REVIEW U-NAS NSC-800 8 Bay ITX Chassis Review

Discussion in 'Storage & Backup' started by Renza, Sep 4, 2014.

  1. Renza

    Renza Member

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    U-NAS NSC-800 8 Bay ITX Chassis Review

    With my every growing data needs, I was searching for a case to house my backup server - a server to mirror the important stuff that is kept on my main server, mainly photos and documents, most of which is too large to upload to the cloud thanks to Australia's abysmal uploads speeds. I missed Speedster20's thread made last year, but also came across the U-NAS NSC-800 case. U-NAS were kind enough to subsidise the cost of the case in exchange for a bit of a write-up. Their sponsorship has not affected my opinions on the product overall.

    I purchased the U-NAS NSC-800 along with their recommended 400w power supply. At full retail, this came to $199.99 for the case, $119.99 for the PSU and $45 for shipping via EMS. Shipping was fast and was delivered to my doorstep in under a week via Auspost (so they will leave at the local PO if that is important for you).

    There are a lot of pictures coming up. Clicking on them will take you to a higher resolution image if you wish to see more detail.

    Box arrived wrapped in 2 layers of bubble wrap. Don't have a pic, but it had one small dent in the corner. Let's hope the case survived!

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    Opening the box, we can see that there is a thick layer of foam padding around the sides of the case. It's a very tight fit, so there is no movement inside the box. A smaller box is wedged between the case and the box.

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    The small box contains all the small items required in the assembly of the system. Everything of weight is wrapped up in bubble wrap so that they don't scratch each other.

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    Unpacking this box, we have a power cord (which isn't for Australia, luckily I have heaps of spares), a PCI-e x16 riser, a bunch of standoffs and screws, a fan splitter, and a number of trays for 2.5" drives. Absent from this package is an instruction manual. As a result of this, I'm not really sure how 4x 2.5" drives are able to fit into this case (not that I tried).

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    Taking the case out of the foam padding and the plastic bag, you immediately notice the nice soft-touch coating the front has. This case now has the addition of a USB 3.0 port at the front which was not present on Speedster20's revision.

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    Looking at the back, we have 2x 120mm fans, the PSU, the PCI-e expansion slot (note the missing blanking plate! would be nice to have had one included in the case I wasn't using the expansion slot), and a cut-out for the I/O shield. Also note the protective plastic coating on the outer cover.

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    Flipping the case to the bottom, there are 4 rubber feet. I like that they're screwed on and not simply stuck on with tape (as ones stuck on with tape inevitably move or get lost over time). Good to see that this has also passed some QC checks too.

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    Here's a comparison of the drive trays from the U-NAS vs the Enhance Tech trays which I purchased as part of a group buy on OCAU in 2009 here http://forums.overclockers.com.au/showthread.php?t=814298. They hinge at the top instead of the bottom, and the light channels are also in opposite positions. The U-NAS trays look very similar to the older IBM drive trays.

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    Here's a close-up of the drive tray with the latch open. I'd like to note that the locking mechanism is made of plastic with very few metal components. In comparison, the Enhance Tech trays have a full metal hinge assembly and feel sturdier and less likely to break. These won't be removed a whole lot anyway, so not a big deal.

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    Here's the top cover of the NAS. Simple inverted U shape, similar to that of Shuttle systems. It was quite hard to remove, and just as hard to put back on. It's fiddly but it has a tight fit. Not a huge deal as this is supposed to be an appliance - once it's built I hopefully won't need to take it apart very often. The arrows are just the protective plastic coating. The top has a brushed metal finish to it.

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    Opening up the case, we see the jungle of cables which need to fit into such a tight space. The power supply has not been connected to anything and has just been screwed in for shipping. SAS cables (SATA to SFF-8087) are preinstalled, but are just standard cables with equal lengths for each plug. Would have been nice if the cables were custom length for each port so there is no slack in the cables.

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    Here's the 400w power supply that has been provided. I believe it's a standard 1U PSU. It can provide 32A on the 12v rail and has an 80 plus gold rating. Has a single 40mm fan on the back, which isn't overly noisy (no that it is anywhere near 400w).

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    On the left side, we have the bulk of the connectors - two SFF-8087 connectors, a USB 3.0 header connector, two 3 pin fan connectors and the various connectors for the front panel, including 2x HDD LEDs (allows for one on the RAID card and on the motherboard).

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    On the right side, we have two Molex connectors which provide power to the backplanes.

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    I decided to tear the case down even further for science! The two fans installed are Gelid Silent 12 fans. They run at 1000RPM, push 37CFM of air and have a noise level of around 20dBA. These fans are cheap ($6 for PCCG) and aren't silent as the name would suggest. But they do keep the drives cool and their sound isn't too annoying.

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    I also pulled out the backplanes for anyone interested. Each backplane is held in by 8 screws, making them very secure (no flex when inserting/removing drives). The caps installed are the solid electrolytic type. 4 SAS/SATA ports are provided. No multi-path SAS support here. A SFF-8087 connector would have been preferred for ease of cabling as well.

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    Here's a view of the rear of the backplanes. All the SAS cables and Molex cables came cable tied so they don't interfere with the fans.

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    This is the motherboard I'll be installing. It's an ASRock E-350/USB3 board paired with 2GB DDR3 RAM. It will be running XPenology so should be plenty.

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    And the legendary M1015 flashed to IT mode. Plug and play with XPenology.

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    It's a very tight fit. The board is mounted with the back facing the outside, so everything must be plugged in before screwing the board to the chassis. This board has no USB 3.0 headers, and no adapter to a USB 3 A plug or USB 2.0 header is supplied, so I will have to source one myself.

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    A plastic sheet is provided to place between the motherboard and the outside chase to prevent shorts. It's probably not required, but better to be safe than sorry!

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    View from the top with the board screwed in. It's a tight fit, I don't think ram with those tall heatspreaders will fit, and probably not many aftermarket heatsinks for 115x cpus will fit either.

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    PCI-e riser installed, ready for the installation of the M1015.

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    M1015 installed and SFF-8087 cables plugged in. It's a tight fit, but I was able to route the SAS cables under the card to make things a little neater.

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    View from the front of the card installed. Full height cards may be a bit tighter depending on the position of the SAS connectors, but most should be on the end I think. Wouldn't want the card to be much longer though.

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    View of the back with the card installed. The rear bracket is perforated for a bit of airflow if required. The M1015 doesn't seem to get hot from my testing, so I haven't installed any fans in that top section.

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    Connected up the two Molex connectors with two feeds from the PSU for that extra current carrying capacity! If your PSU doesn't have enough connectors, I'm sure that connecting it all to one cable would be alright too.

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    Cable tied everything up to make it somewhat neat with the limited space available. You can also see some standoffs above where the drive sit. I think this is for the 2.5" drive trays to mount to the chassis, but the SAS HBA is blocking some of the mounts, so it's unable to be used. If you needed an OS or cache SSD, you could always just Velcro it.

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    Picture of the back with everything installed, protective plastic removed and ready to roll! There's a small hole above the expansion slot which doesn't have a cover. Most other cases I've seen that have a similar design usually have a flap that hinges to cover this hole but this is just left open. Minor detail though.

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    Finally, I made up some little stickers to stick onto the front of each drive. Each one has the capacity, model and serial number for easy identification.

    One thing I did notice is that inserting the drives can be a little tricky sometimes. I'm not sure if its misalignment of the SAS backplane, but it sometimes feels as though pushing on the latch to insert the drive will break it. If i remove the drive a little then push it in with a bit of momentum, it usually goes in fine.

    Also, when sitting the drives popped out (as I'm only using the first 4 drives atm), the latch for the drives sits against the front of the front panel. I can see this damaging the soft touch finish. I'm not sure how scratch resistant it is, and I'm not really willing to find out either!

    The front LEDs are blue and are quite bright. Might want to keep that in mind if you're putting it in your bedroom. You could just unplug it if it’s a problem, or chuck a resistor in-line.

    Overall it's a great little case to run as a NAS appliance. The equivalent Synology is well over $1000, so this is great value. Build quality is fairly good with only a few complains (mainly the plastic locking mechanism of the trays). There are no sharp edges inside the case which is a bonus!

    If you have any further questions feel free to ask and I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability!
     
  2. Zyklone

    Zyklone Member

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    Thanks for taking the time to do the review.

    How do you find the overall noise volume? Would it be acceptable in a theater room / lounge room scenario? Do you find it off putting at all?
     
  3. brash

    brash Member

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    Nice review Renza.

    I also have this case, however I did not get the 2.5" HDD trays or the PCI-e riser. I had to purchase those separately. I also opted for a Seasonic 350W Mini 1U PSU with a flex to 1U adapter as it is a bit narrower and a lot cheaper ($59USD) than standard 1U PSUs. Half wishing I had gone for the 250W (18A on the 12V rail) version now as not only is it cheaper again, it is also 40mm shorter which would provide a lot more room for cable management. Unlike the single core 533MHz RoC M1015 HBA which nominally uses 6.4W (according to LSI), I'm using a dual core 800MHz LSI 9271-8i with a CacheVault module which puts my my idle power consumption around 14W. LSI recommends a minimum of 200LPM air flow for their 6Gb/s RAID controllers which means in this case you'd need to construct a ghetto duct like you did here. I wish I saw your post before ordering an Enzotech cnb-s1l heatsink & Noctua NF-A4x10 40mm fan :shock: .

    Like you, I think overall it is a good NAS case, still I think it could be better for something that costs around $260AUD delivered without a power supply. Things I think could be done better that would make this a great case;

    1. HDD Trays do not cleanly align with backplanes making inserting a new disk much more problematic than it should. I noticed that bottom side of the disk trays have a plastic skid where the top side does not. Seems the absence of this skid means there is room for at least 5mm of side to side motion making clean and easy disk insertion pretty hard to do. For what is a dedicated NAS case, this really should be one thing they get absolutely right and in my opinion they have not.
    2. Motherboard mount. Exposing the underside of the motherboard is far from ideal in my view. Even more so as with the clearances available makes it a fairly painful experience to get all cabled up and screwed in. Would have been much better to have a two piece case cover where the motherboard side folds down from the top with motherboard mounts directly on the cover. The design in use introduces unnecessary risk of damaging/shorting the underside of the motherboard.
    3. Cable Management, essentially there is none. Even a few small loops for cable ties would be appreciated. There is a good 15mm underneath the HDD cage that could have been used, however as the HDD cage is riveted in and not that accessible from either side, it ends up being dead space. In a case this size, I think that is significant. I assume there was a design reason for this as if that 15mm was available in the top of the case where the expansion card is located, there would have been sufficient clearance from most expansion card heat sinks to install a 140mm blowhole.


    Noise isn't actually that bad, however I'm not sure it is the best case out there for a media setup. Really depends where you are going to have it. I use a the Silverstone DS380 as my media storage server which is located with my home theater gear and I think looks much more at home than this case does due to the front door on the DS380. Also, the disk trays in the U-NAS NSC-800 have power and HDD activity lights which might be distracting if it is in the field of view of your TV/Projector screen. One last thing I'd also ask is do you have kids? I made the mistake of leaving the U-NAS out within reach of my 2yr old while I was running it in and he managed to smash his wooden firetruck into a few times which has left the soft feel front looking a bit tacky. At least he didn't pop a disk I suppose, which would be another advantage of the DS380 as its front door is lockable and the power button can also be locked.
     
  4. OP
    OP
    Renza

    Renza Member

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    Thanks for the extra insight brash! Had I been paying for the PSU myself, I probably would have looked harder and gone with the Seasonic unit. We'll see how this 1U one holds up in the mean time.

    I also experienced the same issue with inserting drives (I think i mentioned it somewhere). The plastic skid you speak of is the light guide for the backplane mounted drive indicator LEDs. I did expect it to be as good as my other hotswap trays which go in cleanly every time without fail.

    I agree that a hinged motherboard tray would be awesome, something like the G4 powermac design would be nice. alternatively, they could have flipped the board around, but then the expansion slot would be on the bottom, meaning that you'd need a longer riser (but im sure there is a 16x one that uses usb3 cables, so it wouldnt be as thick).

    Cable management really is lacking. you can always use those double sided mounting pads, but a few metal loops would have gone a long way.

    Personally, I wouldn't be putting this in my living room. I've battled long enough to get an *almost* silent media PC (i3 with ssd, 1 mechanical drive for tv recordings, fans as slow as possible). Having 8 drives makes a decent amount of noise/vibration that will not go unnoticed. But if you did have to use it as a media pc, I would swap the fans out for something a little quieter, Noctuas or equivalent (not sure what's in at the moment).
     
  5. Sektion8

    Sektion8 Member

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    These threads get me hard!

    Thanks heaps for the pro quality. Takes a lot of time/effort, when you could be playing with the device instead.
     
  6. Saviola

    Saviola Member

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    Awesome review was checking this model out earlier and saw this, cheers.
     
  7. Camm

    Camm Member

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    Nice review. Almost went this way but went with a DS380 instead, which is a great little case as long as your extremely picky with component selection.
     
  8. Muddy Funster

    Muddy Funster Member

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    Thank you for this review, as I am also chasing something to get my current XPenology system out of a Switch 810 :)

    Camm, would you like to share some thoughts on the DS380, either PM or in here if the OP doesn't mind?
     
  9. Camm

    Camm Member

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    That's okay. Don't want to look like I'm hijacking the thread, but these are about the only mitx options with hotswap on the market so I guess its pertinent.

    The big thing with the DS380 is A: Use the recommended components from Silverstone if you want everything to fit, and B: If you don't want to get stuck wih a shitty Highpoint HBA as your controller, (Or having to sacrifice a drive slot to make your hba fit) make sure your board has enough sata\sas onboard.

    The reason about the highpoint is that clearance is actually lower than the low profile spec, so whilst there is room under the drive cage for a HBA to fit, it actually won't. Thusforth, the only 8 Port HBA that will fit that I know of is a Highpoint 2600.

    As for hardware I would recommend?

    http://www.asrockrack.com/general/productdetail.asp?Model=C2750D4I# - was recommended by Silverstone and AsRockRack as being fully compatible

    A more interesting recent contestant is this board from ASUS

    http://www.asus.com/us/Commercial_Servers_Workstations/P9AIC2750SAS4L/

    For reference, I have this board with a low power xeon (1265L-V3 off memory)

    http://www.asrockrack.com/general/productdetail.asp?Model=E3C226D2I#

    Tl;dr - unless you buy the AsRockRack board, your probably going to have a sketchy time with FreeNAS \ OpenNAS unless you want to sacrifice a bay for a HBA (Highpoints are horrible in *BSD). If your planning your storage server running *nix \ windows, its probably not a problem.
     
  10. Muddy Funster

    Muddy Funster Member

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    Thanks Camm, interesting about the HBA , I was hoping to use one of several M1015 types I have around
     
  11. FarQ

    FarQ Member

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    I didn't like the lack of hdd ventilation in the DS380. Also since I am using a hardware raid card with raid-6, I would've had to drop 1 bay and it would've only been a 7bay unit, thats why I went with the UNAS unit. Although the UNAS tray locking mechanism is really average...
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Renza

    Renza Member

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    I'm all open for discussion :)

    Completely agreed. Luckily it's not something that you need to insert/remove on a regular basis
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  13. Muddy Funster

    Muddy Funster Member

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    hmmm, I'm really keen on this A6 board at the moment, the A4 ones may suit, but the trap is some of the PCIe slots are only x4, not good for running a M1015.
     
  14. Apokalipse

    Apokalipse Member

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    I'm wondering if it would be possible to get replacement drive trays for the NSC-800 that you don't have to use screws with.
     
  15. OP
    OP
    Renza

    Renza Member

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    I don't think there'd be enough room to have plastic clips to hold the drive in.
     

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