Jonsbo N2 & N305 NAS Build

From Paul Beesley
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I recently found the limits of my Synology DiskStation DS718+ while trying to index a fresh Immich library while also streaming media using Roon, hosting Nextcloud, and handling DNS requests with AdGuard Home. Its Celeron J3455 was already well below the recommended Roon specs but it had done a decent job of keeping up so far. My media library has been growing for some time and I wanted to host more containers so it was time for something with a bit more CPU grunt and memory than the Synology could offer, even after adding an additional 4GB RAM module.

Requirements

On the software side, any new system would need to:

  • Be able to host a bunch of CPU and memory intensive containers, inclduing:
    • Nextcloud: remote file access and document editing
    • Roon: audio streaming
    • AdGuard Home: DNS filtering and ad blocking
    • Immich: photo library management and backup of phone photos
    • HomeAssistant: lighting automation
    • Gitea: self-hosted GitHub alternative
  • Run the occasional Linux VM
  • Integrate with my APC UPS to support automatic shutdown on power loss

And in terms of hardware:

  • Be compact
  • Support at least the loss of a single disk
  • Provide high-speed SSD storage in addition to spinning disks
  • Accomodate my existing 3TB IronWolf disks as they are fresh enough to re-use
  • Have a relatively low TDP (electricity in the UK is £££ right now)

An Interesting Platform

Ruling out another Synology-type unit on their price/performance ratio I went looking for homebrew options. There seem to be three main camps:

  1. Hit up eBay, etc for a used mini-ITX platform. Cheap but absolute performance and energy efficiency, especially, is lower.
  2. Buy new and get a pricey but high-performing system with great energy efficiency
  3. Look to small vendors offering wacky, highly-integrated motherboards with new(ish) chips

It was while browsing option three that I came across CWWK's N305 "Nas Monster" board: a motherboard with a soldered Intel i3-N305 CPU, single DDR5 SODIMM socket, dual M.2 NVMe slots and - crucially - an integrated SATA expansion chip that drives no fewer than 5 SATA ports (in addition to the single native SATA port). It even has four(!) 2.5GbE network interfaces which is frankly ridiculous overkill unless you're building some kind of frankenstein NAS/router hybrid box. Still, a 2.5 gigabit link with my desktop PC would be a nice uplift.

A quick check of some CPU benchmarking sites suggested that the N305 CPU is a full four times faster than the J3455 in my Synology box - two times quicker in single threaded performance and two times the physical cores. I remember building a watercooled, Broadwell-E desktop back in 2016 (a 6800K with a 140W TDP) and here we are with a similarly capable CPU that sips just 1/10th of the power!

Final Build Specs

CPU: i3-N305 RAM: 16GB Sabrent DDR5-4800 SODIMM (SB-DR5S-16G) Mainboard: CWWK CW-ADLN-NAS Cooler: Noctua NH-L9i Case: Jonsbo N2 with 120x25mm fan mod

Disks:

  • 2x Seagate IronWolf 3TB ST3000VN007
  • 1x Seagate IronWolf 4TB ST4000VN006
  • 2x Intel Optane 118GB M.2 SSD (P1600x)

Installing and Testing Disks

  1. Installed the new, 4TB parity disk in the Unraid array.
  2. Ran a badblocks check on the new disk to break it in and ensure that it's in good shape from the factory.
  3. Pulled one of the two drives from the Synology NAS, degrading the array, and installed it in the Unraid array.
  4. Ran a badblocks check on the re-used 3TB disk. Since the re-used drives have around 4 years wear and tear, I figured it would be worth testing them for any R/W errors at this point.
  5. Initialised and started the Unraid array...waited a long time for parity to build.
  6. Copied all backed up data onto the Unraid array
  7. Pulled the second drive from the Synology NAS, install it, run badblocks as before.
  8. Assigned this final drive a slot in the array.