Home Consumer The HL15 Homelab Server Goes Shhhhh with New Noctua Kit

The HL15 Homelab Server Goes Shhhhh with New Noctua Kit

by Jordan Ranous

45Drives listened to the feedback regarding the excessive noise from the fans in the HL15. To help make the HL15 quieter, they partnered with Noctua, which improved their product while making the premium price more appealing.

The pursuit of high performance, especially in a homelab, often comes at the cost of noise. However, with 45HomeLab’s latest partnership with Noctua, this trade-off is now a thing of the past. We had the pleasure of testing the new 45HomeLab HL15 chassis equipped with Noctua fans, and the results were nothing short of impressive.

 Seamless Integration and DIY Ease

Based in Austria, Noctua is known for its ultra-quiet cooling solutions for PC enthusiasts, professionals, and industrial users. With a reputation for fan design and engineering excellence, Noctua is committed to delivering superior performance, reliability, and acoustics in all its products.

“We are thrilled to partner with Noctua to bring our customers the ultimate homelab server experience. Noctua’s reputation for producing high-quality, ultra-quiet fans aligns perfectly with our commitment to delivering premium products that exceed customer expectations. With Noctua’s innovative technology integrated into our HL15 servers, customers can enjoy powerful performance without compromising on noise levels.” -Doug Milburn, CEO of 45Drives

Integrating Noctua fans into the 45HomeLab HL15 is a fantastic partnership idea. The Included conversion kit is incredibly user-friendly, making it easy for even novice DIY enthusiasts to upgrade their systems. The step-by-step instructions ensure a hassle-free installation process, allowing users to enjoy the benefits of ultra-quiet operation in no time.

The kit includes:

  • 6x NF-A12x25 PWM 120mm fans
  • 4x NA-IS1-12 inlet spacers for the front row of fans
  • 1x NA-FH1 fan hub for connecting the fans
  • 1x NA-FC1 fan controller to manually set/limit RPM speed

Whisper-Quiet Performance

The Noctua fans, known for their industry-leading silent operation, live up to their reputation in the HL15. Noctua lab tests reported a substantial noise reduction, with levels dropping by approximately 4-6 dB(A) depending on the fan speed. The decrease in noise output was particularly impressive, considering the test setup included 15 drives, which typically introduces significant airflow resistance. The HL15 with Noctua fans achieved this while maintaining excellent cooling performance, thanks to increased airflow through the chassis compared to the stock fans.

The HL15 in Noctuas’ hemi-anechoic chamber

To quantify the noise levels, Noctua conducted a series of tests with the case fully closed and a decibel meter positioned in front of the center of the front panel. Here are the results:

Impressive, to say the least. Noctua’s premium-quality fans and superior engineering are evident in the measured data shared, as well as in our own experience in the lab.

Enhanced Airflow

One of the more technically exciting side effects of the Noctua upgrade is the improved airflow. Noctua and 45Drives measured 101.7 m³/h with the stock fans and 121.6 m³/h with the Noctua fans, close to a 20% increase. This boost in airflow is critical for maintaining optimal temperatures in high-performance setups, mainly when housing multiple drives. As a bonus, you can run the fans at a lower RPM and achieve the same level of cooling, saving both power and noise levels.

The above chart shows the decibel reduction and airflow increase highlighted from Noctua’s testing.

Premium Experience at a Premium Price Point

The decision to ship Noctua fans as an optional factory feature with the HL15 chassis further elevates 45HomeLab’s offering. While the HL15 is already priced at a premium, adding an option for Noctua fans provides a compelling reason for enthusiasts to consider this investment. The superior build quality, enhanced performance, and whisper-quiet operation justify the cost, delivering a premium homelab experience. The retrofit kit will retail in the 45HomeLab store for $288 or as a $231 option when ordering your HL15.

Go Big or Go Home (Except on Power)

Inspired by our ARM-based friend Jeff Geerling and his video on this topic, we thought looking at the power consumption before and after the conversion would be interesting. Jeff measured 12W of power at the wall from the six fans running 100% due to the lack of fan control.

After the Noctua conversation, we noted a slight drop in power consumption.

But we didn’t want to stop there. We decided to take it a step further in the edge lab, where power is limited and very expensive. Today, we made the world’s largest, all-flash HL15 possible.

World’s Largest All Flash HL15

  • 15x 7.68TB Solidigm D3-S4520 SATA drives = 115.2Tb
  • 2x 8TB Sabrent Rocket Q m.2 NVME SSDs on the motherboard
  • 1X 61.44TB Solidigm P5336 u.2 NVME SSD on a PCIE Riser

192.64 Terabyte of raw capacity, not counting the 100GB SATA Boot SSD.

While technically, you could go bigger on the raw capacity with 22TB 3.5″ HDDs on the included SAS/SATA Backplane, the power consumption difference is remarkable. At roughly 4.1 Watts for the 8TB WD Red NAS drives we replaced, that’s 61.5W to keep the disk array online! Our shiny Solidigm D3-S4520 SSDs use only 1.4W at idle and sip just 4.3W under full load! A remarkable saving in the power bill.

I hear you, “Oh what about those 100TB 3.5″ SATA SSDs, that would be bigger”. Sure, but as far as we can tell, those never made it to production, or if they did, are discontinued as we can’t get them. I challenge anyone to beat our all-flash HL15 on capacity, and maybe power draw. But you had better hurry because as soon as I get my hands on an NVMe backplane, it will get 61.44TB Solidigm’s, or maybe something bigger…

Closing Thoughts

Our all-flash conversion, combined with the Noctua upgrade, means this HL15 is now the core appliance at the edge lab. Its power-sipping idle means the UPS can last for hours during an outage, and it is quiet enough to earn a place in the office instead of the rack. It’s a match made in heaven for the ultimate homelab. We ultimately will trade out the 61.44 U.2 SSD for a 100Gb networking card, but for now, it will remain The All Flash King of HL15s.

“When we saw the 45HomeLab’s HL15 case for the first time, it was immediately clear that they share many of Noctua’s core values: They obviously put function, performance, and flexibility first, but most importantly, their product oozes quality and clearly reflects their passion in engineering a stand-out solution. Integrating our fans and cooling accessories into a beautifully crafted premium case like the HL15 is a natural choice, so we’re excited that customers can now choose a Noctua quiet cooling upgrade when configuring their HL15. We’ve seen significant reductions in noise levels over the stock configuration in our testing, so we’re confident that this will be a highly attractive choice for customers who are building high-end home servers that should run as quietly as possible.” -Roland Mossig, CEO of Noctua

The collaboration between 45HomeLab and Noctua raises the bar for the homelab server industry. The HL15 chassis, optionally equipped with Noctua fans, offers an unmatched blend of performance, reliability, and silent operation. For those seeking the ultimate homelab setup, the HL15 with Noctua fans is now an even more compelling choice.

It’s hard to understate the premium nature of the 45Drives products. The build quality is unmatched, and the Noctua Fan upgrade is available from 45Drives for $288. That price comes in roughly the same for the BOM if you had to source it yourself and represents an excellent value as a result of the partnership. However, the value added to the premium Noctua fans installed from the factory makes the $231 upgrade price for the HL15 a significantly more compelling homelab option.

With some other pre-orders coming online in the 45HomeLab store for other premium products, it’s clear that 45Drives is listening to customers on their premium line. We are excited about what 45Drives will come up with next. Who knows, 46 Drives?!?!


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