Norco RPC-4020 4U Reviewajmatson - August 18, 2010
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The size of this case makes it great for working inside the chassis. There is so much room to work in that big finger people like me will have no issues working in the main motherboard area. This motherboard mounting area accepts mATX, ATX, CEB, and EEB motherboards up to 12 inches by 13 inches in size. The standoffs are installed, but they can easily be moved around depending on the motherboard installed. There are seven full size expansion slots on the rear of the chassis so no slot adapters are needed and thus cutting off access to neighboring slots. Next to the expansion slots there are two 80mm x 25mm exhaust fans - the same model as the ones on the fan bracket. The back panel bracket is full size so any motherboard panel protector can be installed. The RPC-4020 can accept a full size standard ATX power supply or an ATX Mini Redundant power supply for additional protection against downtime. For the front panel leads there are only the standard Power, Reset, HDD activity, NIC activity, and one USB 2.0 lead.
To work with the hard drive connections, you have to remove the fan section. This is a big downside to the design because you have to wire the case for everything in the beginning and if you don't you will be sorry later. Even if you are not using all twenty SATA ports I highly recommend wiring them all up if you have the cables or you will have a fun time later trying to add them. Above the hot swap bays is the additional drive storage. There is room for one slim floppy on the left and one slim optical drive on the right. The mounting hardware is included in however; if you plan on using an IDE slim optical Norco does not include the adapter with the case. You will need to purchase it separately from them or a third party vendor. Luckily I had a spare on available to me when I tested the chassis. In the center is a cage for a 3.5-inch hard drive. This is where you install the OS drive, which is needed if your hot swap bays are attached to RAID controller cards. If you look at the drive backplanes, you can see there is one for each level of drives. On the left of the backplanes are the power plugs. There are two of them on each back plate. Only one is needed for operation the second is for a redundant power supply if you install one. On the right of the backplanes are the SATA connectors. There are four lined up next to each other corresponding to the slots on the front.
On the fan bracket there are several holes at the bottom. This is where you can route your cables to the motherboard or controller card for neat cable management. There are five 80mm x 25mm fans installed on the bracket and are the same type as the two installed on the back panel of the case. Each one is plugged into a power distribution strip mounted above the fans and powered by a single 4-pin Molex connection. There are six headers on the strip, which I am unaware why that is and there was no documentation I could find on it since there are only five fan slots. Unfortunately with this type of setup there is no way to control the fan speeds from the motherboard so they are running full speed all the time. You could install a PCI bracket fan controller with a 3-pin to Molex adapter, which means you have to go to the back of the case each time you adjust. Another idea which works is to install the fans on the opposite side of the bracket and plug them directly into your motherboard for thermal control. The fans are manufactured by a company called Kenon Motors. They are part of the KMF08D series (model number KMF08DHD1B) and rated for 37.65CFM at 12 volts. They produce a static air pressure of 3.53 mmH20 and have a noise level of 32dB each. When all seven fans are running at the same time, they are a bit loud, but tolerable. I have had some server fans that sound like a jet engine and these are moderate compared to those.
The drive section is where the magic of the RPC-4020 is. There are a total of twenty 3.5-inch hard drive bays available. Each one has a removable cage allowing the user to easily swap, move, or replace drives as needed. If your motherboard or controller card supports it, you can also hot swap the drives as well. Each drive gets installed and slid into their respective bay. The drive connectors connect directly to the SATA backplanes in the rear of the bay. There are ventilation holes in the front of the cages which allow air to be pulled in from the front of the case by the fans. Since the drives themselves plug into the backplanes you cannot use 2.5-inch drives unless you have an adapter such as the Icy Dock MB882SP. A bracket adapter does not work because the connectors do not align up correctly. With 2.5-inch drives becoming a standard it would be nice to have some type of adapters either included or available from Norco.
Finally, we have a shot of the case filled with the goodies. I also wanted to show you how it looks when placed in a rack and the individual LED lights for the bays. I could not get the blue activity lights to show because they were going so quick, but under the green power LED there is a bright blue one that shows drive activity. Please forgive the cable mess in my rack, I am in the process of moving things around.
Now that we have taken a look at the chassis, let's close it up and test it out.