Chenbro Mini-ITX Home Server/NAS ChassisAfter some prompting from a few of our technical sales associates, we decided to offer the Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX Home Server/NAS Chassis as an available product for sale on our Web site. We immediately received a slew of interest in this case. We had a lot of questions regarding specific mainboard compatibility (IEI KINO-690S1 & SN18000G in particular) with the case, so we did some extensive testing to see how it shapes up.

The Case

The Chenbro case has the following specifications:

  • Material: Steel
  • Dimensions (w x h x d): 260 mm x 140 mm x 260 mm (10.24″ x 5.51″ x 10.24″)
  • Removable Hard Drive Bay: 4 x 3.5″ SATA HDD
  • Internal Hard Drive Bay: 1 x 2.5″ notebook HDD
  • Optical Drive Bay: Slimline CD/DVD drive
  • Front Access: 2 x USB 2.0, SD/Mini-SD/MMC/MS card reader, power button, reset button
  • Cooling System: 2 x 70 mm fans (rear), 1 x 60 mm fan (front: optional)
  • Power Supply: Built-in 180W DC board & external AC adapter (brick)
  • Input: AC 100 ~ 240V
  • Output: DC 19V @ 9.5A

Chenbro ES34069 AccessoriesThe case comes standard with the following accessories:

  • Slimline CD to IDE adapter
  • AC adapter (brick & cord)
  • Screws
  • Keys for security lock
  • Heat sink, CPU fan, and bracket

The heat sink, CPU fan, and bracket is designed for the Albatron KI690-AM2 mainboard. Because we don’t carry this board, nor do we ever plan to carry this board, the heat sink, CPU fan, and bracket is somewhat meaningless to us in this case.

Forget the Optional Accessories

Now, despite the fact that Chenbro’s Web site lists the front 60 mm fan and SD/Mini-SD/MMS/MS card reader as an optional accessory, do not get your hopes up for seeing it any time soon. We have determined that the optional front fan isn’t necessary anyway, because the heat generated from the mainboards we tested is dissipated quite nicely just by being actively cooled by the mainboard’s fan.

As for the card reader, the slot appears to be an afterthought addition to the case with no real intention of it ever being used. We can’t procure the card reader from any of our manufacturers, and now Chenbro has removed it as an optional accessory from its Web site. But, this isn’t the main feature that customers are interested in, so I won’t spend any more time discussing it.

Update 6/2/2008: The optional card reader is now available.

Features of Note

The entire plastic case front can be removed to make system assembly a little easier. The magnets that secure the front panel to the case aren’t very strong and seem to get displaced rather quickly from where they would serve a purpose. Of course, you could lock the front panel in place with the key, but this seems to be an unnecessary action considering you can just as conveniently snap off the front.

ES34069 Removable Mainboard CarrierThe case has a removable mainboard carrier tray to make installation and cable management a little easier, too. There are a few screws that need to be removed first before the carrier tray can be slid out from the case frame. You will give yourself a headache if this tray doesn’t get removed before you attempt to install the board and the internal 2.5″ HDD.

Use a round IDE cable instead of the flat IDE cable that comes standard with mainboards when connecting the internal HDD, CD/DVD drive, and mainboard. Otherwise, trying to bend, crease, and manipulate a flat IDE cable will also create serious headaches.

Chenbro ES34069 InsideThe optical drive bay has a removable tray/bracket as well. There is a tab that gets pressed down and the bracket slides out the front of the case.

The Case Connectors

The Chenbro case comes complete with just about every cable you could ever possibly want.

It includes a P4 power cable already connected to the ATX power supply for those mainboards out there that have the 4-pin power connector separate from the 20-pin ATX connector (e.g., Little Valley board).

The case also has a slew of LEDs and buttons, that, unless you have a board with corresponding onboard connectors, you won’t be able to use them in any way. For instance, there are LED indicators for LAN 1 & 2 ports, but the KINO-690S1 doesn’t even offer pin headers for the cables to connect to.

And, the one LED connector you would want to use, the power LED, is useless due to a design flaw. The cable has a 2-pin connector, while most of our boards have 3-pin connectors. Unless you do some splitting and reworking, you will not be able to use the power LED indicator light. If your board has a 2-pin connector, than you’re fine.

Installation

We installed the IEI KINO-690S1 Mini-ITX mainboard with the following:

  • 1GB DDR2 667 SO-DIMM memory
  • 2.5″ 80GB IDE HDD (internal)
  • AMD Turion 64×2 Dual-Core Mobile Processor – TL-60 2.0GHz
  • TEAC CD-224E Slimline CD-ROM Drive
  • 4 Seagate 3.5″ SATA HDDs

All the components fit into the case pretty nicely. The only thing to consider is the cable management. Use a round IDE cable and be sure to tie off the extra, unused cables so they don’t get in the way.

End of Part 1.

My next post will cover the performance and mainboard RAID support.