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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  • Icehawk - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Raid 5? Why bother - the point of these cheap and slow devices IMO is for simple raid mirroring. I have an old WD 2 device job and it is slow as molasses but I don't really care as it is used as an archive dump to hold stuff I'd hate to lose. Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Accurate review from what I saw, I have the 2-bay version of the Lenovo/iomega NAS and the WD MyCloud EX4 as well. The hardware, mainly the single core CPU in the WD definitely hold it back especially with multi-client accesses, but I think the key feature that I did not see mentioned at all is the MyCloud's excellent cloud functionality. It also has a very easy to use smartphone app that allows you to access the NAS contents securely from anywhere with just a single sign-on username, no need for IPs or hostnames, port-forwarding, SSH or anything else that would scare off the average home user.

    The Iomega units are solid for their price, but they definitely aren't as fast as the Qnap or Synology units of the world, but the Iomegas can be had for a fraction of the price. Good entry-level home NAS units for those that have extra HDDs lying around and want to provide centralized network storage.
    Reply
  • Frolictoo - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    I still can't believe that vendors use SATA II connectors when most new NAS drives come in the SATA III flavor. If legacy reasoning is the case then why not add both options; SATA III is backwards compatible with SATA II. I have just built a new NAS using all WD RED drives on a RAID 10 array and I am truly satisfied with the impressive performance gain over the older SATA II counterparts. Reply
  • M/2 - Sunday, March 02, 2014 - link

    I've never understood consumer grade NAS drives. They're slow and problematic. Why not just set up a 4-bay RAID attached to a small computer and get RAID5 speeds over the network? I've got a 4-bay, USB3, RAID5 box (~$250 plus the cost of the drives) connected to a MacMini. Even on USB3, I get 250 Mb/s read/writes, Voila! 6X faster than NAS!

    Assuming you're using the Mini for other things than just network storage, the cost is about the same. There's also a dozen or so little MicroPC's with USB3 for ~$300-400 that you can do the same thing with if you're doing Windows. I love the MacMini because I can do everything I need over Remote Desktop, I never have to touch the Mini. You can put it in any dark corner and do everything remotely. Mine is in the very back of the entertainment center, it's just one more HDMI input on the AV receiver. If I need a big screen (iTunes, photos, movies) it's always there. Otherwise, it's there for remote clients including, laptops and AppleTV's. Try playing music or movies from a NAS drive! Yes you can do it, but it's not plug and play. This isn't intended to be an advert for Mac's, I just like my setup. You can do the same thing with a MicroPC.

    What am I missing? Be nice, I'm not an IT guy.
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    2 main reasons I can think of that prevented me from going this route:

    1) Power consumption: if you have something that you could repurpose for a NAS server, it's probably going to be old and power hungry. No way I would want one of my old X58 rigs powered 24/7 just to file server on my network. The WD MyCloud EX4 for example uses only ~15W idle and 30W under load. Huge difference.

    2) Price: There are definitely low-power options available now, even something like a NUC connected over USB 3.0 wouldn't be a terrible option, or a mini-ITX box. But then you are talking real money, and that's before you take the drives into account.

    Consumer-grade NAS boxes are often good enough, especially if you aren't asking a whole lot of them. I use mine to access shared DVRed shows from multiple PC clients wirelessly over the network as well as backing up data on my client machines, tablets, smartphones and it works well enough, provided I don't ask too much of it at once.
    Reply
  • M/2 - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    re: Power consumption... You got my curiosity going, a Mac Mini consumes 11W in idle mode (configured for wake on LAN). Mine has SSD's (RAID0 :) ), so it starts quick. I'm using a Dyconn Quartz4 which sleeps, there's no spec, but I'm assuming sleep mode must low, 4-5W? at most it's the same as a NAS.... so not much difference (at least to me)

    Re: NUC --- that's the cheaper option, except for one thing, it's Windows which is a pain in the *ss to manage ( for home use anyway, IMO, I made the switch about 5 yrs ago, never looked back) --- Regardless... I'm assuming the Mini is $0 added cost since I use it for other stuff besides network storage.
    Reply
  • RAYBOYD44 - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    John . even though Eleanor `s remark is super, last week I got BMW M3 after having made $6301 this last 5 weeks and over 10-k lass-month . this is certainly the best-work I have ever had . I actually started nine months/ago and straight away made myself over $70, p/h . s Reply
  • vanel86 - Monday, March 03, 2014 - link

    Since i owned a ix2-200d and a ix4-200d(free swap after my ix2 gave up and failed its own disks) i can attest you should run when offered the chance to get a lifeline -based device. If you activate the idle spin-off there is a very real chance the disk will be marked as dead by mdadm and since the disks die like flies in those due to the asthmatic fan(which spin on only if you get catastrophic temperatures) you are risking data daily if you use any powersaving option. The CIFS, NFS and AFS are very unoptimized, you can get unironically faster performance if you create a iscsi storage partition(which is the sole reediming feature of the former emc owned iomegas ixes, full vmware certification) and run a freenas within the storage area Reply

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