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Re-skinned HTPC with SAS DAS Enclosure

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I previously started a poll asking for help and opinions regarding the purchase of a new case to move my HTPC hardware into. Thanks to the suggestions of everyone here at AVS, I was finally able to come to a decision and get the ball rolling on my new build.

For reference, here is a list of existing hardware, and the new components purchased.

Existing Hardware:

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X48-DS4
Processor: Intel Core2 Quad Q9450 (2.66 GHz)
Heatsink: Thermaltake Ultra 120 Extreme + 120mm fan (HUGE)
Graphics: GeForce 9800 GTX+
Media Player: Plextor 6X Blu-ray Drive
RAM: G.SKILL 8 GB (4 X 2 GB) DDR2 1066
Boot Drive: WD VelociRaptor 300 GB
RAID Controller: 3Ware 9650SE-4LPML
Data Drives: WD RE4-GP (4 drives)
PSU: Corsair 620W 80+

OS: Windows 7 x64

New Hardware:

HTPC
Primary case: Silverstone LC13B
HSF: Scythe Big Shuriken 120mm
Case Fans: All stock fans replaced - 2 Noctua 80mm and 1 Noctua 92mm
RAID: Areca 1680ix-8 + BBU
SAS Adapter: SFF-8087 to SFF-8088 adapter, 2 ports
Cables: Two SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 cables - included with Areca card

DAS Enclosure
Case: Rosewill R901-P BK
PSU: Rosewill Green Series RG530-S12 530W 80 PLUS
Hot Swap Bays: SNT-SAC3141B 4-in-3 (x3)
SAS Adapters: One single port and one dual port SFF-8088 to SFF-8087 adapters
Cables: SFF-8087 to 7 pin SATA breakout cable x 2 (should have gotten 3, but won't need the 3rd one for awhile)
Case Fans: All stock fans replaced - Two Noctua 120mm for the case, and 3 Noctua 80mm for the hot swap bays

And finally, the pics:

Finished Product



Front panel open



HSF Installation - One word...painful. Had to remove the heatsinks from the motherboard first to make enough room for the Scythe mounting brackets. Sausage fingers don't help the situation any. The fan hangs over the first DIMM slot, so changing out the RAM would require taking the whole thing apart again.



HTPC Case finished - Needless to say, it's a tight fit with that GPU. Also, the 24 pin bracket on the motherboard for the PSU connection is right underneath the optical drive cage, which is another tight squeeze.



Hot swap bay fan replacement - Definitely not plug-n-play



DAS Enclosure finished



Rear of DAS Enclosure - Just a close-up of the 3 mini-SAS ports and cable head.




All in all, I've very pleased with the setup. With all the stock fans replaced, both cases together make very little mechanical noise at all. The only sound is a faint "swishing" of air movement, and that's from the DAS enclosure more than the HTPC case. Processor and GPU temps are where they should be, and the DAS enclosure is keeping my 2 TB RE4-GP drives at a cool 29 degrees C.

My only complaint with the Noctua replacement fans is speed control. Each fan, regardless of size, comes with an attachment that reduces the voltage depending on if you want more air flow or less noise. This makes changing settings a real pain if you plan to tweak, but not that big of a deal. A 3 setting switch would be a better solution, especially for the price.

Once I have my A/V rack build finished, the DAS enclosure will actually sit inside another room (it's a built-in rack) while the HTPC occupies a space in the rack so I can reach the BD drive without having to walk around the back.

I'm getting roughly 270 MB/sec read transfer rates with 9.5 ms access speeds to the external array, much snappier than my previous 3Ware card (which is also a great card, by the way). Very pleased with the Areca performance and compatibility. The web interface is slightly flaky on Win7 X64, but that's certainly not a deal breaker.

Questions, comments?
post #2 of 12
HDvids4all

Looks awesome.

Questions
1.) Where did you get the SAS adapters?

2.) What is your opinion on quality of the Case: Rosewill R901-P BK?

Thanks
Scat
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks scat2002.

The SAS adapters were purchased from PC-Pitstop. There are a couple of different versions, so you need to pay attention to which adapter fits your needs. The ones I have in the Rosewill case (external to internal) only come in a centronics mounting bracket, so I also needed to find an L bracket with centronics cutout.

For the Rosewill case, the build quality is very good considering the price. I've read reviews where others mentioned cutting themselves up on the edges, but I didn't have any problems working with it at all. All the major edges are rolled steel, so you'd have to be pretty careless to bloody yourself up. I replaced the included 120mm fans to make it as quiet as possible, but that's probably not necessary for most people.
post #4 of 12
What RAID level are you using? HDD model? How fast are your write speeds?
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Right now I'm running RAID 5 off the Areca. I have another 8-bay enclosure that contains backups of everything on the primary array (with much cheaper disks), so 5 is just fine.

The drives are the Western Digital RE4-GP model, 2 TB each. Just ordered another 2 actually, so I'll be at 12 TB total, ~10 TB usable after parity. The RE4-GP drives have gotten mixed reviews all over the internet, but I have had great performance out of them with the 1680ix card. Haven't needed to drop back to SATA 150 like some have, so they're all running at full SATA 300 without a single drop out or error. By far the most quiet drives I've ever owned.

I'll post some additional read/write benchmarks later tonight for you, plus I want to do some comparisons after I add the other 2 drives soon.
post #6 of 12
Nice drives. Drool.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks. I originally had 1 TB Seagates, then went to 1.5 TB Seagates when those were full. I really did not like those 1.5 TB drives, loud as hell and so hot you could probably fry an egg on them at idle. Plus, Seagate was giving me a hard time on a few of them that needed to be replaced because they wouldn't support them in a RAID array. Eventually they gave in, but that was enough for me to switch to something else. The RE4-GPs were definitely the way to go for a high density array. 5 year warranty doesn't hurt either, but they charge you for it.

Here's a few HD Tach benchmarks

WD VelociRaptor 300 GB 10,000 RPM (OS drive for comparison)


107 MB/sec Read
245 MB/sec Burst


Areca 1680ix-8 With Four WD RE4-GP Drives, RAID5 (write caching enabled, BBU present)


311 MB/sec Read
1094.4 MB/sec Burst


Not too shabby for low power, low RPM drives.

HDTune registers roughly the same specs for read operations. I don't have the write benchmarks yet, but I plan to run them as soon as I get my other 2 drives in, hopefully this weekend. I want to run some additional tests with IOMeter as well. I'll do both 4 drive and 6 drive tests to see what, if any, performance gains I get (not that it matters). Probably take a couple of days for the 6 drive test since I'll be expanding the array by an additional 4 TB.
post #8 of 12
Yeah, the enterprise drives are nice. I've been using Seagate 1 TB enterprise drives. They have worked well, but are starting to feel a bit small.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
It's a sad state of affairs when 1 TB drives start to feel small.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Here's a quick write benchmark with IOMeter from late last night:

Areca 1680ix-8 With Four WD RE4-GP Drives, RAID5 (write caching enabled, BBU present)


177 MB/sec write

New drives are in, so I'll be expanding the array this weekend and testing with 6 drives.
post #11 of 12
I was running running raid 5 with wd black drives, i am now running hitachi drives after being warned by many of the incompatability of wd drives and 1680ix.

Lovely setup by the way, can you post more pics of how you have the expander and the raid card configured. I am looking for options to expand without having to replace my raid card ( running 1 8port card but i have a second one if i want to change out my mobo for one with 2 pcie slots)

thanks
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MoNkLorD View Post

I was running running raid 5 with wd black drives, i am now running hitachi drives after being warned by many of the incompatibility of wd drives and 1680ix.

Lovely setup by the way, can you post more pics of how you have the expander and the raid card configured. I am looking for options to expand without having to replace my raid card ( running 1 8port card but i have a second one if i want to change out my mobo for one with 2 pcie slots)

thanks

Thanks MoNKLorD.

As far as drive compatibility goes, if you look on the HDD Compatibility List from Areca, the only large WD drives supported (1 TB and larger) are the enterprise RE* series. Mine are the RE4-GP 2 TB drives, which have a warning regarding the possibility of incompatibility if you're running in SATA300 mode. I've been lucky enough to not have that issue, and all 6 drives are running at native SATA300 mode without any issues.

What's the exact model number of your Areca? If you look at the pics of my DAS above, I'm actually not running an expander, just running direct mini-SAS (2 cables right now for up to 8 drives). Even though my card is labeled as an 8 port card, that's 8 ports internal, 4 ports external. I'm rerouting the internal ports to the outside using adapters, so it can support up to 12 external drives before I need to think about SAS expanders. Since it looks like you have everything internal on your server chassis, you could do the same thing in reverse and reroute your external 4 ports back inside the case to get a little more life out of it before looking at expanders.

I read your last post about the Areca web interface being slow to load on the left-hand side. I had the same issue at first, but updating to the latest version in Feb. fixed that problem immediately. Runs nice and snappy now, no delay or lockups. Don't know what OS you're running, but the latest drivers/firmware/software have all been running excellent for me on Win 7 X64.

What would you like to see pictures of for the Areca setup configuration? I'm actually replacing my GPU and OS drive tonight, so I can get some pictures of how I'm rerouting internal connections if you like.
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