UnRAID: Building Blackjack

That’s right, the God Box has a name.
My previous naming conventions followed The Expanse series of books (and now TV), but here I’ve swapped one form of plagiarism for another.

When discussing the idea of this build with one of my colleagues, he suggested a color scheme of white-on-black, which I liked the sound of and subsequently stole.
When I was a child, I remembered these sweets called Blackjacks – white and black chewy candy – and Fruit Salads. The black & white color scheme made ‘Blackjack’ a fitting choice.

I’ll probably call the Ubuntu installation Fruit Salad (that color scheme is a bit more of a stretch …) and I still need something fitting for Windows but .. whatever, we’re getting off topic.

Let’s talk hardware.

An Intel Core i9-10850k sits on an ASRock Z490 Taichi motherboard. Not pictured is the 64GB of G-Skill DDR4 2133Mhz RAM which was (at the time of picturing) installed in my existing machine.
That CPU is cooled by the be quiet! Shadow Rock 3 CPU cooler (center). Flanking that in the image is five white be quiet! Shadow Wings 2 140mm case fans.
To the left in front of the fans/motherboard is both a 500GB and 1TB Samsung Evo 970 NVMe SSD, for use as a cache drive and VM file drive respectively.
To the far right is the Republican Party a Corsair RM750x power supply in white (with white braided cables) and atop of that is a Zotac Gaming GeForce 2060 RTX graphics card.
On top of that is a Unifi 16 port POE switch.
At the very bottom of the picture are white SATA cables, white SAS cables for the SAS controller card which will eventually be transplanted along with the other disks from my main machine, and an 8TB WD Red NAS disk for parity.

Finally, the whole lot is ensconced in a be quiet! Dark Base 700 ATX tower, with additional drive bays purchased alongside it.

So let’s get to it!

First, the case. Overall this is a very fine, solidly constructed PC case. The whole interior can actually be removed, flipped over, and reinstalled to reverse the internals should you want the window on the other side. Existing cables are routed nicely, with a few small clips formed into the chassis itself, and points for cable ties (supplied, though not of high quality) throughout.

The ‘rear’ (right side in normal orientation) of the case/motherboard tray has a bespoke fan and LED controller, to which all fans connect. This then connects to the motherboard. The fans have two switchable settings – Silent and Performance, which I’ll hopefully remember to talk about later / in a future post.

There are mounting points for up to three 2.5″ SSDs on the rear of the motherboard tray (I used two), and two removable drive bays in the bottom of the case. I was a little annoyed here, as all the reviews I’d seen said that the case came with two drive cages pre-mounted, so I bought extra to account for my additional disks.

The case actually comes with three cages – two preinstalled, and one spare, unmounted cage.

As previously mentioned, my goal for this build was black & white. This meant removing the two pre-installed 140mm fans and installing the white ones. This felt like a bit of a shame, because they felt so high quality, but I intend to re-use them elsewhere.
A few observations from this process.

Firstly, all of the white fans come with plastic push pins instead of screws, and the fans have rubber mounting grommets. This is – on the face of it – an easy mounting solution that also reduces on vibration, thus noise.
This worked great on the front fans. On the rear fan, the push pins were rather awkward to fit, as the case design did not lend itself to easily placing two of the pins. I have a video of this, but annoyingly my WordPress subscription doesn’t allow me to place videos so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Additionally, whilst the top of the case has a slide-out frame (pics below) for mounting fans, cooling radiators, etc., (a great feature) the push pins make it a little difficult to slide the frame back in.

Whilst this all wasn’t a huge deal, the fact that the fans and case were from the same manufacturer left me scratching my head a bit at the minor incompatibilities.

Another thing I was a bit annoyed about is that the power cords for these replacement fans are not as long as the cords on the fans removed from the case. This meant that the perfect cable routing was no longer possible. Again … two products from the same manufacturer not quite working together as they should. Seems like oversight to me.

The fans do all route back to the fan PWM controller on the rear of the motherboard though, which is really nice for keeping those cables out of the way of the motherboard itself. Here’s how they look all mounted in the case.

One thing this case does well is provide you with plenty of places to put fans, with a couple of odd decisions thrown into the mix. Below is a picture of the bottom of the case, with another removable dust filter for any downward facing fans and/or the PSU.

However. The top of the case is not well vented, considering the ability to fit up to three fans in the top bracket, and the front also only allows the fans to draw air in through the sides of the front panel.

Just getting the case to this point took a while – a good 40 minutes. It was to take another 40 minutes to get the motherboard and CPU into the case.

The motherboard came well packaged. The CPU did not come in one of those ridiculous octagonal boxes. The heatsink was a hefty chonk of a thing.

Adding a CPU to a motherboard is so straightforward it’s not even worth writing about. Getting the heatsink on, however, was another matter. Part of the annoyance is that I’d forgotten that modern heatsinks require a whole exoskeleton to be added to the board, so I had added the CPU, put the motherboard into the case and applied thermal paste already.

I had to remove the lot, and then set about adding the heatsink. Adding the mounting ‘exoskeleton’ wasn’t too bad, but fiddly due to me not being able to lie the motherboard certain ways in case I got thermal paste on other stuff.

Once it was on, the instructions called for slotting a mounting ‘beam’ into the heatsink, and then screwing it – and thus the heatsink – into place. Maybe I’m just not good with DIY stuff, but this was way more annoying than it had any right to be. At one point I genuinely worried that I’d smashed the CPU. These heatsinks are massive, and it’s difficult not to have them topple. Either way, I got it mounted and obviously all is well as I’m writing this whilst the machine is running a few days later.

Once mounted, the fan needs to be added with wire clips – an easy task – and then the whole motherboard re-inserted into the case.

Here you can see many fans. I’m not sure if this is the optimum cooling solution, but we’ll see.

It was another hour between that last photo and my next one. Once the motherboard was fitted, I needed to fit the NVMe sticks. This involved some manual reading, as the board actually has slots for four of the things, however the first two only support small sized cards. There was a lot of fiddling with tiny screws and plenty of swearing from me and my fists made of ham, but I got them in there.

Once those were in place, it was time to fit my 2.5″ SSDs (also not pictured above) which would be data drives for my ‘Gaming’ machine. This is where the removable bracket on the back of the motherboard tray would come in useful, and then turn out to be annoyingly useless a bit later on.

Firstly, I mounted the SSDs upside down (ports to the top). This is clearly no fault of be quiet!, and is down to the simple fact that I am a moron.
So I fitted them, swore a bit, then removed and re-fitted them.
Half an hour after those pictures above, it was time for POWER!

This introduced a whole host of annoyances. Firstly, the 2x 8pin ATX connector cables for the top of the motherboard wouldn’t route through the gap between the fans and the motherboard, so I had to unplug the top fans, un-route the cables, and take out the frame. Having said that, this would have been much more of a pain in the arse if the frame hadn’t been removable, so kudos again to be quiet! for that.

Next, the SATA power connectors wouldn’t plug into the SSDs on the rear bracket. Or they would, but it would make the cabling extra messy as well as not being an efficient use of the cables themselves.

So after fitting the SSDs twice, they once again came off the bracket. Here’s where the unexpected third HDD bracket that came with the case came in useful. They can hold 1x 3.5″ HDD or 2x 2.5″ SSDs. So in went the SSDs, and I placed that bracket at the bottom of the main case. It actually worked out for the best! Who knew.

I got the rest of the cables routed and, at 11:02PM, took my final picture.

Yup. It’s just the back of the case. You get the whole black/white thing though, right?

After this I fitted the graphics card, stole 32GB of RAM and one disk out of my existing PC, and added that RAM, the disk, and the new 8TB parity disk to the two bottom drive bays of the case.

I cabled up the drives, sealed up the case, and applied power for an initial test. I just wanted to see if it would power on, if all the fans would spin, and if it would spit out any error codes.

It worked! Everything turned on as it should. I wouldn’t know until another day if it worked, but at least the fundamentals were in place.

It was now close to midnight, it had been a long day, so I tidied up as much as I could, put everything together in one place, and headed for bed.

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