The All New FreeNAS Mini
In this post I’ll be analyzing the parts used by iXsystems to build the all new FreeNAS Mini so you can decide if it’s better to buy their NAS or build your own.
It’s been 3 years since I last looked at the FreeNAS Mini from iXsystem’s.
Since then the mini has undergone a significant redesign to address many of the concerns users raised about the first generation mini NAS.
The most notable of the changes to the new mini is the use of ECC memory. FreeNAS users have long been divided by those who use ECC and those that don’t.
Many will lead you to believe that using ZFS and FreeNAS without ECC memory is pure insanity and they are probably at least partially correct.
Personally I’m comfortable with my decision not to use ECC memory in my home NAS but I’ll certainly revisit the topic when it comes time to replace it.
ECC memory costs have dropped significantly over the years and there are now several good mini ITX motherboards that support both ECC and non ECC memory.
The next most notable change is the switch to the Intel Atom processor. The latest FreeNAS Mini uses a motherboard integrated 8 core 2.4GHz C2750 CPU which operates with a TDP of only 20 watts. This is quite an improvement over the dual core i3 processor used in the first generation mini NAS
Parts List (Diskless Base Unit)
Below is the list of parts required to build a clone of the updated FreeNAS Mini system minus the hard drives.
Why bother listing a price without drives? Two reasons, first because iXsystems will sell you a diskless NAS making the pricing relevant, and second because you might already have a stack of old hard drives lying around that you plan to use.
|Component||Item||Quantity||Unit Cost||Extended Cost|
|Chassis||Ablecom CS-M50 Hot Swap Mini ITX Chassis||1||$199.00||$199.00|
|Motherboard / CPU||ASRock C2750D4I Mini ITX Server Motherboard||1||$389.99||$389.99|
|Memory||Crucial 16GB Kit (2 x 8GB) DDR3 PC3-12800 ECC Unbuffered Memory||1||$119.49||$119.49|
|SATA DOM (OS Boot Drive)||Apacer 16GB APSDM016GA3AN-ATM MLC SATA DOM||1||$65.00||$65.00|
During my search for this parts I discovered that the chassis selected by iXsystems is not readily available from any US vendors. I reached out to Ablecom about sourcing the chassis and them informed me that they can ship directly to the US if you contact them.
As an alternative I would suggest taking a look at the Fractal Design Node 304 chassis. I recently used the Node 304 chassis when I recently built a new home storage server and I’ve been very happy with it.
If you do go with the Node 304 you will need to add a power supply to your parts list since it does not include one.
While the Node 304 doesn’t offer hot swappable drive bays but I’m not convinced home users truly need hot swap capability. Personally I’m fine with powering down my NAS to swap out a drive. If you’re planning to use FreeNAS in a commercial application you should probably looking at the TruNAS unit anyway.
Other Memory Options
IXsystems opted to use a pair of Samsung 8GB ECC DDR3 modules which are expensive and hard to find. Instead you might want to consider using Crucial memory which is inexpensive, readily available, and covered by a lifetime warranty.
The ASRock C2750D4I motherboard supports a maximum of 64GB of memory and has room for 4 memory modules.
|Memory Configuration||Item||Quantity||Unit Cost||Extended Cost|
|32GB (4 x 8GB)||Crucial 16GB Kit (8GBx2) DDR3L PC3-12800 ECC Memory CT2KIT102472BD160B||2||$178.69||$238.98|
In the table below you’ll find pricing for the different hard drive configurations for the FreeNAS mini.
IxSystems doesn’t list a 20TB model on their web site but since it’s a valid option for home builders it seemed worth including.
For enterprise NAS builds you may want to consider Western Digital’s new line of NAS drives, Red Pro.
WD Red Pro drives are designed for 8 – 16 bay deployments and offer better reliability than then standard Red product line.
|Disk Configuration||Item||Quantity||Unit Cost||Extended Cost|
|4TB (4 x 1TB)||Western Digital Red 1TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD10EFRX||4||$64.99||$259.96|
|8TB (4 x 2TB)||Western Digital Red 2TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD20EFRX||4||$89.99||$359.96|
|12TB (4 x 3TB)||Western Digital Red 3TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD30EFRX||4||$109.00||$436.00|
|16TB (4 x 4TB)||Western Digital Red 4TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD40EFRX||4||$149.00||$596.00|
|20TB (4 x 5TB)||Western Digital Red 5TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD50EFRX||4||$199.00||$796.00|
|24TB (4 x 6TB)||Western Digital Red 6TB NAS Hard Drive SATA III 64 MB Cache WD60EFRX||4||$249.00||$996.00|
Total FreeNAS Mini Clone Build Costs
The table below compares the cost total cost of the DIY option vs simply buying the FreeNAS mini. Overall the average savings comes out to be $440.
The maximum savings ($625) can be achieved buy building the 24TB option but even the 4TB option yields a savings of $290.
|Build Configuration||Total Cost (DIY)||Total Cost (Prebuilt)|
|4TB total storage||$1033.44||$1325.00|
|8TB total storage||$1133.44||$1495.00|
|12TB total storage||$1209.48||$1625.00|
|16TB total storage||$1369.48||$1895.00|
|20TB total storage||$1569.48||Not Available|
|24TB total storage||$1769.48||$2395.00|
While this table looks at the pure hardware costs you should also consider the time involved in building the unit and troubleshooting that may be required to get the your NAS working.
Although, for many DIY users (myself included) building a new system is half of the fun.