Case & Power Supply

Home Server Building Guide

CASE: LIAN LI PC-Q08

The Lian Li PC-Q08 has a relatively small footprint, holds six drives, comes with a pair of large acoustically-sound fans, and looks fantastic. The only issue is noise, or more specifically the noise generated by the vibrations passed from the hard drives to the loose drive cages and side panels — when we tested the PC-Q08 with only three drives, it was a noticeable problem. However, we made a few simple modifications to damp the vibrations to the point where they aren't noticeable even with all its drive bays populated, at least with low vibration WD Green Power hard drives. Once this issue is taken care of, the PC-Q08 makes for a superb small server case. More details on the mod later on.

Specifications: Lian Li PC-Q08R
(from the product web page)
Dimensions (W) 227mm x (H) 272mm x
(D) 345mm
Front bezel Material Aluminum
Side Panel Aluminum
Body Material Aluminum
Net Weight 2.73KG
5.25" drive bay (External) 1
3.5" drive bay (External) none
3.5" drive bay (Internal) 6
Expansion Slot 2
Motherboard Mini-ITX / Mini-DTX
System Fans 140mm Red LED Fan x 1 (front),
120mm Red LED Fan x 1 (top)
I/O Ports USB3.0 x 2 / HD Audio
Maximum Video Card Size 300mm

Why mini-ITX and not microATX? To be blunt, there are few microATX cases with quality construction and decent drive support. Most of the models we found with four 3.5" bays or more were cheap, ugly, rebranded generic enclosures with thin panels and flimsy construction. An ideal case would be a tower with a a surplus of 5.25" bays so we could suspend all the drives, but no such microATX case seems to exist.

Our search turned up only a pair of real contenders: the Antec Mini P180, and the Lian Li PC-V354. The Mini P180 is a little too big for our liking, standing about the same height as a standard ATX tower. The Lian Li PC-V354A is significantly larger than the PC-Q08, with dimensions that make it look like a small ungainly chest, and yet it can only hold one more drive. If you're want a bigger case with more than six drives, we figure you will almost certainly want more than seven. For that many drives, a full tower would be best and there are a lot more ATX cases to choose from.

POWER SUPPLY: CHOICES, CHOICES!

The Cooler Master M700W offers far more power than needed for this system (it ended up idling at about 70W AC), but it's a modular PSU we have been using extensively in the lab, with well know noise and efficiency characteristics. In a small case that will be packed like this one, detachable output cables in a PSU makes installation so much simpler. The PC-Q08 case can mount a power supply with its bottom intake fan drawing air from the outside, via the side vent, so it should stay cool and thus not add anything measurable to the system's overall acoustics, especially with six drives installed.

Of course you don't have to spend US$100 to purchase a suitable quiet power supply. You can spend less... and you can spend more. Below is a selection of PSUs that we've assessed to be as quiet or quieter at loads at ~150W and less. These are mostly models we've had experience with — there are sure to be many others that are appropriately quiet. A decent fanless unit would work too though the top case fan may need to be reversed to blow air across it.

Quiet Power Supply Comparison
PSU Noise (dBA@1m) vs. Power

in Hotbox/Anechoic Chamber
Street Price (US)
Model
90W
150W
200W
Seasonic X-400 (fanless)
<10*
<10*
<10*
$140
<10*
<10*
12
$140
11
11
11
$120
11
11
12
$100
11
11
12
$80
12
12
14
$120
11
11
16
$75
<11
12
16
$100
14
14
18
$110
*<10= below the ambient of our anechoic chamber;
immeasurably low @1m in any environment

Other obvious options include any lower power variants of the models above, including the fanless Seasonic X-460, the fan-cooled X-560, the Antec TP550, and the Cooler Master Silent Pro M 500/600. There are also quiet offerings from the newly refreshed, modular Corsair HX series (still made by Seasonic): HX450, 520, 620 and 650. Seasonic's reliable S12II series are also very quiet, >82% efficient, and start as low as $60 for the 520W model.

Use the SPCR/Pricegrabber Shopping Engine to help you get the best deal on the right PSU.

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