Review: Mystery 8-Bay NAS Case

Overall Rating

8/10, pretty good. Great price and no extreme flaws.

Info

This case is the ??? manufactured by ??? in…..probably China? There’s no branding other than “NAS-8” on the backplane PCB.

Here is the eBay listing that I bought it from: https://www.ebay.com/itm/164928683806

It also appears to be available on AliExpress, along with the 2- and 4-bay versions: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001520370713.html. This link has more pictures available.

I actually plan to use it as a DAS rather than a NAS via an external SAS connection, but it is easier to just put a motherboard in there anyway for power + fan control. There are JBOD “motherboards” available that tell the power supply to turn on and control the fans, but these seem to be out of fashion. It would cost more to buy one than to just throw a cheap embedded mini-ITX board in there.

Pros

The most obvious is the price. At $130, with possibly even cheaper prices on AliExpress, it’s a very good value. Comparable cases cost $200-300, but many have bigger flaws. For example, the SilverStone CS380 and DS380 have a reputation a drive cookers due to poor cooling design. I can’t say the cooling on this case is great, but you’re at least not paying good money for it. Also, the simple design of the drive cage makes it easy to make DIY improvements to the airflow by simply using flat objects to cover any holes that you aren’t routing cables through:

As such, for any downsides which are cost-related, I’ll point them out, but I’ll try to avoid excessive critique.

Quality seems fine. Nothing felt like it would break or wear out, though the drive tray fitment could be a little better. When you pull the handle, rather than the other end levering the tray out, the short end of the lever tends to just slip past the cage wall, so you have to just pull it to get it out. More enterprise-grade hardware tends to have better fit, and sometimes reinforces the lever with metal inserts, but both of those would increase the cost.

The PCI slot is full-height, which is not the case on some similar cases that cost far more (such as the Supermicro SC721TQ-250B and variants). Even the 4-bay variant has a full-height slot. Oddly enough, the 2-bay variant has no slot at all, but it does provide a hotswap tray for the 2.5″ bay. Regardless, this isn’t huge, since most network and storage cards would have low-profile brackets available anyway.

Speaking of 2.5″ bays, the trays do provide screw holes for 2.5″ drives, so no adapter or bracket is necessary to use 2.5″ drives in the 3.5″ bays. This is nice, since some enterprise grade cases require you to buy additional adapters, or even special trays for 2.5″ drives.

You get a couple extra front-panel LEDs, like three network lights and a warning light. This almost matches up perfectly with the front panel header on Supermicro motherboards. Which is perfect, since that’s what I threw in there.

Cable management is good (apart from backplane power), since the backplane uses SAS ports. This means just two data cables rather than eight, assuming you don’t need to use reverse-breakout cables (see further down).

The stock fans are okay. They don’t have PWM support, but the noise level is quiet even at full speed. If anything, I’d want to upgrade the fans.

If you’re willing to break out a Dremel, there’s probably some neat modifications you could do. There’s some cutouts for what appear to be SFF-8088 ports on the back, though they are covered by the drive cage. Should be easy enough to fit with some cutting. There is also plenty of empty space on the back if you’d like to add anything else.

There is a slot for an LCD display on the front. I’m not sure what model of LCD, but the possibility is there. Looks like it has 3 cutouts for buttons.

Cons

The front-panel button/LED header is awkward to use. It uses a ribbon cable, with the ends fanned out a little bit, but not enough. I strongly recommend using one of those front panel header extension blocks, where you can plug the cables into the block, and then plug the block into the motherboard. In addition, this design makes it awkward to plug the disk activity LED into an expansion card, which you’d likely want to do seeing as the case has SAS ports on the backplane. Not to mention, mini-ITX boards with 8 SATA ports are few and far between. I get what they were going for, but I think it would have been better to just have individual wire pairs like a typical PC case.

Speaking of front panel, while I can understand the desire to have the power and reset buttons (and possibly USB ports) behind the locked door, the LEDs are behind the front panel as well (as well as the LCD should you choose to buy one). You can kind of see the lights through the mesh panel, but you can’t see the legends.

The only annoying part of cable management is that the power cables for the backplane either need to be routed above the backplane walls, or underneath the backplane cage. Neither option is great. It would be much more convenient if there were a hole for power cables on the right side (looking from the front) rather than the left. For my PSU, I can’t even get both Molex connectors to the backplane – I have to use an extension (see the third image in the first gallery).

The backplane does not have a management chip. This means no locate/fail LEDs, but usually you’d be paying at least $170 for the backplane + cage alone if you want that level of functionality, so I can’t fault it too much there.

No Kensington lock slot – seems a little pointless to have a lock on the front door when the entire box can easily be picked up. On top of that, the front panel can be removed from inside the case without unlocking it. Ideally, there would be a Kensington lock slot positioned such that it also prevents the outer shell from being removed.

This is a minor thing, but it’s awkward to physically pick up the case. The back is flat apart from the PCI bracket. On most cases, the recession for the IO plate and PCI slots is a convenient place to grab on to.

Notes

After spending a few hours buzzing out traces with a multimeter trying to figure out what was wrong with the backplane, I found out that SAS reverse fanout cables are a thing, which you’ll need if you plan to plug the backplane into normal SATA ports. A normal/forward breakout cable is the more common variant, which will not work for this. You’ll either need a reverse breakout cable (SATA to SFF-8087) or just use a card with a native SAS connector.

Another thing to consider is that while it does come with all of the drive trays, it does not come with any placeholders for unoccupied slots. I had some spare ones, but you’ll really want to find a way to block airflow through unoccupied slots (especially the first and last slot). Otherwise, the air tends to just take the path of least resistance, and flow through the empty slots rather than cooling your drives. This is irrelevant if you plan to immediately fill up all 8 bays. I had some lying around, so I added them:

Not included with the case

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