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Intel Entry Storage System

At a Glance
Product Intel Entry Storage System (SS4200-E)
Summary Four drive RAID 5 BYOD SATA NAS with top of the chart performance.
Pros • Top of the chart RAID 5 read/write performance
• AD support
• Bundled EMC Retrospect client software for PC/Mac
• Two e-SATA ports
Cons • RAID limited to 0+1 and RAID 5
• Drives not hot swappable
• No Jumbo frame support
• No support for RAID expansion or RAID Migration

If you’re thinking about buying a 4 drive BYOD NAS, the brand names that come to mind are likely to be Synology, QNAP, Thecus, Linksys, and possibly Zyxel.  Though Intel has been in the storage business for many years, they are often overlooked as a BYOD NAS vendor. 

Yet Intel’s Entry Storage System SS4200-E offers screaming performance at a very affordable price.  Intel’s product is actually available in two separate SKUs, so you need to be careful when ordering.  I discovered that on Pricegrabber, the product descriptions are the same for both SKUs.  The SS4200-E, our review unit, comes pre-loaded with Lifeline NAS software from EMC.  EMC software powers both the NAS and provides client backup software via an OEM version of its popular Retrospect Express application. 

The second SKU, the SS4200-EHW is a hardware-only product targeted at ODMs or OEMs who want to build their own branded NAS on Intel’s solid hardware platform. 

The EMC-powered SS4200-E is targeted to the SOHO and small business market space. And though its performance tops the charts for RAID5 four-drive BYOD NASes, it is missing some features found in competing products.

Product Tour

Compared to other 4-drive NASes on the market, the SS4200-E has an unusual form factor.  Measuring 4.8” X 16” X 13.23”, it looks more like a small overnight suitcase than a traditional NAS. 

It weighs in at a hefty 14.75 lbs without drives, or about 20 lbs when fully loaded.  Both the top panel and the bottom panel have a slight bulge, so whether you choose horizontal or vertical mounting, you’ll need to use the supplied metal “feet” to stabilize.  The power supply is built in, so unlike some devices, you don’t have to contend with a power supply brick.

The front panel (Figure 1) has LED status indicators for each installed drive, a power switch, NIC and drive activity indicators as well as two USB 2.0 ports.  These ports, and as the two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel, can be used for attaching external USB drives or a UPS.  According to the release notes, which make for interesting reading, you can’t use the USB ports for a shared network printing.  However, print server functionality is planned for a future release.

SS4200-E front panel

Figure 1: SS4200-E front panel

The rear panel (Figure 2) has the two additional USB 2.0 ports mentioned above as well as two e-SATA ports.  There is a single gigabit Ethernet port, reset button, power connector and openings for two 70X70 mm temperature-controlled fans and a small fan for the power supply. The use of the two relatively-large fans makes for surprisingly quiet operation, once you get past the startup fan calibration routine that temporarily spins the fans up to full speed, then ramps them down to a quiet operating level.

It is important to note that the gigabit Ethernet interface, based on the Intel 82573 chipset, does not support jumbo frames, nor can you control the speed of the port; the only mode is auto-negotiation.  The back panel also includes a security slot so that you can “tie down” the NAS with a standard notebook cable lock.

SS4200-E rear panel

Figure 2: SS4200-E rear panel

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