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Introduction

Intel Atom and VIA C7 duke it out

I have had an MSI Wind PC sitting on my bench for months, waiting for me to explore its suitability as a DIY NAS. But other projects and reviews kept bumping it to the back of the work queue, particularly since I have explored the Intel Atom for DIY NAS use both in Build Your Own Atom-based NAS and Atom vs. Geode: Which Makes a Faster, Cheaper NAS?.

Then about a month ago, VIA sent its C7-D powered ARTiGO A2000 Barebone Storage Server in for a look. So now that I have cleared some of the NAS review backlog and have a new, faster NAS test platform in place, the time has come to see how these two low-cost CPU platforms compare for rolling your own NAS.

MSI Wind PC

At the time (last October), the MSI Wind PC was the only Atom-based barebone system that you could get. Since then, Jetway and Shuttle have both produced small form-factor barebone systems capable of supporting two (and more) SATA drives.

MSI Wind PC
CPU Intel Atom 1.6 GHz
Motherboard MSI custom w/ Intel 945GC North Bridge, ICH7 South Bridge
RAM pqi 1 GB DDR2 533 SO-DIMM
Data Drives Hitachi Deskstar HDS721680PLA380
80GB 7200RPM 3.0 Gb/s SATA 8MB
Ethernet Realtek 8111C (on board)
OS Ubuntu Server 8.10 + mdadm + Webmin
on 2 GB USB Flash drive
Table 1: MSI Wind PC Test Configuration

Table 1 summarizes the configuation details of the NAS that I put together using the Wind PC and Figure 1 shows the box. I should note that MSI did not respond to my request for a review unit. So I ended up buying one from NewEgg.

MSI Wind PC

Figure 1: MSI Wind PC

Figure 2 shows the Wind PC's innards, with the metal cage that holds the drives and front panel ports removed. The board is relatively large, with a single SO-DIMM RAM socket is at the upper right of the photo and the infamous CF slot below it. I say "infamous" because you have to disassemble the entire system to insert the CF card, since it backs up right against the side of the enclosure.

MSI Wind PC, drive assy removed
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: MSI Wind PC, drive assy removed

Figure 3 shows the Wind PC with the drive assembly in place. The cage has two bays that each hold a single drive, one 3.5", the other 5.25". I just secured one of the 3.5" SATA drives with a single screw in the 5.25" inch bay. If you want to mount the drive more securely, you'll need to invest in an adapter tray or drill a hole for a second mounting screw. The Wind PC comes with SATA power and data cables, pre-cut to reach the 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays, and mounting hardware for the drives.

MSI Wind PC, drive assy installed
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: MSI Wind PC, drive assy installed

I was going to install the OS on a CF drive. But I ended up just putting it on a USB flash drive that I plugged into one of the front ports, instead.

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