Storage for the DIY crowd: Fractal Design Array R2 review

It takes a certain kind of person to “roll your own” Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.  It’s a challenge and one of the biggest challenges so far has been finding the proper case in which to do it.

The folks at Fractal Design have done a great job in designing a case that suits the storage bereft down to the ground. This is a Mini ITX (and Mini DTX) compatible case with enough room inside to hold a whopping six 3.5in mechanical hard disk drives and a single SSD. With current street prices of 2TB hard disk drives hovering around the $100 mark populating this thing with hefty hard drives and coming away with a 12TB NAS is not out of the question.

But there are often compromises when looking at very specific usage models and this case is not without those. It uses an SFX power supply (a smaller verson of an ATX PSU) which is included in one model but can also be shipped without. We’d recommend getting the one from Fractal as it’s powerful enough for a NAS setup and after-market SFX PSUs are not cheap!  

The second is that this case lacks an optical drive (or any 5.25in) slot. You will need to install the OS via a USB optical drive or USB stick or via dangling an optical drive out of the side of the case during the setup. There’s also no front mounted audio or USB or reset button. Just the power switch. In context that’s really not a bad thing as data should really be coming in and out of a NAS via the network and nobody is pretending this case is a desktop system.

It’s not the easiest to work in and building the system wasn’t as fun as it could be. We found  installing the motherboard meant the factory installed PSU needed to be removed then it took an extra pair of hands to get it back in without dumping it on to the motherboard. The drives fit in to the case nicely but we were short a single (special) screw to install all the hard disk drives. The single large fan at the front of the case was effective and silent but the dust filter in front of it requires the hard drive cage and the fan enclosure to be removed to clean it.  That’s a little invasive for what should be preventative maintenance on a system that only comes with one intake fan.

Available from Anyware retailing for $305.
APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)