Desktop Backplane? Three 2.5" HDD Solutions Reviewed

Chieftec 5.25” SATA/SATA Backplane For 2.5” Drives (SNT-1042-SS)

Install four 2.5” drives into a 5.25” drive bay.

Chieftec’s product is called the SNT-1042-SS, and is a four-drive backplane for 2.5” drives. The device installs into a standard 5.25” drive bay, and can work either with 2.5” SATA or SAS drives. Four drive trays are available to install them in. However, you cannot use the SFF-8482 or SFF-8484 multi-lane SAS cables as you would with higher-end backplanes—you will need cables that fan out to simple SATA/SAS connectors for the sake of SATA compatibility. Power is provided to the device via a single Molex connector, which is sufficient even for four 15,000 RPM 2.5” SAS drives.

The two fans are noisy, but effective.

The only configuration item is a jumper block on the rear, where you can select either slow or fast speed for the two integrated 40 mm fans. We recommend making this setting before installing the backplane into your case, as the jumpers cannot be modified afterward without tweezers or similar tools. Even when the fans are set to low speed, they are noisy enough to drive you nuts; clearly, the device wasn’t designed for desktops.

Removing drives is simple: just unlock and open the tray covers.

All four drive bays accept 2.5” SAS/SATA drives at any height currently available; 9.5 mm and 12.5 mm 2.5” drives work fine, and we tried four Seagate Savvio 10K.2 drives, which operated smoothly. The fans make sure that temperature stays well below 35°C surface temperature.

The Chieftec device is a simple backplane that doesn’t include storage logic, so it does not support RAID itself. All drives have to be connected to the host adapter separately, so you can also mix SAS and SATA drives, and configure RAID accordingly.

Yet, there is a disadvantage to this product: it allows comfortable setup of drives, but there is no communication between the unit and the host adapter, and also no status LEDs except activity and power. This means that you have to be very careful with labeling controller ports and drives, and connecting those drives, as you want to be sure you know which one to replace in the event of a device failure. This product costs roughly $65.

All necessary cables are included. You can use these for SATA, and potentially also for SAS, but SAS host adapters will require multi-lane cables.