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NAS Reviews

Features

Despite many unsuccessful attempts and some back-and-forth with ASUS, I was unable to install the WHS Connector on my Vista SP1-based NAS test system. I was, however, able to complete the install on an XP SP3 system. Go figure.

I let the mini complete its automatic updates and when the smoke cleared the WHS Console Resources page reported that it had Windows Home Server with Power Pack 3. Version information for the various components all showed 6.0.2423.0.

ASUS has installed in a few of their own add-ins and included an avast! Antivirus add-in that can be installed. The Xtor Manager and WebStorage add-ins both appear in the toolbar shown in Figure 5, along with an ASWM (ASUS System Web-based Management) option that doesn't appear to have a visible add-in.

WHS Console with ASUS add-ins
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: WHS Console with ASUS add-ins

ASWM is a nice touch for the geekier WHS user, providing access to Windows information that you'd otherwise have to RDP into the server for. The info is mostly look, but not touch, although you have an option for flashing the BIOS and a few other configuration options, mostly around SNMP reporting.

Figure 6 shows the Xtor Manager add-in, which provides some nice options for backing up, syncing and merely moving files between the mini and external drives. Too bad that it doesn't include options for network-based backup. Backup options, though, are strictly on-demand; there is no ability to set up regularly-scheduled backups.

ASUS Xtor manager
Click to enlarge image

Figure 6: ASUS Xtor manager

The WebStorage add-in provides the ability to use ASUS' WebStorage service (Figure 7) free for one year. After that, you'll need to buy a yearly subscription, which ranges from $10 for 10 GB to $40 for "unlimited" space. I didn't bother signing up for an account, so didn't check out this offering.

ASUS WebStorage Service
Click to enlarge image

Figure 7: ASUS WebStorage Service

And, of course, the mini supports all the other goodies you get with a Windows Home server based system including media serving, Windows and MacOS client backup, remote access and more.

Performance

I ran our iozone and filecopy benchmarks using a Gigabit Ethernet connection and our standard process. I didn't test with jumbo frames, both because they don't make significant difference with my test platform and since enabling jumbo frames isn't supported in the WHS Connector interface.

Figure 8 shows plots of the write and read performance vs. "large" file sizes from 32 MB to 4 GB with a 1000 Mbps LAN connection. As is typical of other WHS-based systems, there is significant write cache boost.

Performance benchmarks

Figure 8: Performance benchmarks

Write performance with a 1000 Mbps LAN connection averaged over the 32 MB to 4 GB file sizes and with cached results above 125 MB/s removed from the average measured 65.4 MB/s with read speed a bit higher at 67.3 MB/s.

For a competitive look, I filtered the file copy tests to include only HP and ASUS products. This gave me a comparison of all the WHS systems I've tested to date, which have all been from HP until now.

Vista SP1 file copy - write

Figure 9: Vista SP1 file copy - write

You can see that the TS mini ranks last for both read and write among this limited group. The fairest comparison is between the LX195 and mini, since both use Atom CPUs. It looks like the LX195 has a almost 15 MB/s write advantage over the mini, while they're essentially equal in read performance.

Vista SP1 file copy - read

Figure 10: Vista SP1 file copy - read

But a look at Figure 11 shows that the LX195's advantage is probably coming from its write cache boost which stays up higher and longer at smaller file sizes than the mini's. So, in real life, you'd probably be hard pressed to see a real performance difference between the two Atom-based WHS systems.

Vista SP1 file copy - write

Figure 10: Vista SP1 file copy - read

Use the NAS Charts to further explore performance.

Closing Thoughts

As I said at the top, the TS mini is a good alternative for those looking for a Windows Home Server machine with more internal storage and more external storage options than HP's LX195. It's rougher around the edges than HP's offerings. But it should serve you well (pun not really intended) at speeds similar to other (and even RAID-based) Atom-based NASes.

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