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Asrock C2550D4I – Server Motherboard (Server, Intel, DDR3-SDRAM, Mini ITX, Dual, fbga1283)
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ASROCK MAINBOARD MINI-ITX INTEL AVOTON C2550 4-CORE CPU 4xDIMM DDR3 12xSATA Please note: This product is coming from Germany. Make sure this is compatible for your country as coming from Germany. Spareparts=Refurbished, in brown box with 12 month warranty
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1. It runs relatively cool (40 - 50 degrees at idle) and does not need a CPU fan cooler. If you buy PWM case fans the board dials down their speed to minimum when the case is cool, which is most of the time.
I'm using Silent Wings2 140mm from "be quiet" and they spin at about 200rpm for most of the time.The BitFenix Prodigy case is so quiet you can hardly tell it's on.
2. The IMPI interface means it can be controlled remotely and used in a headless configuration. This includes powering on the unit and editing the BIOS both remotely.
3. It's built for storage and has 8 SATA 3 ports and 4 SATA 2 ports which are ideal if you want to operate in RAID as I am (RAID 1).
4. It is at a good price point for the power (4 core) for my usage, the 8 core version C2750D41 is too expensive at over £100 pounds more.
5. It uses full size DIMM DDR3 memory slots.
Although I am very happy with this board and would recommend it there are a couple of minor issues you should be aware of:
1.If you are planning on using hardware RAID via the on-board ROM forget it. The downloadable manual states you can access the configuration screen during POST by pressing CONTROL+M. It doesn't work. However both Linux and Widows have excellent support for software RAID so not really a major issue.
2. The i210 LAN ports are quite new and although most Linux Distros seem to support them (Ubuntu 14.04, Fedora , Red hat) Debian does not support them out of the box, you have to backport them which is a pain. I know Debian keep hold of an older kernel for stability so support will be included when they upgrade.
This is a quiet cool running board which uses low electrical power but has some high end features usually reserved for very expensive servers. For a home or small business server build this board really is an excellent choice.
There is a video review of the C2750D41 (the 8 core version) on The TEK You tube channel.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This is a great little board with lots of potential and many different possible configurations. Obviously this is a perfect build your own NAS solution, but to tell you the truth if that is all you plan on using it for then get the C2550D4I model. The C2750D4I model has more than enough power to do much more, will be a perfect headless small business or @home server. I can not tell you how the board perform with Windows Server Op systems, but with Linux Server distros, even running multiple VM's great performance. So rather that just install something like FreeNAS you can install a Debian/Ubuntu/CentOS/RHEL/SuSe server distro as base and then the possibilities are endless from there. You can run many different protocols/daemons without any issues. Many will say but it has an Atom processor, just because Avoton to the name its still an Atom. This is true but I was happy with the performance compared the the previous generation, it is not Xeon this is true, but you will be surprised what you will be able to do with this chip. It has 8 dedicated cores (not 4x cores with H/T =8 cores, but 8x cores without H/T =8 cores), Also supports VT-x, EPT, and AES-NI. Here is the huge (746 pages) Intel Atom C2000 Microserver Datasheet: https://www-ssl.Intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/datasheets/atom-c2000-microserver-datasheet.pdf The board takes 1600MHz ECC UDIMM's and 12 onboard SATA channels 6 of which support RAID (Marvell SE9172: 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s RAID 0/1, Marvell SE9230: 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s RAID 0/1/10), issues with the Marvell SE9230 chipset have been resolved with a recent firmware upgrade.
Here is my breakdown of how the SATA channels are best used: 6 of them are Intel C2750 ports (2 x SATA3, 4 x SATA2) everyone knows whatever the Intel SATA ports are rated as thats what you will get, the same can not be said with Marvel chipsets but we will get to that later. Many people will say why the hell even have 4 SATA2 ports they are useless nowadays, but this is not true. Most people don't even understand how SATA channels are used, and how they impact or do not impact performance of the SATA devices. Just because a device is SATA3 DOES NOT MEAN YOU WILL BE GETTING 6.0 Gb/s in/out transfer speeds. All that is the link speed, that is just what that channel is capable of handling, but unless your SATA devices are capable of producing in/out speeds greater than around 300MB/s you will not see and performance degradation using it on a SATA2 channel as apposed to a SATA3 channel. That being said the 2 Intel SATA3 ports are ideal for SSD drives, I setup one of these boards with 2 Samsung 850 Pro SSD's in the 2 SATA3 port and used Linux software RAID as the root partition and easily got speeds over 1GB/s NOT 1Gb/s thats over 1000 MEGABYTES/sec. So the 4 remaining SATA2 ports would be great for mechanical hard drives or other type devices ie. optical drives. So then You are left with 6 more SATA3 ports on the marvel side of things. The only time you should really see a difference between the Intel SATA3 ports and the Marvel SATA3 port performance is if you are using high speed SSD's. Its just a fact of light that Intel SATA channels are better than Marvel, but with the Marvel chipsets you get a wide array of RAID feature with a whole bunch of buzzwords attached to them. I tend not to go down that path, I would only use the onboard Marvel RAID ROM for RAID0, RAID1, or RAID10, not any of the SSD/HDD hybrid caching services. If I wanted to go down that road I would set it up with software rather than using the Marvel ROM. Thats just personal opinion formed from experience, others will swear by it, and Marvel will show you all kinds of stats that makes it look like a no brain'r but again just not my thing. If you are interested in running a RAID 5/6 array well you can't with the equipment that comes out of the box, but thats what the PCIE 2.0 x8 port is for. There are plenty of great performing hardware RAID cards available in that format.
The board has a dedicated BMC NIC as well as dual Intel i210 Gigabit LAN ports (with Teaming function), so you have several options for networking/system administration. You can use the dual Intel LANs as a team for the main network connection, and the Realtek RTL8211E to manage the BMC on a totally separate network, use the dual Intel LANs as a team for the main network connection and the board will emulate the BMC mac so you can access it without having to use the Realtek RTL8211E port, or you can just connect one Intel port for main network and BMC emulation. So that leaves you with many options to choose from with a wide array of networking possibilities. Unless you have worked with Enterprise class equipment and/or purpose built servers the words BMC/IPMI mean nothing to you. An over simplified definition of these things is basically Remote System Management, many will say so what I use VNC, Remote Desktop and what not with regular computers. But this is so much more, once it is setup you can do anything from a remote location you can do if you were sitting in front of the board itself. Complete power management from Off/On/Reboot, Virtualizing Media (using local CD/HDD/ISOs on the remote server), and a whole bunch of different management tools and toys.
So you can see why the average user could be excited by the little board with a lot of bang for your buck, Enterprise @home! So from the C2550D4I model, up to the C2750D4I model, with all the different add-on bells and whistles you can get for it, you can get anything from a nice and cheap home built NAS solution up to a pretty damn well performing Linux Server without the need to shell out thousands of dollars. So overall I give it 4 out of 5 stars, it is not perfect, but its definitely better than average as far as I am concerned. NOW GO BUILD AND LEARN SOMETHING!!!
I got this to use as the basis for a FreeNAS box. Everything ran pretty well for about 358 days. Literally a week before the 1 year warrantee expired, the board died on me. I called the ASRock support line and they walked me through some troubleshooting and indicated the failure I had was a common one. It was covered by the warrantee and they issued me an RMA. It took quite a while to get the replacement (3-4 weeks IIRC) but I only had to pay for shipping to them. I didn't want to wait for the replacement board, so I bought the next higher version of this board (C2750D4I) so I could also run my Plex server on it in a jail.
I can't confirm this, but I think I remember reading where they fixed the issue I had in the newer versions of this board.
One thing to note, this board took forever to boot the first time I used it. I can't remember if I changed anything afterwards to resolve it, but it is very slow (minutes) to boot the first time you bring it up.
TL;DR - Good board, runs well for FreeNAS base, died just before the year warrantee, ASRock was good about replacing it, although it took a while for the replacement to arrive.