Asustor AS-604T review

New name Asustor is a venture from Asustek, commonly known as just Asus. Founded in 2011, the sub-brand’s stated purpose is to be at the forefront of private cloud storage innovation.

Read more: Best NAS for Mac

Asustor is clearly looking to get a slice of the NAS business dominated by fellow Taiwan brands Synology and QNAP. The majority of its current 12-product strong range is concentrated on two- and four-bay models, including the AS-604T model here.

The Asustor AS-604T is a four-bay NAS drive, resembling a clone of QNAP’s four-bay designs, such as the TS-421. The AS-604T takes a 2.13 GHz Atom, with 1 GB memory, expandable to 3 GB.

Ports are plentiful on this flagship four-bay model – two USB 3.0, four USB 2.0 and two eSATA. From the front you can readily access four 3.5in disks mounted vertically in their own sliding caddy, each with levers to extract them.

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Running across the top is a two-line fluorescent display. The disk drawers are not lockable but the secure release mechanism suggests you’re unlikely to accidentally pop out disks.

Build quality of the AS-604T is first-class, matching and surpassing QNAP’s sturdy metal jacket with neatly finished plastic trim. In fact the drawer mechanism shows improvements, with positive spring-loaded levers to secure the mounted disks in place, on smooth-sliding runners.

The unit was relatively peaceful in operation with a single large 120 mm fan at the rear running quietly. The disks will have the loudest impact, and modern NAS-compatible disks like the Seagate NAS and WD Red should help keep noise levels down.

Asustor AS-604T review: Software

For the software Asustor developed its own an app-based interface. It has a rich graphical look, with drop shadows below open windows, all centred on a desktop populated with large iPhone-style app icons. It’s a great-looking environment that’s closer to a modern Linux graphical shell.

We could find nothing obvious missing in feature set. There’s the usual compatibility with SMB, AFP, NFS networking standards, as well as FTP; power managment settings (which usefully report fan speed); Time Machine compatibility as well as rsync for external backups to and from the NAS; and of course fine-grained management of the disks from the usual RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and 10 options.

App Central is the portal to find and download new apps, to add more functionality to an Asustor NAS. And the options are extensive, from bit torrent clients to WordPress blog servers, media servers and photo gallery organisers.

Asustor AS-604T review: Performance

Best-case sequential data transfers were found in OS X using AFP, where the Asustor could read at up to 111 MB/s, close to the gigabit network limit. Write speeds were much lower, at just 30 MB/s for most data above 5 MB in size. That write performance is more like what we’d expect from a low-power ARM processor in a consumer NAS.

The Blackmagic test showed a different side to the AS-604T though, here able to sustain sequential file reads of 106 MB/s, and crucially, sequential writes of 98 MB/s. That’s closer to the speed of a modern NAS sporting an Intel Atom processor.

At the small file level, averaging transfers from 4 to 10124 kB, random reads were solid at 60 MB/s, but random reads averaged just 2.1 MB/s. Focusing on just 4 kB files, these could only be written at a slow 50 kB/s. (Turning to Windows SMB/CIFS connections, random small files travelled much easier, at 9.7 MBs for 4 kB reads and 5.9 MB/s for random writes.)

Given the choice, we’d use an AFP connection if transporting large video or music files around the network; but the SMB option for accessing smaller documents and metadata files far more quickly. Either can be used on an Apple Mac.

The Asustor AS-604T consumed 34 W of mains power with four 3 TB WD Red disks spinning. With the disks powered down in standby mode, consumption fell to 22 W.

This review was corrected 2014-07-10 to reflect that Asustor developed its own graphical interface for the ADM operating system in 2012, which was later copied in part by QNAP for its QTS 4.0 interface in 2013.

OUR VERDICT

There’s no denying the Asustor AS-604T is a very well featured and sturdily built NAS drive. Given its close facsimile to QNAP products, there’s little reason to choose the newcomer – except perhaps for price. A comparable QNAP model could be the TS-469 which sells for around £600 in diskless form; the AS-604T can be found for closer to £400. If data write performance could be improved it’d be a closer match, with the Asustor becoming even more attractive.

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