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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  • Sorwis - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    Torrent clients are included in many NAS/home servers. I think every single Buffalo model has it and it's wonderful. Nothing wrong with torrents even though they are widely used to obtain copyrighted material. Reply
  • Zepid - Sunday, March 09, 2014 - link

    The 10 ten downloaded torrents last year were all legal, fyi. Reply
  • hoboville - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Using SSH on the Lenovo unit voids the warranty? Of all the... Reply
  • nubian1 - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    I find reviews of NAS appliances very interesting. For the most part the majority of the available "Consumer Level" devices solidify my opinion that it's is better to build your own then to purchase a prepackaged device. Naturally this depends on the users tech level but honestly it isn't all that hard. Both on a performance and financial level, rolling your own more often than not will lead to better results. Rolling your own hardware combined with a great piece of software like FreeNAS, which btw is very extensible with plugins if needed, and you are off to the races at a cash outlay that will often be less than competing prepackaged devices and if the hardware is chosen correctly, better performance. Reply
  • demonbug - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    18-20 watts at idle seems pretty high for what looks like pretty low-powered solutions; that's only a few watts less than the 6-bay Xeon-based NAS from Netgear you reviewed a while back. Considering that in a home environment it is going to be spending 99% of the time idle, it seems like keeping the idle power use down would be very important. That said, I'm not too familiar with NAS products - do they keep the disks spinning at idle? Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    The reported idle power is with 4 hard drives not fully spun down inside the NAS. The RN716 was idling with SSDs :) Reply
  • demonbug - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Ah, makes sense. Thanks for the reply. Reply
  • jardows2 - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    This review makes me want to go price out building my own NAS. I do have a question though; What is the benefit of multiple NICs for a home NAS server? Link aggregation requires a special switch, and I cannot think that in a home/soho environment, network segregation would be needed. Failover redundancy could be a benefit, but I can't think of anything else. Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Link-aggregation enabled switches can be had for less than $100 [ like this one : http://www.amazon.com/Netgear-GS108T-NAS-Prosafe-8... ]

    Multiple NICs can be useful if you are running a server backing up data from multiple machines in the household (I know of many who backup the PCs in their household everyday at 3 AM -- so that is all simultaneous traffic).
    Reply
  • MTN Ranger - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    How do these two NASs compare to a popular and similarly priced model like the Synology DS413j? For that matter, how about a review of the DS413j? Reply

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