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I would like to build a portable NAS (with one hard drive of I think 4TB). I need a full Linux and I don't want to fiddle around too much to make it work (no patching and compiling my own kernels and stuff like that).

For this I need a

  • small (say like two 2.5" drives on top of each other, plus at most 50%),
  • low power (not more than 3W idle, preferably less)
  • SBC (single board computer)
  • with SATA (one port, preferably III, II is okay too, doesn't need 12V, just for 2.5" drives)
  • and Ethernet (Gigabit).
  • Bonus if it has an integrated Li-ion controller (or if you know some separate Li-Ion battery controller board for 5V uninterruptible output).
  • Bonus if it doesnt have a crapload of unnecessary features/connectors.

Raspberry Pi doesnt have enough performance (the limiting factors are USB 2.0 and crappy Ethernet, I think) and mATX/mITX boards are too large. What can you recommend for maximum data throughput? I would like to get at least 40MB/s actual real world throughput.

It should be as cheap as possible. That said, as long as it's significantly cheaper than buying a laptop and ripping off / not using the screen, it's okay. If there is a ready to use NAS (without hard drive/empty enclosure) like that I'm fine with that too.

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So I know of a local shop called MinMax Custom PCs that will build a very small ITX system called the "MinMax C70-ITX" that probably does meet your needs; I've specced it out as best as I can tell from what they told me - they don't have a a website except for this, or else I'd link you to their own product description - they include a USB stick and USB wireless card as part of their product that I'm not including here in my description, and they sell the whole shebang for $160. What follows is my best attempt to reverse-engineer their design so you can see what kind of system they're offering:

PCPartPicker part list: http://pcpartpicker.com/list/f4D3Z8
Price breakdown by merchant: http://pcpartpicker.com/list/f4D3Z8/by_merchant/

CPU:  Integrated with Motherboard
Motherboard: ASRock C70M1 Mini ITX C-Series C-70 Motherboard  ($39.99 @ SuperBiiz) 
Memory: Crucial 2GB (1 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory  ($10.99 @ SuperBiiz) 
Other:  PicoPSU-80 + 60W Adapter Power Kit ($35.00)
Other: New 4 Pin IDE Male Molex to Dual SATA Y Splitter Female HDD Power Adapter Cable ($0.75)
Other: M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure by Mini-Box Black ($38.63)
Total: $125.36
Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available
Generated by PCPartPicker 2016-08-08 17:15 EDT-0400

For whatever it's worth, the M350 really is tiny compared to every other ITX box you've ever seen, so they really hit that part of the design out of the park. It's not much bigger than the ITX board itself, and it uses a laptop charger to power the PC instead of a standard ATX PSU, which can be quite bulky (and inefficient) in comparison. It's also fanless, which I find kinda neat, but you might want to add your own fan if it's running in a hot environment as the CPU and the drives are very close inside the case from what I can tell. The big thing here is that because it's x86 and has 2gb RAM, you can run full-blown linux on it if you want. Any RAID would be software-based, doubtless.

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  • Thanks. But actually I have seen cases like this and would have liked something smaller. If using an approximately Raspberry Pi sized board I could fit the whole lot including batteries for 10h into an old 3.5" disk enclosure which is like 4 times less volume than such a case. I'll use something like this only as a last resort. If I do, I'll accept your answer at that point. – Nobody Aug 9 '16 at 12:08
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I just found the perfect (I think) board: an Intel NUC board with a 10.16cm squared area and 28.8mm height.

5W TDP, SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, around $100 (for mainboard and integrated CPU). Pity it needs 12V input, this still has me searching for a battery controller.

It only has 1C/1T at 1.46Ghz, but this should be just enough and already a lot faster than a Raspberry Pi.

There are mini PCI-E expansion boards for at least two additional SATA III connections, with the more expensive ones supporting hardware RAID.

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  • Yeah, if you get just the board, this is the perfect answer, really. Good find. – Adam Wykes Aug 9 '16 at 13:18

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