In order to get to twelve drives, ASRock had to use the Intel PCH SATA ports and two Marvell add-on chips. It's not the best solution possible, but it gets the job done while keeping the cost low. An LSI SATA / SAS solution would have increased the price, and we still wouldn't have had 12 SAS drives working in the system. ASRock has positioned this system as a cold storage server, so performance and enterprise SAS drives are less of a concern than just long term storage with an interface either to the network or to the cloud.
That said, we did find a way to make this system a high performance NAS by adding an Intel X520-SR2 10GbE card. The X540 uses SFP+ fiber, so it's an expensive option, but eBay is full of Broadcom based RJ45 10GbE cards for as low as $120; we recently purchased ten for a project. Netgear is leading the 10GbE switch market in cost per port. We've already tested the XS712T (12 ports, $1545.99) and XS708E (8 ports, $779.00), both great additions to a business network where performance on a budget is required. 10GbE is set to pick up speed in 2015 as the costs continue to shrink.
The ASRock 1U12LW-C2750 is a nice performer without 10GbE as well. The two Intel i250 gigabit Ethernet ports can run teamed to increase bandwidth to the server. RAID 5 performance is on par with other Atom based NAS products on the market when running Linux, but Windows uses a lot more resources than Linux. As we mentioned in the review, we have a handful of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 systems in the lab for review, and they all fall short of Linux systems with the same or nearly the same processors.
At less than $1100, the 1U12LW-C2750 is an excellent starting point for those who want very large capacity on the network. The system has a powerful processor, 12 drive bays, and can use up to 64GB of DRAM. For comparison, the QNAP TS-1270U-RP is a diskless 2U 12-drive NAS that costs $2999.99 at Newegg at the time of writing. Other 12-drive NAS options are just as expensive from other manufacturers. Even after you add the DRAM to the ASRock 1U12LW-C2750, you still come in much lower than the other options.
We did have a few concerns, though. Our early sample system didn't ship with drive rails, so you'll need to purchase a set to install the system cleanly. You will want a set that allows the server to slide out completely so that you can change drives if needed. The top cover has to come off to do that, so you'll need rails that slide the full length of the case. I would also add some foam to the back of the PCIe bracket so the wires can't rub against the pins. HDD vibration can make this a long term concern with the wires and the sharp pins. Other than those two small issues, everything else is worry free. At one point, we had our doubts about the 250-watt power supply with a full system and twelve HDDs, but our testing at full load proved that power wasn't an issue.
Stay tuned for more reviews. We have the lower cost 4-core option up next--the ASRock 1U12LW-C2550. It uses the same server case and motherboard but uses the 4-core Avoton Atom processor.
PRICING: You can find the ASRock Rack 1U12LW-C2750 for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: TheASRock Rack 1U12LW-C2750 retails for $1,059.83 at Amazon.