Codegen ATX-9001 server caseReview date: 9 May 2002.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Server cases are expensive.
There's often a reason for that, of course. If a case is really large, with a lot of complicated metalwork inside (slide-out drive racks, double doors...), and a stack of cooling fans, and especially if it comes with a couple of hot-swap power supplies, then you can't expect to get it cheap. Such a case costs more to make than a regular PC enclosure, and it costs more to ship as well. And there isn't a huge market for server cases, so economies of scale are smaller.
On the other hand, there also seems to be a basic industry rule that says that anything with casters on the bottom of it can safely sell for something like twice as much as it otherwise would.
There exist some server cases that don't actually offer much that a normal tower case doesn't. They've got wheels on the bottom, a plastic door on the front, and a couple more 5.25 inch bays than you get in a normal tower case. Big deal. But that appears to be all you need to justify a big fat price hike.
Accordingly, it's nice to see an OK basic server case, with plenty of drive bays, and decent ventilation, and wheels, for a good price.
Like this one, for instance.
This is Codegen's ATX-9001. Or maybe ATX-9002, or something; the ATX-9001 on Codegen's minimalist page here is beige, but the case I looked at has a natty silvery-grey finish. Apart from the colour, though, they're the same thing.
The ATX-nine-thousand-and-whatever is a compact steel server case, 495mm long by 225mm wide by 438mm high (19.5 by 8.9 by 17.2 inches). It comes with a 400 watt power supply (ordinary ATX, not fancy hot-swap or uninterruptible or anything), it takes a normal ATX motherboard, and in standard trim it's got room for five 5.25 inch devices (all with a front panel cutout), and four 3.5 inch devices (only one with a cutout). You can change that if you want more 5.25s and fewer 3.5s, though, as I'll explain in a moment.
The big deal about this case is its price. When I first wrote this Aus PC Market were selling it for only $AU187.
Here's the back of the case, and the freebie 'board and mouse.
The ATX-9001 has two 80mm exhaust fans as standard, as well as the fan built into the PSU. There's also a padlock tab sticking through a slot in the back of the right side panel (as you look at the case from the back), to give you a bit of security. That's it for fancy features visible from this angle, though; there's no slide-out motherboard tray or easy PSU swap bay.
The bonus mouse and keyboard are thoroughly ordinary. The keyboard's a yum cha rubber dome unit with a row of little programmable buttons above its normal 104-key layout; as usual, you get a Windows driver floppy to make these buttons do stuff. The driver disk's for Win98 only, though. Without the software, it's just a plain keyboard.
The mouse is a shameless rip-off of the old Logitech First Mouse shape, which means it's comfortable enough and can be used by both left- and right-handers. It's not a premium item, but it seems to work well enough.
Both keyboard and mouse are grey, to match the case, except they don't quite. Hey, whaddaya want for the money.
For most servers, cheapo input devices are more than adequate, because you'll hardly ever be using them. Even if you don't need the 'board and mouse, it never hurts to have a spare set in the cupboard. And at least they're not beige.
The front of the ATX-9001 has a lockable door, which is a flimsy plastic creation but will do if you just want to keep casual meddlers out of all but the top two drive bays. The door has a very gentle latch, as well as the lock; leave it unlocked and an ejecting CD-ROM drive will be able to push the door open. Don't, and it won't.
You get two keys for the little cam lock.
The metal 5.25 inch bay covers are well perforated for air flow (there are air slots in the door, too), and retained with screws. They're not those nasty stamped-metal things that you have to work loose with a screwdriver, and then can't replace; these are proper separate fabrications.
More ventilation holes, in the side panel. You can also see the casters in this picture; they're the lockable kind, so you can push down on a tab to stop your server from going walkies.
Getting the side panel off is easy enough - remove a couple of screws, slide it back (it stuck a bit on the case I played with, but not too badly), lift it out. The usual deal.
Putting the panel back, though, reminds you that this is a cheap case.
Clunk. Wobble. Wiggle. Tap tap tap. Clang. Slide. Clunk.
This, also, is the usual deal, for cheap cases at least.
Inside, there's no shortage of sharp stamped metal edges, but apart from that this case is pretty good. The rear panel slot covers are the bend-out, non-replaceable type, but you get some spare screw-in ones in the bits bag that comes with the case, so that's OK.
The two rear fans are held in with neat plastic clips and powered from four-pin passthrough connectors, so it's easy to swap them out if you want to. The lack of a slide-out motherboard tray may annoy you if you're installing a fancy oversized server board - but, again, look at the price.
The "400 watt" power supply has a proper current rating sticker, which is a good sign. The +3.3V and +5V ratings are 14 and 35 amps, respectively, with a 210 watt limit for those two rails put together. The 12 volt rail has a 16 amp rating. So this PSU hits its 400 watt rating without having to sneakily resort to the low-current negative rails - which add up to almost another 20 watts, put together.
The PSU also gives you a decent number of connectors - seven four-pin plugs, one floppy plug, one regular ATX motherboard power plug, one four pin ATX12V "P4" plug, and one "AUX" plug. The AUX connector's unnecessary for most normal motherboards, but server boards often use it.
The bottom three 3.5 inch drive bays are in a sub-cradle, screwed into a 5.25 inch bay and filling it and the next two bays as well. The top 3.5 inch bay's a different sort of sub-frame, but it's riveted in place, and you'll probably want it for a floppy drive or boot hard drive anyway. But if you don't need the other three 3.5 inch bays, and would like three more 5.25s, all you have to do is unscrew and remove the bottom cradle. And presto, you'll have eight 5.25 inch drive spots - enough for some quite serious applications.
This isn't a full-on bells-whistles-and-gongs server case. It doesn't have phalanxes of fans, double columns of drive bays, high security locking doors or much in the way of other convenience features.
The ATX-9001 is, however, very good value for money, if all you need is the features that it provides. Lots of drive bays compared with normal cases of similar size, good enough ventilation for anything short of a full complement of 15,000RPM SCSI drives, tolerable fit and finish, and a couple of freebies to sweeten the deal.
So, for a lot of small business server purposes, the ATX-9001'd be great.
If you just want a butch looking case for your ordinary PC, of course, there's nothing stopping you getting an ATX-9001 either. It's silly to build a normal PC in a really big server case, even if you can afford one. But the ATX-9001 doesn't weigh a ton or take up a fridge-like amount of room, and the price is definitely right.