Introduction

The consumer Network Attached Storage (NAS) market has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. As the amount of digital media generated by the average household increases, the standard 2-bay NAS is no longer sufficient. Today, we are going to take a look at two different 4-bay solutions, the Western Digital My Cloud EX4 and the LenovoEMC ix4-300d. Both of them use ARM-based Marvell SoC platforms and target the home consumer / SOHO markets.

Western Digital has had a lot of experience supplying SMB NAS units with more than 2-bays, but those have been based on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server. On the consumer side, their attempts with a custom Debian-based embedded Linux NAS system were very functional and cost effective. On the other hand, LenovoEMC (Iomega) has a long history of servicing various tiers in the NAS market, ranging from single-bay network attached hard disks to ARM-based SOHO targeted NAS units (the ix-series) and SMB / SME-targeted rackmount / tower form factor units (the px-series).

The two units that we are going to look at today were released a year apart, the LenovoEMC ix4-300d in late 2012, and the WD MyCloud EX4 in late 2013. One would definitely be excused for thinking that the ix4-300d would be based on an older platform and the WD EX4 on a more modern one. The interesting aspect is that the ix4-300d was one of the first NAS units to use Marvell's ARMADA XP platform. WD, on the other hand, has gone with the older Kirkwood platform to keep the costs low. The following table summarizes the features of the two NAS units that we are covering today.

LenovoEMC ix4-300d and Western Digital My Cloud EX4 Specifications
  ix4-300d My Cloud EX4
Processor Marvell MV78230 dual-core ARMv7 SoC @ 1.3 GHz Marvell 88F6262 Kirkwood @ 2 GHz
RAM 512 MB DDR3 512 MB DDR3
Drive Bays 4x 3.5" SATA II (No Hot Swap) 4x 3.5" SATA II (Hot Swappable)
Network Links 2x 1 GbE 2x 1 GbE
USB Slots 1x USB 3.0 + 2x USB 2.0 2x USB 3.0
eSATA Ports None None
Maximum Capacity 4-bays 4-bays
VGA / Console / HDMI None None
Full Specifications Link LenovoEMC ix4-300d Specifications (PDF) Western Digital My Cloud EX4 Specifications (PDF)
Suggested Retail Pricing US $270 US $360

 

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Our NAS reviews use either SSDs or hard drives depending on the unit under test. While rackmounts and units equipped with 10GbE capabilities use SSDs, the others use hard drives. The ix4-300d and My Cloud EX4 were both evaluated with four 4 TB WD Re (WD4000FYYZ) drives. Evaluation of NAS performance under both single and multiple client scenarios was done using the SMB / SOHO NAS testbed we described earlier.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB HDD + 100GB NAND)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Teardown and Platform Analysis
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38 Comments

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  • Navvie - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    I am amazed that a torrent client is included in the Lenovo machine. I wonder how many customers will put that to honest, law abiding use?

    Although RAID6 has a big impact on capacity when dealing with four drives, I'd really like to see those numbers. I would be disappointed not to see those numbers at 5+ drives.
    Reply
  • Beany2013 - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    I've found the torrent client pretty useful on my Syno DS214+ - if I find I need to download an ISO for a VM appliance or distro from work, I can dial into my NAS at home, and tell it to kick off the download while I'm out at work.

    Yes, you can use it for nefarious purposes, but that's down to the user - I could use a car to mow down some grannies at a bus stop or ram-raid a convenience store, but that doesn't mean we should ban cars.

    (my word, that as an atrocious analogy. I shall flagellate myself later as punishment)

    Also, nice to see that The Registers quick review a few weeks ago wasn't wrong about the performance of that WD unit, it's bloody pathetic.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Torrents are not intrinsically illegal. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Why would you use RAID6 with 4 disks? Why not just RAID 10? RAID 6 only makes sense to me once you go to 5 and more. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Possibilities:

    A) It's provided as a feature check.
    B) Leaving it in reduces the number of changes vs a baseline firmware that is also used for larger models.
    C) If the enclosure supports a way to add external drives to an array. (doubtful)

    I'm guessing a combination of A and B.
    Reply
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    1 and 2 only answer the question of "why should they have it" not "why would you use it". :) Reply
  • PEJUman - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    R6 can tolerate 2 any disks failure.
    R10 can tolerate 1 disk failure, maybe 2 (if both disks from the same stripe failed, you're hosed). I tend to think R10 as a higher performing R1, not a dual disk failure redundancy.

    Nonetheless, I agree that the R6 usability on a 4 disks array is quite dubious.
    Reply
  • Navvie - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    RAID6 would allow any two drives to fail without a loss of data. RAID10 also allows two drive failures, but only if those two drives don't mirror each other. Drives are more likely to fail while reconstructing a failed drive. In a RAID10 setup the failed drive is being rebuilt from data on just one drive, if that drive also fails? Bye bye data.

    RAID1, RAID10 offers no better reliability than RAID1.
    RAID6 has something like 8-10x the reliability of RAID1, and 100x of RAID5.

    Adding RAID6 numbers to reviews as this would allow devices with 4 bays and up to be tested consistently - assuming the firmware supported RAID6.
    Reply
  • powerwiz - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Generally any NAS comes with a bit-torrent client. Lacies do I know for certain as I have a Lacie NAS. Works well to.

    Torrents if you do not know were created by University researchers to distribute large amounts of data fast. What you use it for is up to you. Take the internet..the biggest money maker is still porn. You can get a college degree via the internet but it seems worldwide its main use is porn. All up to the user.
    Reply
  • vanel86 - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    The torrent client within lifelines tends to corrupts downloads if the torrent relies on DHT(if it relies on DHT only it won't even start). When i download files out of it (linuxes iso what the hell are you thinking :P) i need to run those files out of utorrent to check if they are fine or not(most cases require a 1% redownload each time) Reply

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