Not Quite NAS Killer 4.0 (Plus Head-Start on HW Encoding Box!)

Hey, all. Dropped my intro over on the appropriate board, but I wanted to dive into some pre-build discussion:

I started thinking through the ultra-quiet “Plus” build, but ultimately decided to get a consumer vice server processor. While my build is currently file server focused, I want the ability to move into the realm of Hypervisor/KVM, mid-level gaming, and potentially even VR (though I know I’ll be a ways away from that for a while). The AMD Ryzen 5 I was looking at is a 6C/12T processor. My build was moving into the $900 range (AMD Ryzen 5 2600, Fractal Design Node 804 case, 32GB DDR4 RAM, etc).

However, I was taking a look at eBay and noticed this:
It’s a super tiny form factor desktop with a Ryzen 5 PRO 3400GE (falls in the middle of the 2600 and 3600 with integrated graphics and enterprise add-ons, but still uses the Zen+, and not Zen 2, architecture of the 3rd Gen Ryzens). The 3400GE does lose 2 cores/4 threads, but I save the (minimum) $50 I was going to spend on a bare bones GPU, plus replaced $200 I was going to spend on the CPU. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on it (comparable pre-builts are at least $100 higher). The box comes with 32GB RAM and 512 GB NVMe SSD storage, replacing another $250 $100 or so off my build. Finally, I get the jump on building a hardware transcoder, as I’ll already have the form factor and will just need to part out a few things.

I wasn’t really planning on going this route, and I know I’m giving up some capabilities (like the extra cores, potential OC ability, etc), but the M75q that I bought costs over $1,500 built out on Lenovo’s website. I’m still going to end up spending around $900 for the build, plus probably another $200-ish on finishing up the HW transcode build. But I just couldn’t pass up this option. Hopefully, it’ll work out in my favor in the near-term. I know I’ll eventually need to add at least a mid-level GPU if I want to run VR, and I may even need to upgrade the CPU (although I don’t think so). I look forward to posting up my completed build in a few weeks/month.

Started digging around the Lenovo website to get a bit more information. Don’t know why I didn’t think about it, but this unit uses SODIMM RAM, so I won’t be able to reuse that, at least not in my primary build. That’s probably going to be overkill on an HW transcoding box, unless there’s something else I can come up with use it for. I may end up selling it, who knows? However, the unit is using a Samsung PM961 Series 512GB m2 SSD, so I’ll move that over. My current build already has a 1 TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD. Thus, I’ll likely use the PM961 as my boot/OS disk and then move temporary files (downloads, Handbrake transcodes, etc) over to the 860. I’ll be using a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black CPU fan which may also be overkill as the TDP for the 3600GE base clock is only 35W.

Current build list (doesn’t include 5x 2 TB WD Red HDDs and 1 TB Samsung 860 EVO):

Type Part Current Price
Case Fractal Design Node 804 $106.98
Motherboard ASRock B450M PRO4 $74.99
CPU AMD Ryzen 5 3400GE –Included in M75Q
Storage Samsung PM961 Series 512GB m2 SSD –Included in M75Q
RAM Patriot Viper Steel Series DDR4 32GB (2 x 16GB) 3200MHz $130.00
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 Black $39.99
Power Supply MasterWatt 550 Watt Semifanless Modular Power Supply $68.99
SATA Expansion Card SupaHub 8 Ports PCIe SATA Card, PCIe x1 Non Raid Controller Card for SATA III 6G Hard Drives $42.99
Fans Rosewill 120mm Case Fan 4-Pack, Long Life Sleeve Bearing Computer Case Fan ROCF-13001 $19.99
Total $483.93

ETA: Besides the parts provided by the M75Q, the only part in the above list I’m firm on is the Node 804. I really like the lower profile and it will fit best with my current office setup. The ability to run 10 HDDs in it, in such a low profile, was the selling point for me. I don’t want to give up the number of bays, nor do I want (at this time) to run a DAS since I don’t have much room. Aesthetically, I’m going for a blacked out look. Hence the $45 SATA card and no RGB. But if anyone has better ideas for some of the options listed that would work with my case and CPU choice, I’d love to hear them!

My biggest question is what to do about the SSD. Originally, I planned to drop a 1 TB WD Blue m2 SSD in here, as the price point at $110 is good for me. But the PM961 is fast, blazingly fast. Samsung reports 2800 MB/s read and 1600 MB/s write. So would it be better to use the 961 for my primary build? Maybe even boot off the 860 EVO and use the 961 as a temp storage? Or should I leave it for the HW transcoding box and get that WD Blue or another 500-ish GB SSD for the server?

Now on to the mystery, what to fill the M75Q box with for the HW transcoding bit? Obviously, a downside to sourcing this pre-built box was that I either need to get another AMD processor (which I’m pretty sure won’t work for HW transcoding, since Intel has the market cornered with Quick Sync) or get an Intel CPU and compatible mobo. I’ve got to do more research, but I’m thinking I’d like to go with at least a 6th Gen Intel CPU.

The real question is, what to do with all the RAM? From what I’ve read on the HW transcoding build, 8 GB is more than sufficient. I haven’t used Plex in a long time, but I’ll be getting the server set up soon. While I don’t currently use HW transcoding, I do expect to offer up my Plex server for a few friends/family to access. Right now, I live alone, so until I set up access for people outside my house, the most I’d be transcoding is 1 stream (to an iPad/mobile device). Even once I get the server fully up and running, I don’t expect to go beyond 5 or so simultaneous 1080p streams.

So, do I keep the RAM and just have all that extra overhead? Do I sell it and get a couple of 8 GB sticks? If I do keep the RAM in it, what else could I do on this box beyond transcoding to take advantage of it?