Norco RPC-4020 4U Reviewajmatson - August 18, 2010
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In the world of computers there are many reasons why you would want to build your own servers, including gaming, file sharing, or backing up your files to a central and secure location. While you have a lot of choices in case sizes, such as small form factor styles or mini tower case designs, they might not always do the job. When space is important, having tower style cases can take up a lot of room. In this instance a rack mounted solution might be better suited for the needs. More and more people that I know are trying to save space, while having multiple systems running by their work area. Rack style cases are not just for servers anymore they can offer a variety of uses. Larger designs allow you to place full sized components into a 4U or 5U design and do the same job as a tower case would. Some even will accept the same hardware at a full size tower would, such as large graphics cards and towering heat sinks.
Not too long back we took a look at our first rack mountable case with the In Win IW-R300, which proved to be a great server chassis. While it was a 3U case there was still a small amount of room which left us a bit cramped. Today we are going to review a larger rack mountable server chassis, this time from a well known server parts manufacturer Norco Technologies. This chassis is the Norco RPC-4020 and it is a 4U rack chassis, which offers a wealth of options including removable hard drive cages, plenty of space, and easy manageability. While not a grand 5U size, the RPC-4020 has the perfect balance of space and size and knows how to maximize the areas available to work in. If you are as excited to dive into this baby as I am, then let's start off with a good look at what it has to offer.
The Norco RPC-4020 comes well packaged in a double cardboard box with Styrofoam inserts. This keeps the chassis protected during transportation. With the size and weight of this beast, it needs to be protected. Even the FedEx driver needed help getting it off the truck when he delivered it to me. When you open the box, you can really see the care that went into keeping the case safe. Norco put the time into keeping it from being damaged. Included with the RPC-4020 are several accessories to help get you started. There are heat sink adapters for single and dual processors designs, slim floppy adapter, screws and standoffs, standoff install tool, and four rubber feet for placement on a desk.
The Norco RPC-4020 is a very large case. It measures 7 inches tall (4U rack size), 19 inches wide and 25.5 inches deep. The total weight of the case is 46.7 pounds empty, making it one of the heaviest cases I have ever owned. Rails are not included with the chassis, which is a big drawback considering the sheer size of the chassis. For the price of the case and the weight of it, rails are a must and should be standard with the RPC-4020. There are rails that are available for an extra charge from Norco should you need to get them. You can use either RL-20 or RL-26 rails which are designed for the bulk of the chassis. The case is made of steel and ABS plastics and is designed to be abused and last a long time. The RPC-4020 is made with a tool-less design (for the most part). The cover uses no screws, which allows for easy removal for maintenance and upgrades while in the rack. To remove the cover, just press in the two black and gray tabs with your thumbs and slide the cover toward the rear of the chassis. The front of the case is where the twenty removable hard drive bays are which we will look more at in the review. The rear of the chassis looks like a desktop design with seven full size expansion slots, a normal size back plate for the motherboard, ventilation holes for fans, and the ATX power supply cutout.
On the top front of the case above the hard drive bays are where the optical and floppy drive is kept. The RPC-4020 supports one slim floppy drive and one slim optical drive. One thing of note is that no converters's are included so if you are using an IDE optical drive you will need to purchase the back-plate separately, adding additional costs to the case. In between the slim drives are the front panel controls. From the left to right there is the power button, a reset button, one USB 2.0 port, and the indicator lights. For the indicator lights you have the power LED, main OS hard drive activity LED, and two NIC LED's (providing your NIC cards have LED headers).
Now that we have had a look at the outside, let's remove the cover and see what the inside has to offer.