A month with VIA’s Artigo A2000, a beefy barebone NAS

artigoa2000.jpg

VIA’s Artigo A2000 is network attached storage for those who roll their own.

An attractive black box about 5 inches square and a foot deep, it comes with the motherboard, gigabit ethernet and a 1.5GHz C7-D CPU, but requires the user to supply up to 2 SATA drives and the memory. There’s also a compact flash card slot built in to the mobo: a good place to stash an operating system to keep the hard drives free for storage.

As befits its DIY style, the included Mini-ITX motherboard also has VGA out, USB ports and audio I/O for everyday use. Though the $300 price tag makes it a poor choice for a basic desktop machine, it’s O.K. for a good-looking and robust NAS with benefits.

So my two drives could be used in a RAID configuration, I installed FreeNAS on a standard CF card and let it configure the box for me: as a result, I’ve got an idiotproof machine that runs not just files but a web server, bittorrent, iTunes and much else besides. Given the crankiness of some companies’ NAS software, it’s nice to have some versatility, even if you do have to build and install it all yourself.

Another good option is Windows Home Server, though you have to pay for it. Windows XP and other cuts of Linux are also compatible with the hardware. If you don’t install the operating system on a CF card, you’ll be best off doing it the standard way with an external USB optical drive.

There are shortcomings. With only VGA output and VIA’s integrated video, it’s not particularly tempting to hook it up to a TV set for use as a home theater. WiFi adds another $50 to the price tag. The power brick is also pretty big: they could have integrated power into the box itself, given the empty space left even when both drive bays are occupied.

Product Page [Via]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Email is dead, but you can try your luck at besc...@gmail.com
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12 Responses to A month with VIA’s Artigo A2000, a beefy barebone NAS

  1. Anonymous says:

    I want to buy this NAS. But it would be interesting what transfer rates you get.

  2. Barney says:

    I’ve had the D-Link DNS-323 for over a year, and I love it. I have mirrored 500GB drives, and I use it as a general purpose NAS for multiple machines, plus stream all my audio, photos, and videos from it. The built-in Bit Torrent server pulls down (and seeds) anything I want to watch, and the uPnP/iTunes servers stream audio and video to Mac, XP, Vista, and Ubuntu computers around the house, as well as my XBMC in the bedroom, and a Mac Mini running Front Row in the living room. The configurable drive-spin-down works great, it’s quiet, draws very little power, and has an large hacker community at: http://wiki.dns323.info/.

    This has been my most successful technology purchase in years. I had a Linksys NSLU2 for quite a while, but after a drive failure, I upgraded to the automatic mirroring in the DNS-323. This thing is great.

  3. kaka says:

    DNS-321. The 321 is only about $100, and the main difference between the two is the 321 doesn’t include the USB port that the 323 comes with (and in my case, goes unused). The is a lot of community support for modifying these boxes; you can even get Linux running on it (without hardware modification) to run your torrents, website, or whatever. And with built-in RAID1 support? Very good all-around box, especially for the price. High school diploma online

  4. kaka says:

    I want to buy this NAS. But it would be interesting what transfer rates you get. prior learning

  5. kaka says:

    modifying these boxes; you can even get Linux running on it (without hardware modification) to run your torrents, website, or whatever. And with built-in RAID1 support? Very good all-around box, especially for the price. GED

  6. kaka says:

    un your torrents, website, or whatever. And with built-in RAID1 support? Very good all-around box, especially for the price. homeschool

  7. kaka says:

    purchase in years. I had a Linksys NSLU2 for quite a while, but after a drive failure, I upgraded to the automatic mirroring in the DNS-323. This thing is great. Online highschool

  8. Anonymous says:

    It might be unsuitable as a video server, but if the integrated audio sounds good, it’s very attractive as a music server. There’s plenty of horsepower to act as a NAS while streaming Internet audio.

  9. Sanfam says:

    For quite some time, I used to think machines like the HP mediasmart servers were hideously expensive. Nearly $700 (on the high-end) for a lightweight PC running (in their case) Windows Home Server, a pair of HDDs, some RAM, and nothing much else to speak of?

    And then I saw the competition. Barebones systems sans HDD, memory, OS, etc. for $300-400. That means I still need two HDDs ($100/1tb for the Western Digital Caviar Green, as an example), memory (1gb is supposedly good, but 2gb is apparently optimal, $20-35), and an OS (Free-$100). That means I’m running a minimum of $620 for a roughly similar configuration (running windows home server, $520 without). for $55 more, I could get a server from HP that would do a similar job, but would offer me two additional drive bays that are externally accessible/hot swappable in a device with a smaller footprint (no word on power consumption, but I suspect it’s roughly equal or slightly greater)

    Boingers, are there any cheaper (better?) low-end NAS boxes/barebones PCs that would be nearly as power-efficient as this while still offering up a minimum of two drives (or optimally, four)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Another cheer for the DNS-323, and also the DNS-321. The 321 is only about $100, and the main difference between the two is the 321 doesn’t include the USB port that the 323 comes with (and in my case, goes unused). The is a lot of community support for modifying these boxes; you can even get Linux running on it (without hardware modification) to run your torrents, website, or whatever. And with built-in RAID1 support? Very good all-around box, especially for the price.

  11. Anonymous says:

    @Sanfam: A quick search of Newegg provides these high-rated (4+ eggs) NAS devices:

    NETGEAR RND2150: includes 500Gb HDD, has 2 hot-swappable bays. Gigabit ethernet, FTP and HTTPS servers. 3 USB ports for additional storage and print serving, UPnP AV media services. Embedded custom OS on 64Mb chip, 256Mb RAM. $360.

    D-Link DNS-323: 2 bays, no HDD included. Built-in FTP server, basic Bittorrent client. Gigabit ethernet. Embedded custom OS. 1 USB port for printer services. Proprietary file system, poor power management and inconsistent network performance suggested in reviews. $178.

    Synology DS207+: 2 bays, no HDD included. Built-in FTP and HTTPS servers with custom Web interface. Includes Bittorrent client and UPS management. 3 USB ports for printer services and additional storage, and 1 eSATA 2 port. Needs some hacking for NFS support but otherwise plug-and-play. $329.

    BUFFALO LS-W1.0TGL/R1: 2 bays, includes 2 500Gb HDDs. Built-in FTP and HTTP servers. 1 USB port for printer services and additional storage. Linux-based OS, but reviews note its inflexibility and limitations (no NTFS support, limited filename lengths, full access to filesystem requires substantial tweaking). $229.

  12. PaulR says:

    Barney @4:
    I came here to say almost the exact same thing.
    ‘Cept, I don’t use the power management.
    The HDDs should last longer that way. And I found the pause while they powered up annoying. The small amount of heat generated offsets the heating I have to do anyways so there’s no energy savings from spin down.

    Re. the NewEgg review: the filesystem is EXT2. (It was EXT2/EXT3 with ver1.0, but they changed removed EXT3 in one of the firmware updates.

    There’s just been a new firmware release and they’ve added two nifty features:
    “2. USB port supports UPS monitoring
    ..
    5. Support FTP over SSL/TLS”

    W00T!

    (The network printer option wasn’t really useful to me, as the NAS is in the basement. The USB/UPS capability was something that made me long for the not-available-in-Canada DNS-343.)(Attaching a UPS to the DNS is handy as there’s no “Power Up after restoration of power” setting – no to mention that it vastly reduces the chance of a munged file system.)

    Would buy again.

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