|At a glance|
|Product||iXsystems FreeNAS (Mini Second Generation) [Website]|
|Summary||Preconfigured four-bay Intel octo-core Atom based NAS running FreeBSD-based FreeNAS 9.3|
|Pros||• Plug and go FreeNAS|
• Good documentation
• ZFS filesystem
|Cons||• Not for NAS newbies|
• ZFS filesystem
• No built-in backup
• Relatively expensive for a four-bay NAS
Typical Price: $999 Buy From Amazon
Updated 11/10/15: Changed name from "2014" to "Second Generation" per iXsystems request. Charts screenshots were not updated. Updated features table.
If you like to "do it yourself", you've probably considered building your own NAS using the FreeNAS open source software based on the FreeBSD operating system. If you'd prefer an off the shelf pre-built NAS, but still want to use FreeNAS, the FreeNAS Mini is iXsystems' product for the SOHO market. They also offer enterprise-level systems based on FreeNAS under the TrueNAS product line.
Several years ago, Doug Reid covered iXsystem's FreeNAS Mini and included background on how FreeNAS came to be. This review covers the Second Generation version (Gen 2) of the FreeNAS Mini, which features new case, processor and motherboard and an updated operating system. In addition to our normal suite of tests, we also tested the FreeNAS Mini with an optional 10GbE connection.
For comparison throughout the review I'll be using the QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G High-performance Turbo NAS and QNAP TVS-463 Golden Cloud Turbo. Both of these were also reviewed using our latest NAS benchmark tests and were also tested with 10 GbE connections.
The FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 is built in an off-the-shelf Ablecom CS-M50 case. The callouts below show the front panel of the FreeNAS Mini. The tool-less drive trays are hot swappable, and the drive bay cover, shown in the product shot at the top of the review, is lockable.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 callouts
The photo below shows the rear panel of our review unit. As you can see, the power supply is built in and takes a standard AC power cord. For those of you who still remember serial ports, the FreeNAS Mini has a serial port (default 9600) as well as an IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) port for out-of-band management. Note that the optional 10GbE dual port card has been installed on the right.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 rear panel
The callouts below, taken from the FreeNAS Quick Start guide, identify the ports above.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 rear panel ports
Both the IPMI and the Gigabit Ethernet Ports have two LED indicators. One shows Activity/Link, and the other shows Speed. Note that there are slightly different indications for the IPMI port and the Gigabit LAN ports.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 LED indicators
The FreeNAS mini is based on the ASRock Intel Avoton C2750 ITX Motherboard and CPU combo. DIYers can find the complete board (without memory) on Amazon for $390. The board features one PCI-Express 3.0 slot, eight SATA3 ports and four SATA2 ports. Only 3 USB 2.0 ports are supported. As shown in the rear callouts above, there are also 2 RJ45 Gigabit LAN and one dedicated IPMI dedicated LAN PORT. The image below shows the main board with a large heat sink installed.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 Main PCB
The image below shows the left side view of the FreeNAS Mini. That's the Intel X540-T2 dual-port 10GbE board with the black heatsink.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 with case removed to show the bottom of the main PCB
Here's the right side view, showing the Flex ATX 250W power supply.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 inside right view
The top view, below, shows this single large fan used to cool the system. There's also a spot and power cables for two SSD cache drives.
iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 inside top view
The QNAP TVS-471 proved to be difficult to disassemble, so we weren't able to extract individual component part numbers as we normally do. However, I've taken what information that we were able to determine for key components and put it into the component summary comparison table below. Note the FreeNAS uses ECC RAM.
|iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2||QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G||QNAP TVS-463|
|CPU||Intel Atom C2750 @ w.40 GHz (octo-core)||Dual-core Intel Core™ i3-4150 3.5 GHz||AMD 2.4GHz quad-core GX-424CC processor with Radeon graphics|
|Ethernet||Intel WGI210AT (x2)||Intel WGI210TA (x2) [guess]||Intel WGI210AT (x2)|
|RAM||16 GB ECC upgradeable to 32 GB total||4GB DDR3 (expandable to 16GB)||8 GB DDR3 SoDIMM|
|Flash||?||512 MB DoM||512 MB USB DoM|
|USB 3.0||N/A||?||Asmedia 1074 4 port USB 3.0 controller|
|SATA||?||?||Marvell 88SE9215 (x2 on backplane)|
|10GbE||Intel X540-T2||QNAP LAN-10G2T-D||QNAP LAN-10G2T-D|
Table 1: Component summary
Table 1: Key component summary and comparison Feature
Power consumption with four SmallNetBuilder-provided WD Red 3TB (WD30EFRX) drives was 47W (active). There is no power save mode. RAID 5 and RAID 10 rebuild time was immediate. Fan and drive noise was rated as medium.