ASUSTOR AS-204TE Review
Unless you have been living under a small stone in a field behind Bilbo Baggins’ home, you may have heard the term NAS (Network Attached Storage). NAS are becoming more prevalent in the home, the small office, and the Enterprise. These flexible, inexpensive, devices can nearly do it all, which is what makes them so attractive. Well, it seems like everyone and their cousin is producing a NAS of some sort, but only a few have really got their act together. Among that small few, those that have more in R&D than they do in sales, is a company by the name of ASUSTOR. Today, ASUSTOR is no longer just a startup company. Instead, they have been producing some of the best, low-cost, NAS that money can buy. We had the chance to review their AS-302T, as well as the AS-608T and absolutely loved it. Let’s see if their AS-204T can live up to our lofty expectations.
ASUSTOR has set out with two variations of the AS-204, one T and one TE. The difference between the two? The TS-204TE has an additional 512MB of DDR3 RAM for a total of 1GB and HDMI 1.4a. They both feature the same Intel Atom 1.2GHz Dual-Core processor, they both sport a single USB 3.0 Port, two USB 2.0 Ports, and a single Gigabit Ethernet Port. Both units measure in at 185.5(H) x 170(W) x 230(D) mm and weigh just 3.4 kg / 7.5 lb. The AS2-204T/TE can support Single disk, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10 configurations and 6TB drives.
- CPU: Intel® ATOM™ 1.2GHz Dual-Core Processor
- Memory: 1GB Memory DDR3
- HDD: 2.5″ / 3.5″ SATA II/ III or SSD x 4¹ Compatibility
- Expansion: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 2
- Network: Gigabit Ethernet x 1
- Output: HDMI 1.4a x1
- System Fan: 120mm x 1
- Infrared Receiver
- 3.5mm Audio Jack
- Input Power Voltage: 100V to 240V AC*
- Certification: FCC, CE, VCCI, BSMI, C-TICK
- Power Consumption: 36W (Operation); 22.6W (Disk Hibernation); 0.8W (Sleep Mode)²
- Noise Level: 19.4dB
- Operation Temperature: 5°C~35°C (40°F~95°F)
- Humidity: 5% to 95% RH
- System Sleep Mode (S3)
- Auto-Standby for Both Internal and External Disks
- Auto Fan Control
- LED Night Mode
- Power Schedule: On, Off, Restart, and Sleep
Having the HDMI port and expanded memory allows you to run the ASUSTOR Portal app from the App Center in administration. ASUSTOR Portal allows you to connect your NAS to any HDMI ready display and run an application like XBMC on your NAS instead of adding an additional piece of equipment to your home theater like an HTPC or Raspberry Pi. Having an Infrared Receiver built-in means you can use the optional AS-RC10 remote control for easy navigation. Personally, I prefer the iOS XBMC app or XBMC constellation for control, but your mileage may vary.
The ASUSTOR AS-204TE looks like any other NAS in the ASUSTOR lineup. However, don’t be fooled by its appearance, there are some key differences. Up front, the AS-204TE is simple and fantastic looking. The raised asustor logo defines the brand. The power button and blue LED are smooth and flush. The HDD glows a soothing green. Although there are two positions for Ethernet connectivity LEDs, only one is populated; the other is plugged. The OTB (one touch backup) button is similar to that of the Power button, but unlike QNAP TS-470 it features a USB 3.0 port for quick data transfers.
Occupying the majority of the AS-204TE’s face is a plastic piece of trickery. Normally, you would expect there to be an LCD panel hidden behind the clear plastic, similar to that of the AS-608T. However, ASUSTOR has done no such thing here. The only thing that resides here is the IR receiver.
Just below is the hard drive cage. Each drive tray sports a quick release button and the smoothest action of any HDD tray we have seen in a NAS to date. Again, similar to others in the ASUSTOR lineup and those by QNAP, there are no drive tray numbers. Each drive tray is manufactured from high quality materials and the release mechanism is strong. Each drive tray has its own LED indicator for power and activity and can home either a 3.5″ or 2.5″ hard drive.
Around back, the ASUSTOR NAS has a solitary USB 3.0 Port and Gigabit Ethernet Port, the HDMI port, Audio connectivity, dual USB 2.0 ports, a Kensington Security Slot, a HUGE 120mm exhaust fan, and power connectivity.
Inside, simplicity reigns supreme. Disassembling this NAS is far easier than it was for the QNAP TS-470.
The AS-204TE is powered by an FSP Group Inc. 150 Watt Power supply. Unfortunately, the PSU is not 80 PLUS certified and the product page specifies that this unit operates at 72% efficiency.
The AS-204TE does not allow for memory expansion. The Samsung PC1600 DDR3 DRAM (K4B2G1646Q-BCK0 DDR3 ) is fixed.
USB 3.0 is handled by an Etron EJ188H controller and has a maximum bandwidth of 1.25 Gigabyte/s per port and up to 5Gb/s in SuperSpeed.
The Intel ATOM processor is cooled by a simple heatsink
For the mobile enthusiast, ASUSTOR’s mobile applications bring management and multimedia with you, wherever you go.
AiMaster is dedicated NAS management software for your mobile device. No matter if you are an individual user or IT administrator, AiMaster lets you conveniently manage your NAS while its comprehensive support for push notifications ensures that you stay up to date with the status of your system.
AiMaster has to be the best mobile NAS management application I have used yet. It brings the NAS UI to the mobile platform better than the competitors do.
AiData lets you safely browse and access all the files stored on your NAS from your mobile device. Additionally, it allows you to stream multimedia content and view photos from your NAS as well as providing integration with Dropbox that gives you easy data management across the cloud.
Use your mobile device to control Download Center on your ASUSTOR NAS. Whether it’s searching, downloading or managing tasks, AiDownload gets it done in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, when your downloads are completed, your mobile device will receive immediate notification.
NAS setup couldn’t be easier. The included ASUSTOR control panel quickly finds your NAS on the network for quick setup. Once found, the application gives you some quick and useful information about your NAS.
The application then walks you through your initial configuration.
The initialization process will prompt you to either upload ADM or connect to ASUSTOR for the latest firmware available
After firmware has been applied, ADM presents two options. 1-Click Setup and Custom Setup. 1-Click Setup uses optimized settings in accordance with your computer settings and the installed hard drives. Personally, I always choose the Customer Setup.
The rest of the configuration is broken down into 5 steps.
- The first being Hostname and admin Password.
- The second is time & date
- Network configuration
- Storage Configuration
- Settings applied
The last 3 screens are for an ASUSTOR ID. This provides you with the ability to get technical support and download apps from the ASUSTOR App Central and is also required for the Cloud Connect Service.
ADM 2.0, the ASUSTOR Data Master Operating System, is a sleek and robust Linux-based operating system. The interface is well designed and navigation is as easy as using an iPhone. The OS is standard across the entire ASUSTOR lineup. Simplicity? Yes. Multitasking? Yes. Looks good? Yes. Bloated? No way. With the advanced web IU, you can rearrange settings, create pages based on your usage preferences, and even change the background image. You can run multiple applications without having to commit to those changes and lose everything; the applications can be minimized, moved, or closed.
The administration, out of the box, is broken up into several different “apps” that reside on the desktop. The apps are logically defined and it is easy to figure out what does what without requiring a manual.
Access control is where your users, groups, app privileges, and shared folders reside. Users can be added with just a few clicks and groups can be assigned just as easily to make administrating access to shared folders easy. Shared Folders can be created and added in no time at all and allows for advanced user access permissions. ADM is the first NAS OS we tested that recognizes right clicks and presents options for individual items quickly. Others have followed since.
The activity monitor presents everything you need to know about what your NAS is doing in a very slick way. The percentage of each CPU (core) is displayed graphically, as well as memory, network activity, disk usage, and running processes.
Backup & Restore
Backup & Restore is everything the name describes. You can create RSYNC jobs, FTP Backup jobs, configure backup to external devices, configure the One Touch Backup, backup to Cloud (currently only supports Amazon S3), and the ability to export and import your backup settings.
File explorer is as self-descriptive as can be. You can view and manage documents easily. With the cloud services ASUSTOR builds into the NAS, you also have the ability to create a public share for any specific document quickly to allow someone from the outside to download. Beyond that, compression is built-in (zip or 7z!); just right-click on a file and choose.
Settings is home to the basic configuration of your NAS. You can configure system ports, regional options, enable notifications, restore to factory default, configure networking, modify energy-saving features, and more. The hardware subsection allows you to configure things like LED indicators, buzzers, HDD power down settings, and customize the LCD panel. ADM defender is a very basic firewall that can ban specific IP addresses or ban them based on failed login attempts. ADM update allows you to check for and install any software updates available for your system.
Services is where you configure most of what your NAS will do for you. Here you can enable and configure CIFS/SAMBA, AFP, NFS, FTP, WebDAV, the Web Server, MySQL, Terminal Access, and the RSYNC Services. Each of these are easy to configure, but I am a bit disappointed in the RSYNC implementation. Creating modules for each folder you have can become a cumbersome and time-consuming process. It would be helpful if an RSYNC Module was created automatically each time a share is created, or at least an option available for creating the module when the share is created.
The Storage Manager is where your disk management and volume management reside. Here you can create volumes in various RAID and non-RAID arrays (RAID 0,1, single disk or JBOD). Inside the Disk tab you can view SMART information or get down and dirty with the Disk Doctor. The Disk Doctor is something that every NAS should employ. It not only allows you to do a SMART scan, but it will also do a bad block scan. To further enhance the feature, you can schedule each of these and have the AS-302T report to you its findings. Worried about losing data? This can be your first line of defense in detecting potential issues and being proactive. This NAS has support for iSCSI for use in shared storage environments.
The System Information module gives you insight into some basic information about your NAS. It will let you know what version of ADM you are running as well as the ASUSTOR ID you have assigned to the AS-302T. Here you can also find what model you have, the CPU, how much RAM is installed, and what temperatures your NAS is experiencing. The Networking tab shows you some basic network information. The Log tab shows you the latest issues or experiences your NAS has had. Online users is self-explanatory. The Dr. ASUSTOR, however, is something unique. It is a utility that can help you proactively manage your NAS. It will list errors and solutions as well as offer suggestions for keeping your NAS healthy.
App Central is your portal to expanding your NAS horizons. Applications from ASUSTOR and the community can further enhance the functionality and usability of your NAS. Applications range from Social Networking to Backup & Sync with everything in between.
It is a given that using your NAS should be easy, and it is also a given that your NAS should perform well in serving up your files. After all, this is basically what the devices is intended for. To benchmark the NAS, we run synthetic benchmarks as well as benchmark some real world activities.
For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 46.6GB Blu-Ray ISO (Avatar) from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting. For more on our Avatar Benchmark please see our Benchmarking application: COD Benchmarking Utility
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For testing the transfer speed of the NAS with smaller files, we use the same method as the Avatar test but instead create two hundred individual MP3′s of specific file sizes for repeatable results. The files are copied from the workstation to the NAS and back 5 times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.
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For testing the large file transfer speed of the NAS, we transfer a 2GB file from the workstation to the NAS and back five times. We pipe the transfer speeds during the benchmark to a .csv file for charting.
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For further benchmarking, we test each NAS using Intel’s NAS Performance Toolkit to rate 2 key areas of NAS performance. We measure File Copy speeds to and from the NAS and the Directory Copy speeds to and from the NAS. System RAM is set to 2048MB of RAM to ensure there is no mem caching for transfers.
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For benchmarking the performance of iSCIS, we created an iSCSI connection to the NAS and benchmark the NAS using Intel’s IOMeter. IOMeter has to be one of the most widely used software packages for benchmarking disks. There are an endless number of ways you can build a benchmark, but we chose to limit our benchmarking to 100 percent Sequential Read and Write then 100 percent Random Read and Write. You can emulate our benchmarking by using the following configuration
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||% of size
CrystalDiskMark is another benchmarking utility that determines speeds by measuring 512KB, 4KB, and 4KB (Queue Depth 32) sequential and random read and write speeds. Test data can be Random, 0Fill, and 1Fill. For our purposes, we left the test at Random.
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The ASUSTOR AS-204TE is not a power house NAS; and it isn’t designed to be. With a price tag of right around $430.00 USD, this NAS is meant to be an affordable Home/SOHO NAS that delivers features you would expect to find in a NAS that costs hundreds more. Although, it may not have the beefiest processor or loaded with tons of RAM, it does have everything you need, and more.
When comparing the benchmarks to other 4-bay NAS we have reviewed, the AS-204TE isn’t the fastest. Don’t let number in the review criteria fool you… That is a number we use when comparing this NAS to all 4-bay we have reviewed, including the TS-470 which sells for right around $1,053.99 USD. This NAS is still capable of serving up your files quickly in a small network.
The ASUSTOR OS (ADM) is strong with features and is smoother than Sade. Operating this NAS is easy and with the ASUSTOR Portal it can replace your HTPC or cable box as well as serve up files at home or on the road.
Although we didn’t cover XBMC in any detail in this review, the application is as fluid running here as on my 8-Core HTPC. It also uses far less electricity… 42W in testing at full load. We had no issues with playback and menu transitions were effortless. Upgrade your experience with the optional remote or with XBMC Constellation and you end up with a powerful multimedia appliance that makes a big impact with a small footprint.
The AS-204TE is packed with all the features you look for in a small, inexpensive, package, making it hard to pass up. If you are a home user looking for a good NAS at a great price, the AS-204TE may be the one for you. Bottom line, if you are looking for a NAS on a budget… don’t look at anything else.