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NAS Reviews

Introduction

LaCie 5big Network

At a Glance
Product LaCie 5big Network (301354U)
Summary 5 SATA Drive RAID 5/10 NAS primarily focused on file serving and backup
Pros • Gigabit LAN w/ jumbo frames
• Smooth RAID failure recovery
• Quiet
• Three eSATA ports for storage expansion
Cons • Low performance compared to other five-drive NASes
• No media or print servers
• Unhelpful logging, email alerts
• No idle power down

Take the basic features of LaCie's 2big Network NAS, expand the number of drives from 2 to 5, add RAID 5, 6 and 10 (each with spare drive auto-failover), put it in a case that could be mistaken for a small sub-woofer and you have the 5big Network.

Craig Ellison's 2big Network review and the 5big's slideshow do a good job of describing the 5big's feature set. So this review will primarily focus on performance and just hit the highlights and differences of the 5big.

Product Tour

The 5big has LaCie's trademark monolithic look and perhaps takes the "clean" design look a bit too far. The case is heavy-duty aluminum, but eschews the heatsink fin look of the 2big for a smooth look. There are no visible fasteners and I have to admit that I couldn't figure out how to get it open for internal photos!

The front has a big button similar in size and function to that on the 2big, which blinks patterns of blue and red colors to convey status. It also serves to start the automatic copying of an inserted USB key to a folder. Under normal conditions, the button glows blue and doesn't blink to indicate network or drive activity. For that, you have to turn to the rear drive status lights.

Figure 1 shows the rear panel features. Link speed and activity LEDs are built into the single 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, which supports jumbo frames with 4000 and 9000 byte fixed settings.

Rear view of the 5big
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Rear view of the 5big

There is only one USB 2.0 port, but three eSATA ports that are usable only for attaching external storage—the 5big lacks UPS support and does not include a print server. External drives formatted with FAT32, NTFS, HFS+, EXT3, REISERFS or XFS can be mounted by the 5big. But any external drive used to back up the 5big must be formatted in XFS, which is the filesystem used by the internal drives.

Drives are locked into position using a screwdriver, coin or plastic "2-in-1 RAID mode change and drive lock tool" that LaCie throws in. The drive carriers don't have locking levers, so these locks are the only thing that holds the drives seated into their backplane connectors.

The three-position power switch (on/off/auto) functions the same as on the 2big. If the on/auto/off power switch on the 5big is set to "On", the Shut Down button in the web admin interface will restart the 2big, not shut it down. If set to "Auto", the system will enter Standby mode.

Due to the multiple RAID modes supported by the 5big, it doesn't use the physical mode change switch used on the 2big. Instead, you configure the RAID mode using the web admin interface. Figure 2 shows the RAID modes that the 5big supports.

RAID modes

Figure 2: RAID modes

Internal Details

As I noted above, I couldn't figure out how to get the case open. But pulling out all the drives gave me enough of a look at the main board that is mounted below the drives to be able to determine the components used.

Not surprisingly due to its relatively low performance among five-drive NASes, the 5big uses a Marvell 88F5182 "Orion" processor (@ 500 MHz). Memory is on the low side, too at 128 MB or RAM and 4 MB of flash. Due to the large number of drives there is also a Marvell 88SX6081 8-port SATA II, 3 Gbps PCI-X host controller.

The single 10/100/1000 Ethernet port is provided by a Marvell 88E1118, which supports 4K and 9K jumbo frames. The 2.5 TB model that LaCie provided for review came with five Hitachi Deskstar P7K500 500GB drives (HDP725050GLA360 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s).

A single 4.5" fan is mounted above the drives and pulls air in the top perforated opening and exhausts it down over the drives and main board and out the perforated bottom of the case. Drive and fan noise is low and power draw was measured at 43 W. There are no power save features.

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