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Old June 21, 2010, 10:53 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 8
Default Low power HTPC with NAS - Advice welcome

Hi all,

I recently built an AMD dual core system because I wanted to play around with an HTPC to see how I would like it. Well, I LOVE IT. XBMC is one of the best things since indoor plumbing =P.

Anyway, my first build was a mATX motherboard with the dual core and a larger power supply because I thought I wanted to go the way of VDPAU. Turns out the onboard video was good enough for my purposes and I didn't get the video card. Now I realize that I'm wasting a lot of power having this thing on all of the time and want to go the way of a low power PC + NAS setup.

This is what I've come up with:

Zotac Zbox HD-ID11 (NG ION reviews look good)
G.SKILL 2GB 200-Pin DDR2 SO-DIMM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Laptop Memory Model F2-6400CL5S-2GBSK (some cheap memory)
Kingston SSDNow V Series SNV125-S2/30GB 2.5" 30GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) (a small SSD for power savings and less heat/noise)

D-Link DNS-323 2-Bay Network Storage Enclosure (relatively cheap nas enclosure)

My questions are more about the NAS. I've read a lot of mixed reviews. I like the fact it runs Linux and there appear to be a lot of features you can add to it, but a lot of reviews note slow transfer speeds and flaky behaviour re: formatting drives. I like that it has 2 bays for future expansion, but at the same time I can get a synology single drive system (with much better reviews) for around the same price. The main point of the device will be media distribution and external access through FTP for sharing photos. I won't go with RAID since all of my critical data I back up to DVDs. Comments?

Any advice regarding the Kingston SSD? I think it should be fine, but I'm open to shelling out a few more bucks for another vendor. The RAM I'm not too worried about. Just chose one of the cheaper ones. Speed isn't critical for running applications outside of XBMC.

Also, if anyone has any recommendations for a decent RF remote control in the $50 range, I still need one of those.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  #2 (permalink)  
Old June 21, 2010, 03:10 PM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 260

SmallNetBuilder's NAS chart is here:

NAS Performance Comparison Charts - 1000 Mbps Average Read Performance

If you have a bit of extra hardware components lying around you may want to consider putting together a Windows Home Server. I was using a couple of Buffalo NAS at home, but with the extra HW that I had around, it basically cost me $250 ($150 WHS software + $100 HDD) to put together something that's a lot more flexible than all the <$500 NAS out there.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Old June 23, 2010, 07:58 AM
Top Prospect
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Calgary, AB
Posts: 119

My System Specs


I had a DNS-323 and found it worked okay, but it definitely was slow. I ended up ditching it and building my own server. I was going to use windows home server, but I ended up getting a free copy of Server 2008 R2 that I'm using.

Chenbro ITX NAS/Server Chassis
Shark Systems - ES34069 - CHENBRO MINI ITX HOME

Zotac GF-9300 ITX motherboard
NCIX.com - Buy Zotac GF9300-G-E MINI-ITX LGA775 GeForce 9300 DDR2 PCI-E16 SATA RAID WiFi Audio Video Motherboard - GF9300-G-E In Canada.

Intel Celeron Dual Core E3200 (its ~$50 and it has virtualization... way better server proc than E5200)
Intel Celeron E3200 Dual Core Processor LGA775 2.4GHZ 1MB L2 Cache 65W Retail Box - DirectCanada

Add some ram, 2-port SATA card, storage and you're good to go. Its roughly the size of 2 DNS-323's stacked together, but waaaay more versatile. Also, Chenbro released the ES34169 case since I built mine, so look at that. Its the same look but internal PSU so no huge brick outside.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Old June 23, 2010, 08:38 AM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 8

Thanks for the replies.

Again though, I'm looking for a lower power solution. I realize the versatility I get with a homemade server with WHS or freeNAS, but all it's really going to be doing is storing my media for when I want to play it on the nettop. If the transfer speeds for the DSN-323 are really that bad, I could upgrade to a synology box which seems to have much better rates with similar functionality. It doesn't have to be blazing fast. Just enough to ensure good quality playback of 1080p over the network with enough left that there can be traffic in the background. Obviously I'm going to have to look at changing my router as well.
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Old June 24, 2010, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Vancouver
Posts: 260

Originally Posted by kburn99 View Post
It doesn't have to be blazing fast. Just enough to ensure good quality playback of 1080p over the network with enough left that there can be traffic in the background. Obviously I'm going to have to look at changing my router as well.
1080p HD @ 50Hz uncompressed needs something like 2.5 Gbit/s bandwidth. With compression such as mpeg2 you're looking at 30-40Mbit/s which even the DSN-323 will have no problem with -- though moving files to/from it could be a bit of a pain.

The $64K question is what else the network/NAS will be doing, and also if you're running 100/1000 network. I believe the DSN-323 benchmark for Read is close to that of the bandwidth of a 100 network, so with overhead the network is as likely to be the bottleneck as the NAS if there are other background tasks.

I think the Synology box at the DSN-323's price point is the single bay ds110, which max out at 2TB -- not really much for HD media -- I would like to see a bit more capacity, if you plan to keep the NAS for 3-4 years you'd want something that's capable of at least 3-4x the storage you're using now.
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Old June 25, 2010, 08:50 AM
kingnubian's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Montreal
Posts: 323

Having owned the DNS-323 I can tell you that it is on the slow side although it is also very versatile & has a good community following where all kinds of tweaks & addons are available. The network transfer speed though isn't the best.

You could always roll your own NAS based on an Intel Atom motherboard with gigabit lan which if you select the parts carefully wouldn't be that costly. The upside to this is since it is actually a general purpose pc/server you will have more options as to what you want it to do not necessarily now but in the future. Don't expect the Atom to do transcoding or any other demanding task with any speed but for a Nas it's a perferct fit.

Here is an excellent example of an Atom based server board which may be over the top for what you are after but it just shows what is out there potentially. Note the dual Intel gigabit nics!

Newegg.ca - SUPERMICRO MBD-X7SPA-HF-O Mini ITX Intel Atom D510 processor Server Motherboard

There are also many lower priced Atom based offerings.
GOD Is Good

AMD Ryzen 1700 CPU
Asrock AB350 Pro 4 Motherboard
Corsair LPX 16GB (2x8GB) 3200Mhz
Adata SX8000 256GB NVME Drive
Crucial MX300 525GB M.2 Drive
Corsair H105 AIO
Phanteks P400S Tempered Glass Edition
EVGA Supernova 650 G3
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  #7 (permalink)  
Old June 25, 2010, 08:55 AM
Arinoth's Avatar
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Halifax
Posts: 9,165

I also had a DNS-323 and the small little quirks or issues i had with it made me eventually sell it. The person using it is enjoying it without any issues as they are using it as its stock default. I would suggest the atom system as well. You'll be able to run more hard drives, the read/write speeds will be faster and you can even run it wireless if you wanted to.
Here I am: here I remain
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