X-Case RM404 4U Rackmount Case Review

Posted by James Brindle on May 10, 2010.

Great for price, well constructed, plan well

I’d been having problems in my studio for a while with buzzing and humming and cabling and so on, so I decided to basically rip it all out and start again, one cable at a time to eliminate the hum, ensure proper serpation, PC cables not twisted round audio etc.  Part of my setup, naturally involves a PC running Ableton Live, Fruity Loops, Audition etc and upto now, this PC has been a midi-tower open-chasis laid sideways on top of a rack-shelf so I decided it was time to tidy this up as well – a nice rackmount case with proper fans and ventilation etc.

A few months ago, i’d stumbled upon x-case’s website and found they did a short 4U case.  This case is advertised as 380mm deep – perfect!  Unlike server-farm gear which is generally between 600mm or 800mm, i’m using audio industry standard components which are always shorter and my custom-built, movable housing is 500mm deep – so a standard case wasn’t going to be any use as the overhang and weight at the back would be too much and prevent me from pushing the rack back up against the wall in its alcove home.

Supplier Experience:

X-Case were extremely easy to deal with, called them in the afternoon, spoke to a very helpful sales advisor, placed order, paid by credit card, was advised delivery would be next day…….. by DHL :( ok, so that’s there choice of courier, not mine.

Waited in the day after, checked DHL website, told it was out for delivery, waited, waited, waited, checked website, status updated to “no one in, left card” – LIES!  I live in an apartment building with an intercom system and the mailboxes are in the lobby and you can’t get to them without the door code.  Phoned DHL, told that the address was incomplete (MORE LIES), had to phone X-Case, again very helpful, they emailed DHL and about an hour later I had a text message advising me delivery would be next day.

Waited in again next day, about 2:45pm, a phonecall from the driver who was an outsourced local delivery, went down to collect package, he admitted he hadn’t bothered trying to deliver the day before.  Ok, so it’s here.

Packaging:

Good solid carton, good foam corner inserts to prevent transit drop damange, happy with this side overall.

Inside The Case:

Took the top off – just 2 screws – top slides off easily, no prying or jimmying needed.  Two 80cm fans are supplied as standard already fitted but have 3-pin connectors on them – this caused me a little issue as my existing motherboard only had one system fan header other than the CPU fan.

Front side of case has an upper removable tray (an upgrade in the V2 model) which will house 1 x 5.25″ drive and then there are two 3.25″ housings – the video embedded at the bottom doesn’t state that these will hold two drives each so i’d spent time prior to receiving the case reducing my drive overhead to 2 instead of 4.

Good space inside, neat edges which have been properly formed so no sliced and diced fingers.

The case is supplied with a bag of screws and posts which are always invaluable.

Transplanting existing PC components:

So, time to strip out the original chasis.  I carefully removed everything from the old case, laid it out on the workbench and started to build it back up in the new chasis.

Motherboard went in very easily, good selection of pre-drilled and threaded holes for metal posts to go into.  Front-panel connector is just three connections; power switch, power LED and HDD LED, no speaker connector in the case so I used up an old micro one that got supplied with another motherboard.

Time to do the drive tray.  4 screws release the tray which has the 3 sets of bays in it and you can lift it away easily.  Removing the screws to be able to install the drews has to be done in a bit of a specific order though.  You have to remove the leftmost 3.25″ bay and the 5.25″ bay before you can realistically get at the centre screws for the middle 3.25″ bay.  Advice here: get a narrow but long, magnetised PH2 screwdriver (not the insulated kind) for this task.  All three bays can be removed independently but I found this was the technique that worked for me given the tools I had to hand.

Installing the hard drives was easy.  4 screws in each one thank you.  The DVD-RW drive was a lilttle more fiddly as you have to guess where to place the holder bracket to secure it so that the drive doesn’t protrude from the front or is too far recessed.  I put the main tray back in place, lightly fixing two of the screws for it back in just to hold and then offering the housing and drive to the right place and just visually seeing where I need to align the holes on the drive.  Do this or face frustration of keep removing the drive to fiddle with alignment – you can’t manipulate the screws when its all in place.

I installed the power supply from the old case and tidied up the wiring loom, especially the bits that would sit under the drive cradle in advance as this would be tight working space when it was back in.

In goes the expansion cards, this is an older AMD AthlonXP3200+ system with a Matrox Parhelia 128mb AGP and a Soundblaster Audigy PCI card and some other smaller ones for extra USB and Firewire – hey, it works ok!

Everything’s looking good, I did the usual power on test while on the bench, everything fires up, proceed to close the case!

OOPS!  The Parhelia and Soundblaster cards are both full height and three-quarter length, this meant that the tray won’t go back in straight away, nothing I can do really, nobody’s fault, just bear this in mind, you need at least low-profile cards to go in the machine or half-length at maximum.  These two cards are only just that bit too long but long enough to make modifying the tray with metalwork tools a bit impractical.

I’ve ordered a new low-profile graphics and sound card which will go in place of these and i’ll be able to close the case.

X-Case have a nice video about the case which i’ve embedded below or you can find it on the product page.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Where to buy: http://www.xcase.co.uk
Part Code: XCASE-RM404-V2
Product Page: http://www.xcase.co.uk/X-Case-RM-404s-4u-short-rackmount-p/xcase-rm404-v2.htm
Price At Time Of Review: 54.99GBP+VAT+SHIPPING

Pro: Good case, good build, no sharp edges, reasonable price.

Con: Very slightly bad screw layout on upper tray for drives, they use DHL for delivery.

This article has been updated see : [intlink id="92" type="post" /]

About the Author

James Brindle is a freelance technology consultant based in Blackburn, Lancashire with over 20 years of experience in the IT, Media and Telecommunications industries with specialties in Web and Mobile Application development, Voice over IP (VoIP) deployment and integration, media storage and distribution systems and wide area solutions. He has a passion for retro gaming and volunteers as a presenter and acts as vice-chairman of Blackburn's Hospital Radio service.

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