Could This be the End for The Pirate Bay?

Police in Sweden have reportedly taken down popular torrent site The Pirate Bay. The site has also been down today, notable as it is seemingly the first time in months users haven’t been able to access it.

TorrentFreak is reporting that Swedish police conducted a raid in Stockholm, “seizing servers, computers, and other equipment”. While there is currently no official confirmation linking this to The Pirate Bay, the fact that the site is down, along with the fact it originates from Sweden, suggests that this may well be to do with it.

The police did however confirm the raid itself and said that it was to do with intellectual property, another indication of its involvement with The Pirate Bay.

“There has been a crackdown on a server room in Greater Stockholm. This is in connection with violations of copyright law,” 

A number of users have taken to the site isitdownrightnow.com, with some potentially revealing further details on the situation.

‘torr it up all u want, sweden police have shut down the main server. no more PB, methinks.”

Source: TorrentFreak

Synology DS415Play 4-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


In the early stages of this year we saw the arrival of Synology’s DS214Play – a 2-bay system which offers users the ability to stream media connect across the network to everything, including mobile devices thanks to its onboard transcoding capabilities from Intel’s latest Evansport processor. Little did Synology know, this unit has turned out to be one of their most popular 2-bay systems to hit the shelves this year and as users embraced the transcoding power, the demand for a bigger and better system soon followed.

Aside from the obvious extension to four bays, the DS415Play features the same Intel Evansport 1.6GHz CPU, featuring Floating-Point Units, giving the system its popular ability to transcode media on the fly for streaming across to mobile devices as well as processing image thumbnails much faster than that of a typical SoC based system.

Connectivity wise we find an extra two USB2.0 ports on the rear of the system in place of the eSATA port that the 215 features. On paper this means that we should expect to see at least the same levels of performance as on of this years top-selling 2-bay systems, with an easy, too-free setup and a user interface that I consider to be one of the most user-friendly solutions on the market today.

Like a large number of Synology’s systems, the DS415Play comes in a rather non-de-script box, with only a few labels on the outside indicating which unit is inside. From a business point of view this means that on the grander scale we are looking at lower packaging costs – which in turn means a cheaper end product for the consumer. Inside we find a similarly comprehensive bundle with little more than a power cord, patch lead and a quick setup leaflet.

Aerocool Launches DS 200 Midi Tower With Special Insulation and Built-In Fan Controller

Aerocool has launched a new addition to its Dead Silence chassis series, the DS 200, sporting a variety of features, such as having both side-panels equipped with special insulation mats in order to reduce the noise inside the PC. In addition to the latter, the DS 200 also features an integrated fan controller as well as 0.8 mm SECC material.

The company distinguishes the DS series from the rest of the products by granting a variety of color options, having the DS 200 coming in six colors: classy black, black/white, red, orange, blue and green. It is said that all chassis options equipped with a special top-cover which can be removed and replaced by a mesh-style cover in order to boost the airflow capacity. Aerocool even offers an optional side panel window for customers who would like to show off their build.

The built-in fan controller is another interesting feature, having it be located on the topside of the chassis. It is said to support a total of 25W shared by three channels, having the fans be controlled simultaneously. The fan controller is said to have three speed options, namely low, medium and high, while also boasting the capability of stopping a fan channel when needed. The temperature is said to be displayed on the large round display, having to choose from seven color options for the display illumination. Lastly, the I/O panel is said to feature two USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and HD audio and a microphone connector.

On the inside, the DS 200 is said to have enough space for even the latest hardware components, a tool-free rack for both optical and disk drives and support for the ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ATX. The company states that up to five 3.5″ HDDs or seven 2.5″ HDDs/SSDs can be mounted inside the case, as well as VGA cards with a length of up to 29 cm (41 cm if removing the center 3.5″ cage). When it comes to cooling, the DS 200 is said to offer support for both air and water cooling solutions, having room for big CPU cooler with a length of 17 cm as well as several pass-through openings with rubber protection located in the mainboard tray. Aerocool states that 240 or 280 mm water-cooling solutions can be mounted in the front or the top of the DS 200, having enough room for even a PSU of 22 cm in length.

In terms of noise output, the DS 200 is said to have both side panels insulated with mats, while having all the 2.5″ and 3.5″ bays as well as the PSU equipped with anti-vibration shock-proof rubber. In addition to the latter, two silent case fans are pre-equipped and ready to provide steady airflow out of the box. Aerocool has stated to also introduce the “Lite Edition” option, which includes the DS 200 with standard non-insulated side panels and comes without the center 3.5″ cage and auto-eject front-panel.

When it comes to prices, Aerocool is said to offer the entry-level DS 200 Lite Black Edition at a price of $120.90, the Black Edition at $158.90, while the Red, Orange, Black/White, Blue and Green Editions are said to all come at the same $163.90 price tag. Additionally, the DS 200 Window Panels are said to be sold separately, having a price tag of $13.00.

Images courtesy of Aerocool

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.

Sharkoon Announces its White ATX Vaya II Value Model

After its succesful release of the Vaya II Value model earlier this year, Shakroon has announced another model ready to join the Vaya II Value family, adding a white option to the case series.

Sharkoon states that the Vaya II Value white offers not only an additional colour option, but also various features at a fair price-performance ration. The case measures in at 470 x 205 x 437 mm, having it been given a white finish to the interior. Tower coolers with a maximum height of up to 16.5 cm now have more room and can easily be installed, thanks to the Vaya II Value white’s side panels, as well as providing more room for graphic cards with a length of up to 26.5 cm. Also, power supply units of up to 28 cm can be installed on the case floor, having the Vaya II Value white coming with a pre-installed PSU dust filter which adds extra protection.

In terms of cooling solution, the Vaya II Value white comes with a pre-installed blue 120 mm LED fan with a mesh hook, giving users the option to add an optional 80 mm or 120 mm fan on the back panel. In addition to the latter, the Vaya II Value white offers an installation opening for CPU coolers, as well as three openings for water cooling solutions and cable management.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlraMJqP9oU&list=UUZDF61oirm_2Onzy-AxT8ng[/youtube]

The Vaya II Value white features four 5.25″ drive bays for optical drives and an externally accessible 3.5″ drive bay, while Sharkoon provided the interior case with four 3.5″ hard drive bays and additional support for a 2.52″ SSD or HDD which can be mounted on the case floor. All optical and disk drives can mounted easily and efficiently with the help of Sharkoon’s quick fasteners. Also, the Vaya II Value white offers two USB 3.0 and two audio ports on the front panel, as well as an acrylic side panel.

Sharkoon’s Vaya II Value white comes with a suggested price tag of €34,99 in authorised retailers.

QNAP SilentNAS HS-210 2-Bay NAS Review

Introduction


When we look at where a NAS is typically designed to be placed, integration into a home A/V setup is not overly common surprisingly. Whilst there are a countless number of two and four bay systems that offer media playback capabilities, which I will add is great to see for the SOHO markets, their tower like design is not always that convenient to fit in with the DVD players, surround sound systems and game console stack that many of us have underneath our TV’s in the lounge – like the photo above funnily enough which is a quick glimpse into the system that we are taking a look at today.

QNAP as we know are one of the big players in the NAS market, lining up alongside Thecus, Asustor and Synology to name but a few and like everyone else, their product range spreads out from the basic single bay systems that are found on the entry-level end of the scale, right up to the 16+ bay rackmount systems that are built for enterprise and datacentre use. What QNAP have noticed though is that there is a gap in the market for systems like the one in hand today and considering many home users are now looking towards a network storage solution for their home media, now is a perfect time to hit that market with a system that blends right in to the A/V stacks that we all have in one way or another.

Built around a two bay design and supporting the latest 5TB drives, the HS-210 SilentNAS is, as the name would suggest, a system that takes noise head on and following some carefully planned design work, they have created a system that is totally passive with no fans included in the system. No fans = no noise and whilst we do have to account for the fact that spinning platter do generate a certain level of acoustic output, they are nowhere near as acoustic as they were only a few years ago. Another challenge that QNAP have decided to take on is hiding the drive bays away from view. Whereas having drive bays on view on a typical desktop NAS, in a home theater setup they’re not the most elegant of objects to look at, so a front cover that hides the bays away acts as a simple, yet effective solution.

In addition to offering up the looks that home theatre users are likely to want, QNAP are aware that the price point is also key to securing the purchase, so a price point of around $290 / £240 should whet the appetite of any tech enthusiast – at least that is the theory.

There is no surprises in seeing a simple and to the point kit list with this being an entry-level system. Along side a quick setup guide and a couple of sets of screws for 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives, we get a single Ethernet cable and a DC power adaptor with regional mains cable to suit.

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.

Icy Dock ‘Black Vortex’ MB074SP-B 3.5” 4-in-3 Cage Review

Introduction


Over the last couple of years I’ve reviewed a fair selection of products from the Icy Dock catalogue, ranging from external drive enclosures such as the Blizzard and the MB559U3S SuperSpeed to a variety of SATA backplanes and drive bay adaptors including the FatCage MB155SP-B, MB971SP-B and MB994SP-4SB-1 Quad 2.5″ Backplane. Overall it’s a fair statement to say that they have a wide variety of angles covered and the tastes of many users fulfilled with their products, whether it be through the design or the functional capability. With so many items on offer, we are a little amazed to see that Icy Dock have once again come up with a new product and this time round the product is in principle a cooled multi-bay drive adaptor. Taking up three optical drive bays, the Black Vortex MB074SP-B is able to house four 3.5″ hard drives in an open air frame design, offering a quick and simple access to one or more drives whilst offering the benefit of active cooling through a front mounted 120mm fan.

Aside from a traditional 3.5″ hard drive, the Black Vortex is also compatible with a number of Icy Dock’s own 2.5″ to 3.5″  EZ-Dock and EZ-Adapter product ranges, allowing more than just a hard drive to be installed into the chassis. With so many drive bay adaptors and mounting solutions now available on the market from a number of vendors, the question stands to ask if we have enough options already available to cater every persons need, or does this unit really offer up the functionality that some users are after to mount and keep their drives cool.

Like any other Icy Dock product, the packaging is very informative with plenty of information about the cage on hand; detailing the units specifications, features and design. Inside the box things are a little more concise with a simple user installation guide and two sets of screws for fitting the brackets to each of the four drives and securing the framework into your chassis.

 [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue1hnszk35E[/youtube]

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.

Silencio 452 PC Case Announced By Cooler Master

Cooler Master has revealed a new addition to its Silencio series PC cases, the Silencio 452. It is the ninth enclosure in the Silencio series, and comes with sound absorbing foam padding, as all Silencio series do, to minimizes noise produced by components. It is made out of solid steel and comes with rubber feet at the bottom that prevents vibration. It also comes with removable dust filters behind the front door and at the bottom for easier system maintenance.

ATX and microATX motherboards can fit in the Silencio 452, having two 5.25-inch drive bays, six 3.5-inch drive and two 2.5-inch drive bays. Being a mid-tower case, the Silencio 452 can easily fit in video cards of 386 mm/15.2-inch in length with the HDD cage removed, or a maximum length of 282mm / 11.1-inch with the HDD cages. Coolers of height 6.2 inches can also fit into the chassis. At the front, there are two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port and as SD card reader along with HD audio connectors.

In terms of air dispersion , the Silencio 452 has two 120mm fans, one at the front and one at the back, that come standard with the chassis. This being a silent case, the fans installed are quiet when they’re running full tilt at 15 dBA. Users wanting to install liquid cooling solutions will find enough room to fit in a 240mm radiator at the front of the case, or a 120mm radiator at the back of the chassis.

The Cooler Master’s Silencio 452 is now available at a price range of $95. More information about the case can be found here.

Thank you VR-Zone for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of Cool Master

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.

Western Digital Extend My Cloud Lineup With EX4 4-Bay Solution

Western Digital have been hot topic within the storage world since the release of their innovative personal cloud storage drives. In a follow-up to the single drive offerings that are aimed primarily for the consumer market, Western Digital have now upped their game with a 4-bay NAS that gives all the Cloud capabilities of the single bay unit, but with some added extras.

The EX4, for those who recognise it, is somewhat similar to the Sentinel DX4000 NAS that we looked at earlier in the year, however external appearances are where the similarities end. On the inside of the EX4, a Marvell 88F6282 2GHz single core CPU is in control with the system capable of holding up to 16TB of raw storage through RAID0, 1, 5, 10 and JBOD configurations as well as Western Digital’s own Flex-RAID allowing drives of different capacities to be installed and used together seamlessly.

Designed for the ‘Prosumer’, the EX4 is one of the worlds first 4-bay cloud NAS systems and whilst it offers up cloud capabilities, it still gives total flexibility to be used as a traditional local NAS device. On top of the standard My cloud features that are on offer on the single bay systems, the EX4 also includes 10 user licences for WD’s Smartware Pro software for automated computer backups as well as the ability to have a full system backup made to another remotely setup EX4, giving the total piece of mind that your data is secure. For SOHO and SMB users, Active Directory support is also included and an SDK for app developers is available from Western Digital’s website.

The EX4 is available now through a number of e-tailors and also the reseller channel with four options to choose from. The entry-level system will come with no drives giving the best user flexibility for £319, whilst 8TB, 12TB and 16TB models all kitted out with WD’s own Red drives are available for £670, £799 and £999 respectively.

Whilst this is the only multi-bay cloud solution that Western Digital are offering for now, they have noted that a 2-bay version – namely the EX2 will be available in the early part of next year.

Source: Press Event

Teratrend (SilverStone) TS432U 4 Bay USB3.0 RAID Enclosure Review

Introduction


Just over two months ago, I had a look at the TS231U 2-bay external RAID enclosure from Teratrend – a sub-division of Silverstone. Whilst I loved the refined looks of the metal chassis and the rather simple setup process and overall the concept of what it does, I was sadly left a little disheartened over the slow speeds experienced – especially with the unit setup for RAID0 operation.

Teratrend naturally wanted to make amends on the impression that the TS231U left me with and after taking on board the feedback I’ve had to give them, they sent me out a unit of a higher calibre. The TS432U that I’m going to have a look at today, as the title suggests, is a four bay unit. Whilst the TS432U as doubles the potential storage capacity that the TS213U could handle, there are more RAID options to play with and a LCD display on the front to make configuring and maintaining the unit far easier than before.

Like NAS systems that I have a delve into, four bay RAID enclosures like this unit have a large number of advantages over smaller two bay units, however there is one particular advantage that stands out over the rest. This is RAID5. For those that are totally clued up on RAID, there are eight standard levels of RAID, however a number of these are not commonly used. RAID5, as mentioned, is a key RAID level that many opt for as it’s not only provides data spanning across multiple drives but it also allows for the data to still be accessed if a single drive were to fail. For the purpose of this review I will focus on RAID0, 10, 5 and JBOD for performance comparison.

Before I take a closer look at the TS432U, those that have read my review on the TS231U will note a large number of similarities between the two units, in-fact bar the addition of an extra two drive bays (and the consequent RAID options that come with this), the only feature that this unit has over the other is a LCD display on the front.

With this drive having two slightly different designs (either with a screen or without), Teratrend have kept packing costs down by using the same box for both SKUs of the four bay unit. To distinguish the units apart once they have been packaged, a sticker is placed on the front of the box to indicate which unit is inside. Alongside the unit is a IEC kettle lead, USB 3.0 and eSATA cable and a CD with the user manual and system utilities on.

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.

Icy Dock FatCage MB155SP-B SATA Backplane Module Review

Introduction


When it comes to drive enclosures, both of the internal and external flavour, there is, generally speaking, one name that always pops to mind and this is Icy Dock. For many years now they have been creating enclosures, mounts and backplanes in a whole heap of varieties – some of which we’d never have thought were useful. The backplane that I’ll be looking at today is just one example of a product that I’d look through their catalogue, see and skip past as it doesn’t immediately jump out to me as a product that needs much attention.

For the vast majority of home users, having a server at home is not something that would really shout out as being needed and on the whole, they are not, but with media streaming and file sharing become more common, some users are making the move to build their own. Naturally the obvious path, rather than buying one, is to build a system from common desktop components, using a mid tower chassis to house everything, but many chassis only offer internal drive bays and there can be few at that. For those that are keen on keeping things backed up or who want easy access to their drives without having to open the case, having a backplane is a simple solution that gives flexibility of access whilst adding additional 3.5″ space.

The MS155SP-B that we’re looking at today is a simple, straight to the point backplane. By simply mounting into the optical drive area, this backplane gives five additional drive bays that can be individually removed from the system in a hot-swap manner with ease.

Anyone that has owned an Icy Dock product of this type or have read my past reviews on some of their products will know that they like to keep the packaging and extras down to a minimum, after all there’s no need for a heap of paperwork, leaflets and other non-vital parts that typically ends up staying in the box.

 

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.

Teratrend (SilverStone) TS231U 2 Bay USB3.0 RAID Enclosure Review

Introduction


The storage markets are growing rapidly at the moment and this is certainly clear from the large number of home and small office users that are jumping onto the NAS bandwagon to increase their storage capacity to satisfy their needs. For some people though the prospect of setting up network devices is still either a daunting process or even more simply, too much hassle. Having a solution that is virtually plug and play is still the main choice of many users and as a result there is a market flooded by USB enclosures for both 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives.

Teratrend is a name that some may look at and turn away as its not recognised, but the sooner its realised that their a sub-brand of SilverStone – the same people of manufacture many great looking chassis and power supplies as well as coolers, the attention is soon brought back with the prospect of a high quality, well build unit.

As storage is not the main focus of SilverStone, the Teratrend brand was brought in to distinguish the new line of products a few years ago and since then we have seen a number of two and four bay options that take the effort out of storage expansion with say to use and simple devices that look good at the same time on any desk.

Like many other drive enclosures on the market, the contents are rather simple and alongside the enclosure itself we find a kettle lead, eSATA and USB3.0 data cables and a simple manual that outlines the RAID selection and drive installation process.

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.