A simple but interesting rackmount chassis from UK.
I’ve had my eyes on this rackmount chassis for a while.
The XPC is a UK brand and is found only within UK. Majority of time, you can trace back a rackmount chassis design to a Chinese vendor on Alibaba. But this XPC brand is a UK-specific manufacturer of a single line of a rackmount model and does not trace back to any Chinese OEM manufacturer.
What that means is that the design of this chassis is unique. While XPC maintains a single model, there are a lot of variants. They have 1U to 4U with various depth of a single design. They all share the same front design philosophy; an aluminum brush finish on 1/3 of top with 2/3 being a black mesh for air intake.
XPC-230 2U chassis
Just to be clear, the aluminum-looking apart is actually steel.
This XPC-230 is a 2U with 30cm depth. Thus, 230 number. XPC has three more variants in 2U line with 2350 and 2400, and 2450, 35cm, 40cm, and 45cm depth respectively.
XPC-230 is as short as a 2U chassis can get before diving into ITX area. This case takes a matx and a full PSU. It does have ventilation holes on top, but I will be using a SFX PSU for more breathing room because the ventilation holes will be meaningless if you are stacking things on top of each other within a rack which I will do.
Thus, it’s best to use a SFX PSU.
The 30cm depth means also that there is barely any space for any additional HDDs which is fine since I’ve been using PCIE M.2 drives for storage for the past few years. If you wish to add any mechanical HDDs, XPC-2400/2450 are recommended. Otherwise, XPC-230 saves weight and space. The shorter depth also means that you may not need a rack rail and just bolt it into a rack.
As for cooling, airflow is directed by a single 80mm fan on front which is obstructed by one third due to its front design. This shouldn’t matter too much as long as your CPU is within 65w TDP. I strongly advise you against any 100w+ TDP CPU. It will overheat.
Also do mind that this is a 2U chassis, meaning height of a CPU cooler should be no more than 7cm. It might sound like not a lot, but think of this way: the default included coolers for both Intel and AMD 65w TDP CPUs will fit nicely in a 2U chassis, thus I recommend using those because aftermarket cooler prices have gone to the hell since Covid.
As for GPU options, iGPU (Ryzen APU) is strongly recommended here unless you are willing to purchase an A2000 RTX. Because the chassis is very small, meaning small air volume inside, it does not have much leeway of thermal headroom. This is not helped by a fact that there aren’t many ventilation holes.
I would have really liked to see at least one more 80mm fan option on front. Interestingly, XPC-2350 and higher does spot two 80mm fans on front. At the same time, I think you can easily jury-rig several 60mm fans.
The best GPU you can get in here is A2000 (Nvidia 3050 performance). If that is not an option, RX6400 / Nvidia 1650 LP would be the alternative. If you are on budget though and do not have iGPU, RX550 would be my vote.
I want to recommend Nvidia 1630 but its price does not make any sense, so forget that GPU.
🤔The reason for choosing 2U 30cm depth
2U is my preferred height for building things. You can make most of PC configuration work with 2U. 1U is too restrictive.
3U is an awkward size to work with because, while it can take full height cards, modern GPUs are simply too tall for 3U, basically rendering the whole 3U class obsolete for home users. It also cannot use 120mm fans in most cases and have to use 80mm instead. At this point, 2U seems more logical unless you are going for 4U.
The only way for 3U chassis to make sense for home users is if they introduce them with horizontal rear slots. As far as I am aware, there is only one 3U chassis with horizontal rear lots which is from Sliger. But their chassis still has the same issue of being unable to take in taller GPU still.
4U is basically an ATX tower case laid down horizontally or 80s computer on a rack.
At 4U, you just throw components at it and it will work due to ample room for air and ventliation whereas, at 2U, you need to think a bit about your thermals and tinker around. Basically, 2U build is more challenging and I like that.
As for choosing the shortest 30cm depth, I also have my reasons. Because I do not use HDDs but instead use M.2 drives, the traditional space required for HDDs is not something I need. Long depth 2U rackmount chassis is also a pain to work with especially when mounting on a rail. A long depth 2U rackmount chassis can be as long as 60cm in length where half of chassis is dedicated to house HDDs.
This makes sense for storage severs but not for a homelab user like myself. Therefore, I always opt for as short depth as possible.
However, a short depth rackmount chassis is pretty rare. In fact, this is the only second chassis I’ve seen with only 30cm depth. The other was a Chinese model which was lacking in some aspects, like it doesn’t even feature rail holes to screw in.
There is a Plink US 2U chassis with even shorter than 30cm but it’s an ITX case.
Price and shipping was very reasonable for me. The chassis was 69 (nice) GBP which translates to 84 USD or 115 CAD. Shipping was 57 GBP which translates to 70 USD or 95 CAD. Shipping method was UPS Expedited.
Both are very reasonable prices. Hell, I paid well over 100 USD for ducking ground shipping with Chenbro RM24100.
Overall, it cost me around 200 CAD + import fee which was around 20 CAD, so 220 CAD total. It may sounds a lot but it’s actually on lower side. My Chenbro RM24100 cost overall 400 CAD. It didn’t used to cost this much but, after Covid, prices just shot up. XPC price does seem like a pre-Covid price.
Of course, if you can get stuff locally within your country, shipping fee gets far lower, but I reside in Canada. The only things I have abundant is weeds and white water powder AKA snow.
Finally, there will be another entry building a rig with this chassis.
⚠️Issue: Not a standard rackmount case
At first, XPC-230 looks like an ordinary rackmount case. I thought so as well.
However, when I was mounting it, it was off.
About 3mm off. What this means is that the hole which you secure rackmount rails, it’s off center by about 3mm. It may not seem much but, in rackmount, everything has to be dead-on precise. Even having just 1mm off will cause issues when mounting things, like scratching top and bottom when sliding things in and out.
XPC does offer rackrails specifically for this case which I was unable to purchase due to being out of stock, and perhaps those will do the job. But, as far as I am concerned, this chassis does not confirm to universal rack standard.
Keep this issue in mind.
At the same time, since the offset is only 3mm, I think I could make it work by modifying my current rail a little. I could manually just grind where screws meet the rails by just 3mm. With a dremel, it could take no less than 10 minutes to modify it. This wouldn’t even matter if you are using dumb sliding rails (AKA rack shelf / support arms).
This is how it looks like once everything is in.
This is a very minimalist setup with as little cable as possible. As long as you do not use HDDs and stick to M.2 drives, the setup can remain relatively clean and neat. You can and should remove the HDD cage to free up some space for cables and possibly jurry-rig a 80mm fan there for extra air intake.
Overall, this isn’t a bad 2U chassis at all, for me at least. It is decent-looking and is space-saving, not to mention that its price is attractive. If you are a minimalist like me, you will like it.
Until next time.