[REVIEW] ASUSTOR AS-604T 4-bay NAS
This year at Computex, we got pulled into the booth of ASUSTOR by one of our contacts that used to work for QNAP, telling us their new products would be worth the time spent. And so we did, ended up devoting quite some time to a new line of quality NAS devices, an the end even offered a lift back to Taipei city by the company’s president.
ASUSTOR has a bit of an offbeat history. The company is a subsidiary of Asus Inc., yet founded by an ex-QNAP team with the affection for Synology’s ease-of-use DSM and a rock solid ambition to make a better NAS.
Unlike the recently reviewed Shuttle OmniNAS market approach, the ASUSTOR team is far from a group of NAS-freshmen. ASUSTOR is not out there to create “a new NAS”, they want to be the best NAS. And they did have to bring out their best guns to aim at this niche’s biggest ducks, being mainly Synology and QNAP.
ASUSTOR’s key features:
- Optimal price/performance ratio
- Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and hard drive hot swapping
- Windows + Mac + Linux cross-platform file sharing
- Your complete backup solution
- Rich and full featured office apps
- Energy efficient operation with a power rating of 33.2 watts
- CPU: Intel® Atom™ 2.13 GHz Dual-Core Processor
- Memory: 1GB SO-DIMM DDR3 (Expandable. Max. 3GB)
- HDD: 2.5″ / 3.5″ SATA II/ III or SSD x 4¹
- Expansion: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 4, eSATA x 2
- Network: Gigabit Ethernet x 2
- LCD Panel
- Output: HDMI x 1
- System Fan: 120mm x 1
- Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V AC
- Certification: FCC, CE, VCCI, BSMI, C-TICK
- Power Consumption: 33.2W (Operation); 26.2W (Disk Hibernation); 1.4W (Sleep Mode)
- Noise Level: 21.3 dB(A)
- Operation Temperature: 5°C~35°C (40°F~95°F)
- Humidity: 5% to 95% RH
- System Sleep Mode (S3)
- Auto-Standby for Both Internal and External Disks
- Auto Fan Control
- LED Night Mode
- Power Schedule: On, Off, Restart, and Sleep
- Size: 185.5(H) x 170(W) x 230(D) mm
- Weight: 3.5 kg / 7.72 lb
- CIFS/SMB, AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV, Rsync, SSH, SFTP, iSCSI, HTTP, HTTPS
- Internal Disk: EXT4
- External Disk: FAT32, NTFS, EXT3, EXT4, HFS+
- Support Multiple Volumes with Spare Disks
- Volume Type: Single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10
- Support for Online RAID Level Migration
- Support for Online RAID Capacity Expansion
- Maximum Targets: 256
- Maximum LUNs: 256
- Target Masking
- LUN Mapping
- ISO File Mounting
- Supports MPIO & MCS
- Persistent (SCSI-3) Reservations
Having seen most NAS units in production to date, it is a hard task to excite when it comes to stylishly designing a NAS unit. ASUSTOR did a pretty slick job in this department, rendering the high grade QNAP built into a mere flaccid act of appearance. Hard PVC front with cold rolled brushed steel shell and full metal internal skeleton. The ASUSTOR units are heavy, built to the highest standards, no expense spared.
The model we got our hands-on is their 4-bay AS-604T. This unit features a power saving LCD display with 4 interaction buttons. You can use them for a quick-setup and later to check the individual disks and system’s temperature, as well as the IP or some random text you’d like it to display.
The power buttons and USB3.0 copy buttons are very eye catching, they are plain rectangle but with a trans lucid illuminated strip. In total the AS-604T features a power button, system led, LAN1 led, LAN2 led, USB3.0 led the top LCD panel and 4 drive trays.
The trays, in previously tested NAS units they turn out to be fairly boring, either made in plastic with a snap-in mechanism or in metal with or without a locking mechanism. The new ASUSTOR mechanism is something totally refreshing, both in design as operational use. These brackets use a push-down button, once pushed the tray hinge (which has a little spring behind the hinge) will snap out and immediately unlocking the drive for easily removing the bracket. It is so cool and well thought off that I’m sure you’re going to push them a few times and still go “yay”.
Another interesting consideration (for which they deserve a big applause) is the coating of the brackets. ASUSTOR opted to use a metal tray but covered the outsides with thin PVC strips. The way they snap in firmly reduces plenty of the vibration issues some of the competing NAS devices show. To finalize the bracket part, their design is gorgeous even featuring 2 mini LEDS integrated in the bracket to show individual disk activity (or failure). Somehow one doesn’t expect design to matter much for a NAS, yet ASUSTOR hit the spot here.
Finally a 4-bay unit with 1 properly silent 120mm fan by. By default the unit comes with an automatic fan speed control, we recommend not changing that setting as it is quite excellent. When the NAS is in hibernation or idle the fan does spin, but at a very low RPM generating virtually no noise. Once you start using it actively for video streaming or file sharing it start becoming more audible, though not on a noise level we’re used to hear from competing products. I dare say the single 120mm fan rarely hits the 35Db on its most intense cooling moments.
The power supply is integrated in the NAS, which is something commonly found in QNAP’s products. The idea of hiding the PSU inside the NAS has aesthetical advantages, on the negative side it will generate more heat inside which will trigger the fan into pumping some extra warm air to the outside.
A word on power efficiency
We were quite impressed when Synology brought us the DS413 with a continuous power usage of a mere 36w for their latest ARM based 4-bay. ASUSTOR decided they could pinch off a few watts of Synology’s efficiency throne by settling for 33W (33.2W to be precise) and a 1.4W hibernation mode (previously 3.37W on Synology). Although Synology still leads with a 13W hibernation mode over 26W for ASUSTOR, its clear the upcoming ASUSTOR is set to bring on the heath for the other big names in the NAS segment to follow.
Note: Synology’s 36W is a dual core 1Ghz ARM core, where ASUSTOR’s 33W is quite a beefy 2.13Ghz Intel Atom dual core. Both units have 1GB of DDRIII standard, both are upgradeable to 3GB.
ASUSTOR did a splendid job integrating numerous power saving features in their NAS units. Because the unit features a HDMI out for a direct connection with your TV set, one of the features we inquired about during Computex was: “So if this unit is in close proximity to your TV to be able to hook up the HDMI, won’t the 9 LEDs plus the mini LCD display make it a huge distraction?”.
Apparently ASUSTOR kept their promise when they told us they would integrate a feature to be able to control the light settings. And so they did, a world first for a NAS unit. Every LED on the front panel (including the LCD display) can be dimmed or shut down. For example: The power and/or led, its one of those leds who’ll never really stop glowing, and previously the solution we’ve seen users do is tape off the status leds so they won’t distract you anymore. This time round, we have ASUSTOR, a company that (finally) realised some users actually appreciate if they can control which LEDs glow and which ones stay inactive.
Note: It didn’t take long for us to turn off all the leds except for the disk tray LED’s (so we could check when the disks were working), however once you start using the HDMI features you’ll see for yourself that turning off all front LEDs gives you a much better cinematic experience.
Boxee & video over HDMI
If there is one feature the ASUSTORs stick out from the competition (for now) is the extreme measures they take to get you as a user drenched in all the DLNA goodness. By incorporating a HDMI interface, ASUSTOR manages to let the NAS play your video files via Boxee directly hardware-rendered on the fly. Previously you needed a device such as a DLNA compliant TV, a PS3 or laptop/computer to render your video, now you can use your smartphone as a remote control and let the NAS transform itself into a killer HTPC.
This is what ASUSTOR had to say about their boxee support:
“Other than becoming your home’s multimedia server, ASUSTOR NAS can also become a media player through the use of the well-known multimedia player App, Boxee¹. Boxee allows you to play all the multimedia content stored on your NAS on your LCD/LED TV. Simply connect your NAS to your TV using an HDMI cable and you are ready to go. You can also turn your mobile device into a remote control for Boxee by downloading the Boxee Remote or AiRemote App. AiRemote will also allow you to directly play videos on your mobile device.”
Surveillance, download, and various apps
Just like most of the competing NAS products, ASUSTOR offers plenty of support to connect network cameras to your NAS. This is an excellent feature to capture footage if unknown individuals accessed the room with (motion sensor) surveillance cameras present.
Spending a lot of time fiddling with torrents, trackers and BitTorrent clients? Download Center provides a one stop solution that simplifies the entire download process. Powerful features allow you to easily search for and download the files that you need in the blink of an eye.
The AiDownload mobile App allows you to use your mobile device to search, add and manage your download tasks while on the go. BitTorrent downloads have never been this convenient.
With ASUSTOR you can store all your music and movies on your NAS and have them streamed to any Mac or Windows computer within your local/home network. AirPlay, iOS Remote pairing and playlists are supported.
When it comes to apps, there is such a wide range of apps available that it would require a small book to cover each and every single one of them. We would advise you to visit www.ASUSTOR.com/apps and check out the whole list of available apps. From advanced web server to CRM or ticketing system, there is definitely something for everybody!
Tip: check out their web server apps, you can use your ASUSTOR NAS as a web hosting service.
Speed & performance
We are providing you with a simple table of file read/write actions we performed and which represents a more real world model of what users actually do with their NAS devices. These test are averages from Windows (SMB) and Apple (AFP) systems in RAID 5 setup.
- A set of 100 HQ JPEG photos in folder
- A bulk of 1000 itunes audio files
- A 4GB folder containing mixed small files and folders
- A 8GB single file archive
- A 35GB folder with 10*3.5GB files inside
- An 800MB single file archive
- A 350MB episode
|ASUSTOR AS-604T||Copy from NAS in MB/sec AVG – PEAK||Write to NAS in MB/Sec AVG – PEAK|
|1 (100 JPEG)||72 – 112||46 – 54|
|2 (1000 MP3)||72 – 97||60 – 67|
|3 (4GB Folder)||67 – 115||47 – 101|
|4 (8GB Archive)||102 – 117||101 – 107|
|5 (35GB Folder)||110 – 117||94 – 107|
|6 (800MB File)||90 – 100||95 – 106|
|7 (350MB File)||90 – 114||92 – 100|
|ATTO record R5||114 write @4Mb, 118 read @ 4Mb|
Default network cables supplied by the manufacturer have been used for testing. No Jumbo packages used, default MTU1500.
The ADM v1 turned out to be a sturdy Linux based OS. Speeds have been solid and generally speaking quite good. We’d like to place this NAS in between the Synology DS-413 and QNAP TS-469 PRO. It will outperform the DS-413 on many levels, but can’t come close to the Synology DS-412 or QNAP TS-469 PRO in terms of SMB performance poise.
By default the AS-604T has 1x 1GB 1333MHZ DDRIII SODIMM present manufactured by Adata. With most NAS units the term upgrading means that you’ll have to open up the enclosure and remove/disassemble every bolt, screw and part that’s inside the unit before you can properly access the logic board. ASUSTOR took a whole new approach on this term “Servicing”. RAM doesn’t really need replacing anymore, the original 1GB RAM module is at the front of the unit, but the back of the logic board has a 2nd RAM slot. So you end up removing the outer shell and can easily plug in another 1 or 2GB module of RAM without ever having to touch any other internal part.
The power supply turned out to be a modular unit from FSP Group Inc. rated 250W. The fact that it is modular means that by removing 5 screws you can user-replace the power supply should it ever fail to work. You are right to ask “Why do they put a 250W PSU inside a 33W unit, bit of an overkill, not?”. And true it is, however power supplies of this type are all too common and very easy to get from your favorite local or online PC shop meaning that you don’t need to wait for a specific model only manufactured by ASUSTOR to arrive before you can resume operation.
The 120mm fan from Y.S. tech is a 4 pin power managed model, equally very easy to user-replace by any other brand that features 4 pin PWM connectors. For example Noctua fans are incredibly silent and feature this kind of interface. We would not recommend trying to put a 3 pin 120mm fan on the 4 pin logic board, it works, but makes the ADM (ASUSTOR Disk Manager) go mad because it thinks the fan is malfunctioning due to not getting back any speed readings.
It is a fact that quality oozes out of the ASUSTOR AS-604T. The unit shows excellent craftsmanship and fuses the repair advantage of modularity together with proper built quality.
When we are looking at the SMB/SOHO usage, the AS-604T does what it’s supposed to. Living up to the expectation of iSCSI LUN’s, VM, Citrix and Windows server support. Yet currently just seems lacks the killer speeds of a QNAP or Synology. This said, every firmware upgrade seems to improve performance on both read and write cycles.
Another minor point was the 120mm fan which turned out to be a brushless Y.S. Tech (the ones with the big rotor) who are known to cause more vibration compared to the more optimized (and more expensive) bezel fans out there who’ll outperform this one both on airflow per hour and silence level.
The choice of the 250W power supply for a unit that doesn’t use 1/5 of that value does raise a few questions. Also the small 30mm fan behind the PSU is of the silent gust-sound type. An solution here could be integrating a more expensive 120mm (or even a 140mm would technically fit) and replace the enclosed 250W PSU by an open power logic board that gets cooled down by the active airflow inside the case.
Although this is nitpicking, it has to be said that the ASUSTOR AS-604T and similar models, are a niche of their own. The newcomer ASUSTOR will definitely please the heavy multimedia enthusiasts who don’t want to use their PC/MAC/Console to decode multimedia content before it gets streamed to their TV set. Although competitors will jump on their innovative idea, there still is plenty more to go for: The unit is very stylish, top-notch energy efficient and comes with an operating system that will even give Synology’s highly regarded DSM a run for the money.
At the moment this unit retails for +- 749€/700$, which is still a fair premium over competing products. Though we do get the part where the premium built quality has to come with a premium price tag. We would like to rate this unit as very recommended. Pro’s are definitively the sheer quality and usability of the ADM, Negative point would be mainly the high price but you can’t really expect high grade and cheap to combine very well. I’m convinced we’re going to see a lot more from ASUSTOR in the near future.