Thecus N2520 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In the latter part of last year I took a look at Thecus N2560 2-bay Intelligent NAS – one of only two white systems that Thecus have in their library and as a budget busting system it really stood its ground in a market which is getting more and more competitive as time moves on. Whilst I looked at the N2560, I made a number of references to the N2520 which we have here today, simply because it is slightly more powerful system with double the RAM and a slightly faster SoC processor running at 1.6GHz. It is therefore only fair that at some stage I take a look at the N2520 to see if it is really worth the move to the higher performance model, or if this is still a worthy contender in the market.

At the time of the N2560 review we could see that there was around £40 difference in cost between the two systems and moving forward to today we note that the price gap is still roughly the same – more importantly though, the price of BOTH units has come down considerably. Where the N2560 was retailing previously for around £270, the same unit can now be found for around £210; whilst the N2520 has dropped from £230 to £170.

As a refresh for those who have not had a chance to read my review on the N2560, these two units are the some of the first units that Thecus have to offer which break away from the matte black chassis that is typically associated with a NAS hardware (they have previously built some silver units as well for the consumer market) and further more they pack some of the latest embedded hardware that Intel has to offer in the form of a 1.2GHz SoC – offering good levels of performance with running costs that are much lower than that of a non SoC based unit.

Alongside the chassis, Thecus include a spread of paperwork, a mains adaptor with regional kettle lead, reusable cable ties and network cable and also a pair of plastic rails, giving the N2520 a totally tool-free design – just what the entry-level user wants.

In addition to the typical accessory line-up, the N2520 comes with a flash drive containing the latest version of Thecus OS software, which can be loaded on to the system during its initial setup run. After this you have a free flash drive to use as you wish.

Thecus N4800Eco 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In today’s market, performance, connectivity and software features are not the only areas that NAS manufacturers have to focus on when developing a new product. As businesses strive to save overhead costs wherever they can, the focus is now shifting over to saving power. Although performance is still a key area of focus, like desktop components, trying to get as much processing power as possible whilst using as little power as possible is the next step in the NAS evolutionary timeline. The N4800Eco that we are taking a look at today is by no means a newcomer to the market, in fact it saw its debut in the early part of last year, but with so many systems on offer today, Thecus are looking to give this system a second push to the market, proving that you don’t have to get the latest system in order to get the best balance between performance and cost of ownership.

As its name suggests, the N4800Eco is in fact a direct relative to the renowned N4800 4-bay system that came to market in the middle part of 2012. Powered by a 3rd generation Intel Atom D2700 series CPU, the N4800 once again proved that it was a strong contender in the SMB market as it superseded the N4200 that we took a look at ourselves. Where the N4800Eco differs over the N4800 mainly comes down to the price point. Aside from the removal of the battery backup unit, the N4800 and the Eco are almost identical part-for-part, although the Atom CPU has been updated to a D2701 from the D2700 as seen on the N4800 – giving a slightly better power consumption in respect to the older unit. The Eco branding is there to show that it is a more economically cost-effective product to buy, with the 20% power saving that is advertised relating to the power difference between this system and the much older N4200.

Even though the N4800Eco is positioned within the SMB market, we find a number of features that also make it a worthy consideration for the SOHO market, with full multimedia support through a HDMI connection and a built-in media front end for direct playback of content from the system itself. Since the launch of OS6, Thecus now ship this system with the latest Linux-based OS, offering up a more fluid and intuitive user interface, with support for link aggregation, McAffee Antivirus, Cloud access as well as the sharing of devices connected through the systems eSATA and USB3.0 ports.

Showing off it economical traits, the box for this NAS is very green when compared to any other box I’ve seen from Thecus. A few key features and specifications are printed beside a picture of the system and there is a highlight to show if its 20% power saving that can be expected. Inside the box we get a typical Thecus package including an AC power adapter, network cable and screws for installing both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives and a set of keys for locking the drives in place. A set of CDs with various extras and a set of manuals give everything we need to get going.

Synology DS414slim 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When looking at bulk storage and consequently network storage, the generic blueprint that virtually every vendor follows is a desktop or rackmount system with an even number of drive bays, each with the capacity to hold the largest drives that can be bought on the market today – which come in a 3.5″ format, although we do find a few situations where 2.5″ SSDs are used based on the application of the storage array. Whilst this blueprint is perfectly fine, on the consumer end of the market where we are not always looking at jaw dropping capacities and performance, a typical 4-bay system is not exactly the easiest of things to tuck away under the desk or in the closet and then we have to factor in the cost of getting up and running. 3.52 drives are the only way to go if you want large amounts of storage on hand, but if you want a more modest setup with a system the doesn’t end up acting like a foot rest under your desk, there are barely any options out there to choose from.

2.5″ drives are, for the most part, forgotten about when it comes to mass storage. Unless you are talking about solid state drives, we generally find people taking the 3.5″ route, without even considering 2.5″ spinning platters, which are left for the entry-level notebooks and budget ultra-SFF systems and this is reflected [as highlighted above] in the NAS market from bottom to top. Wanting to break away from this generalised blueprint, Synology have made an ambitious move to shrink down their popular DS414 line of systems into a tiny, baby-NAS like package which runs solely on 2.5″ drives, making the presence of a NAS in the home a lot more subtle than before.

With a top end raw capacity of only 4TB, Synology’s DS414slim is not going to be a storage monster for those who have tons of films, music and photos to store, but for the average Joe who is looking for a tidy, compact system to blend in with their minimalist desktop setup with a nice and reasonable storage capacity of 3TB (when in RAID5), the slim does start to sound like an interesting investment. It’s size is not a sign that we are working on skeleton features either. Whilst we only find a pair of USB3.0 ports and a pair of GbE ports alongside four drive bays, the number of software features that are at your disposal are virtually the same as those found on a full-on NAS such as the DS414 which this is related to. By the time we factor in the lower cost of drives; around £55 / $76 each for one of Western Digital’s 1TB Red drives which are build primarily for the consumer NAS market and what you can have here is a tidy little system that offers just as much as its larger siblings.

Whether or not this move turns out to be a successful move by Synology comes done to the build, features, ease of use and ultimately the performance. After all there is not point in getting such a tiny system if the performance is not worth the cost.

Packed in to the relatively tiny box, Synology provide a power adaptor with regional mains plug, a pair of patch leads, a set of screws, a quick installation guide and something a little bit different – a base on which the unit sits.

Thecus N4560 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


Over the last few years, the NAS market as a whole has been growing at a steady rate and in when we start to break things down and look at the rate of growth in the individual market sectors, the rate of sales in the consumer group has seen a far greater growth than any other market sector. Part of this growth is down to market exposure where users are seeing far more units on offer through both the retail and e-tail channels; however the price is a more crucial factor and this is what is now bringing the NAS concept into the limelight for the SOHO market. When we go back two to three years and look at the total cost of ownership; that’s the cost of purchasing the NAS itself along with drives to store data on then with the cost of running the unit – things were not looking that good and the price of one of a typical 4-bay system in some instances was easily a four-figure sum of money – in other words, simply too much of a cost to swallow considering you could easily buy a set of drives and whack them into your desktop system for a whole lot less.

Since that time, the total cost of ownership has dropped considerably, with the price per GB of hard disk storage at its best to date and with NAS products maturing with more and more features, but for a lower price we are now starting to see the SOHO NAS ownership numbers grow more and more to the point where if you want to share a large amount of data between multiple systems, the NAS is now the go to place for your storage needs.

In the latter part of last year I took a look at Thecus’ N2560 – a highly affordable system that brought style as well as substance to the SOHO market with a white plastic chassis and tool-free installation on the outside and inside one of the first SoC designs inside which offers a high amount of performance for its size whilst keeping the power consumption nice and low in the process. The N4560 that I’m taking a look at today is, as one may see, is an extension to the new line of affordable systems and alongside the larger space to accommodate four drives, the N4560 packs an Atom based SoC to keep the performance at a good level whilst keeping the power consumption down (although the choice of drive will have an impact on the total consumption) and to round the package off, we are presented with a good array of features, but not too many that would flood a rookie user with options, resulting in a confused experience.

The N4560 comes in a light blue coloured box and alongside the system itself we get a fairly standard Thecus bundle, including two sets of screws for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drive installation, keys to lock the drive bays, IEC kettle lead and patch lead and a spread of paperwork with warranty information, basic setup steps and a CD with desktop software to accompany the system.

Thecus N2310 2-bay Intelligent NAS Review

Introduction


In the opening weeks of this year at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I took some time to meet up with the guys from Thecus to see what they had coming to the market in 2014. Although their stand was comparatively small compared to the hundreds of other vendors that made an appearance, their goal was straight and to the point, displaying a small selection of their latest systems and letting the performance and strong recognition within the market do most of the talking. For those who may not know, Thecus are part of the top ten NAS vendors globally, covering every sector of the market; from the home based entry-level user, right up to the large enterprise environment that we see in data centres, for example.

Of the items that Thecus had to show off, one of the systems caught my attention due to its slightly different design and also the highlight of Thecus’ new ‘Intelligent NAS’ Software. Built for a new line of systems, Intelligent NAS is designed to make the setup and management process of a network storage system less daunting for the first time user, where the thought of having to connect through IP addresses and look for a system manually is, for many, quite scary. As a result of the reservations that are put against network storage, the result is the addition of hard drives to computers and sharing the content out from there – this in fact can be a lot harder than using a NAS; believe it or not.

Ease of use is not the only factor that entry-level users look at when they’re shopping around for a new bit of tech. With today’s market bursting at the seems with different products that pack tons of features and the latest hardware to deliver top-level performance figures for their class, budget solutions right on the entry-level end of the scale are limited and once the cost of drives is taken into account, the overall setup cost can be a little off-putting. This is where the N2310 comes into play. This compact 2-bay system takes a small step back in the processor evolution, resolving back to a single core SoC running at 800MHz along with 512MB DDR3 RAM, USB3.0 support and a Realtek Gigabit Ethernet port. Mix this in with Thecus OS6 user interface and an ultra low price point of around £120 in the UK and $150 in the US and what you have is the recipe for a feather-weight champion in its class.

Ultimately the performance for the price is where we will be most interested along with the question if single core processor is able to drive a strong battle against the bigger, more beefy and more expensive options that are out there on this end of the scale.

The contents of the N2310 package are relatively standard for Thecus. A warranty card, setup CD and quick installation guide, along with screws for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, a patch lead and mains power adaptor give all that is needed, although I’ve still not worked out as of yet why sixteen screws are included for 3.5″ drives considering there are only twelve holes to fill.

Western Digital EX2 2-Bay 8TB My Cloud NAS Review

Introduction


Since the launch of Western Digital’s single bay My Cloud NAS and its bigger brother the four by EX4 is we have seen a strong movement over to cloud-based storage and thought of doing so less daunting. The latest addition to my cloud family comes in the form of a 2-bay system, offering both the benefit of a multi drive setup with the option for data redundancy along with a simple clean design and a small desktop footprint.

Like the other two systems in the cloud family EX2 is optimised from Western Digital’s own red NAS drives and the particulars system that we have today to look at comprises of two 4TB drives giving us a total of 8 TB of storage in RAID0 mode, although out-of-the-box system is configured in RAID1 leaving 4 TB of space to work with. Like the EX for the EX two comes in a number of different capacities including 4, 6 and 8TB models, along with a disk-less option for those who want the flexibility to install their own drives.

At the heart of the EX2 we are given a Marvell Armada 370 single core 1.2 GHz processor, along with 512 MB DDR3 memory, two SATA 6Gbps interfaces, a single Gigabit Ethernet port and two USB three ports. On the software management side we are given the same interface as seen on the my cloud and the EX four along with the same mobile application as previously seen.

with the EX two following in the footsteps of the older MyBook Live in respect to its design, it is suitable for both the consumer and prosumer environment giving the functionality to access our files on the go along with data redundancy, which for some of us is more critical these days and prices starting at around £160 or $190 US.

Inside the blue box which we have come to associate with Western Digital’s My Cloud products and alongside the NAS, we have a single Ethernet cable, DC power adapter with UK and EU tips (regional) and a few bits paperwork with warranty and quick setup information.

Synology DS414j 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


Throughout the Synology product range each other models available can come in one of three variations the first of these is the standard series and this has no indicator after the name giving us a model name such as DS414. The second option, which is indicated by plus after the model number indicates that this is a performance system offering the best features that Synology have to offer, whilst the third option indicated by a ‘j’ indicates that a model is geared for the entry-level user whose focus is more on getting the largest capacity as possible was not worried about performance either things too much. Typically, ‘j’ series systems have tended to come with a single core processor and by doing so this has kept the price point down, which for the entry-level user is more important than performance.

All is about to change however, the system that we are looking at today – the DS414j – is Synology’s first system to offer a dual core processor on an entry-level-based system. in addition to a dual core processor we also see for the first time USB 3.0 been featured and once we take the latest version of DSM into account solution for users in a small office and home office environment as well as home-media enthusiasts who want a centralised and highly accessible storage solution for an affordable price.

This is not all although, as we have seen over the last few months there has been more of a demand for cloud based storage solutions and when we look at systems like Western Digital’s My Cloud, EX2 and EX4, which are directly aimed for cloud users, it is easy to see why, in general, the home based user is moving over to this form storage. Where the DS414j differs however, is that its primary role is as a local storage device and then secondly it offers the cloud features; rather than the opposite way round.

Aside from a typical feature set which we would expect from a Synology NAS, we also find support for 5TB drives allowing for up to 20 TB of raw storage, along with read and write speeds of around 100MB/s and 80MB/s respectively. Rounding all of this up into a package that is set to retail for around $390 in US and £260 in the UK, it looks like Synology may have just hit the proverbial nail on the head for the home or entry-level user.

Like most Synology systems, the DS414j comes in a brown monochrome box and aside from a power adapter, CAT5e patch lead and a quick setup guide, we have three sets of screws one each for 3.5 inch and 2.5 inch drives, with the third set the locking each drive trays into place once installed into the system.

Synology DS1513+ 5-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When we look at the number of bays that each and every NAS on the market has to offer, typically we find the bays rising in multiples of 2, although we do find that there are 5 and 7 bay options out there as well for those who want to bridge the price gap between the 4-6 bay price bracket and additionally the 6-8 bay bracket.  Typically in the home environment we find users buying 2-4 bay systems and with capacities of up to 16TB on offer, this is generally more than enough to suit the majority of users in this group. On the other end of the scale in the enterprise market, 16-bay systems are not uncommon and in some cases 24-bay systems can be found, but in between these two extreme ends of the market is the SMB (Small-to-Medium-Business) and SOHO (Small Office / Home Office) group of users. At this level in the market, 4 bay systems are ample solutions to go for but in most cases they are just a starting point, with users and businesses soon seeing that they need to go up to a 6 or 8 bay system to suffice their needs. As said though, the price difference in some cases is quite notable and this is where units such as Synology’s DS1513+ come into play.

The Ds1513+ is by no means a new system to the market, in fact it was released in the mid-part of last year, but what is significant about this system is that it has five drive bays to work with in a desktop format which allows for up to 20TB of RAW storage, but even more importantly it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back, allowing for high-levels of bandwidth and throughput when setup with a compatible switch. So why I hear you ask am I reviewing a product that is nearly a year old? Well the simple answer is that whilst there have been a fair number of new products in the SOHO and SMB classes come to market since the launch if this system, I have until this point only looked at consumer level and SOHO based systems which are ideal for the home user, but not quite what the business user is after, both in terms of functionality and performance. Whilst I could have chosen a more recent system to put to the test, Synology were keen to show me that their DS1513+ is still s class leading product long after it hit the market – or that’s what they tell me.

So what sets a business level NAS apart from a consumer level product? To move up to the next level a NAS in my eyes needs to offer up a number of additional features. The first of these is multiple Ethernet ports; a home user for the most part is never going to fully saturate a single Gigabit connection, whilst in a business environment where multiple users are likely to be connected, creating a potential bottle neck as one Ethernet connection struggles to deliver data fast enough. The second thing that I look for is scalability; commercial environments typically create volumes of data much faster than one would at home and buying a larger system every 6 months for example is not what one would exactly call practical. Expansion units can simply connect into the existing system and drive volumes to create additional storage space with ease and lass hassle. The last thing that I look for is stronger performance levels. Going back to the LAN point that I made above, yes a home user may see a slight difference in performance between a RAID 0 and a RAID 1 array, but only just, whereas in a busier environment this difference in performance is noted far quicker as many users try to access the system. A strong storage controller is the key here.

The DS1513+ has all the basic credentials that I need for it to be classed as a business level system so the real question now is, can it really deliver those promised levels of performance and still shine through as a class leader nearly a year since its release? That’s what we’re about to find out.

Unlike some of the consumer level systems that Synology have in their catalogue, the DS1513+ has a more concise accessory set included with little more than a pair of Ethernet cables to get connected, a UK mains plug (in our case), a set of screws for installing 2.5″ drives into the drive trays and a pair of keys of locking each of the drive trays in place.

Western Digital EX4 8TB 4-bay My Cloud NAS Review

Introduction


Many people today are demanding more and more from their storage systems and for a select group of users (such as myself), having the ability to get access to files whilst on the go is – in some cases – a necessity. As we know, there are many free and paid services to choose from, which include the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive, however, these services are not without their downsides. Whilst a number of them are free to use, there is the uncertainty as to where your data is actually being stored and there is also no guarantee that your data is not going to be scanned by third-party applications that the host run on their servers. With some of your data potentially being quite sensitive, the last thing you want is for someone else to be snooping through it all. To top this all off, the ‘free’ services are also quite limited in the amount of storage space that is on offer and this is the biggest stumbling block for the most of us.

Quite recently we took a look at Western Digital’s 2TB My Cloud NAS that gives all of the functionality of a local NAS, but it also allows for users to simply and easily get access to their data wherever they are in the world – just as long as they have an internet connection to use. Whilst the My Cloud offers up a good amount of storage for the entry-level user, there is a lack of data redundancy out-of-the box (although there is the option to create safe points when an additional external storage drive is connected to the My Cloud’s USB port). Data redundancy and integrity is where Western Digital have focussed their attention with the new addition to the Cloud NAS lineup with the EX4.

As the name suggests, the EX4 is a four bay system and when marked against the My Cloud 2TB that I previously had a play with, this bigger brother has the ability to provide all of the same functionality plus a whole lot more. Alongside its greater storage capacity – up to 16TB of raw storage in a RAID0, the EX4 more importantly gives users the piece of mind that their data is safe with full access to a number of RAID configurations including RAID1, 10 and 5. The latter of these, RAID5 is what any preconfigured systems will be shipped with as this offers the best combination of space vs redundancy.

Whilst we have seen what WD’s Cloud systems have to offer, I will highlight over these again in this review, however I will be looking more closely at the additional features that the EX4 has to offer and how this system might just be one of the best choices for SOHO and SMB users. So without any more delay, let’s get unboxing this system and see what’s included.

To get things up and running, Western Digital include a CAT5e patch lead, AC power adaptor, quick setup guide and a warranty leaflet for reference

[youtube]http://youtu.be/MaMWsXvbZVE[/youtube]

Developer Creates Oculus Rift Mod For Elder Scrolls Online

Developer Chris Gallizzi decided to take on the personal project of adding Oculus Rift to The Elder Scrolls Online, and while this means that we have no idea if the game will get official support for the Oculus Rift, it certainly acts as a great technical demonstration to show that it can be done.

Support for the Oculus Rift in Elder Scrolls Online was created from scratch by Gallizzi, but having already created his Vireio Perception Driver for his previous N64 and Skyrim mods, he already has a fair bit of experience in the subject.

While he is an experienced Oculus driver and output writer, he did say that he was annoyed about having to lower settings to get an optimal frame rate of 60fps, which is required to make the VR more effective.

Oculus Rift is unfortunately still not available at retail and while you can get developer units, the resolution just isn’t what you want for gameplay, fingers crossed this mod as well as the retail headset will become available in the near future.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/bMZu86Mwr30[/youtube]

Thank you Pocket Lint for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Pocket Lint.

Asustor AS-302T 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Since we had our first look at an Asustor product little over four months ago, the freshman to the NAS market have been busy extending their product line-up with the addition of four systems in a new entry-level ‘Personal to Home’ category. As seen when I put the AS-604T through its paces, the subsidiary company of Asus have clearly not lost their edge when it comes to modern design; even though two and four bay systems generally follow the same basic design pattern.

The AS-302T that I’m going to have a look at today is part of the ‘Home to Power User’ group of systems that Asustor have to offer; however there are one or two distinct features that will set this system apart over say the AS-604T that I previously reviewed. Whilst the main specification of the system is, as expected, lower than some of the more premium units, home entertainment and media serving capabilities are included to wet the appetite of any home entertainment technophile.

There are a large number of systems these days that claim to offer the home user the perfect system for streaming audio and video content from, but what most of these lack is the ability to do this directly from the NAS, as opposed to stream the content through a 3rd party system such as a smart TV or laptop. The AS-302T however has this covered. On the rear of the system is a fully operational HDMI port and inside the box we find a remote control. Place these together with a range of downloadable media playback applications that include the popular XBMC front end and what we have is an all-in-one file storage system come media centre in one compact package.

Inside the box, Asustor include all the basics needed to get the system up and running with an AC power adaptor, CAT5e patch lead, two sets of screws for 3.5″ and 2.5″ drives, installation CD, quick start guide and we have also been given the optional remote control for the systems media functions.

Synology DS214Play 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


When the imminent arrival of the DS214 was brought to people’s attention earlier in the year, hardware transcoding was a hot topic and the news that a NAS with improved on-the-fly video transcoding for mobile devices was also on the horizon only stirred more interest towards Synology. So without any more delay, it’s time to delve into the world of the DS214Play.

We’ve recently seen a few of Synology’s 2-bay systems and prior to  this review we had a look at the DS214Se – a special edition NAS that has budget users in mind – giving them a simplified NAS feature list. On the outside, the DS214Play looks nothing like the DS214Se and there is a good reason for this; whilst the DS214Se wants to make its stand in the budget end of the market, the DS214Play is aiming for a more premium look, whilst not hitting the same high prices that we see some 2-bay systems reaching. With the design and build blue-print derived from the DS414 and the little brother to this system the DS214 looking almost identical, the difference as always is what lies inside the system.

The crucial difference with this system over everything else is the Intel Eversport CPU that Synology have chosen. Many NAS options are not capable of transcoding media files – such as video – into another format for mobile devices such as phones and tablets to playback, however hardware transcoding is where the DS214Play pulls its weight. Thanks to the floating-point unit ability of the Evansport CPU, transcoding is a key part of the systems design, giving users the flexibility to watch whatever format of content they like without the worry of file compatibility.

When we look at the performance figures later on in this review we will be looking at the systems performance figures for video playback and processing photo albums as these are the two main area where this system should [in theory] top the charts. This is why we are here, so does it make a difference or is it all a load of pointless sales talk?

The DS214Play brings us a new lease of life to Synology’s packaging with a bright white and green design to the packaging, whilst inside the box there is the usual array of accessories for a system of this size.

Synology DS214Se ‘Special Edition’ 2-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Synology have been hot on the market recently with the release of the DS414 4-bay NAS – the latest revision to their popular 4-bay desktop range as it replaces the top-selling DS413. One of the main focus points of the DS414 is the price point for a pretty good level of performance. As we saw it may not be the fastest 4-bay system available, but when it’s priced considerably lower (>£100) than some of its rival units, it’s a bit of a no-brainer for anyone who is focussing more on raw capacity over performance.

Keeping on the same line, every NAS vendor has a few budget units in their product catalogue, however Synology have a more equal distribution across their range in the terms of performance and cost. As a brand Synology are not afraid to advertise that they build cheaper systems that offer lower performance figures and there is a good reason for this. When you take into account the overall cost of a typical 2 or 4-bay system with the cost of hard drives on top can easily tip over the £500 mark (or more if you go far a higher performance system); that price tag for some people does equate to a substantial chunk of money. For a number of users, the cost is simply too much to churn out. Typically those fighting the battle of cost is the home user, especially with today’s credit crunch here in the UK – where the cost of living when marked against your income is a bit out of proportion. As a result the goal is to get as much raw capacity as possible and for as little as possible.

As we’ve seen before, Synology use a simple naming system for their products, and those ending with a ‘j’ are built with capacity over performance in mind. To take things a step further, Synology have now re-written the rule book as they create a 2-bay system that is more budget conscious than ever. Bring forth the DS214Se. In the same way that the DS414 is the successor the DS413, the DS214 is the new model to the DS213 and the Se (Special Edition) marking puts this model in a position where it is even more budget friendly than before.

With the aim of the game keeping the overall purchase cost down, Synology have removed a number of features from the DS214 specification and have been more ruthless than ever. As a result, the DS214Se is going to be ideal for anyone who is a) on a very tight and b) not needing to run multiple features at the same time.

Whilst the systems specification has been cut down, the bundled extras include everything that you’ll ever need. Alongside the NAS, there is an AC power adaptor, Ethernet cable, a quick installation guide, warranty leaflet, and finally two sets of screws for fitting the drives and for holding the enclosure together.

Thecus N2560 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In the NAS market, Thecus is one of the biggest names out there alongside QNAP and Synology and as we have seen in the past, the performance and features that they have to offer for the price are very well suited making them ideal for SOHO, SMB and enterprise users alike. Focusing today on the SOHO market, typical home users generally are in line to buy two and four bay systems for storing movies, music and photos on to share across their network to TVs, computers and wireless devices such as tablets.

Over the last year or so we have been seeing a slow migration by many vendors to produce products that are white in appearance to target the home user as they offer a cleaner and more conservative look to them that makes then more suited for a home environment rather than a black system that can look a little out-of-place or realistically – less stylish.

The N2560 that I’m having a look at today is one of the first white systems that Thecus have produced, the first being its little brother – the N2520 – and following its showing at CeBIT back in march, the storage giant has been making last-minute tweaks and adjustments to optimise its performance and functionality, in the process bringing the N2560 the line-up as well as the N2520. Over the previewed N2520, the N2560 offers up double the RAM with 2GB of DDR3 and a slightly faster Atom SoC, clocked to 1.6GHz over the N2520’s 1.2GHz chip.

Compared to Thecus’ over 2-bay solutions, the N2560 offers up a tool-free installation with drives that simply slide into the chassis and get closed in behind a simple front door making the unit far more user-friendly for the novice buyers out there. Supporting up to 4TB drives and offering the same host of functionality as any other Thecus system, this Atom based system is internally just like any other NAS that Thecus has to offer.

Thecus always offer a simple, to the point package, with all the bits you’ll need to get up and running. Alongside the usual array of paperwork including a warranty card, there is a UK IEC kettle lead and DC power inverter, a patch lead, two re-usable cable ties and in the instance of this unit, two sets of clip-on drive rails to give the unit its tool-free capability.

Synology DS414 4-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Following on from my recent review of Synology’s DS213j 2-bay system, I’ve been invited to have a look at a system that is more geared for the SOHO market. This is the DS414 and for those who understand the rather simple and easy to understand naming system that Synology have adopted, the DS414 is the update to the popular DS413.

Up to this point, there has not been much information to be found in the open about this system, but to give a quick run down; over the DS413, the identical looking 414 offers up a better CPU and RAID controller and at a price that is more competitive than ever. There have been rumours circulating around that this system will be home to a CPU that is able to transcode media on the fly, however I can confirm now that this is not the case. Fortunately I can confirm that there is a new system launching very soon that will be able to perform this task and a review will appear in due course.

Alongside the NAS is a user manual, installation disk (although the latest version of Synology’s DSM can be downloaded to the system during setup), power cable with DC inverter and a pair of Cat5e Ethernet cables. With everything the user may need taken care of, Synology pack everything into a simple brown box with a monochrome design.

Synology DS213j 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


This week I’m taking a look at a NAS from a company that I’ve been wanting to get hands on with for quite a while now. In the UK NAS markets, QNAP and Thecus are two of the top players, however there is another company that have just as much of a presence as those that I’ve just mentioned – this is of course Synology.

Formed in 2000 by two ex-Microsoft employees – Cheen Liao and Philip Wong – Synology’s goal was to bring enterprise level NAS technologies down to an affordable price point for the small-to-medium business market and later on the small office / home office user as well. Whilst it took four years for Synology’s first NAS the DiskStation DS-101 to reach market, over the last nine years we have seen many solutions come to market under two main categories, DiskStation (DS for short) and RackStation (RS for Short) and in disk capacities varying from one bay solutions, right up to their biggest rack-mount unit which holds up to 12 hard drives for the biggest storage capacity that Synology can offer.

Before we delve into the in and outs of the DS213j that I’ve got to play with today, its worth noting the company’s very clever numbering system that to me is one of the easiest to understand out of those that I’ve seen in the past. using this NAS as an example, the model number is broken down into four parts. DS-2-13-j

The first part of the name is with DS or RS referring to either a DiskStation or a RackStation model with the first number that follows indicating how many bays the system holds – in this case 2. The second set of digits give us the year that the system was released, so 13 here refers to a release year of 2013. After that there is one of three options to be had. These are as follows:

  • ‘+’ – this is the performance series of units offing the best features that Synology have to offer
  • the standard series is next and this has no digit after the year indicator – for example DS213 – these units offer a balance between price and performance
  • ‘j’ – Units with a j in their model name are geared for the entry-level user whose focus is more on getting the largest capacity they can, whilst not worrying too much about the performance side of things.

With this all explained, it’s now easy to see, just from the model name ‘DS213j’ that we have an entry-level 2-bay system that was built this year and comes as a desktop design – nice and easy to understand if I have to say so.

Last of all before I dive into the guts of this compact little system, Its worth having a look at what comes in the box along with the system itself. Alongside a quick installation guide that shows how to install the drives into the DiskStation, there is a CD with the operating system on as well as the systems full user manual for reference. Also included is a CAT5e patch lead and a UK clover leaf power cable and inverter giving the DiskStation a DC power connection and two sets of screws – one set to secure the drives in place and the other set of three screws to hold the cover of the unit in place once the disks are installed as we will see on the next page.

Asustor AS-604T 4-bay NAS Review

Introduction


Its not very often we see new names coming to market that appear to have such a strong presence about them. Typically it takes quite a period for a new name to be classed as on of the common brands, rather than being left on the sidelines, however there is a new name to the NAS scene that has only taken a couple of years to become more commonly known. Asustor, who have been around for only the last two years, are as some might guess a subsidiary of Asus, one of the leading brands in graphics cards and motherboards.

Taking the expertise in design, innovation and quality that Asus have, Asustor NAS systems are, in their desktop format, designed straight for the home user with clean and stylish looks, a user interface that makes the process of managing a NAS a lot simpler and more intuitive to work with and an app for iOS devices that allows the system to be remotely controlled when a HD TV is connected for its media centre functions.

Being a relatively new player in to the NAS market, Asustor are going to have their work cut out when it comes to taking on the big names such as QNAP and Thecus but with the backing of Asus, they do have a good change of being right up there with the big guns so to speak.

To give an overview of the Asustor range, there are currently eight systems in their product catalogue split into three groups. The first of these groups, aimed at home to power users comprises of a two and four bay system in the AS-3xx series, ideal for budget users who want a system to get them up and going. Next up from this is the power to business group, also known as the AS-6xx series (of which the system we’re looking at today is part of) and this comprises of four systems ranging from two to eight bays. The last group is for the SMB market and here lies two rack mount NAS, one four-bay 1U system and a nine-bay 2U system at the top end of the Asustor range.

Setting the NAS aside to see what else is included as an accessory set, Asustor bundle in a CD with the user manuals, to sets of screws for 2.5″ an 3.5″ drives, two Cat5e patch leads and a UK 3-pin kettle lead.

Western Digital Sentinel DX4000 16TB RAID5 4-Bay NAS Review

Up to now we’ve been looking at network storage servers that come with no drives and are produced by a company other than a drive manufacturer. Western Digital are one of the best hard drive manufacturers our there in the market and their recent changes to their product line-up has not only made choosing the right drive for the job easier, but also a lot clearer. When it comes to network storage, WD has three types of drive that are geared for the job, Red, SE and RE. Red drives are still aimed for the home/SOHO user, whilst their enterprise SE and RE drives are optimised for the constant punishment that they will encounter 24×7.

Setting drives aside, WD has now come out with their own NAS solution, optimised for their own drives, in an all-in-one easy to use solution and so we get the Sentinel DX4000. The Sentinel is a first in a line of self designed NAS solutions that can be purchased with drives pre-installed in a variety of capacities, varying from a modest 2TB, right up to a whopping 16TB. Unlike other NAS solutions on the market, one of the main features that sets this system apart from the rest is the use of Windows Storage Server 2008 and a auto configuration process during the initial set-up that automatically builds the drives into a RAID5 array – the preferred choice for NAS solutions as this gives the best data security and will ensure no data is lost, should one drive fail during operation.

With this unit designed specifically for the SMB environment the use of WSS 2008 should allow for seamless integration through active directory and domain configuration and also for those that are at home with Windows, should make maintaining the system a bit more intuitive. With RAID automatically configured based on the number of drives installed, set-up should be easier as mentioned and knowing how well trusted and reliable Western Digital’s drives are in the NAS markets with multiple lines of drives targeted at this environment, there is good hope that the system has a lot to give.

All NAS’ come with a selection of cables to get you connected and running, this one being no exception. Alongside the user manual, the first thing we note are the two external power inverters, which as we will see on the next page, aid towards a more compact build of the main unit itself. Do note that on all other SKUs apart from the 16TB option, the DX4000 will only come with a single power adaptor, but as a top of the line model, the 16TB option includes both adaptors to allow for redundant power supply feeds. Also included are two sets of power cables for the UK and European markets and a single CAT5e cable. There is also a visible lack of screws that we traditionally see, but this is due to the tool free installation that the DX4000 adopts.

Thecus N7510 7-Bay NAS Review

Thecus over the year have racked up a number of firsts in the network storage sector including the introduction of the worlds first five bay NAS, first NAS with 10GBase-T support, the first NAS with media display output via HDMI and more. Its safe to say that when it comes to thinking up fresh ideas for what the customer wants, they are a step ahead all the time.

Fresh out of the Thecus development room we have yet another world first, a 7-bay tower NAS that dubbed to be Thecus’ most affordable, high value, intelligent offering going. One question comes to mind is that if this is an affordable unit and sits in a fiercely competitive are where six and eight bay units compete constantly, how have Thecus jazzed this unit up to make it more desirable? First things first though, we will point out that whilst this is bay-for-bay a competitively priced unit, this is not to say that the specification has taken a hit at all – in fact we find all the major features that we would find on any other Thecus NAS including dual-LAN, 2GB of RAM, LCD display on the front, HDMI output, USB 3.0 and the intuitive user interface on the rear.

We know Thecus have got all the ingredients for a quality system, so can it stand up to our high expectations that we inherently have from their products?

Bundled in with the NAS we find a standard Thecus array of CD’s, warranty card, installation guide, drive tray screws and cables for getting the NAS up and running.

QNAP TS879-Pro 8-Bay NAS Review

In a similar fashion to my last review of a Thecus NAS, it has been a little while since I’ve looked at a QNAP system, but this is not to say that stocks have run dry of NAS samples and now we’re back in full swing now with another system from one of the major players in the NAS market.

We’ve looked at an eight bay desktop system from QNAP before, namely the TS869-Pro and whilst both of these units look pretty much the same and in general specs they are pretty much the same, as you can guess by now, they’re a little different and by that, the 879Pro that we’re going to look at today has a little bit extra to offer over the older 869Pro that I looked at nearly a year ago.

So the question is really, what is the difference? Well on the basic part, the 869Pro is set and equipped for the SMB market with it’s dual core Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM and no space for network expansion, whereas on the other hand, the 879Pro is grouped into the high-end sector of QNAP’s product range and features a similar specification bar an Intel Core i3-2130 3.2GHz processor, 2GB or RAM and capacity to upgrade the network connectivity with either an additional two Gigabit Ethernet ports or two 10 Gigabit port via Fibre or Ethernet.

To accompany the NAS itself we do get a typical accessory pack from QNAP which includes a pair of patch leads, power cable, driver CD, quick installation guide, firmware note and most importantly two sets of screws for securing the drives into the trays.