Network attached storage (NAS) devices can be useful for folks looking to back up data from multiple computers, set up a home media server, or even a self-hosted alternative to Google Drive, Dropbox, or Office 365.
But a good NAS from companies like QNAP or Synology can be rather expensive, typically costing hundreds of dollars even before you had hard drives or SSDs for storage.
Hardkernel’s ODROID-HC4 dual-bay NAS is set to go on sale next week for just $65 and up.
The system is powered by an Amlogic S905X ARM Cortex-A55 quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM. It features a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI 2.0 for connecting to an external display, a microSD card reader, a USB 2.0 port, two SATA connectors for storage, and an IR receiver for an optional remote control.
The $65 starting price gets you a basic ODROID-HC4 board and pre-assembled case shell, while you can also pay $75 for a version with a 1 inch OLED display and real-time clock pre-installed and visible on the front of the case.
Unlike most NAS systems, the ODROID-HC4 has what Hardkernel calls a “toaster” form factor, where the 2.5 inch or 3.5 inch drives can be inserted into slots in the case and they’re exposed to open air rather than hidden away inside a shell of plastic or metal.
That should help keep the NAS cool, but you also may want to keep the ODROID-HC4 in an area where it’s not likely to collect dust or have coffee spilled on it (arguably a good idea when finding an ideal location for any computer). The ODROID-HC4 has a passive heat sink and a hydraulic bearing fan, but it should be relatively quiet, with a noise level of 23.9 dBA.
Hardkernel says the system comes with an Ubuntu Linux image pre-installed, but it should also support third-party software including CoreElec, OpenMediaVault, and Android. OS images will be posted on the ODROID-HC4 Wiki in the coming weeks.
via CNX Software
This is a cool device, when you consider it’s price-point. I agree with some of the other comments that some of the specs are more low-end than we might like, but just consider that there are no turn-key NAS solutions like this in this price range.
Some of the cheapest consumer-level 2-bay NAS products start around $150. Many of them also don’t offer the ability to install your own OS like this thing too.
If Odroid wants to really shake up the low-cost NAS market, they should aim to make their next model around the $100-150 price-point, and include ECC memory, and support for using an M.2 NVMe module for cache. Both of those things are supported by the Amlogic SOC they are using.
How does this compare to just plugging a few USB drives into a Raspberry Pi? I think the pi4 does usb3 and gigabit ethernet… so I’m guessing the biggest advantage is the direct access to the drive interface.
Well this also has an IR receiver, I guess in case you like to plug hard drives into it like they’re VHS cassettes to watch stuff you downloaded. I don’t think this will handle transcoding for streaming all that well.
“a USB 2.0 port”
This is a really slick solution, but having just a USB 2.0 port (not 3.0) in 2020 for a NAS is a real deal breaker. Taking into account the protocol overhead and the fact that USB 2.0 is half-duplex, this caps read and write speeds at a sluggish 30-40 MB/s and is a huge deterrent to expansion. Adding a drive enclosure like the Mediasonic ProBox HF2-SU3S2 would be a no-go in this case since your shared drive throughput would be starved severely. If you have zero plans for expansion, though, and only plan on running a conservative two-drive NAS, this is really nice.
Wouldn’t nearly every use case involve plugging this NAS into your router or computer via GigE and serving content that way? Using USB 2.0 instead seems so much like shooting yourself in the foot. What environments exist where a USB-A 2.0 is going to run but GigE won’t?
I am speaking of using USB is for adding more storage to the NAS, not for networking via USB. It’s a common feature in Openmediavault, FreeNAS, and the like to be able add storage via USB to a NAS. I agree: you should use the gigabit Ethernet for serving the data across your network. The problem is the USB 2.0 would be a huge bottleneck.
I think the USB port is irrelevant. It’s not meant for adding additional storage, its just there because this is a computer, and you might need to plug a keyboard, mouse, or thumbdrive into it for configuring, troubleshooting, etc.
The operating systems for this thing are pretty lightweight, its not going to be terribly time consuming.
The only time I would need USB 3.0 on a NAS would be if it was meant for connecting to a PC, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
It sounds like for your use case, USB is irrelevant. That is not the case, however, for others. The other drawback is if you have a USB-only storage device and wish to copy large amounts of data to one of the toaster mounted drives. You could potentially be waiting for hours to copy it all over since USB 2.0 is so slow.
Thats a fair point.
I wonder what prevented them from using USB 3.0. I’m not familiar enough with the Amlogic SOCs to know if it is something that requires an external USB controller, or if it can handle USB 3.0 without many extra components.
Here is a valid complaint from their forums:
Does this device actually offer the ability to be connected to a PC through USB to use as an external drive?
Perhaps I’m assuming here, but it seems to me the USB likely just acts as a host.
It seems like a very huge restriction to me. I often attach SD cards to my NAS to download photos.
Your idea of attaching the NAS to a PC via USB is interesting, & one that I wish was possible, but to my knowledge there are only a very very very select couple of chips that have USB “device” modes that run at USB3 speeds. Almost all USB-OTG solutions are 2.0 only.
USB3 is a huge miss for me here. I often remove my camera’s sd cards & attach them via USB3 to my NAS. I have more drives attached to my NAS via USB. My NAS is just a modest Linux box, sometimes I’ll attach DisplayLink displays to it if I need an extra terminal. USB is such a general purpose & useful connection to have, & not having USB3 really really clamps down the creativity & potential for how this device can be used. It’ll work for many, but anyone interested in flexibility & doing more is screwed. It’s a most unfortunate restriction to this product.
For storage, I get that expandability could come in the form of “just buy more” of these cheap bays. And that’ll keep scaling your ethernet connection. Which is another thing; eventually it’d be nice to see 2.5Gbe and 5Gbe arrive on the low end.
Thank you each for sharing really compelling use cases for more capable USB input to the NAS. I hadn’t considered how limited my own NAS use is by the way I access it (Network only).
This is the reason from their forum post
We decided to drop the use of USB3.0 to SATA bridge solutions (quirks, additional IO layer, etc) for the ODROID-HC4.
We are therefore using a more native and reliable PCIe to SATA direct bridge solutions. In doing so the HC4 board provides two SATA storage docks.
Is this a Plug-and Play device, i.e. drive will automatically be recognized by my Windows machine? Or do I have to configure/manage it thru an OS on the device?
Nope. At the least, to map a drive you’ll have to configure Samba and map the drive. This is very easy to do, but not plug and play.
Is this a Plug-and Play device, i.e. drive will automatically be recognized by my Windows machine? Or do I have to configure/manage it thru an OSon the device?
It’s networked, not directly plugged into a computer (it is in fact a tiny computer…), you’d probably want to map it on your Windows machine. But it does make me wonder if ODROID have set it up to automatically format drives when you add them.
when and where can I buy one !!!!!!!!!!
Cool little machine.
Looks like good value too.
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