I was pretty excited when I heard that the ASUSTOR AS5102T 2-bay NAS was on the way for a spin on my test bench. I’ve seen, heard and read a lot about ASUSTOR and their features but never had the pleasure of a hands-on experience. This has changed from today and I’ll be giving this unit a thorough lookover and testing.
The AS5102T is categorized as an NAS for power-users to businesses, and I had no doubt about that from the moment I took it out of the box. The NAS is relative heavy for its size and it’s a result of the absolute awesome build-quality. The AS5102T is powered by an Intel Celeron 2.0 GHz quad-core processor which combines with a rich variety of multimedia output functionality to give you an optimal choice for both work and play.
The unit is built around an Intel Celeron 2.0GHz quad-core CPU with a burst speed up to 2.41GHz. The 2GB SO-DIMM DDR3L memory can be expanded to a maximum of 8GB in two modules, it can take two 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs of your choice and supports hot-swapping as well as easy migration to a new ASUSTOR NAS if this one ever should become too small. There is plenty of connection options with three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and two eSATA ports. One of the USB 3.0 ports is located at the front ‘inside’ the backup button for the same. A simple press of the key and the NAS will start to sync the drive with the specified location-based on your settings.sata, two gigabit ethernet ports,
The two Gigabit Ethernet ports support every possible setup from link aggregation to fail-over and dual-IP setups. The choice is yours. Another amazing feature is the direct output via HDMI 1.4a and S/PDIF. This allows you to connect the NAS directly to your TV, monitor, or audio system. No need for a dedicated HTPC. You can control it via a web interface, smartphone apps, or directly by attaching a keyboard and mouse to the unit. A true multimedia hub for all your photos, music and movies.
As mentioned above, you can control the AS5102T in multiple ways, but ASUSTOR adds one more to the list. They’ve also added an infrared receiver to the NAS and you can get this awesome little remote for it that works with the AS-6, AS-3, AS-2TE, AS50, AS51, and AS70 series. This is awesome, you can truly kickback and play all the media from your NAS in a convenient way.
With the newest version of KODI that was released just a few days prior to this review going live you’ll even be able to control the NAS and KODI with your normal TV remote. There are however two things you need for this to work, a TV that supports CEC function and an extra USB to CEC Adapter. But then it’s just plug-and-play assuming the TV has the CEC function turned on. Your ASUSTOR NAS is now fully integrated into your existing multimedia setup, awesome.
ASUSTOR also made sure that the unit is as eco-friendly and economical as possible. The system will only draw 17.7W in an average configuration compared to the 100-350W a PC easily can draw. The system will automatically enter sleep mode (Schedule S3) when needed and supports auto-standby for both internal and external disks. The 70mm fan is controlled by the system and only spins as fast as it is needed and I didn’t notice it at all during my time with the unit. You can also set your own custom power schedule with on, off, restart and sleep settings.
A really awesome feature that I didn’t expect to find was not only the LED Night Mode, but also that you’re able to customize what LEDs are turned on and off as well as how bright they should shine. The Night mode can be automatic or you can set your own schedule. The more I dive into the depth of this unit, the more I get impressed by it.
I previously mentioned that the unit felt heavy when I unpacked it and that is because it’s a full metal unit, well aside from the front panel and rubber feet, of course. The NAS features an aluminium casing along with a rust and corrosion resistant coating which combines with the metallic hard disk trays to fully make use of the natural cooling properties of metal. This significantly enhances the entire cooling ability of the system and it’s far superior for the job than plastic units who need bigger fans running at higher speeds to keep cool.
The full metal drive trays feature both a locking mechanism to prevent accidental ejection during operation as well as someone taking a drive with him when walking past the unit. Each tray has two LEDs directly built and the locking mechanism when you plug the trays into the unit is simply superb. Same goes when ejecting a drive again, it pops and slides out without a noise or any resistance. It just fits.
A premium device also needs a premium accessories bundle, and the AS5102T has that too. ASUSTOR was so kind to provide us with a remote as part of our NAS, but you’ll have to purchase that seperately if you wish to use a more traditional control of the built-in media player. They NAS also comes with two LAN cables so you instantly can take full advantage of both ports. While other NAS devices provide multiple LAN ports at times, they rarely come with more than one cable. It’s a nice touch from ASUSTOR to include one for each port.
The AS5102T has a tiny footprint with only 10.8cm width, 23cm depth, and 16.35cm height. It weighs about 2kg due to the use of superior metals over plastic and the generally great build quality.
ASUSTOR has a long list of apps ready for your mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, among them AiData, AiRemote, AiVides, AiDownload, AiMusic, AiFoto, AiSecure, and AiMaster. Everything looks to be covered with just the right app for each occasion.
ASUSTOR has one more amazing function that I’d like to tell a bit about before we move on and take a closer look at the device itself. The MyArchive function allows you to use hard disks as removable storage archives. Plug in an archive when you need it and swap it out for another one when it isn’t needed anymore, or just to cut on the power consumption. It’s as easy as plug and play and works by keeping any OS related files off the drives.
There is a limited amount of drive bays reserved for this function and in the case of the AS5102T it is one. Larger models allow for two bays to be used for the MyArchieve function. The lazy person can even buy additional disk trays to eliminate the need for screwing when replacing drives this way. This is also a very cost effective way of storing a lot of data, especially when we look at the Seagate Archive HDDs. The 8TB variant costs less than a 6TB WD NAS drive as we use in our tests, and that is an offer that is hard to resist. But keep in mind that these drives are heavily optimized for reading and will have bad writing performance compared to NAS drives.
While AiRemote and AiDownload will be some of the most used tools, the AiMaster is the one worth highlighting. Not only will it allow you to initialize your new NAS from your mobile device, it also allows you to generate the entire setup, change and modify it at any time anywhere. All you need is a networked connection to your NAS. We’ll take a closer look at just this aspect a bit later in the review.
A closer look inside
We’ve taken a look at the gorgeous unit from the outside, now it’s time to take it apart and see what lies inside and how it’s all put together. The unit is composed out of three basic components, the motherboard, the SATA bridge, and the front panel, all put together with standard connectors. The metal frame is sturdy and stable and it’s also connected properly with enough screws.
Upgrading the memory is real easy on these units. Just loosen a couple of screws on the rear and slide the top cover off. You’ll expose the motherboard that’s protected by the black film on top, so need to worry less about damaging something. It also makes it easy to see where the RAM slots are, as that’s the only two places that you can fold it back. The unit is using DDR3 SO-DIMM modules and can take up to 8GB total RAM.
The only, and tiny, flaw on this unit is that you have to break your warranty to properly clean the fan. The warranty sticker is placed above a screw that you need to remove in order to take the rear panel off and get full access; most people never clean their NAS systems and with compressed air if, so this shouldn’t be to big an issue that often.
The motherboard looks fairly simple, and it is. The dual-core CPU is passive cooled and the board features a Flash module for the system.
The Flash module is made by AData and is using 1GB Toshiba TC58NVG3SOFTA00 NAND and a Silicon Motion SM3252Q controller.
The SATA bridge doesn’t feature much to talk about, but it’s well-built and slides perfectly into place with the chassis.
The 2GB memory module is using a one-sided layout with 4 chips that run at 1600MHz with CL11 timings and 1.35V consumption.
Below is a compilation of some of the chips used in the system, some that might be hard to see on the previous images. We have the Realtek ALC887 HD Audio chip, a Texas Instruments DP139, an ASMedia ASM1074L USB 3 controller and two BCM57781 Broadcom NetLink twelfth-generation 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet LAN controller.
System Specifications, Features & Power Consumption
ASUSTOR has their ADM operating system and the dashboard resembles those of mobile phones and smartphones a lot. It features basic functions and an app store from the beginning and it automatic expands with icons for new apps you install, and there are plenty to choose between.
The power consumption is measured at the outlet and the device itself is packed with all possible disk, internal and external. This will give a look at a real world usage scenario and the power draw coming from that.
Setup – Initialization & Storage
We’re getting to the part I’ve been looking forward to ever since I heard of it, the AiMaster app for smartphones and tablets. You can fully initialize your new ASUSTOR NAS from this nifty little tool as well as control pretty much every single aspect of it. It’s really intuitive to use and you can initialize your brand new NAS with just a few steps.
The only thing I’ve done with the NAS to this point is to connect the LAN cables to my switch, the PSU to the outlet and turned the NAS on. I’m grabbing my tablet while it’s booting and head to the couch, kick back and visit the Google Play store to download the app. By the time I’ve done that, the NAS has booted and I can start the app right away. A push on the plus button at the top will allow me to add a new NAS to my list of devices. It can find the device in multiple ways, I’m however choosing the Auto Discovery to see how little I actually need to do. A few seconds later the AiMaster app shows me my new AS5102T NAS.
Once you select a server on the list, the app will tell you the basic information so you’re sure that you got the correct device. This is if you have multiple ASUSTOR NAS on the same network, which could very well be. It will show you the server name, model number, and IP address.
I’ve made sure that this is the correct device and hit the Start initialization button. Now we have two options, One-click setup or a custom one. Again I want to see how little I have to and pick the One-click method. The server needs an administrator password and you’ll need to select how you want to format the inserted hard drives, if geared maximum capacity, data protection, or rather a balanced setup.
And the one-click setup really was a one-click setup. The NAS is starting to initialize the drives and create my basic configuration. You can optionally sign in to your ASUSTOR ID or register for a new one, or skip that part for later.
I skipped it at first to just get through the initialization in as few steps as possible, but all it requires is an email address to link to. Next we’re greeted with a dashboard that looks just like our normal ADM web interface. This is awesome and we instantly see that we have access to all the basic functions from Access Control over Activity monitor and we can even install new apps and modify our current ones directly from the app.
The first thing one should do when getting a new NAS is always to check for updates. We want to have both the latest additions, as well as a system with as few bugs as possible. We found one, so that will be installed right away.
The app will tell the NAS to download the new ADM version while it keeps you updated on the progress, once done the system will be rebooted and you can continue where you left off.
You can also monitor your system’s performance, see how much the CPU and network is working and check on the disk usage. You can also check up on the running processes to see if everything is in order and what consumes how much memory and CPU power.
Managing services and users is just as easy in the AiMaster app as it is from the web-based ADM dashboard, maybe even easier. You have everything you need on just a few pages and it’s all easy to find.
Viewing your installed apps, turning them on and off as well as installing new isn’t any different either. It just works. I installed all the basics apps such as the ASUSTOR Portal, Chrome, UPnP Media Server as well as KODI right away. The ASUSTOR AS5102T has an HDMI output and works as an HTPC as well, and that’s something I definitely want to use.
The final thing that I’m going to show you from the AiMaster app is the About this NAS page. You can quickly get all the relevant information on your device from CPU and memory to server name and ADM version.
Setup – Basic configuration & Add-Ons
The ASUSTOR AS5102T has a very simple login interface, but a stylish one that also shows you a thumbnail look of your device – but this design can be changed to your liking. One thing to learn right away is that when something is grey, then it’s turned off, and if it’s coloured it’s turned on. So in the case of the above image, it’s set to not stay signed in. Okay, let’s get down to business and this NAS configured.
Once we’ve entered our administrator details set during the initialization and login in, we’re presented with a Welcome guide. Just hit the start button and the ADM guide will show you the basics and where to find them. This is always a welcome feature when starting out with a new brand and it can just be closed for those who are familiar with the layout and usage.
Now that we’ve entered the administrative dashboard, we’ll just hit the first icon available and start to create our users. It’s always recommended to create individual users for everyone that will access the device, including yourself. Only use the admin account for administration. It keeps everything a lot safer. I’ve found that using my name as username for these reviews fits with both length and security limitations that some systems have, and it’s one I can remember from review to review.
You can also enter a description for each user as well as define the internal user id in order to categorize them. The email address is optional, but you will need to enter a password. Other user features include the ability to disallow the change of password and an automatic expiration time for limited access.
The next step for most people would be to create more shared folders. Not everyone might like the default layout or they just need different ones or more. The default folders can also be hidden so they don’t bother you in your network environment. You can hide shares from the network environments as well as encrypt single folders.
The Storage Manager gives you an easy view of all your internal and external drives and their configuration. You also have a view at the current configuration, how it’s doing and how much space is used. You can of course also remove it and create a new, but more on that later.
Relevant drive information can be read from the S.M.A.R.T. page that reads the data from the individual drives.
The settings page includes all the basic as well as advanced settings you’ll be looking for. You can set everything from the sign in page style and port for the administration panel as well as the network configuration, VPN setup, notification methods, ADM Defender, update and so much more. Everything is easy to find, just think where you’d put it and it’s there; I like it.
Since the ASUSTOR AS5102T is a premium NAS and features 2 LAN ports, we’ll also take a look at the Link Aggregation Wizard. You can easily team the two ports together for load balancing, backup, and redundancy.
While I was creating this review, ASUSTOR released a new version of ADM. In fact I have been waiting for it before I finish it – see all the new features and benefits. The screenshot below shows version RFU1, but there is an RFU6 out at the time of writing. I’ve also updated the NAS with that version for the tests.
You might have changed your mind about the disk configuration you set during the initialization and want to change that. That’s easily done in the Storage Manager where all you have to do is delete the old volume. It will automatically start-up the Wizard to create a new setup with just a few steps.
All you have to do is select which mode and which disks to use and confirm with your administrator password that you’re sure you want to replace the volume with a new one.
There are a lot of extra apps that you can install on your new ASUSTOR NAS and you can easily narrow down your search area with the different categories at your disposal. Keep track of your installed apps and update them when needed or manually install third-party downloaded apps. You can do it all here.
There is a wide variety of apps available from XMBC and Kodi media players, Chrome web browser all the way to Mail-Server, Photo Gallery, SQL and Web servers and so much more.
If you still didn’t find what you were looking for, then there is a good chance that someone is working on it and that it might be found in the Beta Apps section. There are further apps to be found from Logitech Media server over aMule to a Spotify player.
Setup – More ADM Features & ADM 2.4 update
ADM is so packed with features and function, I’d like to show some more of it. You can for example design your own sign-in page style. There are templates to choose from just as you can upload and use images from both your system and NAS directly. The ADM system is also multi-language in case you would like it on a different language than English, just as you can define what code page to be used.
I’ve previously mentioned the LED settings, but I thought I’d also show them. You can set the brightness to fit the location and also turn off individual LEDs that you might not need or want to be lit up. You can also define when the built-in buzzer should sound and not and whether the reset button should be disabled or not. Use the last one with care as you could lock yourself out of the system.
The ADM defender is a combination of a firewall and the Network Defender that hosts your black and white lists, as well as trusted IP ranges. You should add your static system to the trusted list as it will prevent you from locking yourself out with mistyped passwords.
Tha backup system is very comprehensive and features Rsync, FTP, and Cloud backup. You’ll also find the settings for the one-touch USB backup button on the front of the device here. Definitely a page that you should check out.
Within the System Information you’ll also find the Dr.ASUSTOR. This nifty little tool will check up on your system and let you know if anything is wrong or if there’s something to pay attention to. You can also export the health report in order to submit it when having trouble of one sort of another.
The activity monitor has all the information you’ll want too, but on separate pages. You can check up on the CPU and memory usage, Network bandwidth or disk usage, just as you can view a list of what processes are running.
The download center is very straight forward, just like all the other parts of the NAS. But it’s most likely one of the features that home users will use most besides the Portal. There is no need to have your system running for your downloads just so you can copy them all to the NAS when finished. Let the NAS download it instead and you already have it right there on the system, ready to watch on your TV.
Having a built-in file explorer makes things a lot easier, but most of all faster. Windows is probably the slowest system to copy files and the transfers are further slowed down by the tunnel through your system. Copy or moving files directly on the NAS is far more productive and effective.
Now we’re getting to one of the really cool features, the ASUSTOR Portal. The Portal is the interface displayed when using the HDMI interface for direct output. You can define what information it will display and what default App to run on startup. Further settings include the resolution and frequency, wallpaper to use and overscan settings. It even has a screensaver to protect the connected monitor.
KODI is the new version of XMBC, and it’s better than ever. You can’t access its settings from the ADM, but they are the same place as most of our readers are used to from their own XMBC setup. A familiar interface with a new name. The UPnP Media server is perfect to stream your content to capable devices such as AirPlay or DLNA device.
The last part of the ADN OS that I’m going to show you today, is the Surveillance Center. There isn’t that much to show you without a camera to attach and connect, but you still get a feel for the web interface and the possibilities. You can watch the streams live, playback recorded videos, and watch the logs.
There is plenty more to discover in ASUSTOR’s ADM operating system, way too much to cover in a single NAS review. But I can tell you that it is one of the best NAS systems on the market, there is no doubt about that. It’s packed with features and everything was real easy to both find and configure.
ADM 2.4 Software Update
ASUSTOR released the newest version of the ADM, version 2.4, while I was writing this review, so I also wanted to cover what’s new. One of the major improvements is the shared folder encryption mechanism. The new method effectively increases data encryption speeds and properly releases storage space when deleting files within.
Solid state drives become cheaper every day and 1TB drives are at a price where people start to consider them for a their NAS system. To support this, ASUSTOR added support for TRIM so the SSDs in your NAS can maintain stable read and write performance while controlling the frequency of overwriting to specific blocks and thereby extending the life of the SSDs.
The SNMP Network Management Protocol was also added. It provides a set of standards that allow managers on a single network management system to collect information from all network equipment in his network. ADM 2.4.0 supports SNMP v1, v2c, and v3 and also provides a trap notification setting for significant events.
Improvements on the ADM Network Defender includes the trusted, black, and white lists that we saw earlier. You can now also define rules by origin or area via the Geo IP expansion module.
- Supermicro C7Z87-OCE
- Intel Xeon E3-1230Lv3
- Excelleram EP3001A 2GB PC3-10666
- Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
Disks in Product:
- Western Digital RED 6TB 3.5-inch
- Angelbird SSD2go Pocket 512GB
We would like to thank our sponsors for supplying us with the components needed for the test system as well as drives.
The performance of the system we use to test with isn’t a major factor when testing a device of this sort. The performance of the NAS box comes down to the network it is running on, the protocol used to connect, and its own internal hardware.
With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilise and therefore give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future.
Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
As part of the testing, the NAS is connected through a Netgear GS724TPS managed Gigabit switch and then to our test bench to give the best real world setup test that we can and the NAS itself will be packed with Western Digital’s latest RED NAS drives. Intel’s NASPT software does require us to drop the memory down to 2GB, as using any more would lead to data caching and therefore skew the results.
I will be testing the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available as well as single drive. The USB 3.0 speeds will be measured with our trusted Angelbird SSD2go Pocket drive.
HD Video Playback
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2 Gb file is read in 256 kB blocks sequentially from the drive. This simulates where a 720p HD video is being watched across the network to a media player on the other end.
2x HD Video Playback
2x HD Video Playback works with exactly the same data set as the first HD Video test, however this time the same content is streamed twice from the NAS box simulating two simultaneous streams being made to external media players.
4x HD Video Playback
In the same way that the 2x Video Playback streams to the equivalent of 2 external media players at the same time, the test here doubles that again up to a simulated 4 media players.
HD Video Record
The HD Video Record test is as the name suggests a write test to the NAS box. A single 2 GB file is written to the device in 256 kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
HD Playback & Record
The HD playback and record test now put the drive under the same single record and playback tests as before, but now at the same time. This will factor for the quick changes needed to switch between reading and writing two large blocks of data across the network to the device.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12 MB reads and 14 MB writes in varying sizes of blocks. The activity is predominantly non-sequential with the majority of access time made up of writing to the drives. There are quiet periods of read/write activity interrupted with busy periods to present a difficult workload on the drives.
The office productivity simulation is very similar to the content creation, with a total of 607 files written to and read from the drive. A total of 1.4 GB of data is written to and read from the drive with a close balance between each made – the majority of write access is made up of 1 kB writes.
File Copy To NAS
This test quite simply put copies a single large file from the test system to the NAS box to show how well the system can sustain a single write speed. The 1.4 GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64 kB blocks.
File Copy From NAS
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, however it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4 GB file is read off the NAS in 64 kB blocks.
Directory Copy To NAS
In the directory copy to NAS test, a directory tree representing that of a typical commercially available office suite is copied to the NAS to trace the bulk copy of a complex directory. A total of 2833 files making up 247 MB are moved, but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4 kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
Directory Copy From NAS
In the same way that the file copy from NAS traces the same file back across to the test system, the directory copy from NAS does exactly the same but to the entire directory that it copied across previously.
Last of all is a test based around a photo album. When a photo album is viewed on-screen, only the images that you see are loaded from the drive and so when you scroll through the album, the new images have to be fetched and read. The album here contains 169 photos with varying file sizes based on the size, quality and detail in the image. Reading the files in a photo album puts an unusual read load upon the drive as the metadata is read, a thumbnail constructed and finally the image viewed.
Complete Benchmark: Average Throughput
Intel NASPT provides a summary at the end of each benchmark, included in this is the average throughput from all the previous test as one number. This is a pretty good overall view of a device and as such I’ve started to included this as well. The numbers below are the average of the previous 12 tests.
This isn’t the cheapest unit on the market, especially considering that it’s only a 2-bay unit. But the price is justified on the ASUSTOR AS5102T as it comes with plenty of performance and features. You can, for example, find it at Amazon for $408.00 in the US, at Overclockers UK for £329.99, or Amazon DE for €397.75.
The AS5102T 2-bay NAS was the first one I had the pleasure to test from ASUSTOR, and what a pleasure it was. The AS5102T is a premium unit from build quality to features. The solid metal and aluminium chassis doesn’t just look great while providing a sturdy structure for the system, it also helps with the heat dissipation and thus it can do with a small and slower spinning fan than many other devices.
The ASUSTOR Portal is amazing in combination with the HDMI and support for both keyboard and mouse, but also IR remote controls and smart apps. You have every piece of the system at your control no matter where you are, from initialization to watching your favourite movie directly on your TV. DLNA and AirPlay are also supported for streaming to devices further away than the length of an HDMI cable.
The performance was great in all the benchmarks, and the AS5102T did great on all tests. The web interface and smart apps alike are equally fast and responsive, which is great to see. The upgradeable memory is another bonus and I’m loving the amount of connections. With three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and two eSATA ports you can attach all the extra storage and devices you want. The two LAN ports allow for fail-over and redundancy just as well as load balancing. Everything you want from an NAS.
I was thoroughly impressed by ASUSTOR’s operating system, ADM. I found it very intuitive to use and it was easy to find every single function I was looking for. The amount of apps available to install is great and there won’t be many wishes left open. You’ll find anything from media servers over CMS systems to email server and browsers.
A somewhat minor feature is the ability to control both what LEDs are turned on, but also how bright they shine. This is wonderful when the NAS is located in the field of view or bedroom where you don’t want any unnecessary light. Packed with single share 256-bit encryption abilities, SMB 2.0, Windows AD and ACL support just as well as being Citrix ready. The AS5102T has it all, whether you’re a hardcore and enthusiast home user like me or you run a business. The AS5102T won’t let you down.
- Great performance
- Solid quality
- Steel and Aluminium structure instead of plastic
- Impressive feature set
- Dual LAN, USB 3.0, and eSATA
- Price might be too much for some
“ASUSTOR didn’t just convince me with great performance from the AS5102T, but also with features and build quality. This is an amazing unit well worth considering. I’d buy it.”
Thanks to ASUSTOR for providing us with this review sample.