[Guide] Entry-level $375 Unraid server with 15 drive bays, Dual Xeon 12C/24T, 24GB RAM, GPU passthrough, and more!

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Objective:

Spec & build an unRAID server with the following considerations:

  • Many drive bays, rackmountable
  • Many cores, plenty of RAM (with room for expansion)
  • Room for GPU for passthrough
  • Cool, quiet, and efficient operation
  • Ease of assembly

Chassis overview:

Rosewill 4U server chassis with 15 bays - $106

I recently made a short video overview of this case (not specifically for this guide, so it’s a little off-topic). It’s a good case, has room for plenty of hard drives and fans, too many for my liking actually. I’d personally recommend reversing the fan wall and using Arctic 120mm PWM fans there only, and removing the front fans. I’d also recommend replacing the rear fans with Arctic 80mm PWM fans. This will allow for plenty of airflow but keep the noise levels at a minimum. The chassis takes a standard ATX power supply, and supports SSI-EEB / E-ATX motherboards, but does not support larger SSI-EEB+ / EE-ATX motherboards.

Rails are extra, and are not included with the chassis.

Motherboard, CPU, & RAM overview:


Supermicro X8DT6-F Rev 2.00 Dual Xeon Socket LGA1366 Motherboard - $100

This is a hell of a motherboard for $100. The Supermicro X8DT6-F is an SSI-EEB / E-ATX motherboard with dual 1366 sockets, 12 DIMM slots (96GB total with 8GB sticks, or 192GB with 16GB sticks), and 5 PCI-E expansion. While it does not have an X16 PCI-E slot, it does have an open-ended X8 slot meant for use with full size cards, such as GPUs. X16 PCI-E is absolutely not necessary for even high end GPUs, so it’s not something we need to worry about here.

This board also has a built in SAS2 controller in the form of a LSI 2008. This allows us to save around $45 from an add-in card. The onboard LSI controller does need to be flashed, just like an external controller. I go over the process in my live-stream build video, but there are many articles online on how to complete the process.

The motherboard also has dual Gigabit NIC, and a dedicated NIC for IPMI.

2 x Intel Xeon L5640 CPU - $36

The Intel Xeon L5640 CPU is quite amazing, considering how much value it has in 2018. Each with 6 cores / 12 threads, low power consumption, and turbo up to 2.8 GHz, the pair can be had for a cool $36. Absolutely insane for around 10,000 passmark. There are many companies and corporations that use these processors even today, and it’s pretty easy to see why.

More information on the performance of the L5640 can be found on my deep-dive testing spreadsheet.

You might consider upgrading to dual X5667, X5670, X5680, or X5690 in the future.

24GB (6x4GB) DDR3 1333 ECC REG RAM - $53

Not a whole lot to say here. This kit will allow you to utilize the full triple-channel bandwidth, while leaving 6 more slots open for expansion. If you want more, double up this kit or switch to 8GB sticks.

Other components, parts, & accessories:


2 x Supermicro 2U 1366 heatsink - $28

These are more than enough to cool the L5640, so long as you’re using a rackmount case with purely horizontal airflow. An air shroud or active cooling will not be necessary.

Arctic 120mm PWM PST 5 Pack - $25

Arctic 80mm PWM PST 5 Pack - $20

You probably won’t use all of these fans, but it’s cheaper to buy 5 packs than it is to buy singles. It’s also nice to have spares on hand just in case. These are PWM fans and have PWM Sharing Technology, which is nice (you can daisy chain the fans together for convenience). They are quiet and move a good amount of air. I use them in all of my builds.

2 Pack 8087 breakout cables for SAS controller - $13

You’ll need these to take advantage of the onboard LSI. This will allow you to connect an additional 8 HDDs or SSDs.

EVGA 850 BQ, 850W semi-modular PSU - $30

This is on sale due to EVGA’s B-stock promotion, so I thought I’d mention it here. Just about any dual EPS (8 pin CPU) power supply will work. I wouldn’t get anything smaller than 400W personally. If you can’t find a decent deal on a dual EPS PSU, you can use an EPS splitter.

Optional: EVGA Nvidia GT 1030 SC 2GB GDDR5 video card - $50

This card is an insane steal. Good for most games at 1080/ medium settings, and lower power / older games too. It also has HDMI 2.0 to boot, so feel free to hook it up to your 4K60 TV and fire up some HDR content. There are plenty of options for video cards out there, but I thought I would throw this one on the list because it’s on sale today.

Summary:


So, that’s nice and all… but what do I get?

A server with:

  • Dual Xeon L5640, total of 12 cores / 24 threads at up to 2.8 GHz
  • Dual Gigabit NIC
  • IPMI for remote server management w/ dedicated IPMI NIC
  • 24GB DDR3 ECC RAM
  • 5 PCI-E expansion
  • Built in LSI 2008 SAS w/ IT mode
  • 14 SATA (6 onboard, 8 from SAS)
  • 15 total drive bays
  • GPU passthrough option

To me, this makes for a great unRAID host. Just don’t forget a USB flash drive for your unRAID install!

Price totals:


Base system, not including video card