Basic NAS box/build/setup for media sharing - Need help

gaurav71189

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I'm looking to build a low cost basic NAS setup, mainly for media sharing on the local network with enough bandwidth for 4k media. I'm not sure whether to go for ready-to-use devices (WD MyCloud or Seagate Central) or build my own (disk-less NAS box with separate HDDs) or use my old PC and convert it into a NAS/Media PC (will need to buy a GPU).

I have a Gigabit Ethernet router with WiFi ac support. I also have an old PC which I'm planning to sell by individual parts (Intel C2Q based with no GPU with a CM690 case which I consider very big for a living room setting - I've build a new PC re-using my old GPU)

Here's a list of what I need from the NAS setup:

  • Gigabit Ethernet support for fast file copy and access - source for write would be a PC with GbE

  • DLNA support or alternatives for trouble free media playback on Android 4k TV (using Kodi) or other mobile devices (mainly for 4k video playback and photo viewing)
Here's a list of things that are NOT important for me:

  • Accessing data on the NAS from the Internet

  • Data redundancy (like RAID 1)

  • Transcoding media
Any suggestions would be helpful.
 
Many modern routers have a USB port. You can simply plug in an external hard drive and share its files on your network. Some routers come with DLNA support using an external HDD. Usually the speed is not great (about 20-30 MB/s, though newer ones with USB 3.0 support are able to hit 60-100 MB/s, which is pretty close to what you'll get with a NAS or PC). Small Net Builder usually benchmarks USB speeds on the routers they test. 4k media only needs about 20 Mbps.

https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/tools/charts/router/bar/175-ntfs-read-usb-3-0/35

If you don't need additioinal NAS-like features like RAID, transcoding, etc. and your storage needs are enough to fit on a single HDD, then using a HDD plugged into the router is the simplest and cheapest way to do it.

I advise people *not* to use an old PC for this purpose. Older PCs (Core 2 era and earlier) tend to be power hogs, and since a media server is left on 24/7 they can easily end up costing you $100+ in extra electricity each year. If you pay the U.S. average of 12 cents/kWh, the conversion is almost exactly 1 Watt = $1 per year.
 
If you plan to transcode 10bit 4K h.265 video with a high bit rate. You are going to need a lot of processing power. A C2Q certainly won't do the trick.

If you are doing hardware accelerated transcoding. From what I've read integrated graphics in an i3 Kaby Lake or later should work with Intel. I don't think the AMD 2200G is supported yet. But a GTX 1050 or higher should work. I don't think a 1030 offers encoding functions. It's getting a bit late at night for me to check that in detail.

https://support.plex.tv/articles/115002178853-using-hardware-accelerated-streaming/


If you want to do software transcoding of high bit rate 4K video. You'll need some serious CPU power. Think AMD Threadripper/Epyc or Core i9/Xeon. The main reason for software transcoding is better looking output.

The best option is to only encode video in formats and bit rates your streaming devices support natively.

Unless Kodi has improved. I found Plex to be better for a streaming server.
 

gaurav71189

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I guess the old PC is out of the question now :)

Yes, my router does have a USB 3.0 port (Asus RT-AC58U) and have tried using a USB 3.0 pen-drive (Rated for 100MBps+ read speeds), and I get around 20 MBps as you've mentioned. So, it'll be a bare minimum requirement for 4k. I'd like a little headroom when there is a case for multiple device streaming (but only one 4k device), which is why I'm ready to invest in a dedicated NAS. And the transfer speeds are really slow via the router, generally speaking. I want to avoid disconnecting and reconnecting my USB device (from and to the PC and router) for faster transfer speeds.

Any low cost dedicated NAS I hope would help me out.
 

gaurav71189

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I'm not looking for live transcoding. I'm only going to copy the videos in the right formats supported by the streaming device. I'm just looking for a good low cost dedicated NAS device for streaming with GbE for good transfer speeds.
 


If you don't care about looks. Get something like this Intel NUC NUC7CJYH. Install FreeNAS or OMV as the OS. Then load it with external hard drives. You basically have no limit in expandability. It'll be much faster and more capable than any budget NAS product. Synology and QNAP have nothing close in this price bracket.

Note: The Intel NUC is bare bones. The Celeron J4005 isn't any faster than a Core 2 Quad. It's just way more energy efficient. For file transfers CPU speed doesn't matter anyways.
 

gaurav71189

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That's quite an idea. But, how does the performance and power consumption compare to dedicated NAS systems?
 

4k video requires 20 Mbps - megaBITS per second. The transfer speed you got was 20 MB/s, megaBYTES per second. It's plenty fast enough for 4k video (the only bottleneck would be possible file fragmentation on the drive). It sounds like you've already got everything you need to try this, so why not just put a 4k movie and a couple other movies on a HDD plugged into the router, and see how well it performs with multiple streams?

But yeah, 20 MB/s can be slow if you're transferring large files. Though 802.11ac usually only hits about 35 MB/s (2x2) so you're only really going to feel the slower speed on devices connected via Ethernet.

The NUCs are built with laptop parts (but a desktop CPU), so usually end up down around 10-15 Watts at idle. Same as a NAS. If you go that route, don't be afraid to use a more powerful processor. Intel began seriously reducing power consumption starting with Sandy Bridge, whose idle power consumption dropped to about 20 Watts, so 35 W for the overall system. Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake are down around 5-10 Watts idle I believe, so about 10-15 W for the system. Not much different from the lower-end Intel and ARM processors used in NASes, but they've got a lot more power on tap if you need it.

I built my NAS back in 2012 with a Sandy Bridge i5 and 16 GB of RAM. It runs VMWare ESXi as a hypervisor, with several Linux and Windows virtual machines, plus a FreeNAS virtual machine that acts as my NAS. I have one virtual machine for my business accounting and online banking (so it can't be hit by any malware I get on my laptop). Another for doing video re-encodes of anime and Kdramas I download (which I also use to do the downloads so my laptop doesn't have to stay on or at home all the time). A Plex server (couldn't get the one built into FreeNAS to work). VMs for trying out different Linux distros. I can load up VMs I've made to run various clients' business software to help troubleshoot them remotely. And in a couple cases I've even got VMs made of their actual system (minus their data) which I've made to help me troubleshoot. I view these VMs on my laptop using Remote Desktop or VNC, so if I full-screen it, it looks like I'm just using my laptop.

If I had it to do over again, I'd break out the NAS into a separate device. Sometimes I have to troubleshoot ESXi (especially after an upgrade) and it's inconvenient to have all my files inaccessible while I'm doing this. But being able to run software on my server frees up my primary computer (laptop) so I can put it to sleep, take it out of the house, play games on it, or just use it on the sofa without worrying about a video encode killing the battery life. So there are arguments for just plugging a HDD into your router, or getting just a simple NAS, or making this a high-end system running virtual machines. It really depends on your budget and how you want to use this.
 


Any computer you build can be a NAS. Once you use an OS like FreeNAS, OpenMediaVault (OMV) or any other NAS distro on a computer. Then configure it you have a dedicated NAS.

Compared to sub $200 NAS. The Intel once configured with 4GB RAM and an SSD boot drive. I'd expect the Intel setup to be faster. The CPU is faster than the low powered Marvell CPU employed by the likes of Synology, QNAP or other budget brands. 4GB RAM will be four to eight times the RAM in those budget units. Plus with a decent SSD. The SSD can also act as a cache for Read/Write operations. Boosting performance more.

Hard Drive speed as with internals would all depend on the drives you choose. If you buy off the shelf external HDD. They'll likely be 5,400RPM. If you use your own enclosures or multi-bay enclosures you can get 7,200 RPM. Which is the same choice you'd face with a NAS. Something like a premade WD MyCloud will likely use a 5,400RPM drive.

I won’t bother reiterating what has been said about power usage.

If you want a more powerful NAS which can potentially take on other roles and have multiple hard disk bays for a cleaner look. You can always go with Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake. At the low end prices would probably start at around $250 to $275. You might shave a little off using an ITX board with an embedded Celeron. But it wouldn’t have anywhere near the upgrade capacity.
 

gaurav71189

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Thanks a lot for the detailed explanation, it has got me thinking for sure :D

Building a PC as a NAS box would go over my budget (INR 20,000 with 4TB HDD). A good barebones NUC with a slightly powerful processor would cost more than a basic diskless NAS. HDD is a separate cost anyway. And 2.5 inch HDDs aren't easily available, and it's really expensive on Amazon India.

As for using my router, that would definitely make it a low cost solution. I'd just need an external HDD. But the inconvenience of transfer speeds are a concern when moving large data (My desktop is connected to the router via the GbE, my transfers would generally be using that desktop)

I'm now leaning towards a dedicated NAS solution. Low cost would be something like WD MyCloud or Seagate Personal Cloud. Or a diskless NAS box with a separate HDD would cost slightly more. Looking at all the opinions and suggestions, I think I'll have to go between these two options. The diskless option would add a little future proofing if I'd want to expand its capacity.
 

gaurav71189

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As I said in the previous post, the Intel NUC direction would end up expensive for me. And I agree with the statement of using an above-the-basic processor. Do you have and suggestions for an NUC which uses a 3.5 inch HDD? That would put this in my budget.

As of now, the cheapest NUC I could find - BOXNUC5CPYH @ INR 9,000. 4GB RAM would be around INR 2,500. 4TB IronWolf would be around INR 10,000. But that's 3.5 inch.

More options with NUC suggestions would be helpful.

Also not that I'm now leaning towards a dedicated NAS solution.
 

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