A home file-server in mini-ITX form-factor seems like a logical idea even though such solutions aren’t widespread. Chenbro seems to take this not very large but surely promising market seriously as is indicated by the very existence of this product.
As opposed to the previous model, the ES34169 has an eye-catching appearance. Its front panel is covered by a dark plastic door with silvery edging. You can find a lot of LED indicators behind that door.
The front panel is densely populated. Half of it is occupied by four hot-swap bays for 3.5-inch disks.
These are in fact the key feature of this product. Being very small (smaller than the two system cases from Lian Li, for example), the ES34169 allows building a very advanced disk subsystem – and with the hot swap capability!
The other half of the front panel is where numerous buttons, indicators and connectors reside. Besides the conventional pair of Power and Disk indicators, we can see indicators of two network adapters and a special indicator that warns about system failures (that's not a typical feature of home devices but you can often see it on server equipment). Of course, the extra indicators need appropriate mainboard connectors to work (the mainboard we used lacked them).
The Power and Reset buttons are complemented with a button that turns off the sound warning about system failures. Resetting or turning the warning signal off calls for something long and thin: the buttons are too small and deep-sinking to be pressed with a finger or nail.
There are no audio connectors on the front panel because the ES34169 is positioned as a server, even though a small one, but that’s somewhat disappointing. After all, it is a home server and you want your home equipment to be versatile and functional in many respects.
Moreover, the ES34169 has a card-reader, which is not a typical server feature. The card-reader’s slot is on the front panel. It is based on a Realtek RTS5156 chip (the previous Chenbro model was equipped with a RTS5156-based card-reader).
Also on the front panel we can see two USB ports. They are placed very close to each other, so you may find it impossible to use them both concurrently.
The rest of the front-panel elements refer to optional extensions and take up the right part of the system case’s façade. It is a faceplate for a slim optical drive at the top, a vent grid for a 60mm fan at the bottom, and a translucent piece in between – you can install an optional infrared receiver behind it.
The accessories to the ES34169 are somewhat better than those of the above-discussed PC78131: mounting frames for a slim optical drive, an adapter card from the connectors of a slim optical drive to a standard SATA interface connector and a floppy-drive power plug, an Y-shaped adapter from a 4-pin PATA power connector to SATA and floppy-drive power connectors, a couple of keys for the front door, a single-use cable strap, and some mounting screws. Like with the previous model, the user manual is only available in electronic format.
The side, top and bottom panels are all two-layered. There are 3mm sheets of gray plastic on the outside and 0.7mm steel sheets on the inside. The panels have a lot of small vent openings.
The ES34169 stands on four elastic rubber feet that suppress vibrations and keep the device steady on a desk surface. The weight of the ES34169 helps keep it steady, too. Many cheap full-size system cases are actually lighter than Chenbro's home server.
It is very easy to put your components into this system case unless you have to install an optical drive (it is not an obligatory device anymore, though) or a 2.5-inch disk. You just take off the side panel which is secured with one screw only, install your mainboard on the mounting plate and plug in power and interface connectors.