Introduction

NAS units targeting home consumers have traditionally been underpowered in terms of hardware as well as firmware features. Low power, reduced cost and media-centric features are primary requirements in this area. Intel has traditionally been loath to participate in this market segment, probably due to the obvious lack of high margins. However, the explosive growth potential in the consumer / SOHO NAS market has made Intel rethink its strategy.

The Atom CE5300 series was initially introduced as the Berryville set-top-box platform in March 2012. Almost a year later, the CE5300 series was re-launched in its Evansport avatar as a storage solution targeting home consumers (in particular, as a media server platform). Asustor, Synology and Thecus were touted as partners building NAS units based on this platform. We have already looked at the 2-bay Evansport model from Thecus, the N2560. How does the platform perform when scaled up to 4-bays? The Asustor AS-304T gives us a chance to find out.

Asustor places their two Evansport models under the 'Home to Power Users' category. Both of them are based on the Intel CE5335 CPU, and come with 1 GB of RAM. The specifications of the review unit are as below.

Asustor AS-304T Specifications
Processor Intel Evansport CE5335 (2C/4T Atom (Bonnell) CPU @ 1.6 GHz)
RAM 1GB DDR3 RAM
Drive Bays 4x 3.5 / 2.5" SATA HDD / SSD (Hot-swappable)
Network Links 1x 1 GbE
USB Slots 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
eSATA Slots None
Expansion Slots None
VGA / Display Out HDMI / 3.5mm Audio Jack
Full Specifications Link Asustor AS-304T Specifications
Retail Price $478

In the rest of the review, we will cover the hardware aspects of the AS-304T and provide some setup and usage impressions. This is followed by benchmarks in single and multi-client modes. For single client scenarios, we have both Windows and Linux benchmarks with CIFS and NFS shares. We will also have some performance numbers with encryption enabled. In the final section, power consumption numbers as well as RAID rebuild times will be covered along with some closing notes.

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 Asustor AS-304T was evaluated using four WD Re (WD4000FYYZ) drives to keep comparisons consistent across different NAS units. 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:

Hardware Aspects & Usage Impressions
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34 Comments

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  • EricZBA - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - link

    Can you install Plex on this unit? Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - link

    Yes, available in App Central: http://www.asustor.com/apps/app_detail?id=142

    However, like most platforms, there is no hardware accelerated transcode using Plex
    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Sunday, March 30, 2014 - link

    Isn't the 1gig of memory hard on apps though? Couchpotato/sickbeard/SABzbd would be a bad idea even if its available since they run as a service. Or am I thinking this wrong., Reply
  • LordConrad - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - link

    The hardware specs on these Home/SOHO NAS units are rather anemic. I built my own a couple years ago based on an i3-2120, 8GB RAM, and NAS4free. Much better performance than any Atom-based NAS unit. Reply
  • Beany2013 - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - link

    I used to agree with you, but I picked up a Synology DS214+ recently and realised that these days, if you just want to be able to saturate a gigabit link when shuffling files, and stream media (with the exception of hardware transcoding to non-PC devices, natch) then something like 'this' is a much, much easier path.

    Especially as I build/fix/generally look after servers and general IT stuff for a living - last thing I want to be doing when I get home is build *another* RAID array...

    It's getting to the stage where these devices are good enough for most of us - IE power users - and only edge cases (such as transcoded streaming) really need a dedicated, self-built server.

    Not arguing!

    Steven R
    Reply
  • manmax - Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - link

    What if the device decides to quit working and you're using RAID. You may not be able to recover your data by putting the drives in another server. Especially if the original NAS is using hardware RAID. Reply
  • Zak - Thursday, March 27, 2014 - link

    Well, you still need to have a backup. Reply
  • ganeshts - Thursday, March 27, 2014 - link

    Most of these COTS NAS units (Synology / QNAP / Asustor etc.) don't use hardware RAID. Just take off the drives, plug them into a PC, make images and mount them. Linux systems can auto-recognize these RAID volumes. If using Windows, use something like UFS Explorer to get your data off it. That is the reason I like software RAID more than hardware RAID. Reply
  • CalaverasGrande - Friday, March 28, 2014 - link

    I completely agree. I could really blow the doors off of a NAS custom build. But when I get home after a 12 hour day of Raid rebuilds, Backup restores and email issues, the last thin I want to do is build a boring little Linux storage box.
    My next NAS will eitehr be Synology or Qnap. Good balance of features, performance and most relevantly, a MATURE OS and firmware.
    Heck I may even throw performance out the window and pick up one of the hated DROBO NAS products. They aren't the fastest, and their 'beyondraid' is proprietary. But when I've used their products in professional environs they were easy to set up and worked. Albeit slooooowly.
    Besides, I've yet to meet a raid array level 5 or hhigher that can be migrated between devices without backing it up and restoring it to the "new" raid.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Saturday, March 29, 2014 - link

    Software RAID on Linux is portable between devices. Reply

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