Nano Pi Neo2 NAS enclosure – a small Linux home Server/NAS

Introduction

Whilst the FriendlyArm Nano Pi Neo2 isn’t the latest or greatest SBC on the market it has a huge benefit in that a aluminium 2.5″ NAS enclosure exists for it. The NAS board connects over the boards GPIO ports exposing a SATA backplane over a JMicron JM20329 USB to SATA bridge. Paired with the onboard gigabit Ethernet it makes a fantastic small NAS. Lets get this setup and see how it performs.

Specs

The Nano Pi Neo2 features a Quad Core Allwinner H5 CPU with 512MB or 1GB DDR3 RAM. I opted for the 1GB RAM version.


It features a Gigabit Ethernet port making it ideal for this NAS purpose and boots from a MicroSD card. It has a 24 Pin PI compatible GPIO header (Although this is not usable when in the NAS enclosure) and 1x USB Port (2x USB with the NAS enclosure.)

Assembling the NAS

The Nano Pi NEO2 NAS is simple to assemble requiring only a Phillips screwdriver. The first step is to add the included heatsink to the Nano Pi Neo3. This is connected using 4 M3 nuts with included bolts. It just needs to be hand tight.

The included thermal pad comes with plastic protection on both sides, make sure to remove this first!

Nano Pi Neo2 With heatsink

Once the heatsink is installed insert an SD card with the latest version of Armbian flashed to it.

I used a SanDisk Ultra 64 GB SD card which can be purchased here
Armbian for the Nano Pi Neo2 can be downloaded here.

Flash Armbian using your favourite image burning tool or DD as follows:

sudo dd if=Armbian_20.11.7_Nanopineo2_buster_current_5.10.4.img of=/dev/<your_sdcard> bs=1M

The next step is to insert the Neo2 into the NAS board, gently push it in with the Ethernet port facing the edge of the board.

The next step is to install the HDD. I used a cheap 1TB HDD from Amazon.

The disk is then screwed in from the back of the NAS board with 4 retaining screws.

Once complete the board can be slid into the enclosure and the face plate can be fitted with the 4x included screws.

The device can then be powered on and connected to the network, I used fing to find the device and SSH’d to it with the default credentials:

root
1234

I then set a new password and followed the onscreen install steps

Armbian Buster running on the Nano Pi Neo2 NAS

Mounting the Disk

You will first need to create a partition on the disk. Using fdisk -l you will be able to find the disks identifier. In my case it was /dev/sda

I then ran the following:

fdisk /dev/sda
press 'n' for a new partition
'p' for Primary
hit enter for the default partition number (1)
hit enter again for the default first sector
hit enter again for the default last sector
press 'w' to write the changes to disk

The next step is to format the new partition as EXT4. Do this as follows:

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1

We then need to mount the disk and make sure it mounts across reboots. Open /etc/fstab in your favourite text editor and add the following:

/dev/sda1 /data ext4 defaults 0 0

Then create the mount point using:

mkdir /data

The disk can then be mounted using:

mount -a

Installing Samba

As I want to use this NAS to backup multiple devices I went with samba as it is compatible with most devices although NFS is often faster.

Installing Samba is simple using the following command:

apt install samba

We then need to configure it, for simplicity I have provided a very simple config below, replace the contents of /etc/samba/smb.conf with this:

[global]
        workgroup = SIMPLE
[share]
        comment = Share for mounted HDD
        path = /data
        read only = no
        guest ok = yes

Samba must then be restarted by running systemctl restart smbd.

Before you can connect to the NAS you need to add a user using the steps below and replacing “user” with a username of your choice.

adduser user
smbpasswd -a user

You will be prompted to set a password, pick one thats secure. You can now connect to the NAS from a Linux, Windows or MacOS PC.

There are loads of instructions online of how to connect to an SMB share so have a google.

Benchmarks

UnixBench

Unixbench on the Nano Pi Neo2 is pretty good, coming in just a small amount slower than a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+. Keep in mind that this benchmark doesn’t take the disk speed into account.

Atto Disk Bench

I ran Atto Disk Benchmark from my iMac connected to the same Gigabit switch as the Nano Pi Neo3 NAS.

Performance is acceptable, in fact it maxed out the disk showing that neither the onboard SATA or Networking is a bottleneck for a SATA spinner however I expect that a SSD would show bottlenecks on the onboard USB – SATA adaptor.

Conclusion

The Nano Pi Neo2 NAS makes a great home NAS device, performance is acceptable on both the SBC itself and the NAS board. This is actually the 3rd one of these that I have purchased – I have 2 of them running Gluster with a Raspberry Pi Model 3B as an arbiter for my homelab.

The Nano Pi Neo can be purchased here for $9.99 and the NAS enclosure is available as an option priced at an additional $12.99 here

All in including a power adaptor, SD card and 1TB HDD this cost me around $70 which is a bargain for a 1TB Linux powered NAS.

If you liked my review of the Friendly Arm Nano Pi Neo2 NAS check out my review of the Friendly Arm Nano Pi Fire 3 here.

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