ASUSTOR AS-304T NAS Review [T-break Tech (Middle East)]
(T-break Tech (Middle East) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Networked storage drives have really come leaps and bounds in recent years, increasing in storage while keeping costs fairly low. These network drives offer a quick and easy solution for storing or backing up data, and generally are very easy to set up and administer. But sometimes you're looking for a more flexible solution which makes upgrading drives a snap or offers better features than something you might buy off the shelf. In these scenarios, a Network Attached Storage (NAS) would come in handy, which offers you plenty of storage options and better data reliability. The ASUSTOR AS-304T is one such device which I played around this week to see if investing in a NAS at home or a small office would be something to consider.
Build Quality & DesignThe AS-304T is certainly very ordinary looking, sporting four removable drive bays at the front and just three simple LEDs. Each drive can be popped out and installed in a few minutes, and is held in place in each enclosure with just a few simple screws. On the front you have a power button and LEDs for HDD and power, as well as a USB 3.0 port at the bottom which lets you quickly copy data to and from the NAS onto an external drive or USB stick. Around the back you have a few more ports including power, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, 3.5mm audio, and an HDMI port. Overall the AS-304T feels quite solid and well built, and even the drive enclosures felt very sturdy when sliding drives in and out.
SetupSetting up the AS-304T is twofold. First and rather obviously, you need to slide in some hard drives. My review unit came with four 2TB WD Caviar Black drives which fitted neatly into each drive bay. Once your drives are in place, you simply connect the AS-304T to your network via the included network cable, and plug in the power. The device takes a few seconds to initialize and boot up, which gives you enough time to get to a PC to start the actual setup process.
The included CD contains a simple software that will detect the AS-304T on your network and open its browser-based configuration wizard. The wizard is a dream to use, and lets you perform either a 'Quick' setup (great for novices), or an Advanced one, which lets you specify network settings as well as the type of drive configuration you need. Either way everything is explained properly in each step, and the chances of things going wrong are almost zero. Having said that, I have to note that the AS-304T was unable to initialize the System Volume when all four drives were plugged in – I had to initialize the system with just the first drive inserted, after which I plugged the rest of the drives in and rebuilt the volume again.
As you have multiple drives available, you can play around with the way the drives are used if you use the Advanced setup. RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD are all supported, so you have complete control over what works best for you. After you've completed the setup process and initialized your drives, you're all set to go.
SpecificationsPerformance & FeaturesThe main dashboard of the AS-304T looks quite straightforward, offering options to change settings, users, view external devices, system health, and much more. But where the AS-304T really does start to shine is the App Central, which allows you to further configure your NAS to do some pretty remarkable things. The App Central gives you access to various apps that can be downloaded and installed directly on to the AS-304T – most of them don't even need a reboot. You can download uTorrent and have files automatically download to your drive, or install the Dropbox plugin and always have an up-to-date copy of your Dropbox files on your NAS. This is very useful for scenarios at home where you want to work on a file that's on your Dropbox but you don't want to install the software on a particular PC or sync all your files. You simply open the file from your network store, make your changes, and the AS-304T automatically uploads the new file to your Dropbox.
What makes the AS-304T stand out from other NAS devices is the inclusion of an HDMI port on the back. Yes, that one little port makes a world of difference, simply because you can install xbmc on to the AS-304T and then connect it to your TV to turn it into a media server. This is by far one of the best features of the AS-304T, and you can do something similar using the available iTunes Server to stream your music library. You can navigate using an optional remote control that you buy separately, or plug in a USB keyboard and mouse to control it that way (wireless works as well). The fact that you have one device that is able to store and stream your media (while simultaneously downloading things) is truly worthwhile. No more leaving your PC or laptop on to download something – just leave everything up to the AS-304T.
Of course the most important thing here is performance, and in this regard the AS-304T doesn't disappoint. When being used as a media server the AS-304T had no issues streaming music or video, and the xbmc interface meant that everything is presented in an organized manner. Even when I was copying gigabytes of data and streaming content at the same time, the AS-304T never once faltered or had any issues.
The AS-304T did fairly well in our NASPT tests, which we conducted with the device in a RAID 5 array. We got fairly promising speeds across the board, and even file copies in Windows went through without a hitch. A single 2.3GB file being copied resulted in about 81 MB/s, while the same file copied back off the NAS clocked up a speed of 53MB/s.
My only slight quip was that I wish there was a second Ethernet port on the AS-304T, simply because if this device is used in a small office where there are plenty of computers accessing it, users might see a few slowdowns. But this is hardly a negative against the AS-304T, so I'm willing to overlook it.
ConclusionIt's clear that ASUSTOR meant business with the AS-304T, as it's perfectly positioned to cater to the needs of the home media enthusiast or a small office that needs a robust network storage solution. The addition of media capabilities makes the AS-304T an incredibly easy to use media server, not to mention the plethora of other configurations such as FTP, or Web Server that offer endless things you can do with the AS-304T. Not to mention you also configure the AS-304T for remote file access, making it more than just a place to dump data on your network. You'll of course need to factor in the high initial cost of the AS-304T as well as the costs of the hard drives, so it's wise to start with one or two drives and then work your way from there. If you're looking for a stable NAS with plenty of configuration options, then the AS-304T is the best thing you'll purchase this year.
The ASUSTOR AS-304T is priced at AED 2,450 (no HDD included)
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