The Chenbro SR30169 is a sturdy SOHO server case with four hot-swap 3.5 inch drive bays accessible behind a front mesh door, ATX power supply, and a convenient modular design.
November 26, 2013 by Lawrence Lee
Mini-ITX Server Case
Chenbro is not a household name but has been a veteran of the PC case industry
since the ’80s. The Taiwanese company is a large OEM manufacturer and produces
a variety of enclosures of all shapes and sizes for other companies as well
as the general public. They focus on rackmount, server, and workstation cases
and accessories. Recently they sent us the SR30169, a US$150 mini-ITX
SOHO (small office / small home) server case for evaluation.
Specifications: Chenbro SR30169
product web page)
|Description||Compact server chassis for SOHO & SMB office|
|M/B Form Factor||Mini-ITX|
|Processor||Intel / AMD UP Quad|
|Support Backplane||6Gb/s SATA|
Intrusion Switch Support
(D x W x H)
| 31 x 20 x 27 cm / 12.2|
x 7.78 x 10.63" (16.7 liters volume)
|Power Supply||Form: Factor PS2|
|Drive Bay|| Hot-Swap 3.5": 4|
Internal 2.5": 2
|Generality||Metal Material: SGCC|
Metal Thickness: 0.8mm
Plastic Material: Type Hi-PS
|Expansion Slots||LP: 1|
|System Cooling||Middle: 1 x 120mm (T=25mm), PWM|
|Front Panel||Front Control: Power On/Off, System Reset|
Indicator: Power, HDD Activity, Fault LEDs
Ports: USB 2.0 x 2
|Shipping Information*||Net Weight: 5.2kg|
Gross Weight: 7kg
Cubic Feet: 1.85
|* Actual weight varies by configuration and manufacturing process.|
* The specification and pictures are subject to change without notice.
The SR30169 provides a platform for users to build a custom server alternative
with more versatility and power than a typical mid-range NAS box. As it uses
standard PC components, it is significantly larger than a pre-built NAS with
similar capacity, though as far as mini-ITX cases go, it falls somewhere in
the middle. It’s equipped with four hot-swappable 3.5 inch drive caddies that
connect to a SATA 6 Gbps backplate, two internal 2.5 inch bays, and a full-sized
250W ATX power supply. It also has some security features including a lock for
the door covering the drive bays, an intrusion switch, a Kensington security
slot, and a padlock loop. The Chenbro SR30169 does not have many competitors;
among the many cases we’ve tested over the years, we can pick out only two of
similar size with as much or more HDD bays.
Chenbro’s cases typically lack the pizzazz of more consumer-oriented models and the SR30169 is no exception. It ships in a well-padded but plain cardboard box. Included with the chassis are some basic accessories: an AC power cord, keys, and screws to mount the motherboard and drives. Aesthetically, the case itself doesn’t really standout but that’s not really a key ingredient for a small server as they’re usually tucked away, out of sight.
EXTERIOR & INTERIOR
The Chenbro SR30169 measures 31.0 x 20.0 x 27.0 cm or 12.2 x 7.8 x 10.6 inches (D x W x H), giving it a total volume of 16.7 liters. It’s built in an e OEM style, with emphasis on functionality and longevity. It’s a well-crafted box with a solid steel frame and side panels and a thick plastic front bezel and door.
INTERIOR (Con’t) & ASSEMBLY
The SR30169 has a modular design that makes assembly and service a snap. Every component attached to the chassis frame can be detached with ease, at most requiring the removal of a few screws.
Measurement and Analysis Tools
System temperatures were recorded with RealTemp, SpeedFan, and GPU-Z
at idle and on load using Prime95 (small FFT setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. Power consumption and noise levels were also measured.
Power Supply Testing
We begin our noise analysis of the case with the stock power supply unit being subjected to a condensed version of our standard power supply testing procedures to get a broad idea of its efficiency and environmental characteristics.
Chenbro AcBel CE2 300 Condensed Test Results
DC Output (W)
+12V Ripple: <20mV
+5V & +3.3V Ripple: <16mV
AC Power in Standby: 0.6W
AC Power with No Load, PSU power On: 8.6W / 0.42PF
Ambient: 11 dBA, 21°C
The retail units we typically review are 80 Plus certified, often Gold or Platinum,
so the relative inefficiency of the stock PSU is glaring, failing to reach 80%
efficiency at 150W DC load, which is more than a small mini-ITX server would
usually pull. It’s not all bad though as the AC ripple was low and at no point
did the fan ramp up during testing. The PSU produced a very low 13.5 dBA@1m,
easily drowned out by just about any kind of noise source you’d find in a modern
Stock Fan Noise Level
(SPCR Mini-ITX test configuration, Idle)
CPU fan set to 1500 RPM.
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
Together, with the rest of the noise generating components from our test configuration, a Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB hard drive, and a Noctua 92 mm CPU fan running at a fairly low setting (1500 RPM or about 6V), the system emitted a noise level of 18~19 dBA@1m. The system fan, at its minimum PWM-controllable speed of 500 RPM wasn’t audible with this combination, barely contributing to the measured noise level. At full speed though, the fan is perfectly capable of drowning out everything, pushing the overall noise level to 31 dBA@1m.
The fan doesn’t have the best acoustic properties but its surroundings help hide its negative qualities. It’s buried inside the case, cordoned off from the front vent below it by a duct, and the area above it is blocked off by hard drive trays. At lower speeds it produces a gentle hum that slowly develops into a buzz above ~1000 RPM. At top speed, it generates a high-pitched drone. If the fan is kept below 1000 RPM, it’s difficult to detect these flaws unless the other system components are very quiet and/or the side panel is taken off.
CPU + GPU Load
2400 RPM (max)
System Power (AC)
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
Sitting idle with the CPU and system fan at 1500 and 500 RPM respectively, the system was comfortably cool with the CPU and PCH temperatures in the mid ’30s. The hard drive stabilized at a warm 42°C which is a little high for this system configuration. The overall noise produced by the machine was low, measuring 19 dBA@1m.
Despite only using a 65W processor, the load test overwhelmed the Noctua NH-L9i
cooler, forcing us to run it at full speed to keep the CPU temperature below
80°C and causing the overall noise level to jump by 9 dB. The PCH heated
up by almost 20°C due to a combination of the lack of airflow from the system
fan and the relatively inefficient power supply not ramping up its fan.
Pushing the system fan to 800 RPM provided 3°C of relief to the CPU with no measurable added noise, but this strangely made the hard drive heat up. Moving to 1100 RPM generated odd results as well, cooling down the board by a couple of degrees but reversing the previous improvement to CPU cooling. After a certain point the flow of the system fan starts to interfere with the CPU cooler.
At idle with low CPU and system fan speeds, the system’s acoustic character was relatively quiet and inoffensive. On load, the CPU fan became the main noise generator, drowning out all the other components. The 92 mm CPU fan running at top speed made the machine fairly noisy and the pitch was higher and somewhat grating.
Test Drive Noise Summary
1-10 (10 = no vibration)
Idle Airborne Acoustics @1m
Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
Samsung F3 EcoGreen 2TB
WD Caviar SE16 320GB
WD Red 3TB
The main draw of the SR30169 is its ability to hot-swap up to four hard drives,
so we would be remiss not to test it with all the bays populated. For this purpose,
we selected a group of hard drives similar to those used in a test of the Lian
Li PC-Q18, a slightly larger (21 vs. 16.7 litres) mini-ITX case reviewed
last year that has four side-mounted, internal hot-swap bays and room
for two more 3.5" drives on a bottom tray. Though it was tested with a
much better power supply and a more powerful CPU and cooler, it’s the closest
analog among the cases we’ve tested. (The earlier Lian
Li PC-Q08 is quite similar to the PC-Q18, but lacks the newer model’s
multiple hot swap bays.)
System Measurements: Comparison (Idle)
Lian Li PC-Q18**
System Fan Speed(s)
HD #1 Temp
HD #2 Temp
HD #3 Temp
HD #4 Temp
System Power (AC)
Ambient temperature: 21°C.
*Relevant configuration differences: Core i5-3470S, Noctua NH-L9i at 2400
RPM, AcBel CE2 300.
**Relevant configuration differences: Core i5-2500K, Scythe Big Shuriken 2 at 1100 RPM, Cooler Master Silent Pro M700W
The PC-Q18 is equipped with two fans and has a better airflow scheme so it’s
no surprise it held a significant cooling advantage over the SR30169. Of course,
the fact that we used a superior CPU cooler makes it an unfair comparison. In
retrospect, we could have squeezed a Scythe Big Shuriken 2 heatsink into the
Chenbro (with perhaps 1cm to spare), which would have closed the cooling gap
between the two cases. Also, perhaps because the drives are buried further inside
the PC-Q18, rather than being near the mesh front door of the Chenbro, the latter
got slightly noiser with more drives.
That being said, the SR30169’s drive cage seems to be more secure, as evidenced
by an almost complete lack of vibration passed from the drives to the case.
Like most Lian Li cases, the PC-Q18’s drive bays are arranged somewhat loosely
and when its bays were filled, the machine produced some audible hum. With the
Chenbro case, we could not detect anything by ear, and only slight vibration
was noticed through touch.
The extra noise put out by the additional drives was mostly innocuous so they
didn’t effect the overall quality of the noise. The one exception was the WD
SE16 320GB, an older 7200 RPM drive which emitted a high pitch squeal at ~3.5
These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.
Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.
The Chenbro SR30169 offers pretty much everything one would want in a small
server case including four hot-swappable bays, door lock, chassis intrusion
detector, and modular design that makes upkeep painless. It’s also very sturdy,
especially the drive cage and trays, which inhibit vibration better than most
retail cases. And while it’s not designed with aesthetics in mind, it’s far
from ugly. The silver mesh front is handsome against the black background, especially
in the dark when its illuminated by the blue hard drive LEDs.
On the down side, the awkward internal layout is strong evidence that cooling
was not a priority in the SR30169 design. The main intake is severely restricted,
especially when all the drive bays are in use, and the way airflow is directed
is convoluted and ineffective. On heavy load, it has difficulty dealing with
CPU heat, but then most small server CPUs aren’t subject to that much stress.
The power supply isn’t the best choice for the 24-7 operation of a server as
its efficiency is poor compared to most retail models. However, for a bundled
PSU, it’s hard to complain too much. It provides enough power and produces very
One obvious way to improve both efficiency and cooling is to replace the stock
PSU with a picoPSU
and external power brick of appropriate rating. This would allow, in one
fell swoop, the use of a much larger, more efficient CPU heatsink/fan, including
12cm fan towers, and far higher energy efficiency.
The closest match among all the other mini-ITX cases we’ve reviewed is the
Li PC-Q18, which has four internal 3.5" hot-swap bays and room
for two more drives elsewhere. It’s a bit of a tossup between the sturdy Chenbro
and the Lian Li, which is slicker, especially inside. The PC-Q18 sells for $130~150
without a PSU.
The Chenbro SR30169 is a prototypical OEM case, which is mostly a good thing
when it comes to small server enclosures. It does away with all the unnecessary
bells and whistles found on typical consumer mini-ITX cases, putting all the
emphasis on the important things. It’s well built, functional, and easy to assemble.
The power supply is rather basic but it gets the job done quietly. The SR30169
is selling for about US$150, a reasonable price for those who would rather
try their hand at a DIY small server rather than a splurge on a pre-built NAS
Our thanks to Chenbro
for the SR30169 case sample.
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Lian Li PC-Q18: The Perfect Mini Server Case?
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