Chenbro SR30169 Mini-ITX Server Chassis

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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.

  • Baseline - Chenbro SR30169 test system at idle, CPU fan at 1500 RPM
    — system fan at 500 RPM (19 [email protected])
    — system fan at 800 RPM (20~21 [email protected])
    — system fan at 1100 RPM (25 [email protected])
    — system fan at 1400 RPM (31 [email protected])
  • In Operation - Chenbro SR30169 test system
    — idle, CPU fan at 1500 RPM, system fan at 500 RPM (19 [email protected])
    — load, CPU fan at 2400 RPM, system fan at 800 RPM (28 [email protected])


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 little noise.

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 Lian 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 solution.

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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