After constantly shuttling files (photos, videos, etc) back and forth between phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc in our house, I decided I wanted a central location to store and distribute everything, as well as a very basic Plex server to be able to share shows on tablets and phones throughout the house. I also wanted to keep build cost, power usage and noise to a minimum.
CASE: This was my starting point. I instantly fell in love with the look of it (and the sale price) and decided to configure around it. The cramped space took some getting used to, but I couldn't be happier with the final result. Can shove it in just about any corner/shelf easily.
CPU: Cheap and able to handle 1080p transcoding for at least 1 device (maybe 2? haven't tried it yet) with Plex. Would've liked a lower TDP but couldn't find a good option with comparable power/price.
MOBO: Chosen to fit the case/CPU. Only 4 SATA ports but that is plenty for my intentions (and the max # of drives you can stuff into the case). The M.2 slot is PCI-E only, which limits your options a bit. The SATA ports behind the RAM are a bit tricky to access, especially within this tiny case once everything starts getting assembled. Would HIGHLY recommend plugging your SATA cables into the MOBO BEFORE installing the PSU and top HDD mount. Lesson learned...
RAM: It was the cheapest 16GB kit I could find at the time. Works well, no errors in memtest. Not really a fan of the "LOOK AT ME!!!" heat spreaders, but they did fit just fine.
PSU: Wanted modular for this tiny case. PSU fan is a bit on the loud side for this build, and (minor gripe) but it only includes one SATA power cable and I'll need a 2nd if I use the side-mount HDD location. Wattage is overkill here, but couldn't find a lower power at a comparable price.
Storage: 2x3TB in Raid1. Should cover my needs for quite a while. Plan to add two 2.5" drives on the side mount at some point if I catch a great sale.
OS: First time trying out FreeNAS -- it runs from the Cruzer Fit to avoid eating a physical HDD. Had trouble installing using the 2 USB stick method, so actually had to install to the Cruzer Fit using a VM on my desktop. Learning curve is a bit steep, especially since my only Unix experience was many years ago. Still, very happy with it now that I've got it up and running through the GUI.
Lastly, I realize I'm not using ECC ram on a FreeNAS build. This thing is mostly spare parts and the cheapest sales I could find (plus I wasn't even sure I'd end up being a fan of using a NAS so I wanted to keep costs down). I'm not storing government secrets and anything I may lose is either easily replaced (videos and such) or already backed up in multiple places (important docs/photos).
Only 4 SATA ports but that is plenty for my intentions. The M.2 slot is PCI-E only, which limits your options a bit and seems to demand a generally higher price than SATA M.2 cards. The SATA ports behind the RAM are a bit tricky to access, especially within a small case once everything starts getting assembled. BIOS screen GUI is easy to navigate and intuitive.
It was the cheapest 16GB kit I could find at the time. Works well, no errors in memtest. Not really a fan of the "LOOK AT ME!!!" heat spreaders but they didn't interfere with cables/components in the build.
Absolutely love the design! Easy to stuff in a corner/shelf, looks great and provides easy access to the ports. Provides a fair # of options for cable routing in the form of tie-down points. Great ventilation, love the option to have the 120mm fan mounted in the front panel area to free up some real estate. Definitely becomes a bit cramped to work in once PSU and drive bracket are installed. HDDs mounted in the top are a bit tricky to run cables to.
Fan tends to be a bit loud (compared to the rest of the build) even at lower load. Would be nice if it came with a 2nd SATA power cable. The 24-pin power cable also seems to be awfully long, making it a tough fit in the Elite 110 case I used. Still, very reasonable price for a semi-modular option.