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Performance - more

I've created two composite images that show benchmark summaries for the FreeNAS Mini, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463. The first image shows the test results using a Gigabit Ethernet connection. The second chart shows test results using a 10GbE connection.

Looking at these results, you'll start to see a trend. For the FreeNAS Mini, you'll tend to see consistently lower write performance than read performance for corresponding tests of the same RAID level. For example for both RAID 5 and RAID 10, File Copy Write was about 15% slower than File Copy Read and RAID0 File copy Write for the FreeNAS mini was about 16% slower than either of the QNAP NASes that topped out at ~110MB/s.

There aren't any built-in backup utilities so backup tests weren't run. The FreeNAS Mini turned in the best performance of the three for iSCSI Read, but the slowest iSCSI Write results.

Benchmark Summary Comparison for iXsystems Mini Gen 2 FreeNAS, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463 using a Gigabit connection

Benchmark Summary Comparison for iXsystems Mini Gen 2 FreeNAS, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463 using a Gigabit connection

Removing the limitations of Gigabit Ethernet by using a 10 Gigabit Ethernet LAN connection, you can start to draw some conclusions about performance that are otherwise masked. The image below shows benchmark summaries for the same three products as above. Several results pop out in the 10 GbE tests.

First, for all RAID levels, File Copy Read on the FreeNAS Mini was almost 4 times as fast as File Copy Writes. And for all RAID levels, the FreeNAS File Copy Read performance also "blew away" the results for both QNAP NASes on corresponding tests. However, the File Copy write performance for both QNAP NASes was significantly better than the FreeNAS mini - in some cases by a factor of 3.

The FreeNAS Mini also had excellent File Copy Read results for RAID 5 and RAID 10 NASPT File copy from NAS as well as RAID5 and RAID 10 NASPT 4x HD Playback. Following the trend we saw on the Gigabit tests, the FreeNAS Mini had the fastest iSCSI Read performance, but slowest iSCSI Write.

Benchmark Summary Comparison for iXsystems Mini Gen 2 FreeNAS, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463 using a 10GbE connection

Benchmark Summary Comparison for iXsystems Mini Gen 2 FreeNAS, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463 using a 10GbE connection

As we have noted in the in several reviews, we don't include 10GbE results in the NAS Rankings because not all products support it. And because we don't have many 10GbE products in the Charts, we don't have a separate Ranker for them. With the addition of the FreeNAS Mini, we now have four 4-bay NASes tested with a 10GbE connection. I've created a chart that shows File Copy Write and File Copy Read results for RAID 0, 5, and 10.

The results are amazingly consistent. For File Copy Write, the QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G had the fastest throughput for all three RAID levels, and the iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 had the slowest by a significant margin. For RAID 0, the TVS-471-i3-4G was 3.5 times faster than the FreeNAS. The QNAP TV-463 and the TS-470 Pro held second and third place, respectively, for all RAID levels.

For File copy Read, the results were completely different. The iXsystems FreeNAS outperformed all other three NASes - by a lot. It was over 200 MB/s faster (or more) than the second rated NAS for each RAID level.

10GbE File Copy Performance comparison

10GbE File Copy Performance comparison

Performance - Ranking

It's worth noting again the Performance Ranking takes into account only Gigabit Ethernet performance. I filtered for RAID5 class NASes and Revision 5 Test Method. There were a lot of products between the #1 ranked ASUSTOR AS7004T and the #15 ranked FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 including multiple ties, so I created a two-column composite chart showing all products up to the FreeNAS Mini. (Note, there were three QNAP NASes with more drives than four and all were tied at a #4 ranking, so I removed them for clarity. I left the #5 ranked eight bay Synology DS2015xs in the chart, as it had a separate ranking.)

Just looking at the chart, you can count that there are 12 NASes that have a better Total NAS ranking and are cheaper than the #15 ranked FreeNAS Mini Gen 2. And, priced only $4 more than the FreeNAS Mini, is the #1 ranked RAID 5 NAS, the ASUSTOR AS7004T.

NAS Ranker filtered for RAID5 and Test Method Revision 5 showing Total NAS ranking

NAS Ranker filtered for RAID5 and Test Method Revision 5 showing Total NAS ranking

The composite chart below shows the ranker performance summary for the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2, QNAP TVS-471-i34G and QNAP TVS-463. As you can see, the FreeNAS Mini was up against some very tough competition with the QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G ranking #1 for Write Benchmarks and #4 for Read Benchmarks. Similarly, the QNAP TVS-463 ranked #2 for Write Benchmarks and #1 for Read Benchmarks. Low NASPT Directory Copy Write scores pulled down the entire write category to #17. Good performance on the tests in the video category helped the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 edge the other two NASes in the category.

Ranker performance comparison for the iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463

Ranker performance comparison for the iXsystems FreeNAS Mini Gen 2, QNAP TVS-471-i3-4G and QNAP TVS-463

Closing Thoughts

At $995, the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 is a very expensive four bay NAS if you intend to use it with a single Gigabit connection. The Mini Gen 2 didn't exhibit chart-topping write or read performance in our Gigabit Ethernet tests and there are quite a few other four bay NASes that are less expensive but have better Total NAS scores.

Only in the 10GbE tests did we see outstanding File Copy Read performance. But 10GbE File Copy Write performance lagged far behind the comparison QNAPs. Keep in mind that adding a dual-port 10GbE card adds significant cost. The dual-port card is a $290 upgrade for the Mini and $600 (!) for the QNAPs.

The FreeNAS mini comes with only a bare bones installation of apps. While you can install plug-ins, installation isn't as straightforward as installing apps on other NASes from manufacturers such as Synology, QNAP, ASUSTOR and NETGEAR. Missing, for example, is a pre-installed DLNA server, an iTunes server and backup software. Other NASes also offer a range of iOS and Android apps that provide remote access, media streaming and cloud synchronization capabilities. Those features are also missing on the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2.

But then again, home users are not the target FreeNAS audience. FreeNAS, with its ZFS file system, focuses on data integrity, which is more a must-have for the corporate crowd. Aside from Infortrend, which we haven't heard from since 2012, there aren't a lot of other ZFS-based NASes out there. But NETGEAR's ReadyNASes can go toe-to-toe with ZFS for data integrity using the BTRFS file system. Unfortunately, if we're comparing 10GbE capable ReadyNASes, there is only the six-bay RN716x, which will run you at least $2700 for the diskless version. With that perspective, the Mini Gen 2, at just shy of $1300, is a relative bargain.

If you want a ZFS-based NAS, the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2 takes the hassle out of purchasing individual components, assembling them and installing FreeNAS. And it's a step up in performance at the same price as the original FreeNAS Mini, with the added plus of optional 10GbE. But for most SOHO consumers, there are quite a few NASes that offer significantly more features, have better performance, are easier to use and are cheaper than the FreeNAS Mini Gen 2.

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