Up to 24TB of storage in a 5 gallon case

A year ago I wrote a file server builder's guide, which generated more discussion than any of my other guides. Succinctly, there are a lot of options to consider when you build a file server. There are many operating system choices, from FreeBSD and FreeNAS, Ubuntu and Samba, to Windows Home Server 2011. You can read more about those software solutions in the previous file server guide, as the information remains relevant. Windows Home Server 2011 gets the nod here, simply because of its ease of use. If you're willing to spend a bit more time implementing a free file server OS, there are many compelling alternatives.

Dustin recently reviewed Fractal Design's new ITX case, the Node 304. What impresses me most about the Node 304 are its sleek styling and its ability to house six full-size 3.5" hard drives. As 4TB drives are the highest capacity models available to the mainstream market, the Node 304, which has a volume of about 5 gallons, has the ability to put up to 24TB of storage in a small footprint on your desk or on a bookshelf. My own testing indicates that the Node 304 is capable of keeping lower RPM (i.e. "green") hard drive temperatures well within comfortable operating temperatures (less than 40C) even under full, artificial load.

That said, the Node 304 is, as you might imagine, cramped when you stuff it full of six hard drives. To ameliorate this concern, we're pairing it with Silverstone's ST50F-P power supply, a 500W 80+ unit that is one of the smallest ATX power supplies available. Furthermore, we're recommending Silverstone's short cable kit, which helps with installation and cable management.

ASUS' P8H77-I is one of the few ITX motherboards with six SATA ports. As such, expansion cards aren't necessary to fill the Node 304 to its maximum hard drive capacity. This motherboard is also particularly well laid out when installed in the Node 304, which again helps with installation and cable management. It's important to note that file servers do not require powerful processors, so again the Celeron G540 gets the nod here.

Finally, Western Digital released its Red line of hard drives this year, which Ganesh reviewed. These drives are ideally suited for server use: they sip power, they're user configurable, and they run cool and quiet. Western Digital Red drives also carry a 3-year warranty, compared to the 2-year warranty of Western Digital's Green drives and many of Seagate's higher capacity storage drives. These Red series drives are available in 1TB, 2TB, and 3TB capacities; hopefully a 4GB model will be available soon. 4TB hard drives are currently available from Seagate and Hitachi. That said, the base model file server outlined below features a single 3TB Red drive as this capacity represents the best dollar per GB ratio of the three Red models. Of course, only you can determine how much storage you need, and definitely watch prices as I've seen these fluctuate wildly over the last month in terms of cost. Also keep in mind that consumers are not in a good position to judge the reliability of hard drives, and that the plural of anecdote is not data.

Component Product Price
Case Fractal Design Node 304 $90
Power supply Silverstone ST50F-P $78
Power supply accessory Silverstone short cable kit $20
CPU Intel Celeron G540 2.5GHz dual-core $45
Motherboard ASUS P8H77-I mITX $100
RAM Corsair Value Select 4GB DDR3-1333MHz $18
Hard drive Western Digital Red 3TB $155
Operating system Windows Home Server 2011 $50
  Total: $556

On the next page, we outline two SFF gaming systems.

Budget Small Form Factor Systems Gaming Small Form Factor Systems


View All Comments

  • shurik_1 - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    As I wrote in comments to ASRock Vision HT 321B review there is at least one ASRock product that has issue with silent data corruption that it refuses to fix and does not inform users that their data is in jeopardy. How can you recommend the MB from the company with such track record? Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    "Though the K-series chip is easy to overclock and doesn't produce much additional heat (vs. stock)"


    THIS is somewhat misleading.. and readers need to be very aware of the fluxuations in temperatures on the new Intel cpu's regardless of what casing and cooling solutions they use..

    Personally I am quite upset with intel. I'd thought they'd finally moved away from the heatscore solution which in my opinion hurts the longevity of a computer. If I can get them I still default to a sandybridge cpu over these newer proccessors.
  • Piano Man - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I don't get all of the adulation Prodigy gets, especially for gaming. Look at it's dimensions and weight. Over 17lbs and 9.84" x 15.91" x 14.13" . And its mini-ITX.

    Temjin TJ08-e is around 12 lbs and 15.16" x 8.27" x 14.72". And its Micro ATX and can hold 2 GPUs and a Heatsink like the Noctua D14. Not to mention it has a massive 180mm intake.

    The Prodigy would be better if it got rid of those stupid handles that waste space. Hard to recommend a mini-ITX that is bigger than a uATX case.
  • just4U - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I quite like the case your refering to.. (my 2700K build here..) http://imageshack.us/a/img607/4497/dscf0512k.jpg

    Your right to you can fit a whole helluva lot into it and it still seems quite roomy. It's not the easiest case to work with though..
  • abrogan - Friday, December 7, 2012 - link

    I just finished two high-end builds, with the first computer using the Temjin and the second the Prodigy.

    The Prodigy is surprisingly large but easy to build (especially with a stubby screw driver). Lots of room to put extra cables along the sides. Be careful to buy a 140mm psu, as the first PSU I purchased didn't fit. I liked all the colour options (-:

    The Temjin fit all standard supplies 160mm or shorter so it gets the nod from me for wide compatibility. Perfect for the professionals. My friends all liked the look of the Temjin better but the Prodigy is for the oddballs out there who like high quality soft touch plastic looking Mac Pros.

    The Prodigy was just fun because of its unique nature however I would ask Bitfenix to make the plastic fins an optional feature as well. There are no rubber feet to provide access to the PSU on the bottom without the fins installed and there are gaps on top without the top fin. If you could remove the plastic fins I'd say it would be pretty awesome and 30 dollars cheaper than the Temjin!

    Both are pretty nice!
  • Wrathgar11 - Saturday, December 8, 2012 - link

    You are so right.

    I thought seriously about the Prodigy case before I bought my Node 304. No regrets, IMHO the Node beats it hands down and fits under my TV too.

    An under-rated case is the Core 1000, which Fractal sell as a mini ITX/micro ATX case. In reality the internal dimension are too small for an mATX board, but as an enclosure for a mini ITX desktop system (my current setup) it is brilliant.

    Core 1000 is no good as a gaming case, but for this application it rocks.

    Great price too, I got it from Enta around £25.
  • pvdw - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    Love the TJ08-E! It's almost completely inaudible with a Seasonic S12II-430 and the front fan slowed ever so slightly.

    Plus, how are gamers supposed to do a dual-GPU config in mini-ITX? Easy in the TJ08-E.
  • pvdw - Monday, December 10, 2012 - link

    BTW, forgot to mention that it also gets an Editor's Choice from SPCR. Reply
  • xismo - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I've been interested in a small form factor build for a while but for a different reason. I travel around and live in different places usually for extended periods of time (1+ year). So the possibility of putting my pc in a carry on and only having to buy a $200 display after I get where I need to go while still getting double the power of a laptop was always very intriguing. But I never pulled the trigger mostly because I should eventually settle down and so want to build a full build.

    Can you guys recommend the smallest possible case that can accommodate either mini-ITX or preferrably micro-ATX (would like to have 4x ram slots) while also having enough room for a GPU (nothing too powerful something like 630 or 640). Do you think it's even possible to cool the specs mentioned above appropriately with a quad core i5 in a small case that can fit in a carry on?
  • KAlmquist - Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - link

    I'm guessing that the power supply in the budget build is an Apex AL-8250SFX from Allied Leader International, manufactured by Deer Electronics/Solytech. Deer/Solytech is a name you probably recognize only if you read <a href="http://www.hardocp.com/article/2007/10/03/50_power... of cheap power supplies</a> for their <a href="http://www.hardocp.com/article/2007/05/23/450w500w... value</a>.

    As far as I can determine, a decent power supply cannot be built for less than about $40. Back in July, Anandtech published <a href="http://www.anandtech.com/show/6013/350450w-roundup... Roundup: 11 Cheap PSUs</a>." Martin Kaffei's conclusion about the $28 unit: <a href="http://www.anandtech.com/show/6013/350450w-roundup... PSUs have no right to exist."</a>

    Based on price and pedigree, I'd wager that the power supply in the budget build is crap. If I'm wrong, that's a "man bites dog" story and Anandtech should do a full review of this PSU.

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