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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:25 pm

You're post got me thinking about case design & drive placement in general. I just ordered a Fractal Design XL R2 and I intend to put in 2 SSDs and move my Blu-ray optical drive over to the new case.

I like the case I got.. but... it has four (count 'em!) 5.25" drive bays. I can see a single optical drive. I can maybe see 2 optical drives for special-purpose rigs. I can maybe-maybe far-out see 2 optical drives + another 5.25" device like a fan controller.. which brings us to 3 slots used out of 4. Now, the XL R2 is a full-tower case, so maybe they just tossed in those bays to fill up room. Interestingly, both of the 2.5/3.5" internal drive bays are completely removable from the case to free internal space and enable better airflow from the front fans.

Here's one trick: I fully intend to use some Scotch heavy-duty fastener tape (i.e. heavy-duty Velcro by another name) to place both of those SSD's on the back-side of the motherboard tray (it has 25 mm of clearance, which is more than enough for an SSD). I will then completely remove the 3.5" hard drive cages to give a completely unimpeded airflow path from the front intake fans to the motherboard area.

How about this wacky case design in ASCII art. I've seen similar things in some boutique builds so I'm not claiming complete originality, but it is a departure from the standard tower design:

edit: Ack, formatting messed up my beautiful artwork :-P Let's try it in code mode:
(Front view)
|   FAN  |  O  S   |
|   FAN  |  O  S   |
|   FAN  |  O  S   |
|   FAN  |  O  S   |
|   FAN  |         |

What you see here is my redneck double-wide case (not necessarily to scale). Two major chambers, the left one being the main case area for the motherboard/GPU/Addon cards/PSU(?) The whole front can be taken up by intake fans if you like, although it's not necessary. On the right-hand chamber, one optical drive (O) is mounted vertically, with lots of volume available for mounting SSDs and conventional HDDs either with front-facing hot-swap bays or just mounted internally going down the length of the case. In real life, the right-hand chamber would likely be narrower than the left-hand chamber.

Edit: A couple of thoughts:

1. Removable motherboard trays are not a popular as they once were, but this case would benefit from one since reaching the back side of the motherboard would be a little bit of an issue since you'd be reaching through the right-hand chamber. Then again, if the cut-out for the backside of the CPU mount region is still accessible, it might not be a big deal and you could still work in-situ on the back side of the motherboard.

2. Putting the PSU in the right-hand side chamber with the drives might be the way to go: there would be one less thing generating heat & blocking air in the left-hand chamber (cables could just go through a pass-through and have minimum blockage in the left-hand chamber). The optical drives & HDDs/SSDs don't generate huge amounts of heat to begin with and really don't need much in the way of cooling, so your hot components could be isolated with the PSU being the only "hot" component in the right-hand chamber.

Any ideas about how you think this type of case would do?
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:58 pm

chuckula wrote:
You're post got me thinking about case design & drive placement in general. I just ordered a Fractal Design XL R2 and I intend to put in 2 SSDs and move my Blu-ray optical drive over to the new case.

I really like the look of the Fractal Design XL R2. I love sleek monolith style at the front of a case, especially with their minimal little notch-LED at the top.
I considered it briefly for my planned super-workstation build, but I've discounted it since. It unfortunately is the epitome of the effect I've been talking about - it has more drive bays than anyone on earth could use, and simultaneously caters for XL-ATX and EATX motherboards, without the slightest overlap of any component areas. It's a rare motherboard that is as wide as XL-ATX and as deep as EATX at the same time.

I've ended up settling on the Silverstone GD08. The smallest EATX-compatible case I've ever found. I've worked out that with careful selection of L-type tower coolers, I can fit an EATX motherboard with dual-Xeons, and still have room for an array of 8x 3.5" hard drives, provided I use a short enough graphics card that it doesn't extend as far as the back of the drives.
Thankfully, in designing this case, Silverstone saw fit to leave the bottoms of the drive bays open, which means I can have a tower cooler extending into the 5.25" bay area instead of having optical drives.

I'm still trying to iron out any potential compatibility issues before I start buying the kit in, but I reckon I should be able to get all of this kit inside this case that's slightly smaller than even the Dell T5600, and still have major unimpeded airflow throughout the case.

I'll post up a thread once I decide to take the plunge and get going with it :-)
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:15 pm


I have a problem in a lot of cases with my ANS-9010, which is a 5.25" SATA RAMdrive. To accomodate the DIMM slots, it's a full-length 5.25" drive, like the old IBM XT HDDs (although it's only half-height), so one 5.25" drive bay. Still, it's long, and does not fit in most smaller cases where the 5.25" drives are mashed right up against the front of the PSU, or worse, the motherboard. It's pretty aggravating! (; ̄Д ̄)
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:52 pm

Good tropic, I am in, away with those 5 inch slots, reduce those 3 inch slots. No need for them in future!
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Apr 09, 2013 3:50 pm

hasseb64 wrote:
Good tropic, I am in, away with those 5 inch slots, reduce those 3 inch slots. No need for them in future!

Would you believe that there are still products out there that require a CD Check? Hauppauge's WinTV software that comes with their tuner cards for example still require the original physical cd in an optical drive (which is copy protected and iso images don't work) to install or even upgrade the WinTV software.
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:21 pm

Since 95% of all ATX motherboards have no more than six SATA ports on them, any case with more than 6 drive bays is niche, in my opinion - yet the market is flooded with cases for anything up to 10 drives - often of which more than 6 of them are 5.25" bays.

As much as I hate 5.25" bays, I actually use them for things other than optical drives, most notably those external hot-plug bays for bare 3.5" SATA drives, though I'm probably not a typical user, who would likely just use a 2.5" USB hard drive.

However, I'd welcome more slim mATX towers that had six 3.5" bays in them. The Fractal Node is good, but squat boxes are so bad because of their chubby, space-wasting footprint. We either want something we can tuck against a wall or we want something horizontal to fit in an AV unit, rack, underneath something like a printer/monitor etc.
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Re: Pointless rant about optical drive bays in cases...

Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:51 pm

I like my desktop. I like the flexibility it gives me even though it takes up more space because of the flexibility. I accept it, and I embrace it. If I want something compact, I buy a laptop, and I do have several laptops, but I'm going to keep a desktop around because it can be adapted more readily then a laptop can.

I think cases should have nothing but 5.25" bays, and they should add hot swap cages for disk drives instead of internal bays. :)

Khali wrote:
With things getting smaller I can see where we might end up going back to computer cases laid out horizontally like the original PC from IBM years ago. Just think we could all go back to the days of sitting our monitor on top of the PC again. :lol:

I'd love to have a pizza box PC again. I always did like the old Sun workstations in that form factor.

I think a variation on Shuttle's toaster form factor would be better though. It would annoy me to have two, or more monitors, that were at different heights.

Airmantharp wrote:
It's hard to read this thread without thinking about Intel's NUC. Reality quickly sets in; once you move beyond what's absolutely necessary to run a system, you're wasting space, like MMO said above.

At the point where a NUC makes sense, a laptop with a docking station might be a better option. It can do everything the NUC can do, plus it's more portable. If I want a NUC for a server, I could just use a laptop and have a built in monitor and keyboard. The NUC form factor makes sense it was pushed in a server direction, and it was supposed to be a small home server.

GrimDanfango wrote:
If you take a look at the latest Dell T5600 workstations - they're incredibly compact cases for what they contain, ~415x170x470mm. That contains (at top spec) an enormous EATX motherboard, with two 150W CPUs, top end graphics cards, plenty of expansion room, two hard drives, one optical bay and one slim bay. If they'd done away with the optical bays it could have easily managed 4 hard drives.

I was shocked and appalled that the T5600 only came with two hard drives. I wanted a desktop for work that had one SSD boot drive and two 1TB+ drives coupled with lots of RAM and a fast proc, but that doesn't exist in the Dell lineup unless you're prepared to spend a lot of money on one of the higher end Precisions.

There is plenty of room in the T5600 for four HD bays even with the 5.25" bay. Dell just artificially segmented their market. Although, most people probably didn't order more then one HD anyway, so it's probably cheaper to only build a case with two internal bays. Still shocked and appalled.

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