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A handful of companies like Synology, QNAP, Asustor, and TerrMaster currently dominate the network attached storage (NAS) space by offering purpose-built hardware and software (usually custom Linux distributions).
But you can really turn just about any PC into a NAS with the right software. And a handful of Chinese PC makers have been offering attractively-priced hardware for folks looking to build their own NAS. Now AOOSTAR, which already offers a few interesting options like the AOOSTAR R1 and R7, has revealed it’s developing an even more powerful, versatile NAS that will launch early next year.
The upcoming system will be a reasonably compact computer powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 processor. While the company had initially planned to use a Ryzen 7 5800U processor with eight Zen 2 CPU cores and Radeon Vega graphics, that chip is being phased out, so AOOSTAR now plans to use an unspecified Ryzen 7000U series processor instead.
But while that makes the NAS more powerful than most consumer-oriented devices in this category, it’s not the only thing that makes the computer special. There’s also a small LED display on the front of the computer’s metal chassis that can be used to display system stats like machine temperature or CPU and GPU percentage use.
And the upcoming NAS is packed with features, including:
- 6 x bays for 3.5 inch or 2.5 inch (with adapter) hard drives)
- 6 x slots for PCIe NVMe SSDs
- 2 x 10 GbE Ethernet port
- 2 x 2.5 GbE Ethernet ports
- 1 x HDMI port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 4 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports
- 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
The computer supports dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory, AOOSTAR says it will be available as a barebones system by the end of January, 2024.
In some ways, the computer reminds me of the similarly-shaped ZimaCube Pro, which is an upcoming model that also has 6 SATA connectors for 2.5 inch or 3.5 inch hard drives, support for up to 6 NVMe SSDs, and multiple Ethernet ports.
But the ZimaCube Pro has an Intel Core i5-1235U processor, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a total of four Ethernet ports (all with support for 2.5 GbE speeds). And it’s expected to have a retail price of $1,199, although backers of a crowdfunding campaign can reserve one with a pledge of $899 or more.
I suspect AOOSTAR’s NAS will carry a lower price tag. That’s both because AOOSTAR’s existing products tend to be budget computers and because the makers of the ZimaCube are also the developers behind the open source CasaOS software that runs on the board… while AOOSTAR is only selling hardware. Customers are expected to provide their own software.
That said, there are a number of solutions that should work well with AOOSTAR’s upcoming NAS, including TrueNAS, OpenMediaVault, Unraid, or other operating systems (you could even build your own CasaOS system by installing Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS and then loading the CasaOS user interface.
When my 6-year-old QNAP TS-251 2-bay NAS gave up the ghost last week, I seriously considered picking up one of AOOSTAR’s competitively priced systems like the N1 or R7. But ultimately I decided that I didn’t have the time or interest in configuring a DIY solution running one of those operating systems, and instead opted for an Asustor AS5402T.
Its processor isn’t quite as powerful as what you’d get from an AOOSTAR NAS or the ZimaCube Pro. But it has some of the best features I could find in a sub-$400 NAS from a major brand, and so far I’ve found the transition from QNAP’s QTS software to Asustor’s ADM operating system to be pretty painless.
That said, for folks who have the time to tinker and customize the software and don’t need something that “just works” with minimal fuss, it’s nice to see a growing number of options for NAS systems with powerful features coming from less well-known companies.
AOOSTAR says more details about its upcoming 6-bay NAS will be available closer to launch.
This article was first published November 27, 2023 and most recently updated January 17, 2024