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After talking to @fredley and a few others, I want to ask the community here when and where barrels, chests, and dispensers should be used. What are the pros and cons of each?

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Comparing barrels to chests I can understand, but why would you use a dispenser for storage? –  SevenSidedDie Feb 21 '13 at 23:53
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@SevenSidedDie Because I'm lazy, and sometimes I want to easily get a diamond. –  Jeffrey Lin Feb 21 '13 at 23:59
    
@jeffreylin_ Irrelevant. The way tagging works on Arqade is to always include the base game, unless the gameplay is entirely different. (Such as DayZ from ArmaII ) ;) –  Raven Dreamer Feb 22 '13 at 1:10
    
Regarding tags: chests and dispensers are vanilla, upgraded chests are from Iron Chests, barrels are from Factorization. The question itself has no connection to Buildcraft. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '13 at 1:52

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Chests can hold a variety of items, and can be accessed with tubes/pipes on every side. With the Iron Chests mod (included in FTB), chests can store many slots worth of items in a single block.

Barrels are single-type storage, but can store 64 stacks of that one item. The item type it can store is set by the first item put in a barrel, whether by hand or by pipes/tubes. Pipes and tubes can connect only to the top and bottom, and further, the top can only be used for input and the bottom only for output. Double right-clicking with a matching item will place all matching items in you inventory into the barrel, making them great for dumping material at lower tiers (before you have sorters set up).

The largest upgraded chest (Diamond) can hold more than a regular barrel, but the upgraded barrel (the Extradimensional barrel) can hold even more than a Diamond chest.

Dispensers are poorer than both in almost every way. They hold fewer item (9 stacks), are as slow to access manually as a chest, require extra devices to access in at one-click speed like barrels, and give random items unless its contents are homogeneous. Their advantages are situational: they're stealthy (accessing manually makes no noise, unlike both chests and barrels); and dispensing with redstone gives a single item instead of a whole stack, which can be preferable. Their greatest advantage will come with the 1.5 update though: dispensed tools and armor will auto-equip.

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Note that barrels will fill from the bottom but only to one stack, so care needs to be taken when stacking multiple rows of barrels that are filled by pipes/tubes –  Steven Cunningham Feb 22 '13 at 1:07
    
@Steven I noticed that. I wasn't sure if that's a feature, or a bug that might have been fixed in a later update, so I didn't mention it. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '13 at 1:40
    
Basically, the choice comes down to - how many types of items do you need to keep, how many of each will you have, and how much space do you want your storage to take? –  Shinrai Feb 22 '13 at 1:58
    
@Shinrai Aye. Barrels are great for the output of farms, quarries, and mob grinders, since their output is a high volume of very limited types of items. Upgraded chests are great for more day-to-day stuff. At least, until you automate more items' production at higher "tiers", then switching over to all barrels except for tools and misc junk makes more sense. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 22 '13 at 2:25
    
Pro-tip: You can get just one item out of a barrel by Shift+left click, similar to a dispenser with a button. –  Jeffrey Lin Apr 4 '13 at 1:25

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