I have had an MSI Wind PC sitting on my bench for months, waiting for me to explore its suitability as a DIY NAS. But other projects and reviews kept bumping it to the back of the work queue, particularly since I have explored the Intel Atom for DIY NAS use both in Build Your Own Atom-based NAS and Atom vs. Geode: Which Makes a Faster, Cheaper NAS?.
Then about a month ago, VIA sent its C7-D powered ARTiGO A2000 Barebone Storage Server in for a look. So now that I have cleared some of the NAS review backlog and have a new, faster NAS test platform in place, the time has come to see how these two low-cost CPU platforms compare for rolling your own NAS.
MSI Wind PC
At the time (last October), the MSI Wind PC was the only Atom-based barebone system that you could get. Since then, Jetway and Shuttle have both produced small form-factor barebone systems capable of supporting two (and more) SATA drives.
|MSI Wind PC|
|CPU||Intel Atom 1.6 GHz|
|Motherboard||MSI custom w/ Intel 945GC North Bridge, ICH7 South Bridge|
|RAM||pqi 1 GB DDR2 533 SO-DIMM|
|Data Drives||Hitachi Deskstar HDS721680PLA380
80GB 7200RPM 3.0 Gb/s SATA 8MB
|Ethernet||Realtek 8111C (on board)|
|OS||Ubuntu Server 8.10 + mdadm + Webmin
on 2 GB USB Flash drive
Table 1: MSI Wind PC Test Configuration
Table 1 summarizes the configuation details of the NAS that I put together using the Wind PC and Figure 1 shows the box. I should note that MSI did not respond to my request for a review unit. So I ended up buying one from NewEgg.
Figure 1: MSI Wind PC
Figure 2 shows the Wind PC's innards, with the metal cage that holds the drives and front panel ports removed. The board is relatively large, with a single SO-DIMM RAM socket is at the upper right of the photo and the infamous CF slot below it. I say "infamous" because you have to disassemble the entire system to insert the CF card, since it backs up right against the side of the enclosure.
Figure 2: MSI Wind PC, drive assy removed
Figure 3 shows the Wind PC with the drive assembly in place. The cage has two bays that each hold a single drive, one 3.5", the other 5.25". I just secured one of the 3.5" SATA drives with a single screw in the 5.25" inch bay. If you want to mount the drive more securely, you'll need to invest in an adapter tray or drill a hole for a second mounting screw. The Wind PC comes with SATA power and data cables, pre-cut to reach the 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays, and mounting hardware for the drives.
Figure 3: MSI Wind PC, drive assy installed
I was going to install the OS on a CF drive. But I ended up just putting it on a USB flash drive that I plugged into one of the front ports, instead.