I would have expected that Atom-powered NASes would be flooding the market by now, pushing aside the current crop of low-to-mid priced products based on Marvell's ORION Media Vault Processors.
But so far, the only way to get an Atom-based NAS has been to roll your own. Thecus, however, has selected AMD's Geode low-cost CPU to power its N4100PRO and upcoming N3200PRO. So I was able to get a feel for the Geode's performance when I recently reviewed the N4100PRO.
Since I also had performance data for my DIY Atom NAS, I wanted to include an Atom / Geode comparison in the N4100PRO review. But as I went to write up the comparison, I found that my Atom data wasn't really suited for a fair comparison.
So I went back to the bench, and ran new tests on both the Atom-based NAS and the Thecus N4100PRO. The goal was to get as good of an apples-to-apples comparison as I could get, considering that I couldn't exactly match operating systems.
To review, Table 1 shows the components used in the DIY Atom NAS. The configuration is the same as used in the Atom DIY articles, except for two changes: 512 MB vs. 2 GB of RAM; and Openfiler 2.3 instead of Ubuntu Server for the OS.
|RAM||Kingston 512 GB DDR2 667 (PC2 5300)|
|Data Drives||Hitachi Deskstar HDS721680PLA380
80GB 7200RPM 3.0 Gb/s SATA 8MB
|Ethernet||Intel PRO/1000 PCI|
Table 1: Atom NAS component summary
I reduced the RAM to try to match the miserly 256 MB of RAM that Thecus included in the 4100PRO. But the smallest DIMM I had on hand was 512 MB, so that's what I used. As for the OS, I thought I would give Openfiler a shot, since I had yet to try it and it had been suggested over in the Forums.
Table 2 shows the same component information for the N4100PRO. As noted earlier, there is only 256 MB of RAM. Both products have PCI-based Ethernet, which will limit uncached top speed to just shy of 67 MB/s.
|CPU||AMD Geode LX800|
|RAM||DSL 256 GB DDR 400 SoDIMM|
|Data Drives||WDC WD1600AAJS-0 Caviar Blue
160 GB, 7200 RPM 3.0 Gb/s, 8 MB
|Ethernet||Intel 82541 PCI gigabit Ethernet controller|
Table 2: Thecus N4100PRO component summary
Previous experiments included trying Western Digital's VeliciRaptor drives, which I didn't find made much difference in performance. So I didn't move drives from NAS to NAS, since both sets of drives were 7200 RPM SATA with 8 MB caches. I did, however, use only two drives in the N4100PRO's RAID 0 array, to match the maximum capacity of the Atom NAS.