So I had been looking for a home NAS solution for a while now, and I was wavering between building my own NAS, or ordering a pre-built solution similar to the Asustor Xeon powered NASs. I had been browsing the serverbuilds.net forums and looking over the NAS Killer builds, but I wanted some miniITX based, and small form factor so I could keep on (or under) my desk and hopefully have it be inconspicuous.
I had been particularly interested in the Node 304 based NASs I’d seen on the web, especially this one, but I had it in my mind I wanted at least 8 bays, and they HAD to be hot swappable. Why hot swappable? I thought it looked cool.. but I would come to realize that this served no real purpose for my intended use case, as I would never be swapping anything unless a hard drive failed. Then – the additional 10 minutes to unscrew the case and replace it wasn’t going to kill me.
But I decided I needed hot swappable bays, so my search continued. The 8 bay U-NAS case looked like something I may be interested in, but unfortunately it was out of stock everywhere, and no indication of when I could get my hands on one.
After much searching, I finally stumbled across the Orico brand of pre-built NASs and they really piqued my interest. I found the 8 bay on aliexpress, and eventually saw it was on neweggg as well – all with 0 reviews. P.S. – the 4 bay is still available on newegg. By the time I decided to actually take the plunge on a product I couldn’t find a single review for, newegg was out of stock. Damn! Anyway I tried messaging the seller to see what kind of main board it was running. I was hoping for ITX, in case I wanted to rehome the guts of the nas to something else, and was also wondering about the included RAM, SSD etc, since the product page was a little vague and self-contradictory in a few places. No response.
Well here goes.. My first “large” purchase on aliexpress that I’m really unsure about. I ordered from the “official” Orico storage seller, who promised Fedex International Priority shipping – and all in all it wasn’t that bad of an experience. I couldn’t get my credit card to actually go through due to constant fraud flagging, but paypal eventually worked for the order.
Anyway – it arrived about 2 weeks later. It took pretty long to actually get shipped, but once it was in the system, Fedex shipping was really fast from China.
The box was pretty heavy, and double boxed with great packing materials. No real damage to the boxes or contents. Great.
The front aluminum panel looked really clean and modern, although the hot swappable bay faceplates were really flimsy plastic, so the contrast of materials was definitely there. Not something I was expecting, but oh well. The rest of the case is plain steel, and pretty heavy. First thing to do.. open it up!
Sweet – looks like an ITX motherboard, with LOTS of SATA ports. I still have yet to be able to identify it, so if anyone knows – let me know.
Now to power this beast up. OH MY GOD. It sounds like a real jet engine is being started up in my office. Dashed are any hopes I had of keeping this thing on my desk. It was seriously the loudest small computer I had ever heard. With it opened up – it appeared most of the sound was coming from the Flex-ATX power supply. After a bit of research, this seems to be pretty common. All the fans in the machine (1x CPU and 2x Case) were very noisy too. So time to replace every noise making part in this thing to see if I can get it to a manageable noise level.
I ended up ordering a ENP 7660B 600w power supply, because that seemed to be the only available Flex ATX power supply that was silent for the loads that this machine would pull. And wow – what a difference. The power supply was completely silent. My hopes for a desktop NAS were returning.
I had also ordered a 32 GB SoDIMM RAM chip and new Noctua 40x10mm fan to replace the current noisy CPU heatsink fan that was stock. To replace these components I had to completely disassemble the entire case, so off I went. After removing the hard drive cage, I had decent access to the motherboard, so I replaced the components. I didn’t replace the 32GB ssd, because I read that upgrading this for the purposes of TrueNas cache storage device wasn’t really worth it.
At this point I started testing case fans as well for noise reduction. I tried Arctic P12 fans and Noctua Fans. Both were way too noisy for my liking at full speed. Using the low noise and ultra low noise adapters on the noctua fans proved to be a good solution, but I would come to find out the ultra low noise adapters didn’t provide nearly enough cooling ability, and the low noise adapters provided barely adequate cooling. I even removed the rear fan grilles from the case in case that was causing turbulence with the fan exhaust, increasing the noise.
Buttoning Back Up
So I settled on the Noctua fans for a trial run, and reinstalled everything in the case. I wanted to run the TrueNas OS on 2 mirrored SSDs so I ordered them on amazon and tried to get them to both work in the 2 empty SATA ports left on the motherboard. Well it turns out, the bottom most SATA port does not work on this motherboard. DAMN. So I ended up ordering a PCIe 1x SATA adapter, so I could run the OS disks. This actually worked out pretty well, and the TrueNas installer was able to pick them up fine.
Well after giving this setup a few days – I just didn’t like it at all. It was still too noisy for my liking. I’m not sure what I expected, but the fans needed to be loud to cool the hard drives sufficiently. Plus – since the hard drive trays were pretty cheap, there was no vibration isolation. So every hard drive click rattled the case – which in turn rattled my desk. That was a HUGE annoyance.
Is the case good? Sure – it’s a tiny package for a 8 bay NAS, it’s just noisy. Would it be best served in a server room? Definitely, but then why do you need such a cool looking mini itx form factor case? So it just didn’t work for my use case.
What did I end up doing?
Taking the motherboard and power supply, and throwing it in a Node 304 case with some arctic F12 fans, and that’s that. It’s silent. It doesn’t overheat. And it doesn’t click and vibrate all over the place. Done.
Did I essentially pay $800 for an ITX motherboard and processor that can support 9 SATA ports…. I guess so…. At least I could re-use all the upgrades I bought for the Orico.