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Old 04-14-2012, 08:30 PM
Bacillus Bacillus is offline
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Default Building Small Form Factor NAS

Recently I've been looking to build my own small form factor PC that I plan to run FreeNAS on. My primary use for the NAS will media streaming (HD) as well as Usenet downloading (SABnzbd+ and Sickbeard). I'm also hoping to set up a VPN on this SFF. I've built many gaming PCs but am relatively new to the NAS/SFF world so I'd appreciate any guidance you guys can provide!

I have been putting together a possible part list and would like your opinions and advice on the parts!

Motherboard/CPU/GPU: ASUS E45M1-I Deluxe

Case: APEX MI-008

RAM: 8GB G.Skill Ripjaw DDR3 1333

HDDs: (x2) 2TB Samsung F4 HD204UI

**I'm planning on installing FreeNAS on a CF card and using a card reader in the 5.25" bay so recommendations for both of those parts would be appreciated as well.

One of my main concerns is if the HDDs will bottleneck the throughput of this SFF or if my my gigabit connection will (125MB/s cap if I remember correctly) limit my speeds first? Looking at these benchmarks it looks like average read throughput for the F4's is about 100 MB/s so I'd guess the HDDs would be the limiting factor. Is there any HDD out there at a similar price that would be better? I'm probably going to be running a ZFS RAID 0 array with these.

Is this build (in)adequate or overkill for my purposes? Thanks for all the help
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:17 PM
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It looks fine, I'd prefer Motherboard with an upgrade path and dual Intel NICs for flexibility.

Have you looked at the SuperMicro Intel I3 motherboards? To quote myself from another thread, much the same kind of build:

Quote:
I'm a Supermicro Bigot, ... take a look at the low voltage X9SCM-F from them. It also has dual intel based NICs, 2x Sata III and 4x Sata II ports. And has the more server oriented C204 chipset ( and you do pay for graphics capabilities unnecessary in a NAS )
The motherboard is oriented towards server applications, addressing your bottleneck concern, though it would be more expensive since you'd have to by the processor separately. But would give you an upgrade path so lacking with the Asus board.

With ZFS, memory tends to be a bigger bottleneck than the drive speed, but you can consider SATA III drives, since that is the way things are going anyways.

The Sammie F4s are great drives, they are my second choice, but only because of price, my first choice is Hitachi SATA IIIs, cheaper with a wider pipe (NewEgg just bumped their price just this week, but they can still be had for about $120). The Sammies are more highly rated, and their have been complaints about the Hits, DeathStar and all that, but I've bought more than a dozen, and not had a single problem (unlike Seagate, and WD).

Hope that helps
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Old 04-15-2012, 07:42 AM
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Are you familiar with/have any experience with PicoPSUs at all? I've heard great things about them and keep seeing a lot of mITX builds that use them, but I have a couple questions about them (primarily concerning power requirements).

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Originally Posted by GregN View Post
It looks fine, I'd prefer Motherboard with an upgrade path and dual Intel NICs for flexibility.

Have you looked at the SuperMicro Intel I3 motherboards? To quote myself from another thread, much the same kind of build:

The motherboard is oriented towards server applications, addressing your bottleneck concern, though it would be more expensive since you'd have to by the processor separately. But would give you an upgrade path so lacking with the Asus board.
Can you please explain how the dual NICs would be beneficial in my situation. I'm not entirely sure how I would use both concurrently. Would I be running CAT6's from both NICs to the router and that would double the throughput of the SFF? Also, would I even be able to take advantage of that since my main computer only has one NIC on my motherboard (wouldn't my single NIC connection for the PC bottleneck so I'd get the same throughput as if I had a single NIC SFF)? It may be useful to note that I'm just using a D3 modem with a 4 LAN Gigabit router and don't have a switch at this point in time.

I have been considering getting a i3/i5 mITX board and processor separate for upgrading in the future and couldn't make up my mind, but after further research it definitely seems to be the way to go. Is there any particular reason you are recommending the SuperMicro boards besides the dual NIC? Looking around I'm finding a lot of other i3 mITX boards with seemingly equivalent specs (although only single NIC and mITX rather than mATX), but for nearly half the price of the X9SCM-F you suggested in the other thread. I'm a big fan of ASRock boards and have had great success with them in the past so I am considering a couple of their i3 boards. On the subject of chipsets, which Intel chipset would you recommend? Since I'm not planning to do any OCing it seems like Z68 would be a bit of a waste so I feel like H67 would be my best bet. Right now my top consideration is the ASRock H67M-ITX. Sadly it only has two RAM slots, (after reading up on RAM being important in ZFS, decided to get 16GB rather than 8GB) so I'll have to get 2x8GB G.Skill Ares.

For the processor I would likely get the Intel Core i3-2100. I would even be able to get it for $99 at a local MicroCenter which is a steal! I've noticed a lot of people are getting the 2100T rather than the 2100, but after seeing some power consumption tests in this post it sounds like anything below a full load the two are going to have nearly identical consumption. Plus I'll have a higher clock speed with the 2100 and could just underclock it to the 2100T speeds and have the same processor.

Quote:
The Sammie F4s are great drives, they are my second choice, but only because of price, my first choice is Hitachi SATA IIIs, cheaper with a wider pipe (NewEgg just bumped their price just this week, but they can still be had for about $120). The Sammies are more highly rated, and their have been complaints about the Hits, DeathStar and all that, but I've bought more than a dozen, and not had a single problem (unlike Seagate, and WD).
I think due to the volatility of RAID 0, I'll probably stick with the F4s just so I don't have to worry about all the failure issues people encounter with the Hitachis. Checking benchmarks i'm actually seeing higher average throughput for both read and writes on the F4 than the 5K3000.

Last edited by Bacillus; 04-15-2012 at 07:49 AM.
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Old 04-15-2012, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacillus View Post
Are you familiar with/have any experience with PicoPSUs at all? I've heard great things about them and keep seeing a lot of mITX builds that use them, but I have a couple questions about them (primarily concerning power requirements).
Other folks looking at builds have mentioned them, I always thought the largest efficiency concern with a PSU was AC to DC - is there an efficiency gain with a picoPSU?

Quite a few mini-ITX cases come with wall wart style PSUs.

Quote:
Can you please explain how the dual NICs would be beneficial in my situation. I'm not entirely sure how I would use both concurrently. Would I be running CAT6's from both NICs to the router and that would double the throughput of the SFF? Also, would I even be able to take advantage of that since my main computer only has one NIC on my motherboard (wouldn't my single NIC connection for the PC bottleneck so I'd get the same throughput as if I had a single NIC SFF)? It may be useful to note that I'm just using a D3 modem with a 4 LAN Gigabit router and don't have a switch at this point in time.
It is the "at this time" part, there is no advantage given your current set-up and intent. But having dual NIC allows you to aggregate your connections with a switch in the future, or re-task the motherboard as a router build. It just offers flexibility, since expansion slots are a premium on mini-itx, this helps at little cost.

Quote:
I have been considering getting a i3/i5 mITX board and processor separate for upgrading in the future and couldn't make up my mind, but after further research it definitely seems to be the way to go. Is there any particular reason you are recommending the SuperMicro boards besides the dual NIC?
Dual Intel NICS, Intel is the gold standard. But no, the largest reason I'm a SM fanboy is the build quality, it is industrial grade, their firmware is always fully cooked, beyond that the fact you can get their tech support on the phone. I do alot of builds, mostly with used components, and sometimes there are issues ( PCI conflicts, chipset generation issues, etc. ) and SM has repeatedly bailed me out of what seemed to be a hard stop - on say a motherboard from 2006. Never had to have a call back, never been put on infinite hold, never had an ignored e-mail. Try that with Asus.

Quote:
Looking around I'm finding a lot of other i3 mITX boards with seemingly equivalent specs (although only single NIC and mITX rather than mATX), but for nearly half the price of the X9SCM-F you suggested in the other thread.
SM has a version of X9 for mITX, the X9SCV-Q, without the C204 chipset, it has the QM67 chipset. The C204 chipset has better power efficiency and supports ECC memory, both reasons why I prefer it.

Quote:
I'm a big fan of ASRock boards and have had great success with them in the past so I am considering a couple of their i3 boards. On the subject of chipsets, which Intel chipset would you recommend? Since I'm not planning to do any OCing it seems like Z68 would be a bit of a waste so I feel like H67 would be my best bet. Right now my top consideration is the ASRock H67M-ITX. Sadly it only has two RAM slots, (after reading up on RAM being important in ZFS, decided to get 16GB rather than 8GB) so I'll have to get .
I like ASRock also, I'm using a 890GX E3 as my main desktop machine, the H67 offers good graphics performance, more suited to a HTPC than a NAS build. The Z68 is sweet, but for a server like a NAS I'd prefer C204/C206 for the memory and the power profile. I hate having my hardware purchases be dead-ended, I want that upgrade path.

Quote:
For the processor I would likely get the Intel Core i3-2100....
Excellent choice, you might want to take a look at the Xeon E3s, but for the money I don't think you can beat the i3-2100 (I've recommended it more than once).

Quote:
I think due to the volatility of RAID 0, I'll probably stick with the F4s just so I don't have to worry about all the failure issues people encounter with the Hitachis. Checking benchmarks i'm actually seeing higher average throughput for both read and writes on the F4 than the 5K3000.
I agree, when buying alot of drives that $30 difference adds up quickly, and that is the only compelling reason for going with the Hits- especially now with drive prices so painfully high. Never had a problem with the Sammies.
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by GregN View Post
SM has a version of X9 for mITX, the X9SCV-Q, without the C204 chipset, it has the QM67 chipset. The C204 chipset has better power efficiency and supports ECC memory, both reasons why I prefer it.

I like ASRock also, I'm using a 890GX E3 as my main desktop machine, the H67 offers good graphics performance, more suited to a HTPC than a NAS build. The Z68 is sweet, but for a server like a NAS I'd prefer C204/C206 for the memory and the power profile. I hate having my hardware purchases be dead-ended, I want that upgrade path.
Well I've done a lot more research and have decided a picoPSU is definitely worth it. Not only will it take less space than the stock PSU, allowing me to use a larger HSF, but will also help with airflow in such a tightly packed case. As for power efficiency I've seen insanely low consumption readings for a build very similar to mine. IIRC it was at 34W under heavy load I guess another appeal of H67 is the flexibility to use this build as a HTPC and NAS (if I chose to do that). With an embedded OS like FreeNAS it'd be pretty easy to switch boot order between that (USB/CF) and a HDD running W7 or XBMC Live.
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Old 04-16-2012, 12:06 AM
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Let us know your final Build of Materials, and how it goes. I'm definitely interested.
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Old 04-19-2012, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by GregN View Post
Let us know your final Build of Materials, and how it goes. I'm definitely interested.
Ended up ordering parts today. My final component choices are:

CPU: Intel i3-2100
Mobo: ASRock H67M-ITX LGA 1155
RAM: 16GB G.Skill Ares DDR3 1333
HDD: (x2) 2TB Samsung F4 HD204UI
Case: APEX MI-008
PSU: picoPSU-120W + 102W Adapter
Case Fan: Nexus 80mm

and planning to installed FreeNAS on an 8GB Mushkin USB drive internally (USB header adapter). I'm hoping to have all the parts by Monday/Tuesday so I'll maybe try and take a couple pictures or at least check in with how it all turns out. Thanks for all the help!
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Old 04-21-2012, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
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Other folks looking at builds have mentioned them, I always thought the largest efficiency concern with a PSU was AC to DC - is there an efficiency gain with a picoPSU?
Not True. The problem with a computers power supply isn't the AC to DC conversion. This is nearly a fixed loss on all power supplies, as you just take the 120AC, covert it to something lower (transformer loss) and then rectify (second small loss in the diodes). The real lost is when you take that ~20DC volts and convert it to 3 or 4 different variable load DC regulated values. (+5, +12, -12, +3.3 and a second +5 standby) With the picoPSU, first the heat of the 120 to 20 is removed from the case, then it has very tight limits on power, creating a very efficient power supply. Most run an easy 90+ (of course that isn't counting the small loss in the 120 to 20 outside supply.
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Old 04-21-2012, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by matthelm View Post
Not True. The problem with a computers power supply isn't the AC to DC conversion. This is nearly a fixed loss on all power supplies, as you just take the 120AC, covert it to something lower (transformer loss) and then rectify (second small loss in the diodes). The real lost is when you take that ~20DC volts and convert it to 3 or 4 different variable load DC regulated values. (+5, +12, -12, +3.3 and a second +5 standby) With the picoPSU, first the heat of the 120 to 20 is removed from the case, then it has very tight limits on power, creating a very efficient power supply. Most run an easy 90+ (of course that isn't counting the small loss in the 120 to 20 outside supply.
Aren't all modern PC power supplies fancy switching regulators- rather than brute force linear regulators (i.e., starting with 20VDC)?
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:09 AM
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Aren't all modern PC power supplies fancy switching regulators- rather than brute force linear regulators (i.e., starting with 20VDC)?
Yes, but that doesn't make them perfect. The biggest problem is the power levels they are designed to handle, and the variable nature of the load. No matter what, you start wasting power when current flows get too high, or you aren't using the "designed" power levels. Just look at the efficiency curves on most power supplies. To big of a power supply is BAD!
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