Backup' started by DrFrag, Feb 23, 2015.

  1. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,285
    Location:
    South Australia
    (Seems OCAU Pix is down, so I've stuck in smaller imgur pics. Larger pic album available here.)

    A while ago I built a 16-bay external SAS drive enclosure. It worked really well, but it was heavy and taking it to LANs has been exacerbating shoulder problems. So I decided to split the setup into two 8-bay SAS enclosures.

    A friend tipped me off that this solution already exists, in the form of the CFI 8-bay SAS box.

    I ordered one off EBay from an Australian supplier (www.ebay.com.au/itm/181196909183). It arrived in a plain cardboard box, but inside was the retail carboard box. Inside that was a lot of air packaging and the final case inside was pretty small by comparison. Really well packaged against damage. The case itself measures 15cm x 34cm x 34cm, so it's a nice compact size. It weighs about 6.1kg empty.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The case itself is really interesting. It has a piano black finish with front activity LEDs and blue LEDs in the rear fan, which are all the hallmarks of a desktop case. Yet the connectivity is SAS, which is typically used for enterprise. So this case appears to fill a very small niche between desktop and enterprise: home user bulk storage.

    The case itself is solid steel, including the front mesh. It's super rigid and stable. The front mesh is a door panel which provides access to the SAS hotswap bays. All activity lights and controls are below the door.

    [​IMG]

    The back is very plain and flush. The only ports are the PSU port and two external SAS ports.

    [​IMG]

    The front panel has an activity light for every drive, as well as lights for SAS cable connectivity and power. There's a front power button.

    [​IMG]

    As you probably know, 4 drives can be connected with a single SAS cable. So this 8-bay enclosure requires two SAS cables, one for the upper bank of four and one for the lower. For all practical purposes, the two sets of drives are independent. You could hook this up to two PCs with one PCs accessing the top drives and the other accessing the bottom drives.

    [​IMG]

    The Hotswap trays have a simple design but it took me a minute to get the hang of them. There are clips that pull to the right, releasing the tray lever. Pushing the trays back in requires some negotiation between the lever and tray position, but nothing problematic. The trays are steel, except for the front mechanism which is plastic. Drives screw into the trays from below using the supplied low profile pan-head screws, but they don't look too exotic as far as screws go.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The bays slide back into the hotswap backplane. Interestingly, the CFI brand is imprinted on the circuit boards themselves.

    [​IMG]

    The SAS cables run from the backplanes into a SAS external adaptor on the back. The backplanes are powered by a pair of standard molex connectors, and the drive activity LEDs on the front panel hook up to the backplanes with ribbon cables.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Overall it's a very simple, elegant setup.

    [​IMG]

    The PSU is also CFI brand (or rebrand) and is 250W. Of course the drives will draw far less than that.

    The back fan looks generic. I did some searching and found this entire case is also available under the Sans Digital brand on Newegg (www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816111174) for US$417. It comes in white or black, but otherwise appears to be identical. Reviews are good, except for complaints that the back fan is rubbish. Fortunately it's a standard 120mm on regular mounts, so no problem to replace. Same with the 80mm PSU fan. I didn't find it noisy, but the general complaint is it doesn't last long.

    A nice surprise was that the case comes with 2x 1m external SAS cables. These things are really expensive! It's a pity they're not 2m cables, but this is ostensibly a desktop case so it doesn't need to be far from the PC.

    [​IMG]

    I loaded it up with 4TB SATA drives and turned it on. This is where things got interesting. A couple of the activity lights stayed on permanently, while the others only flickered on when there was activity. I thought I had a broken panel, but after swapping drives around I discovered that the "stuck-on" problem only occurred with Seagate drives. After a bit of googling for a solution, I came across a few forum posts going back years that describe this issue with Seagates on other drive activity LEDs. Turns out that Seagates default to on, and only flicker off during activity. Hitachi/HGST default to off, and only flicker on during activity. Samsung was the same as HGST, although they initally stayed on during spinup. I didn't have any WD drives to test but I would presume they operate the same as HGST.

    I didn't bother with a speed test as I don't have any equipment that can come close to saturating a SAS connection. There are vents on all side panels so temperature was never an issue in my testing.


    SUMMARY

    Pros:
    Sleek design for the desktop
    SAS interface
    Individual drive activity LEDs
    Hotswap support
    Simple, functional internals
    Front power button
    Comes with external SAS cables
    Well packaged

    Cons:
    Made of steel
    Rear fan is cheap


    It's really hard to fault this case. It's well built, functional, and looks nice. But since I'm going for weight reduction, the steel chassis is a deal breaker for me. While it shaves a few kilos off my existing solution, I'm really after something that weighs even less. The design is incredibly simple so I'm planning to make a scratch built aluminium version that does the same thing (without hotswap). I'll post it on the modding forum when I'm done. I'll also put this review case up on the For Sale PC Related forum since I won't be needing it (edit: here). You can also get one from the Australian distributor via EBay in the link at the top of this review.

    For anyone interested in a desktop SAS enclosure, this is ideal and I highly recommend it. The model number is TR8183TA.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
  2. Phatboy69

    Phatboy69 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2010
    Messages:
    787
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    I have the 8bay RAID version of the Hotway H8R2-SU3S2 8-bay USB 3.0 RAID Enclosure which was $469 from memory.
    I also have two of the 4bay RAID enclosures and they've been great too.

    This non-RAID 8bay version has USB3 and e-sata, JBOD for $359 @ PC Casegear.
    http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=210_177&products_id=23687

    There's also this Orico 10bay USB3 JBOD for $499 which I haven't seen before.
    It looks quite a bit larger and heavier than the Hotway though.
    http://www.pccasegear.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=210_177&products_id=30688


    All my Hotways have been going strong for years now.
    Reliable, quiet, light, compact and versatile because you have the option of USB, e-Sata and RAID or JBOD. (with the RAID version)

    It has hotswap drive caddies, status leds, adjustable fan and lockable enclosure.

    Not as good if you want to use a "real" RAID controller, but it does JBOD, RAID 1,0,10,5 and RAID 50.
    I've been very happy with them.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
  3. NSanity

    NSanity Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2002
    Messages:
    17,430
    Location:
    Canberra
    Its more about being free of the constraints of USB than anything else...
     
  4. OP
    OP
    DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,285
    Location:
    South Australia
    I personally wouldn't touch the Hotway one. I believe it uses SATA II port replicators internally so the bandwith gets maxed out really fast. 375MB/s, that can be saturated with sustained reads from 2 consumer NAS drives. I'd hate to run 8 through it. :sick:

    From what I can tell, the Orico uses SATA III internals so it should be good up to 625MB/s over USB3. Still, that can get flooded with 4 drives.

    Which is party why I switched to SAS for external multi-drive enclosures - 1500MB/s per drive. :eek: I use the cheaper last gen gear that runs at half that speed, but even then I could fill a SAS enclosure with SSD drives and still not use all the bandwidth. The generation before that is half the speed again which is still plenty, but you lose 3TB drive support going back that far. SAS also lets you use 10m cables and daisy-chain devices like network ports, not that I've ever needed to, but as you can tell I'm a bit of an advocate. :D
     
  5. Phatboy69

    Phatboy69 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2010
    Messages:
    787
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yes but for all the extra cost and complexity is it really worth it. How often are you really copying at anything at over 500MB/s.

    I have some 4 x RAID 0 stripped SSDs that are good for >2GB/s but I rarely go over 400MB/s even with those on SATA III.

    The only time I need that kind of throughput is for backups and I'm happy with my 200>300MB/s with the external enclosures.
     
  6. NSanity

    NSanity Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2002
    Messages:
    17,430
    Location:
    Canberra
    Depends what you're trying to do with it?

    If you want raw, per drive access for a raid controller or hba (for FreeNAS, unRaid, etc) - then probably.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,285
    Location:
    South Australia
    Yeah SAS wouldn't be worth it for most people on a home setup. Like if you're streaming media from an enclosure, eSATA and USB bandwidths are fine.

    For the enthusiast, there's an outlay of maybe $150 for a basic card, and $20 for external cables. SAS expanders can be pricey though. The complexity is minimal, it's all enterprise gear so you don't need drivers and the hardware is incredibly reliable. All those years of unreliable PCI cards with SATA ports, dropping out or having bad drivers or bad speeds ... I couldn't go back to that. SAS makes every external drive feel like an internal drive for me. I hash at 900MB/s without RAID. It's a thing of beauty. :D

    For backups I use a USB3 disk dock. Fast enough and super convenient.
     
  8. Phatboy69

    Phatboy69 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2010
    Messages:
    787
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yeah I use a couple of the Hotway 4bay USB3 disk docks for backups running Acronis Advanced Backup Suite using Dedupe backup vaults. 2 sets of backup disks that I rotate offsite every month or so.
     

Share This Page