Register for the iXsystems Community to get an ad-free experience and exclusive discounts in our eBay Store.

CFI-A6039 Case Review

Western Digital Drives - The Preferred Drives of FreeNAS and TrueNAS CORE
Status
Not open for further replies.

majic79

Neophyte
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
10
Some meandering ramblings on my findings when I chose the CFI A6039 Case as the house for my FreeNAS installation.

I wanted something with hot-swap bays (I don't want to power down, crack open the case, remove the drive, install a new one, power up rebuild, rinse repeat) to ease the process of upgrading the drives in the future. Plus accessible drive bay are cool. I decided against some of the other options out there (UNAS NSC-400, NSC-800) because they're just too damn expensive for what they offer, and 1U power supplies are notoriously loud. This is going to have to live in/on/under the 6U network cabinet in the main bedroom wardrobe - noisy hardware is not an option when it comes to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

http://www.mini-itx.com/store/~CFI-A6039

At that price, I'm not losing much if things go wrong. I opted for the 300W variant (powering a SuperMicro Octacore board and 5x WD 3TB Red drives) this should be plenty. Indeed, when I finally got everything running, according to the UPS, it draws around 55W. Suggesting the power supply has sufficient head room to allow for a few years of aging.

The case itself is sturdy, made of quite heavy gauge steel (0.8mm thickness at a guess) and does have quite a hefty weight to it. The quality of manufacture I would have to say is middle of the road. There are rolled reinforcement in key areas, so I have faith in it, however some of the edges are a little exposed - on a top end case, I would expect all edges to be rolled. You could certainly cut or graze a knuckle if you're not careful, but for the price, I'm not complaining. There's a large piece of wasted volume under the drive bays, it might be possible to 3D print a tray for SSD's to live here? The draw through of air into the system doesn't seem so well thought out, as the sides are simply perforated. As I'm running a very low TDP system, I hope this isn't an issue for me.

This is a Mini-Itx format chassis, but doesn't make any provision for drives beyond those installed in front housing. So if (like me) you are opting to boot from an SSD, you will have to devise some mounting mechanism to make it work. I found some small holes in the edge of the front housings that permitted the bolting in of a Kingston SSD (there's plenty of room on between the housing and the side walls for a thicker drive if need be), but only allowed one at a time. I make make up a small bracket to make a better job of securing it in place. a 3.5" to 2.5" bracket may fit here, but I didn't have one to hand to try it out.

As I've also made a decision to utilise an LSI HBA (reflashed the 9240-8i to a 9211-81), the first issue I encountered was in the fitment of the card. Firstly the edge of the drive housing encroaches on the space where the HBA card wants to live. It is possible to trim this away to allow the card to clear, and the good news is that drive fitment is unaffected by this.

The next issue is Noise. The case fan is a single 80mm fan, and the good news is that a Noctua 80mm PWM fan fits here with no problems. This does reduce noise significantly, but not below the acceptable threshold I have set. So step 2 is replacement of the PSU fan. This one is trickier. The fan is an 80mm fan, but it sits in a space just 15mm thick. There is no option to put a larger fan in here. After several hours investigating, I have boiled this solution down to three possibilities.

1) a replacement quiet 80mm fan: Cooler Master do a 80mm 15mm thick standard fan. But they don't have a great reputation.

2) Placing a resistor in series (120Ohms should do it) to reduce the speed of the fan (there is a correlation between noise and fan speed, and a 30% reduction in speed should see a reduction in noise by several dB). the fan lists a current draw of 0.2A @ 12V, a 120ohm resistor should bring that down to 0.1A, and therefore approximately half the speed. Outcome of that experiment will follow

3) Replace single fan with dual Noctua 40mm 10mm fans. These are amazingly quiet little fans (I replaced the case fan in my switch with one of these, and the noise of the air circulating is louder than the fan is!). Two of these should fit side by side, in the gap left by the original 80mm fan. Some fabrication may be required, but does present the most attractive option at the moment.
 

Attachments

Last edited:

anodos

Sambassador
iXsystems
Joined
Mar 6, 2014
Messages
6,617
<snip>The draw through of air into the system doesn't seem so well thought out, as the sides are simply perforated. As I'm running a very low TDP system, I hope this isn't an issue for me.
<snip>
The next issue is Noise. The case fan is a single 80mm fan, and the good news is that a Noctua 80mm PWM fan fits here with no problems. This does reduce noise significantly, but not below the acceptable threshold I have set. So step 2 is replacement of the PSU fan. This one is trickier. The fan is an 80mm fan, but it sits in a space just 15mm thick. There is no option to put a larger fan in here. After several hours investigating, I have boiled this solution down to three possibilities.

1) a replacement quiet 80mm fan: Cooler Master do a 80mm 15mm thick standard fan. But they don't have a great reputation.

2) Placing a resistor in series (120Ohms should do it) to reduce the speed of the fan (there is a correlation between noise and fan speed, and a 30% reduction in speed should see a reduction in noise by several dB). the fan lists a current draw of 0.2A @ 12V, a 120ohm resistor should bring that down to 0.1A, and therefore approximately half the speed. Outcome of that experiment will follow

3) Replace single fan with dual Noctua 40mm 10mm fans. These are amazingly quiet little fans (I replaced the case fan in my switch with one of these, and the noise of the air circulating is louder than the fan is!). Two of these should fit side by side, in the gap left by the original 80mm fan. Some fabrication may be required, but does present the most attractive option at the moment.
I've seen people cook their hard drives while trying to create a silent server (that's a pretty expensive mistake). CPU cooling is a much lower priority than cooling your hard drives. You should use the SMART to monitor your hard drive temps. During the initial system setup and burn-in I'd use smartctl from the CLI, then once you're ready for production, configure SMART monitoring through the webui.
 

majic79

Neophyte
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
10
it's worth mentioning that the design of the drive bay permits (encourages?) airflow through the main drive cluster, the point being that the more open the whole case is, the worse that airflow is across key components. By closing up some of those options (blocking off a panel of perforations for example) air is forced to flow through other areas (drives), and if a baffle is included between the drive bay and the heatsink, it air will be forced to flow around the CPU as well. By extending the baffle to the HBA, then it will also encourage cooling air to flow around the HBA's heatsink.

I've been running some drive tests (smartctl short and long tests, badblock tests), and currently it's seeing 37 degree drive temps according to smartctl, I would hope to better that (ambient is around 20 degrees at the moment), with CPU temps around 42 degrees, so this gives me a baseline to consider

I'm looking for longevity, but I don't plan to sacrifice silence in order to get it - I know that airflow is king, but there are a number of ways to get it. Some are easier/louder than others, but it should be possible to get a reliable performant quiet (note "quiet", not silent!) system that can last. I think it should be possible to cool a 20W TDP CPU, 5x WD Red's (100W max, 20W avg) and an LSI HBA (7W) with some thought and not too much effort, and with much more efficient fans
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top