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SilverStone DS380 8-Bay Server/NAS Chassis

SilverStone DS380 8-Bay Server/NAS Chassis

April 2, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Product
SilverStone DS380

Mini-ITX Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$150

We are currently living in a digital golden age with easy access to many different forms of high definition media, not to mention affordable devices for producing our own. Though the rest of the traditional PC market is shifting toward more portable hardware, mass local storage remains a constant and ever present need. As a result, home servers and network storage devices continue to garner much interest. Recently reviewed server systems like the HP ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 and QNAP TS-469L make strong arguments for pre-built machines, but for some, the fully customized DIY option is ideal.

One of the biggest issues with the enthusiast server solution is case selection. Most mini-ITX enclosures aren't specialized enough for one specific application like storage as manufacturers tend to prefer more profitable products with a wider audience. A chassis may include four to six drive bays, qualifying it as server-friendly in the eyes of a marketing team, but more often than not this is an afterthought rather than a core feature the case is built around. The product we're looking at today goes against the norm.



The DS380.

The SilverStone DS380 reminds us somewhat of the Chenbro SR30169, a small server case with four hot-swap bays we examined a few months ago. The SR30169 serves the same basic function, providing compact removable storage, though it features a completely different (and incidentally flawed) internal design. It has similar proportions, though the DS380 is almost 30% larger in volume, mostly due to its depth. The extra space expands its functionality dramatically though — the DS380 has horizontal front-accessible drive bays stacked from top to bottom, eight in total. It also has more cooling, in the form of three 120 mm fans, two on the side blowing over the drive area, and one at the back acting as exhaust, and there's room inside for a good-sized heatsink as well.



The box.



Surprisingly the styrofoam inserts weren't flush with the edge of the box, so a couple of layers of bubble wrap made up the difference.



Accessories.

The DS380 ships with a basic manual, a bag of screws, a pair of keys, a long case badge for the door, a plastic contraption for holding up a long graphics card, a plastic hook to help route cables, and some labels for the removable drive caddy covers.

Specifications: SilverStone DS380

(from the
product web page
)
Model No. SST-DS380B (black)
Material Aluminum front door, SECC body
Motherboard DTX, Mini-ITX
Drive Bay External 3.5” SAS/ SATA hot-swap x 8 (2.5”
compatible)
Internal 2.5” x 4
Cooling System Front --
Rear 1 x 120mm 1200rpm 22dBA
Side Left - 2 x 120mm 1200rpm 22dBA
Top --
Bottom --
Internal --
Expansion Slot 2
Front I/O Port USB 3.0 x 2

audio x 1

MIC x 1
Power Supply SFX PSU (sold separately)
Expansion Card *Compatible with 11” long and 4.38”
wide
Limitation of CPU cooler 57mm
Dimension 211mm (W) x 285mm (H) x 360mm (D), 21.6
liters
Extra Kensington lock
Remark *Installation of expansion card up to maximum
size will occupy one hot-swap bay space, please refer user manual for more
information.

EXTERIOR & COVER

The DS380 is composed of an brush aluminum front door affixed to a thick plastic bezel and a sturdy steel body. It measures 21.1 x 28.5 x 36.0 cm or 8.3 x 11.2 x 14.2 inches (W x H x D), giving it a total volume of 21.6 Liters.



The right side of the case is featureless except for the door lock which uses a pentagonal key.



The case's sole intake source is two 120 mm fans on the left side covered by a thin mesh filter held on with tiny magnets. A smaller filter is also located at the top of the case, servicing the power supply fan.



The rear of the case reveals some interesting aspects. It uses an upside-down motherboard layout which SilverStone is known for, the power supply form factor is SFX rather ATX, and only the right side panel is removable.



The case feet are incredibly shallow but as there are no air vents on the bottom, it doesn't really matter. The two visible screws help secure the drive cage inside.



The door swings open right to left with a 180 degree range of motion. On the left side are a pair of USB 3.0 and mic/line-out ports, power and reset buttons, and power and hard drive activity LEDs. The right side is reserved for the removable drive caddies.



The drive trays use a simple squeeze and pull method of removal.

INTERIOR

The interior of the DS380 is fairly well built but the drive cages aren't as secure as we would like. The hot-swap cage is big and heavy but is only held on by six screws, four at the side and two at the bottom. The smaller 2.5 inch cage hangs down from the top panel, completely unsupported at the bottom, which isn't a problem if you're only using it to house SSDs.



The side panel is 0.8 mm thick but is reasonably strong, flexing only slightly at the corners when put under pressure.



The drive cage takes up the entire front half of the enclosure. Removal requires taking out four screws along the edge at the top and bottom, and two underneath the case.



The drive cage is outfitted with a well-stocked back plane consisting of two fan headers, 8 SATA ports for SATA and single-channel SAS drives, and an alternate set of 8 for dual-channel SAS drives. All this is powered by only a pair of molex connectors. A portion of the cage is missing in order to allow a graphics card to be installed, though this does limit you to seven drives.



While the cage is cooled by a pair of fans, the frame is fairly restrictive.



Removing the drive cage reveals the cables for the front connectors and the intake fans.



At the top of the case, next to the power supply mount is a smaller cage for up to four 2.5 inch drives.

ASSEMBLY

Assembly of the DS380 is fairly straightforward but the spacing inside is incredibly tight — exercising some forethought is highly recommended. In particular, plug in all the connectors that will be positioned at the bottom and rear of the case before mounting the motherboard itself, as it will be very difficult to access them later on. In our case, pre-connecting the 4-pin AUX12V plug and all the SATA cables saved us a lot of trouble.



According to SilverStone, the CPU cooler height limit is 57 mm but the 58 mm tall Scythe Big Shuriken 2 fit just under the drive cage, with the plastic portion touch the rim of the fan.



For our testing we used a slim tower, the Prolimatech Panther. Though not officially supported, it can be installed if the fan is removed or placed on the exhaust side. Keep in mind this isn't ideal for our test motherboard as the CPU socket is close to the PCI-E slot and a SATA controller card is required to take advantage of all eight drive bays.



Cable management is essentially nonexistent in the DS380. There isn't much room to hide wiring and SilverStone provides just a single plastic hook with adhesive. We found the area around the fans to be a suitable choice for keeping some of the front panel cables out of the way.



The drive caddies are surprisingly thick compared to most cases with hot-swap bays. That being said, they are somewhat loose once installed.



Putting the drive cage back on magnifies how little space is available. Though not visible, the power supply used was a SilverStone ST30SF. It's only a 300W 80 Plus Bronze unit but the fan only spins up on heavy load, and in fact stayed off throughout our testing.



Our CPU cooler of choice is the Noctua NH-U12P, but it turned out to be too deep. The Panther is just 50 mm thick and barely fit in the available space..



As long as it doesn't interfere with the drive cage, a taller heatsink can be employed. There was 27 mm available above the Panther, making the total clearance approximately 187 mm.



The tiny power LED is of the blinding blue variety while the hard drive activity LED is a more demure red.

TESTING

System Configuration:

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.

Test Drive Noise Summary
Drive
Vibration

1-10 (10 = no vibration)


Idle Airborne Acoustics @1m

Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB
7~8
17 dBA
Samsung F3 EcoGreen 2TB
7
15~16 dBA
WD Caviar SE16 320GB
6
18~19 dBA
WD Red 3TB
9
13~14 dBA

Usually we test cases with a single hard drive but for models designed or marketed
for use as a server we also test with three additional drives. The acoustic
properties of the drives used are detailed above. Incidentally, the Seagate,
Samsung, and WD SE16 drives are the models used for our single drive configuration
mini-ITX, microATX, and ATX case systems respectively.

Baseline Noise

The DS380 ships with a trio of Globefan 120 mm 1200 RPM 3-pin fans with a distinct dimple-bladed design inspired by golf balls. It's an older model included in some older SilverStone cases like the Fortress FT02 and Grandia GD05.

Stock Fan Measurements
Voltage
Avg. Speed
SPL @1m
12V
1200 RPM
34 dBA
9V
950 RPM
27 dBA
7V
770 RPM
21~22 dBA
5V
540 RPM
15~16 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.

The three stock fans combined to produce a loud 34 [email protected] at full speed but they undervolted well, quieting down to 15~16 [email protected] at 5V. The fans had a starting voltage in the 4.0V to 4.5V range so 5V is a good lower limit to ensure they spin up properly.

Also keep in mind that the lower noise levels are only possible with all three fans connected if you have some kind of fan control, which the DS380 doesn't offer. As most mini-ITX motherboards are limited to just two fan headers, SilverStone includes a pair of extra headers on the drive cage but they are not controllable.

The Globefan's acoustic character is generally smooth but there is an underlying clickiness that is especially prominent at lower speeds. At higher speeds, the increased turbulence hides this defect well but it's still clearly audible if you get up close to it.

TEST RESULTS: One Hard Drive

System Measurements:

i5-2500K (IGP) Test System, One Hard Drive
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
5V / 540 RPM
7V / 770 RPM
CPU Temp
29°C
51°C
48°C
PCH Temp
29°C
42°C
37°C
HD Temp
37°C
37°C
38°C
System Power (AC)
33W
130W
128W
21~22 dBA
24 dBA
CPU fan at full speed.

Ambient temperature: 21°C.

Equipped with only a single hard drive, our test system proved to be little challenge for the DS380. The CPU and PCH chips were fairly comfortable on load, even with the fans set to just 5V. The power supply fan didn't even spin up throughout testing, not contributing at all to the modest overall noise level of 21~22 [email protected] Hard drive vibration was a complete non issue in this configuration, as we could feel only very faint tremors at the top of the chassis. The only thing that stood out was the hard drive temperature — 37°C might be considered a bit high for a lone drive with direct cooling. Increasing the fan voltage to 7V resulted in moderate reductions in CPU and PCH temperature, and increased the SPL to 24 [email protected]

TEST RESULTS: Four Hard Drives

The difference between the one drive and four drive configuration was instantly noticeable. The noise level jumped by 3 dB and the acoustic profile was dominated by a strong resonance that waxed and waned every ~1.7 seconds. Tonal peaks at 90 and 120 Hz corresponding to the drives' 5400 and 7200 RPM rotational speeds, pulsed up and down.

The drive cage itself is well-constructed but the way it links up with the rest of the chassis does nothing to mitigate the side-to-side reverberations generated by mechanical hard disks. They are easily passed on to the rest of the case creating this annoying throbbing.

System Measurements:

i5-2500K (IGP) Test System, Four Hard Drives
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speeds
5V / 540 RPM
7V / 770 RPM
9V / 950 RPM
CPU Temp
30°C
54°C
50°C
48°C
PCH Temp
29°C
45°C
38°C
35°C
HD Temp #1
43°C
44°C
44°C
45°C
HD Temp #2
35°C
37°C
36°C
37°C
HD Temp #3
36°C
38°C
37°C
37°C
HD Temp #4
30°C
31°C
31°C
30°C
System Power (AC)
48W
148W
147W
145W
[email protected]

(right side)
24~25 dBA
(23~24 dBA)
26 dBA
(25 dBA)
28 dBA
(27dBA)
CPU fan at full speed.

Ambient temperature: 21°C.

The addition of three drives also made it more difficult to keep the system cool. On load, with the fans at 5V, the CPU and PCH heated up by an additional 3°C and the original hard drive warmed up by twice that. The rest of the drives were only lukewarm and surprisingly, increasing the fan speed to nothing to help cool them down. The extra airflow helped the other components but the drives were essentially unaffected.

As the intake fans are located on the left side, the system was a touch noisier when measured from that side (as we typically we do). When we positioned the mic on the closed-off right side of the enclosure, the noise measured was 1 dB lower across the board.

System Measurement Comparison:

i5-2500K (IGP) Test System, Four Hard Drives, Idle
Case
Lian Li PC-Q18
Chenbro SR30169
Fractal Node 304
SilverStone DS380
CPU
i5-2500K
i5-3470S
i5-2500K
i5-2500K
CPU Cooler
Scythe Big Shuriken 2 at 1100 RPM
Noctua NH-L9i at 2400 RPM
Noctua NH-U12P (Nexus at 1100 RPM)
Prolimatech Panther (Nexus at 1100 RPM)
Power Supply
Cooler Master M700W
AcBel CEO 300
Cooler Master M700W
SilverStone ST30SF
System Fan Speed(s)
5V
500 RPM
Low
5V
CPU Temp
24°C
39°C
31°C
30°C
PCH Temp
29°C
37°C
29°C
29°C
HD #1 Temp
35°C
42°C
36°C
43°C
HD #2 Temp
35°C
35°C
31°C
35°C
HD #3 Temp
30°C
37°C
34°C
36°C
HD #4 Temp
36°C
33°C
31°C
30°C
[email protected]

(right side)
21~22 dBA
23 dBA
23~24 dBA
24~25 dBA
(23~24 dBA)
Ambient temperature: 21°C.

Compared to other mini-ITX cases housing our four drive server configuration in an idle state, the DS380 was a bit noisier (when measured from the left) and exhibited higher drive temperatures than the rest of the field.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For a SilverStone case, the DS380 is surprisingly utilitarian. It has some of the flourishes SilverStone is known for like the brush aluminum door and the easily accessible external dust filters, but on the inside, things are considerably more Spartan. The underlying idea was to create a case with an eight bay hot-swap drive cage in as small of a space as possible, but in doing so, they made some design compromises and neglected other areas.

The complete lack of cable management is notable for any case at the US$150 price-point, and this is magnified by how tight everything fits inside, especially with a bigger CPU cooler. The choice to limit power supplies to SFX models saves quite a bit of space, but keep in mind most SFX models are not modular, and you really only need four power connectors to power everything, leaving a few cables leftover and no place to tie them down. To make assembly easier, the drive cage is removable, but the primitive scheme they came up with to mount it makes it heavily prone to drive vibration. The system we assembled resonated quite strongly with just four drives and it could only get worse with additional storage. While it's hard to make any eight drive system quiet, it's practically impossible without any fan control. This absence is notable as SilverStone has included some method of reducing fan speed in most of their previous cases.

The intake fans themselves aren't very effective at keeping the hard drives cool either. It's probably a combination of the fans' side positioning, the restrictive drive cage, and all the cabling blocking airflow. The one thing it has going for it in the cooling department is the CPU cooler height limit, which is much higher than specified if you make the right hardware choices (a thin tower heatsink and a motherboard with the CPU socket far away from the expansion slot). SilverStone also included a long video card option if you're willing to sacrifice a drive bay, but we could have lived without this. We can't imagine there's a large subset of people using their 6~8 drive servers for games, and in any event the case's cooling isn't really conducive to that sort of thing.

Despite all its problems, merely existing is enough to make the DS380 a compelling case for DIYers looking for massive amounts of removable storage within reasonably small dimensions. It is somewhat louder and rougher around the edges compared to most SilverStone cases, but the primary functionality is sound and the DS380 the first to fill this small niche.

Our thanks to SilverStone
for the DS380 case sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest


QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L 4-Bay NAS Server


HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8

Fractal Design Node 304 Mini-ITX Case

BitFenix
Phenom Mini-ITX Case


Chenbro
SR30169 Mini-ITX Server Chassis


Fractal Design Array Mini ITX NAS Case


* * *

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