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Chassis: What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

Supermicro 5046A-XB: X58 Workstation Barebones

The parts list starts with Supermicro’s 4U SuperChassis 743TQ-865-SQ chassis, which is a tall, narrow enclosure that stands upright by default, but can be equipped with an optional mounting rail kit if you’d rather slide it into a standard rack. As its name suggests, the box would occupy a quartet of rack units (at 1.75” each) in that configuration.

But phooey on racks, I say. I have a 24U setup in my garage that works great for housing a couple of 1U servers that run Web hosting and my own SBS-based business. This is a workstation, though. It belongs in an office standing upright next to my desk. The clear caveat here is going to be the SC743TQ’s 25” depth, which will likely be too long for some office environments.

In this case, the extra space consumed, compared to most conventional desktops, is used for two things: to support e-ATX motherboards (overkill here, since the SuperWorkstation includes a standard ATX board) and to provide air circulation through an integrated backplane via as many as four 80 mm fans (the barebones includes two).

The rest of the enclosure’s interior is very open, very clean, and very—pardon the parallel—Intel-esque, from what we’ve seen of the cases Intel sells. Built entirely of steel, the case weighs a hefty 56 pounds. Even still, it’s incredibly easy to configure, especially since Supermicro does much of the setup and cable routing as part of its barebones package.

By default, the SC743TQ is able to take up to seven single-slot expansion cards. The Supermicro Super C7X58 motherboard inside offers a total of four slots, though—and one of the expansion slots is consumed by a pre-installed FireWire bracket. Moreover, you’ll notice that the front of the case is set up to accommodate as many as eight hard drives. Because the platform utilizes the SATA storage controller within Intel’s ICH10, however, it’s only able to take advantage of six of the drive bays. Factor in the SATA DVD drive on our test unit and you’re down to a maximum of five drives. If you’d like to use SATA optical drives and maximize the enclosure’s capabilities, you’ll want to step up to an add-in storage controller.

The chassis’ exterior is as business-oriented as its insides. The all-black case is decidedly rectangular, without any of the visual flair added by the contenders of our Four Full Tower Cases roundup. It nevertheless looks sharp. There’s a door covering the hot-swappable drive bays, with activity-and-error LEDs that shine through. You’ll find room for three 5.25” bays, one of which includes a 3.5” externally-facing drive adapter. Front panel connectivity is limited to a pair of USB 2.0 ports.

Around back, there’s an industrial-looking power supply, I/O panel connectivity, a 90 mm exhaust fan with plastic shielding, and the previously mentioned expansion slots.

Looking at the chassis head-on, its left side panel is held in place by a satisfyingly secure pull-lever, while the right side is secured with rivets and clearly is not meant to be pulled off.

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