It's that time again -- time to look for a new case. We already had a pretty good idea of what we were after, and we ended up with the Chieftec DA01BD, a black fulltower case. The case is going to be used as a testbed for our upcoming watercooler round-up, thus we needed a case that was big enough to house a complete watercooler with radiator, pump, reservoir, et cetra. In Part I we will, however, focus on the case for use in high-end workstations and servers.
Now that you know what kind of case we were looking for, lets have a look at it's features:
- Form factor: ATX (max 12"x13" Xeon)
- Dimensions: 670x205x473 mm (HxWxD)
- External drivebays: 6 x 5¼", 2 x 3½"
- Internal drivebays: 6 x 3½"
- Casecooling: 5 x 80mm, 1 x 90mm above PSU
- Swing-out side panel with handle and lock
- Quick-release drive bays with release lever
- Powersupply: 340W (Enermax 431W used in this review)
Our first impression of this case is good -- it's a very sturdy all steel construction, the hinged door on the left side makes for easy entry of the case, interior is very clean and organized, and let's not forget the "cool-factor" of a black case. The latter is, of course, a personal preference, but I'm really getting tired of the beige cases that have been dominating the market for as long as I can remember.
Fig. 1 The Chieftec DA01BD Servertower.
For those of you with Antec cases out there: Yes, it looks a lot like the SX1040, in fact, it has the exact same design, but it's bigger, just as big as the SX1240.
Opening the case show us that Chieftec has been thorough in designing the interior. Its clean and logical design makes it easy to work with, for starters -- everything is where you want it to be, not where you wished they were. The round edges and corners make sure you don't get cuts on your hands during installation of your hardware.
Fig. 2 The interior of the case
Furthermore, they have a few very nice details that you will appreciate as a system builder, whether it's for professional use or maybe even more so for personal use. One of these features are the quick-release drive bays with release lever. All you have to do to mount or dismount your drives is to pull back the lever and pull out the drivebays.
Fig. 3 The quick-release drive bays with release lever.
The Chieftec case is big, very big, and most individuals that would consider this as their next case probably have a lot of hardware they want to put into it. Therefore it's important to cool the case properly, and this is another aspect of the Chieftec case that I really like. There are snap-in cartridges for five 80mm fans; two in the back, right next to the CPU, and three in the front.
Fig. 4 The fan brackets in the back of the case.
In this particular setup we used two IBM 60GXPs in RAID0 hooked to the High Point HTP370 RAID controller on our Abit KG7 RAID. In addition, we had two IBM 18GXP as scrap-disks, and four 7200RPM drives produce, naturally, quite a bit of heat. Some of you might even use several 10.000 or 15.000RPM SCSI drives, thus making cooling of the harddrives an important issue. For harddrivecooling, Chieftec have used the same fan-brackets as in the back of the case.
Fig. 5 The drivebays with one 80mm Papst fan mounted.
The last 80mm fan-bracket is located in the very bottom of the case, using the same clips as the other four. As far as I can see, there's only one problem when it comes to the cooling of the case; most 80mm fans, or at least all of our Pabst fans came with the 3-pin connector, and I'm not sure I would recommend using all of the motherboard fanheaders due to the increased load on the motherboard. For some it might even be impossible if you plan on using the case in an SMP setup. One solution is cutting the three wires, put on a four-pin connector and hook them directly to your powersupply. Only drawback is that you'll loose the tacometer function of the fans. Finally, there's one slot for a 90mm fan right above the power supply. Thus far, we haven't needed to use more than two fans; one in the front cooling the two IBM 60GXPs and one in the back, right next to the processor.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, we have focused on reviewing this case as an option for high-end workstations and servers. This case will definitely meet the demands for such a setup -- it has plenty of space, is very accessible, is easy to work with, and has a lot of nice features. You can place fans strategically to cool off your hot harddrives and other hot hardware, like the processor and graphic card. The case can accomodate motherboards(ATX only) as big as 12"x13", and thus a dual Intel Xeon or AMD MP setup should not represent any problems at all. In that case we will, however, recommend changing the power supply to an Enermax 431W or equivalent, depending on your needs.
Fig. 6 The case with all hardware mounted.
As with everything else you have been using for a while, you discover flaws with the product. With the Chieftec servertower I found very few, or actually only two, none of them critical in any way. The first issue is the fact that the motherboard tray is not removable. With such a big case it's very nice to just screw out the motherboard tray and place it on your ESD proof desk, mount the hardware, and then just slide it back into the case. With the Chieftec case I had to put it flat on the desk while mounting the hardware. Secondly, and I find this rather odd considering it's supposed to be a fileserver case according to Chieftec's homepage, there are no dust filters. With up to six 80mm and 90mm blowing and sucking air, there is bound to be some dust drawn into the case. One easy remedy to this would be to simply put a piece of foam between the chassis and frontbezel.
Fig. 7 The case with the frontbezel off. Notice the thumb-screws for the floppy bracket.
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All in all, we are very satisfied with this case, it's got about everything you will ever want for a high-end workstation or a server. Everything is well planned and designed, and despite its few flaws, here is our rating:
- Great design, exterior
- Great design, interior
- Easy to work with, accessible
- Virtually tool free
- No removable motherboard tray
- No dust filter
Finally I would like to remind you of Part II coming up as soon as we get the remaining gear from DangerDen. In Part II we will take a closer look at how this case works for overclockers and casemodders.
Big thanks to Microplex for providing us with the case and Stealth for providing us with the fans.