Kobol Returns with Helios64 Arm-Powered Five-Bay Open-Spec Network Attached Storage Design

Designed to run Debian or Ubuntu Linux, the open source board includes six CPU cores, 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, five SATA 3.0 ports, and 2.5GbE.

Arm-powered network attached storage (NAS) specialist Kobol has announced it is launching a replacement for its discontinued open-specification Helios4: the Helios64, combining a significantly-upgraded single-board computer with a professional-looking aluminium chassis.

Kobol first launched the Helios4 via crowdfunding site Kickstarter in May 2017. While the company saw considerable interest for its open-specification Arm-based network attached storage system and clever laser-cut acrylic housing, it failed to reach its funding goal — but began to produce units anyway, pushing backers to pre-order direct from the company's website with the promise of a discount.

Two years later, the Helios4 is has been discontinued — and is set to be replaced by the considerably more powerful Helios64, according to an announcement first spotted by LinuxGizmos. "We are finally getting close to Helios64 launch and here we would like to officially introduce you our new product and pricing," Kobol announced on its blog this week.

"Compared to Helios4 this new board offers improvements on every single key aspects: More computing power with Arm 64-bit hexacore SoC, larger and faster memory with 4GB of LPDDR4, more storage capacity with 5x SATA 3.0 ports, faster throughput with multi-gigabit 2.5Gb Ethernet, wider options with DisplayPort and Direct-Attached-Storage modes support, and finally safer with a built-in UPS. This is definitively a very unique board which offers built-in features you won’t find in any other product."

The processor on the newly-design nano-ITX form-factor board is the Rockchip RK3399, which includes two Arm Cortex-A72 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. The memory is fixed at 4GB, unlike the Helios4 which launched with multiple memory options, with no option at launch to include ECC protection, and there's 16GB of eMMC storage on-board.

As you might expect from a network attached storage design, the board includes five SATA 3.0 connectors plus an M.2 SATA slot shared with the fifth, while the 2.5-gig-E networking is joined by a second gigabit Ethernet port. There are three USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C connector, and two fan headers with pulse-width modulation (PWM) speed control.

The board is joined by a new case, and gone is the clever but somewhat cheap acrylic of its predecessor: The Helios64 case is made from aluminium with curved corners and a mesh front, offering room for five hot-plug 3.5" hard drives. A single USB 3.0 is brought out to the front, and two 80mm fans are included for cooling.

Kobol has confirmed it won't be trying its luck on a third-party crowdfunding site this time around, preferring to take pre-orders directly starting next week. The Helios64 board will be available for $189, including the mandatory heatsink, while the case will cost $95; a power adapter will be available for $14, and a battery pack for the on-board UPS for $12.

A full-kit bundle of all four items is priced at $295; orders before March 2020 will include a $10 discount to $285, Kobol has confirmed. Both Debian and Ubuntu Linux will be supported officially, with Kobol suggesting the community is likely to port additional operating systems to the board post-launch.

More information is available on the company's announcement page.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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