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NAS Reviews

Features

Often, I forget the NAS Finder is a good, quick way to compare several products side-by-side. I created a features comparison chart for the FreeNAS mini as well as the two comparison QNAP NASes. The missing green dots make it easy to compare the three NASes. The complete table is fairly large, so you can look at the entire comparison here.

Table updated 11/10/15

Feature comparison of the FreeNAS Mini, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and TVS-463

Feature comparison of the FreeNAS Mini, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and TVS-463

There have been quite a few changes in the FreeNAS mini since the original review. We asked iXsystems for a summary of the major hardware and software changes, which are shown below. Note our original review was for FreeNAS version 8.3 - the current review is FreeNAS version 9.3.

Hardware updates

- Sleeker case design; lower power, quieter
- Intel Avoton 8 Core CPU - 2.40 GHz
- ECC RAM. Critically important for FreeNAS/ZFS, the Mini comes standard with 16 GB and can be upgraded to 32 GB.
- 2 Internal 2.5" Slots for SSD Read and Write Cache Drives
- Full Hot-Swap Drive Bays
- Up to 24 TB Storage
- Server Grade Motherboard
- Dual Intel Ethernet Ports (with Teaming function)
- 10Gb Ethernet Upgrade Available
- Remote Management (IPMI) Network Port
- 8 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s, 4 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s ports
- Locking Door

Software updates

- Central plugin repository with in-place updates to easily manage plugins.
- Intelligent compression that improves performance.
- Better support for SSDs used for capacity.
- Support for 6 TB drives
- RESTful API lets you automate the monitoring and management of the FreeNAS Mini
- Boot devices are mirrored and support multiple boot environments.
- Updates can be automatically downloaded and applied.
- Support for the Internet of Things and mobile devices with WebDAV support.
- VAAI/Block and snapshot integration with vSphere snaps.
- Microsoft ODX and cluster shared volumes support.
- Boot images allow you to roll back your system to what it looked like before the update.
- File Sharing supports NFS v4.
- Directory support adds Apple Open Directory, enhanced with Kerberos Realms and Keytab support.
- The administrative GUI has been improved.
- Support for certificates in various services that support SSL or TLS.

One of the major features of FreeNAS is its use of the ZFS (Zettabyte File System). Again, I refer you to Doug's original description of ZFS. As Doug pointed out, "to achieve high degrees of data integrity, ZFS is memory intensive. FreeNAS recommends 1GB of RAM for every 1TB of storage. This is why the Mini Plus has an unusually high amount of memory for a NAS - 16GB."

iXsystems provides history about FreeNAS as well as a white paper about Open ZFS. Both make for worthwhile reading.

One of the new features of the FreeNAS 9.X operating system is an upgraded UI. The screenshot below shows the UI from version 8.3. Note the limited number of tabs across the top and corresponding menu selections in the left column.

FreeNAS Version 8.3 landing page

FreeNAS Version 8.3 landing page

The screenshot below shows the landing page (System information) for the current FreeNAS-9.3 OS. Across the top of the screen and arranged vertically in the left column are the major top level menus. If you click on one of the "+" icons next to a menu in the left column, a submenu will open. Note how the submenus under the System tab correspond to the submenus under System in the left column.

FreeNAS Version 9.3 landing page

FreeNAS Version 9.3 landing page

If you click on the Guide tab or menu, a copy of the FreeNAS user guide will appear as shown below. You can also download the FreeNAS Version 9.3 user guide.

FreeNAS Version 9.3 User Guide

FreeNAS Version 9.3 User Guide

The Gallery below contains some interesting screenshots from some of the other FreeNAS Version 9.3 menus.

Performance

Firmware version FreeNAS09.3-STABLE-201509282017 was loaded onto the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 and performance tests were run using the Revision 5 NAS test process. All tests were run using Western Digital Red 3 TB (WD30EFRX) (x4 SNB supplied)

I filtered the NAS charts for the latest testing method (black bars) and RAID5. The composite image below shows the benchmark results for File Copy Write Performance (left) and File Copy Read Performance (right). For many NASes, the performance is limited not by the ability of the NAS to handle a heavy load, but rather the limit of Gigabit Ethernet and a single client.

Many of the test results for File Copy Read and Write were between 109 and 110 MB/s - about the maximum you can achieve with Gigabit Ethernet. However, for FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 didn't come close to maxing out the Gigabit connection on either the Write or Read File Copy tests. It was 16% slower for write operations and 11 % slower on read operations than the chart-topping 110.1 MB/s.

File Copy Write and File Copy Read benchmarks

File Copy Write and File Copy Read benchmarks

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