HTPC and/or NAS Solution advice wanted - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 12-22-2013, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Currently I've just been using PS3 Media Server to stream some movies, from an old computer that my dad uses, via my PS3 to watch on my TV. Now that I've finally upgrade my TV, got a receiver and surround speakers I've been debating setting up an HTPC to be dedicated to streaming video.

Pretty much that will be the only use I have for it, no need to play games or anything (have my own desktop for that). However I currently don't have a server/file storage system set up so been tinkering around adding HDD's to the HTPC which changes things somewhat (need case that can fit them etc). Ideally I'd set up a NAS for that, and have the HTPC just to transcode/stream. However I can't seem to find any cheap solutions to either go just the HTPC w/ HDD route or get both.

Something like: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2orRh I would think would work. But that's still around $700. Not sure if I could go cheaper or get a NAS + HTPC for that price. I've never really built small, only full size towers and such for gaming so never had to worry about PSU size and what not.

So essentially what I want is:
1. Stream full HD 1080P/5.1 Audio content (3d as well, although it really hasn't impressed me but the nephews seem to like it) from local drive/Gigabit network drive
2. 5TB Minimum storage (would like ~20TB but that jacks the price up fast, so future expansion in mind - Would be for NAS only)
3. Not necessary but I'll find an IR reciever to get it to work with my Logitech Harmony remote

Don't think I need an optical drive since I can rip from other computers and such.

Don't really need an OS, have quite a few Win7 Licenses. Though I am starting to look at that OpenELEC (just heard about it yesterday from this forum) or something like PLEX on Win 7. No need for Hulu/netflix etc or any other apps really. Just stream local files to the TV.

Will only be viewing on the 1 TV most likely, though may have some devices like a Kindle Fire HDX or something around , which I believe PLEX allows streaming to multiple devices, I'm sure OpenELEC has something similar with the XBMC.

As for a budget I'm not sure if I'll even be getting something just yet after purchasing the TV and what not. But am just looking for advice while I do my own research.
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post #2 of 19 Old 12-23-2013, 09:38 AM
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I'm a fan of separating out the HTPC / streamer and the storage. Storage takes up a lot of space and generates noise and heat. Building out a NAS and using an Intel NUC or Roku3 works really well. The Intel NUC will be able to play full Blu-ray rips and depending on the version even 4k. The Roku3 will require some transcoding or encoding to a compatible format. The Roku3 still does handle pretty high bit rate H.264, so its definitely viable, cheap and easy.

Example out of the box setup. The Synology DS412+ is a good option because it has an Intel Atom which is good for transcoding. It will give you future storage expansion to reach 16TB. Plex is in the Synology app store, and you can find really good deals on it now. Since most of the budget would be consumed by the NAS, you'll have to go the Roku3 route for streaming.
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post #3 of 19 Old 12-23-2013, 10:08 AM - Thread Starter
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So since that synology has plex and can transcode what would the htpc do then? Still new to the home theater stuff mainly a gamer. But seems that nas can do it all? I'm sure I'm missing something. Unless it's just horsepower.

Edit: all im looking for is to play avi m2ts and mkv type files from bd and dvd rips from my computer/future nas on my tv.
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post #4 of 19 Old 12-23-2013, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StrikeQ View Post

Edit: all im looking for is to play avi m2ts and mkv type files from bd and dvd rips from my computer/future nas on my tv.

If that's all you need then you could do like I did and build an unRAID server for much cheaper than an equivalent capacity Synology or QNAP etc. would cost and then for the HTPC get a Celeron NUC to run OpenELEC. For the server I bought a Fractal Design Node 304 mini-ITX case and an Asus C60M1-I mobo/cpu combo which were $170 combined when I bought them in March. Throw in the PSU, 4 GB RAM, the flash drive to boot unRAID from and that's still only ~$250 for a low profile, compact media server you can expand up to 6 hard drives. Then for the HTPC the NUC was a little over $150 (or figure more like $200 total if you don't happen to have some old laptop memory, a power cord, and a flash drive for the OE lying around like I did). Together it's a pretty cheap investment for a setup that can play 1080p files w/5.1 or 7.1 HD audio without any hitch and which is extremely low power, virtually silent and easy to fit in any media center.

I would also agree with the previous poster that it's better to separate your server and HTPC. When I started looking into this I had never built anything before but I was convinced what I wanted was a server and media player in one box. The more I looked into it though the more I realized that there wasn't any advantage and actually quite a bit more down side vs. going with dedicated machines for each.

The only things you've mentioned that I don't know how well they'd work for you are transcoding and 3D since I have no use for either in my setup. Anyway, just sharing from my own experience. Hope it helps.
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post #5 of 19 Old 12-24-2013, 07:11 AM
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There is a lot going on here and I am having tough time following it all mentally. I need more coffee I guess. I would suggest a few pointed questions when you get things narrowed down.

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post #6 of 19 Old 12-28-2013, 09:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright, well I'm still researching all this. It seems that I may get away with no HTPC.

The Synology DS412+ Can transcode (probably put PLEX on it), however I have a Samsung Smart TV (UN65F8000) and it seems to support most formats I use so no transcoding will be necessary so I could just stream from the NAS to the TV. I believe it can use external subtitles as well when necessary without having to transcode? Though unsure about streaming to like a kindle fire HDX, probably need transcoding? May not be powerful enough for that.

Is that correct?

So I'm looking at the Synology DS412+ ($570) and 4x 4TB ST4000VN000 (Seagate NAS drives, $170/ea - Using the SHR Raid for 12TB of storage) = $1250. Pricey but I've needed/wanted a file server for awhile.

Any corrections/advice/reccomendations?
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post #7 of 19 Old 12-28-2013, 06:12 PM
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That seems like a lot of money for a lesser experience IMO.

You seem to have two problems. One you need a file server and storage solution. Two you need a front end solution. You could use your smart TV but it's never going to equal a HTPC. You could use a NAS box but for that cost you are better off building your own server IMO.

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post #8 of 19 Old 12-28-2013, 07:54 PM - Thread Starter
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For slightly less than the above NAS set up I can build a more powerful machine: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2rSho

And throw FreeNAS or unRaid or such on a flash drive.
Though for ~$65 more for the Synology DS412+ and not having to deal with assembly/installation/os etc, I'd probably stick with NAS. Since if I get a HTPC I won't need that much power on the server. Have to remember that half the price is the HDD's at $679.96 for the 16 TBs. Though I might just get 2 drives to start with.

Any suggestions on the part list? The selected motherboard only supports 2x 6.0Gbps in RAID, though RAID isn't a big issue for me atm, but would be nice. Like I've said, I have a problem building "small" and "just enough" as I'm use to building high power gaming rigs. So HTPC/NAS/File servers are new ground.

For HTPC I'll probably go at least an i3 for full 1080p 3D. The Intel NUC's seem alright, though having to get RAM/SSD/Power cord adds to the price. Still looking around in that department as well.

Edit: Possible HTPC Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2rWfr

Add a 8GB USB Flash stick for OpenELEC rather than an SSD (would there be a big difference with the XBMC?). For total ~$314
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post #9 of 19 Old 12-28-2013, 09:28 PM
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This may not be the ideal solution for you, but in my case it made a lot of sense so hopefully it gives you some insight. I wanted to "upgrade" my HTPC while adding storage capabilities. Up until now, I was running an AMD A8-3850 APU in a Silverstone SG05 case w/ 4GB RAM and a 500GB harddrive. I also had two external eSATA enclosures (Sans Digital TR4M) housing 7 harddrives totaling 7.75TB of capacity. It was cumbersome, but it worked. Its main purpose was a DVR since I refuse to rent one from the cable company.

Anyways, here's what I decided to build and considering the price I paid, I really couldn't be happier.

CPU:
AMD A6-6400K
-I got this with the motherboard as part of a bundle deal from Microcenter. Total price for the CPU and mobo was $110. I've been sticking with AMD for HTPC-purposes not only because of the low cost, but also because their APUs perform so well.

Heatsink:
Noctua NH-L9a
-Seems to be doing a decent job at cooling. Idle temp is around 27C and load temp is around 51C, although I keep the fan running at 33% speed. Price was $40.

Mobo:
MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 mITX
-Only complaint is it's limted to 4 onboard SATAIII ports. I'll have to add a PCI-E SATA controller for more ports at some point.

RAM:
G.Skill Ripjaws X 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3-2133
-Stable. G.Skill has never let me down. Paid $55 for the set.

SSD:
Kingston SSDNOW V300 120GB
-My first SSD and I'm never going back to mechanical drives for OS/programs. Paid $70.

HDD:
3x3TB WD Red
-So far I only have 1 of these in my machine; one is on backorder (Christmas gift) and another should be here next week. This will give me enough storage for a little while. I paid $120 for one and $90 for another.

Case:
Fractal Design Node 304
-Absolutely love this case. My only complaint is that the cable management could have been better, but that's such a minor issue considering the potential this case has. I can't even hear my HTPC when I'm sitting 6' away on my couch, and I can just barely hear my CPU fan when I get within 1' of the case. Previous sales have been in the $50 range, but since I needed to build the new HTPC I couldn't wait around for another sale and had to bite at $86. This case is definitely worth the high price tag.

PSU:
Antec Earthwatts EA-380D
-I could have gone for a smaller PSU, but I've used this one in a previous build which I later sold and I don't have any negative thoughts about it. Paid $43 but you can usually get it for cheaper with a rebate.

OS:
Win7 Pro x64
-Paid $10 for a license.

Total was around $624 (not counting the gifted 3TB drive). I was lucky enough to get most of the parts during or slightly after Black Friday deals.

The result is a virtually inaudible HTPC/DVR with loads of storage, and powerful enough for basically anything I can throw at it besides 4k (but who needs that anyhow?). I kept asking myself "should I build a separate NAS w/ RAID and store it in my basement?" but the uber-storage HTPC made the most sense. I also considered using Blu-Ray as a backup medium for my 7+TB of data, but I decided to just throw some 3TB drives in my HTPC (which would more than cover my current data needs and is around the same $/GB as BD-R) and use my "old" harddrives as the backups. With the Node 304, I still have room for storage expandability. I had doubts about the A6-6400K since I was coming from a more-powerful A8-3850, which I never had any issues with, but I haven't had any issues with the Richland APU. I'm still in awe at how quiet the computer is running!

To be honest, I don't really see the point of RAID in an HTPC environment unless you're going for mirroring and if your data really is that important that it can't be easily replaced. If you're a home-user just wanting to stream your backed-up movies, you can afford the downtime if a drive fails. I read up on RAID 6 (and 5) but both options left a sour taste in my mouth when I thought about the storage capacity (2 drives' worth) I'd have to sacrifice. Since I was planning on using 3TB drives, it was a no-brainer to explore the option of storing my old drives as backups.
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post #10 of 19 Old 12-30-2013, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StrikeQ View Post

For slightly less than the above NAS set up I can build a more powerful machine: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2rSho

And throw FreeNAS or unRaid or such on a flash drive.
Though for ~$65 more for the Synology DS412+ and not having to deal with assembly/installation/os etc, I'd probably stick with NAS. Since if I get a HTPC I won't need that much power on the server. Have to remember that half the price is the HDD's at $679.96 for the 16 TBs. Though I might just get 2 drives to start with.

Any suggestions on the part list? The selected motherboard only supports 2x 6.0Gbps in RAID, though RAID isn't a big issue for me atm, but would be nice. Like I've said, I have a problem building "small" and "just enough" as I'm use to building high power gaming rigs. So HTPC/NAS/File servers are new ground.

For HTPC I'll probably go at least an i3 for full 1080p 3D. The Intel NUC's seem alright, though having to get RAM/SSD/Power cord adds to the price. Still looking around in that department as well.

Edit: Possible HTPC Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2rWfr

Add a 8GB USB Flash stick for OpenELEC rather than an SSD (would there be a big difference with the XBMC?). For total ~$314


If you want 3D then it would make sense to go with the i3 over Celeron NUC since I don't believe the Celeron can handle 3D. And if you're going to run OpenELEC I would suggest running it off a thumb drive first and then see if you think the SSD is a needed upgrade. That's what I did and never bought the SSD because for my purposes it works just fine off the thumb drive.

I still think you're over-spending on your server though, mostly because you keep talking about transcoding when it doesn't sound like you actually need that. If your objective is to be able to play 1080p MKVs on your TV, either through an HTPC or directly (if you can do that w/your smart TV), then I assume that's how you will save those files on your server and since no transcoding would be taking place that i3 processor in your parts list would be completely wasted. Honestly for that you'd get the same performance and it would be cheaper to go w/the Asus C60M1-i mobo/cpu combo I recommended (or if you can't find that one then some other low powered AMD competitor to the Synology's intel atom processor) and take a $100 bill out of your wallet and just light it on fire. By the same token, 8 GB of RAM is also way overkill. In hindsight even the 4 GB I bought was overkill and you could do just as well going with the 1 GB that the DS412+ comes with or maybe 2 if you want to splurge. Transcoding and the extra processing power and RAM needed for that would only come into play if you also want to be able to watch your files on your mobile devices too (ie. transcoding from 1080p to resolutions that are native to those devices) and/or if you've got a family that needs to be able to watch files on multiple TVs/devices at the same time. If that's not what you had in mind then you don't need transcoding and you can save yourself a lot of money on those components. My server build minus hard drives cost around $250 which you could buy the i3 NUC out the difference vs. the Synology or home build you have in mind. Also I like your choice of the Fractal Design case since I really love my node 304, however if you have a closet or someplace else you could hide a full size computer case that would be another place where you could save $. For me that wasn't an option since the only realistic placement was under my TV armoire so I needed something low profile, quiet and not ugly for the WAF. But if you can hide yours out of the way somewhere that's easily another $50+ you could save off what I paid.

Now, if you want to go with the Synology because you think the extra cost is worth it for the warranty, support and less work vs. building your own then I can understand that. But just know that's what you're paying for. Because building it's equivalent performance-wise for what you seem to have in mind can be done for a lot less than the parts list you're looking at.
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post #11 of 19 Old 12-30-2013, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
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The above build for the server was kind of an all in one thing. I believe I did look for that mb and CPU combo you had but didn't come up. There will be some transcoding going on mainly my m2ts files aren't supported by TV. Have em for the ps3. Also if I want to stream to my kindle I'll have to transcode. So either all in one or the htpc will have an i3.

I hear the ivy bridge has some issues with frame drops on 23.97 streaming but fixed in haswell. Which adds a little to the i3.

I appreciate the replies, I know I keep going pricey since I know little about low to mid range components. Unconsciously keep going back to more familiar territory. Your advice is always welcomed.

Edit: Yea that CPU/MB has been discontinued was the problem.
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post #12 of 19 Old 12-30-2013, 04:16 PM
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I see. For an HTPC + server in one the i3 would make more sense (or you could refer to whateveryo's post for a good AMD version of the same). Like I said, I started off wanting to have everything in one case too. I only gave up on it because it was a requirement of mine to have RAID for the server which I couldn't figure out how to do easily unless I went with separate machines. But if you don't care about RAID or about having a server that's on 24/7 then I could see where an all in one could make more sense.

FYI though, if you're planning to run XBMC (whether via OpenELEC or Windows) it won't matter that your TV doesn't support .m2ts files and it won't require any transcoding either since XBMC will play them as is. You just have to keep in mind that however smart your TV is, with an HTPC attached all it is is a monitor. So you don't have to worry about your TV's file and codec limitations, etc. (not to mention that the UI for accessing and organizing your media is going to be worlds better than any TV or any other off the shelf smart device or media player would be either). Basically the only smart function left for your TV is if you want to still be able to stream Netflix while going with OpenELEC on the HTPC.
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post #13 of 19 Old 12-30-2013, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Here's a cheaper NAS Build: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/2sYhZ
Comes out $296.45 add another ~$13 for the flash drive to put like unRaid on. Went with the slightly larger case for future expansion.

The Intel NUC Kit D34010WYK (Hear the new haswells have issues with USB 3.0, if any 3.0 device is plugged in it won't boot) is $289.99, 2GB SODIMM for $23.99, HDMI Mini to HDMI $5.79, another ~$13 for thumb drive (OpenELEC - although I hear the new Haswell chips have issues with OpenELEC, drivers etc).

Or the above HTPC I listed is slightly cheaper.

So say $310 for the NAS Box, $333 for the NUC, and $680 for the HDDs

Comes out around $1323 all said and done. Aside from the probable issues with the new Haswell NUC, doesn't seem to bad. Main reason looking at the haswell is the reported frame drops on ivy bridge in 23.976 playback.

Still not sold on OpenELEC/XBMC, also thinking of Plex, but would need an OS to go with it (windows 7 most likely) and then would have to get an SSD for it.
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post #14 of 19 Old 12-31-2013, 02:02 PM
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You know I've heard about dropped frames but I swear I've never noticed it watching bluray mkvs on my NUC. YMMV of course but from my experience that's been a shortcoming in theory only.

Your server build looks good. I didn't realize that board/cpu combo I bought can't be found anymore and I'm surprised that the closest AMD equivalents either don't have enough SATA ports or aren't priced any better than what you've got here. Guess I just got lucky pulling the trigger when I did.

One last thing you might want to consider if you're still looking for places to save is how much storage capacity you'll eventually need and whether you really need all those 4TB drives to start with. 3TB drives give you more bang for your buck right now and especially if you're not looking at a RAID setup where you need an extra drive right away for parity I don't know why you wouldn't just start w/1 or 2 3TB drives and wait for the cost on the 4TBs to come down a bit more. Just a thought.
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post #15 of 19 Old 01-01-2014, 09:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Yea, HDD's are my main sticking point now that I've got HTPC/NAS down to about $600 for both. 3 TB vs 4 TB isn't much difference, price per TB is slightly cheaper on the 4TB's actually. I may start with just 2 drives, since I could already fill up about 3TB easily at the moment. And when I have the storage I'm sure I wouldn't have issue filling up even more.


As for the Ivybridge issues all I've seen is some posts on it. Whether or not it'll have any real world noticable affects I can't say. The i3 Ivy bridge is $100 cheaper than the haswell also, so still may do that one if I don't build the HTPC. But 4x4x2 is a nice small box for an HTPC.

So currently I'm leaning towards an Intel NUC i3 with 2GB RAM, running OpenELEC with XBMC on a USB Drive
Custom NAS for ~$300 running unRaid on a USB Drive

Edit: Although I see unRaid costs to have more than 3 HDD's so may have to do some more research on the file server OS to make sure what I want before spending anything on it since I have no experience with unRaid, FreeNAS, FlexRaid etc.
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post #16 of 19 Old 01-01-2014, 06:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Alright, think I've settled on the HTPC and NAS Set up (Minus drives for now, still debating which way I'll go with those)

HTPC:
Intel NUC D34010WYK = $289.99
2GB G.Skill DDR3 1600 RAM = $26.99
Mini HDMI to HDMI 6.5' = $5.79

NAS:
ASROCK E35LM1 AMD E-240 APU = $69.99
Mushkin 2GB DDR3 1066 RAM = $21.99
Fractal Design Node 304 Case = $89.99
SeaSonic 360w 80+ Gold PSU = $59.99


2x 16GB USB 3.0 Drives = $9.74/ea
$9.74 for the USB sticks is not bad which is why I went with the 16GB USB 3.0 (hopefully has a GUID for unRaid)


Total: $584.21


Will be trying OpenELEC (XBMC) on the NUC, and unRaid for the NAS. unRaid Server+ would be another $69, or $129 for Pro
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post #17 of 19 Old 01-02-2014, 01:01 PM
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Good choices there, StrikeQ. It would be nice if that board for your server had a couple more SATA ports but you can always spend another $20-30 for a PCI SATA controller card when you're ready to max out the capacity of the node 304. (And though at that point you're getting close to the cost of the intel board + Celeron you were looking at earlier, I still think a low power combo like this is better for a server.) And if I were you I wouldn't worry about the cost of unRAID plus or pro yet. Start off with the free version for up to 3 drives and make sure it suits your purposes before you upgrade. That's what I did and I liked it well enough that I didn't try FlexRAID or anything else. By the time I bought more drives and upgraded to plus I just looked at the cost of the license as something I would have been happy to donate anyway for free software that works well.

BTW, NewEgg has 4TB WD Reds on sale through this weekend for $174.99 + free shipping. I use all 3TB WD Reds in my server and haven't tried the 4TB because I've never been able to find them at that low a price before. The 3TBs have been working great for me though. Bought 3 in March and had zero problems with those so just bought 3 more on Black Friday. (FWIW I don't claim to be any expert on hard drives and there are posters here who will tell you that NAS-specific drives like the Reds are just a marketing gimmick. Which I don't know, there may be some truth in that. All I know is they've worked great for me. Rock solid, low temps, and I can't hear them at all, which for a media server is all I really care about).

Finally, a couple of notes about the node 304: 1) you've probably read in reviews that it's better to get a modular PSU. That's what I did but in hindsight I didn't need to have bothered. For a server build with no graphics card there's plenty of room for cable management even after you fill up all the hard drive bays. Plus the case has little eyelets all around the inside frame where you can use your cable ties to maximize your air flow. So even for a first time builder like me, it was a snap. 2) the power and hard drive activity lights were too bright for my taste, so when I opened it recently to add the new hard drives I disconnected them from the mobo. So you might want to keep an eye on that. That minor quibble aside though, it is a fantastic case. The case fans are so quiet that I just keep them running on medium even though my temps are cool enough that I could run them on low instead (since either way I can't hear the server from my couch).
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post #18 of 19 Old 01-02-2014, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StrikeQ View Post

2x 16GB USB 3.0 Drives = $9.74/ea
$9.74 for the USB sticks is not bad which is why I went with the 16GB USB 3.0 (hopefully has a GUID for unRaid)

I just noticed this and it's just a thought but you might want to think about low profile thumb drives like SanDisk Cruzer Fit for both unRAID and OpenELEC. That way you don't have to worry about knocking them loose anytime you're handling or moving the server or NUC.
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post #19 of 19 Old 01-04-2014, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StrikeQ View Post

Alright, think I've settled on the HTPC and NAS Set up (Minus drives for now, still debating which way I'll go with those)

HTPC:
Intel NUC D34010WYK = $289.99
2GB G.Skill DDR3 1600 RAM = $26.99
Mini HDMI to HDMI 6.5' = $5.79

NAS:
ASROCK E35LM1 AMD E-240 APU = $69.99
Mushkin 2GB DDR3 1066 RAM = $21.99
Fractal Design Node 304 Case = $89.99
SeaSonic 360w 80+ Gold PSU = $59.99


2x 16GB USB 3.0 Drives = $9.74/ea
$9.74 for the USB sticks is not bad which is why I went with the 16GB USB 3.0 (hopefully has a GUID for unRaid)


Total: $584.21


Will be trying OpenELEC (XBMC) on the NUC, and unRaid for the NAS. unRaid Server+ would be another $69, or $129 for Pro

So I went ahead and submitted my order, was spending too much time fussing over it.

The NAS set up is same as listed above however I upgraded to the E-350 model motherboard/apu since it went on sale for the same price. HTPC is the same minus the cable since the one linked isn't actually a mini to full, but that only changed it to $6.99.

I did go with the USB2.0 SanDisk Cruzer Fit drives 16GB for $9.99/ea

I went with 3x 4TB Seagate NAS drives instead of the 4 I was planning on for now. Since that'll allow me to use the free unRaid to start with and see if it'll work for me. Would've done 2, but I'd prefer to have parity set up from the get go and only having 1 drive for storage wouldn't last long at all. Eventually if all works well I'll add some more storage and possible a cache drive as well.


All said in done, with shipping (only the Fractal Case actually had a shipping cost) it was $1,077.66 (Price also includes a 8 port Trendnet Unmanaged Gigabit switch since I need the extra ports now, $30.75)
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