NAS/Media Server pre-build questions

Hi, everyone! I’m new here and trying to absorb all the info (along with stuff I’ve seen/read elsewhere). Wolfgang’s Channel on YouTube has been a reference point for me since he started putting a lot of focus on ultra-low power consumption. I want to put together the server equivalent of “the perfect girlfriend”. (I.e. doesn’t exist but how close can I get?) Ultra-low power consumption, reasonably good performance, and dirt cheap to build.

I’ve spent some time reading the HP 290 thread but the initial video talks about 17W at idle. That seems kinda high with people building systems that idle at 4W. Power consumption is a tricky topic considering the impact of hard drives (SSD vs 7200RPM vs 5400RPM, etc.) - I wish it was standard practice to talk about power consumption with only the system drive installed - it would make apples-to-apples comparisons easier.

Personally, I have a mish-mash combination of 1-4TB drives, some 2.5", some 3.5", some 7200RPM, some 5400RPM, totaling 14TB. I’ll be using those for the foreseeable future due to my (very) limited budget.

I’m starting out with an old media server that I built 7 or 8 years ago… I don’t remember the details, but something went amuck when I tried to install/use SnapRaid and (? I forget the name of the drive pooling software). It was some sort of command line error message that just flooded my screen til I powered off the machine. Due to other life demands/priorities, the whole thing has been mothballed ever since. I almost certainly lost an entire drive full of movies and/or music but it’s all stuff I own so I can rerip it.

I don’t remember what mobo/CPU I used for the build but power consumption wasn’t a consideration at the time. Ditto the PSU. But it’s a big consideration now that my $/kWh has gone up by over 50% in the past year! I’ll probably keep my existing PSU (at least for the moment; it may be the first thing I upgrade later) just because it would take a while to recoup the cost of a newer, more efficient one in energy savings (I think).

The case is a 4U Rosewill (again, I don’t remember the model). I have 3 or 4 SATA expansion cards but I think I’ll probably splurge on a 16-port X1 card - if only so I don’t have to worry about how many SATA ports or PCIe slots my new mobo has.

So here’s where I’d appreciate some advice:

  1. Does it make sense to separate my media server from my NAS (focusing on ultra-low power for the NAS and QSV for the media server)? Seems like the power consumption of a separate power supply, motherboard, RAM, etc. would more than offset any savings, here.
  2. Assuming that doesn’t make sense, what motherboard and CPU should I shop for? (Remember, my criteria here are ultra-low power consumption, and good QSV performance at a dirt cheap price.)
  3. Does it make sense to go with a separate DAS? (Even if I use my existing 4U case to do so…)
  4. Unraid seems to be very popular here. Is there something wrong with TrueNAS? (I strongly prefer open source software.)
  5. What else am I missing/should I be considering?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration - and for this excellent community!

4w as a goal is fairly unrealistic in general. If you must have it, I believe he’s outlined his methods.
The 290s idle around 9-17w, and I wouldn’t consider that high.
Additionally, limited budget and ultra low consumption don’t go together too well either.

Unraid is pretty much the choice for simplicity or if you’re new to running your own NAS. Price is worth it.
Check out the Otis guide and the NK6 guide will be out very soon.

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What’s your actual $/kWh if you’re hung up on the difference of a cell phone chargers worth of power?

Additionally your “splurge” card capabilities can be had for a quarter of the price if you go with a SAS HBA instead

Ironic, isn’t it? If you have the money to put into a really low power consumption machine, then the price of electricity probably isn’t a big concern. And if it is a concern, the savings on electricity will take years to pay for a system that’s upgraded for low power!

I don’t know my exact $/kWh but I know there have been 2 price hikes in the past 12 months and it’s gone up over 50% compared to a year ago. I wouldn’t say I’m “hung up” on it but 17W is over 4X 4W so comparatively speaking……

That’s interesting but replacing all of my hard drives to save $75 doesn’t make a lot of sense.

SAS is backwards compatible was SAS or SATA drives. Zero replacement necessary.

And 4x of negligible is still negligible. The video also said performance on his 4w build is on the far lower end. If you’re doing NAS only you can go with very very little, but if you want to do anything else you’ll need some horsepower.

If you want to bring up wattage but you don’t know your kWh rate, it’s kind of pointless. But lets do some napkin math anyhow.


I’ll use 200W as a guideline. Using the most expensive state from Electricity Rates (Updated September 2023) (August 2023) — Electric Choice gives us Hawaii at 32.76c per kwh.

Incoming napkin math


1752 kWh * 32.76c = 57,395.52c or 573.96 USD


144 kWh * 32.76c = 4,717.44c or 47.17 USD


4.8 * 32.76c = 157.25c or 1.57 USD

and that’s for something that is 50 times your proposed kWh usage.


I suspect most folks probably afford 1.50 a day for a homelab habit.

Can you save cost getting expensive newer parts? Sure, but most of the time there are going to be other options that will give you a better return on your investment than chasing bottom barrel power consumption (frequently performance is the compromise for lowest possible consumption). Also 4W doesn’t include any spinning drives

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