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NAS Reviews

Performance

Testing and analysis by Tim Higgins

The N2 was tested with our standard test process. I used the latest 2.1.20.48759 firmware and ran tests with 1000 Mbps LAN connections in RAID 0 and 1 modes.

Figure 15 shows a summary plot of all the benchmark tests. Write cache boost is quite moderate at the low end, with no values exceeding the speed of the Gigabit Ethernet connection. Once the 1 GB and higher file sizes are reached, write speed settles in at the mid mid to high teen MB/s range for both RAID 0 and 1. Read is somewhat better, in the mid 20 MB/s range for RAID 1 and high 20 to low 30 MB/s for RAID 0.

Performance benchmark summary

Figure 15: Performance benchmark summary

Average RAID 1 write performance using a Gigabit Ethernet connection was 37.7 MB/s for file sizes between 32 MB and 4 GB, with cached behavior not included in the average calculation. Average RAID 1 read performance was lower, measuring 31.6 MB/s with the same conditions.

File copy performance using a Vista SP1 client under the same conditions (RAID 1, Gigabit LAN) measured significantly lower for write at 17.4 MB/s, but higher for read at 40.9 MB/s. This ranked the NAS in the lower half of two-bay RAID 1 NASes, right next to the Iomega ix2-200. Figure 16 shows the File copy ranking chart, filtered for dual-drive products.

Vista SP1 File copy - RAID 1 write

Figure 16: Vista SP1 File copy - RAID 1 write

Figure 17 shows the RAID 1 file copy read rankings.

Vista SP1 File copy - RAID 1 read

Figure 17: Vista SP1 File copy - RAID 1 read

Note that the two most closely-ranked products, the Iomega ix2-200 and Seagate NAS 220 also use Marvell Kirkwood processors.

Use the NAS Charts to further explore and compare performance.

Closing Thoughts

LG got a number of things right on the N2B1.  The white case with the black door is quite stylish, and the mechanical design seems solid.  I also liked the USB sync feature as well as the folder synchronization. Time Machine backups, though a bit squirrelly to set up, are also a nice feature.

LG made a good choice in beefing up the processor as compared to the previous N4B1 four bay model. But they probably could have moved up the performance charts a tad if they had used a 1.2 GHz Kirkwood processor rather than the 800 MHz version they choose. And I don't think this would have added much cost.

Speaking of cost, N2's equipped with a DVD writer represent a fairly good value, and carry only a slight premium over competitive products that lack optical drives.  For example, LG's 1TB N2 with DVD carries only a $39 dollar premium as compared to Buffalo's 1GB LinkStation Pro Duo priced at $259.99.  Similarly, LG's 2TB DVD model carries only a $29 premium compared to Buffalo's $349.99 2 GB LinkStation Pro Duo

But if you want the Blu-ray writer, it's going to cost you an extra $100 compared to a corresponding DVD model.  Perhaps the best value of all is the two bay BYOD enclosure; at $229.00, it carries only a slight premium as compared to DLink's $199.99 DNS323, or NetGear's two bay Stora (MS2110).

A number of my complaints are fairly minor, and could undoubtedly be fixed with a firmware upgrade.  For example, the N2 doesn't support jumbo frames and secure FTP (FTPS) doesn't appear to work.  (I tried FTPS connections with three different FTP clients.) 

The eSATA port doesn't currently do anything and remote access could use some improvement, as well.  The web remote access found on the Buffalo LinkStation Pro duo provided a much better remote experience than the remote web UI on the N2B1.   A choice of built-in DDNS providers could also make the N2B1 more attractive to those looking to use the N2B1 for remote access for their small businesses that have their own domain names.

Backup features also need some serious attention. The bundled Comnso client backup software (PC only) is not particularly user friendly.  And while you can manually burn folders from the NAS to writeable optical drive on the NAS or copy data from the optical media to the NAS, you can't automatically do incremental (or any other kind of) scheduled backups to the drive.  And backup to the optical drive really shouldn't be the only choice. Schedulable backup to attached USB and eSATA drives should be added as a minimum and preferably backup to networked rsync targets, too.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our reservations about the current support for LG's NASes. Lack of support (and web-based information in general) caused SmallNetBuilder to pass on a full review of the four-drive N4B1. And while LG has made some advances in the past six months or so since that product's introduction, support is still a weak spot.

While we're reviewing products, we typically have questions that are quickly answered by whoever our company contacts are. Sometimes there's an overnight wait while the real techies somewhere in Asia are queried. But LG's response time to questions was particularly slow, taking days for answers to come back, which sometimes didn't really address the question. If getting good answers for reviewers is this difficult, how hard will it be for consumers?

It's also hard to know where to go for product info and support, too. Product info for LG's NASes can be found at http://www.lgcommercial.com/products/. But there are no real support resources available there. The Contact Us link takes you only to a general sales query form and there are no phone numbers or mailing addresses to be found there.

But if you somehow find your way to http://www.lgcommercial.com/networkattachedstorage/pop.html, which doesn't appear to be linked from anywhere on the main site, you will find a Support link that will eventually get you to a Customer Service form and links for Knowledge Base, Live chat, email and phone support. There's also a Forums link, but don't bother with it; it's just for LG mobile phone products. The best site may be http://www.lge.com/us/computer-products/network-storage/index.jsp, which seems to have both product information and support links properly integrated.

I tried the Live Chat option, but the screenshot below speaks for itself.

Live Chat session

Figure 18: Live Chat session

I also called live support (800-243-0000) and after a long voice tree, got to a live person fairly quickly. He was able to confirm that the N2B1 doesn't support jumbo frames. But he had no suggestions about UPnP or FTPS not working. If LG wants to get a serious foothold in the NAS market, they'll need to raise their support game.

In all, the N2B1 still has a bit of a "1.0" feel to it.  But I hope that LG will make improvements with future firmware releases and improved support resources. The product certainly has the bones to be a contender. It just needs more meat.

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