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SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit

Best served with Raspberry Pi 4

Building network-attached storage can be as simple as plugging in a USB thumbstick to a Raspberry Pi running SMB. You can take on a more challenging project and make a custom NAS-pi box with RAID, PLEX and SMB support. If this is your first time, you could set your goal somewhere in between with the SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit.

SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit works with most of Raspberry Pi boards. The best possible performance can be achieved on Raspberry Pi 4 by taking advantage of the 1Gbps Ethernet. That’s what I’m going to do.

Inside a small box from SunFounder, I found the everything I needed (except the Raspberry Pi, HDD and the associated power supply) to get my NAS-drive up and running in approximately 40 min. Trust me when I say this, take a peek at the manual to identify the nylon standoffs, the orientation of the acrylic pieces and useful tips on how to get started. Otherwise, you are running the risk of dragging this out for way too long as I had in my live-stream.

SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit comes with:

  • eInk HAT with 4 buttons
  • USB 3.0 to SATA3 cable
  • 2 25mm fans
  • 3 heatsinks
  • preloaded with OMV MicroSD card (8GB)
  • acrylic protective case

The attached manual is great, so use it. That’s the only building tip I have for you.

eInk

Having a simple display on a NAS is surprisingly handy. An eInk display may seem like an odd choice, but considering how much time I would spend staring at the screen, I’m comfortable with it. I never played with an eInk display before, it feeds into my curiosity.

SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit can display:

  • IP of the box
  • available storage
  • CPU/GPU temp
  • CPU/RAM use
  • Fan speed
  • reboot/power off options

That’s a decent amount of data available at the glance. The display also has a “dark theme” if that’s your preference and the hat itself comes with 4 buttons to control the screens and set basic parameters. You can access the options menu by holding the “back” button for 2 sec.

Unfortunately, the eInk doesn’t “scrub” well and ghosting can occur if the screen displays the same information for too long. This is not a pixel “burn in” associated with LCD and can be cleared with a software “scrub” of the screen (setting eInk to black then to white a couple of times) unfortunately, this option isn’t available at the current firmware version.

Cooling

An open design, heat sinks and 2 cooling fans will keep the Raspberry Pi 4 from throttling. SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit keeps the board at comfortable 53℃ Fans are PWM controlled and sit at 25% for the most of the time. It’s not noisy, but you can hear a characteristic whine from the modulated signal. As far as I can tell, there is no fan configuration to adjust the fan speed and temperature triggers.

NAS performance

Before I write more about the results, bear in mind that NAS speeds depends on multiple factors. Hardware- wise, for the best performance, avoid using WiFi, pick a reputable SSD. connect to USB3.0 ports and use as much RAM as possible. Software-wise, transfer speeds will depend on file size and number of files to transfer, encryption of the drive, protocol used, drive partition and other factors.

In my previous benchmarks, I established Raspberry Pi 4 to be capable of 90+MB/s – It’s a good baseline. I will run a couple of speed test on the SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit and see how does it compare to it. Since the supplied MicroSD card runs an older instance of OMV, I decided to install the latest version myself.

Installation Guide

Install the latest Raspbian Lite and log in. OMV no longer requires an .img file, you can install the software with a single script:

wget -O - https://github.com/OpenMediaVault-Plugin-Developers/installScript/raw/master/install | sudo bash

Once the installation completes you will be able to log in with the default OMV credentials

user: admin
pass: openmediavault

Then you can follow the manual to establish your SMB shares and users.

eInk

To enable display and information, enable SPI interface by running sudo raspi-config. Make sure that you have python3 and git installed:

sudo apt-get install python3 git -y

and download the official driver from the github:

git clone https://github.com/sunfounder/nas-kit.git

Run the setup file to install all dependencies: 

cd nas-kit
python3 setup.py

then add the raspi_omv_main.py file to run at boot, open

sudo nano /etc/rc.local

and add:

python3 /home/pi/nas-kit/main/raspi_omv_main.py &

Then Ctrl+X exit Y to confirm and Enter to save the file.

Transfer speeds

It’s great to see how fast Raspberry Pi 4 is. The read speeds are very consistent, clocking just over 100Mb/s when reading from the SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS and slightly slower but still very pleasing write speeds around 90Mb/s. Please note that transfer speeds will depend on how much RAM you have, what is the file size and how many files are involved in the transfer.

Advanced options

If your Python3 game is strong, you can take a look at instructions included on SunFounder GitHub page. It’s possible to add more display menus and options as long as you don’t mind working on it yourself.

Buy SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS

Buy it using these links to support NotEnoughTech.

Final thoughts

SunFounder Raspberry Pi NAS kit isn’t perfect. I wish it came with a different SATA cable, as the supplied cable is bulky and changes the nice and simple design of the NAS drive. The eInk display issue can be fixed with a firmware update. If you can forgive these two issues, $60.00 price tag (with a 20% discount) sounds reasonable for what is inside of the box. If you are trying to get your feet wet, a NAS kit like this could be a great start before you take on a more advanced project. Any thoughts? Leave me a comment in this Reddit thread.

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