One thing that surprised me while I was building the server is how small was the selection of possible components. Living in the Mac Universe and listening to stories about how much variety and choices the PC side has, I sort of assumed that if you are to build a computer from parts, there will many different models to choose from. Not exactly true…
Lets start with the case. As I said I want the server to be as small as possible. That comes down to a Mini ITX motherboard and the corresponding case. Lets find a case designed for a Mini ITX board that can hold 6 hard drives, one optical drive, and one SSD drive. After searching high and low I found only two cases that satisfy these requirements: Lian Li PC-Q08 and Lian Li PC-Q18.
If you know of any other cases that meet the above requirements, please drop me a note in the comment section.
The former case is about two years old, the latter showed up in the stores right when I was building the server. After looking at the specs I picked PC-Q08 for two simple reasons: It has space for a 110mm CPU cooler (PC-18Q can only accommodate 80mm cooler) and it does not have the ugly Lian Li label in front of the box. And, it was about $50 cheaper at that time. There are some aspects where the newer case is better: it has 140mm fan on top of the case (instead of 120mm); it has a dedicated motherboard tray inside (the former case mounts the motherboard on a side panel). There is some space behind the tray for better cable management. It also has a bit more space for a PSU (160mm vs 140mm). Four of the drives are mounted on a “real” SATA backplane, making installation and management of the drives easier. I read that the overall construction is more solid resulting in significant vibration reduction. However, the cooler height was a very important factor for me and I will talk about it in one of the next posts.