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ASUSTOR Portal

The ASUSTOR portal is a launchpad interface that appears on your HDTV when you connect it to an ASUSTOR NAS with an HDMI cable. Compared to what you might find on a Smart TV interface, the ASUSTOR portal is sparsely populated with entries only for YouTube, Chrome, ADM and XBMC.

The YouTube icon is a link that launched from within Chrome. Similarly, ADM a link to the NAS management console and also launches Chrome. The installed version of Chrome is 31.0.1650.63. From within the management console, you can configure the appearance of the portal, set the screen saver, configure the information displayed and set the default app to run at startup.

ASUSTOR ADM 2.1 Portal Management (from web UI)

ASUSTOR ADM 2.1 Portal Management (from web UI)

The screenshot below shows the ASUSTOR Portal displayed on the HDTV screen in my office. To make navigating on the TV screen easier, you can plug a mouse and keyboard into two of the NAS USB ports. In addition, ASUSTOR has Android and iOS apps (AiRemote) that let you use the touch screen on your mobile device to navigate on the TV screen.

ASUSTOR ADM 2.1 Portal (on HDTV screen)

ASUSTOR ADM 2.1 Portal (on HDTV screen)

It's not likely that you'd be satisfied with the Chrome/YouTube experience as a way to stream internet content. I tried to stream videos from YouTube and found them very jerky with what appeared to be a very low frame rate. Streaming content from www.comedycenral.com yielded somewhat better results, but the video was not smooth. Next, I tried to launch a movie on NetFlix. Netflix intercepted my request and pointed me to watching system compatibility page. Chrome appears to be supported only on Chromebook or Chromebox running Chrome OS 29 or higher. I was able to stream video on Hulu, but again, the picture was jerky - particularly with scene changes when there were big differences between the scenes.

The content blocking I found isn't unique to the ASUSTOR; you'll encounter it when trying to access the same sources with other Linux-based devices. But the poor quality of the content that I could access was disappointing, particularly since the Intel Atom CE series processors are specially designed for media processing. Given the flawless playback of local content via XBMC that I describe below, the problem is likely due to the reliance on Chrome.

Some readers have questioned my internet connection speed in past reviews. It's plenty fast, thank you, due to a recent upgrade, as shown in the Speedtest.net result below run immediately after running the tests above.

Speedtest.net test results for my internet connection

Speedtest.net test results for my Internet connection

XBMC

As you'll find on Synology and QNAP NASes, XBMC is the "go to" media center application. ASUSTOR, too, also uses XBMC. The version installed on the AS-204TE is the May 30. 2014 build of XBMC 12.3. You launch XBMC from the ASUS Portal. The screenshot below shows the landing page. On this page, you have menus for Weather, Pictures, Videos, Music, Programs and System.

ASUSTOR ADM2.1 XBMC landing page

ASUSTOR ADM2.1 XBMC landing page

For each media type, you can define one or more sources for your content. The sources include ASUSTOR Shared folder, NFS, UPnP devices, USB devices attached to the ASUSTOR, Windows network (SMB) and Zeroconf Browser. A screenshot in the gallery below shows the configuration screen that is common to all three media types.

For each media type, I configured one or more locations and tried playing the associated media files. For video, XBMC played all of the media types I tried including .wmv, .3gp, .avi, .mp4. All media types played properly with no jitter or tearing problems. The .VOB test file played flawlessly.

For music, I had previously loaded my entire iTunes library on the NAS and just added the \public\media\music directory as a music source. The tested files played as expected. The music player is fairly basic. You can play selected songs, add them to a queue, view MP3 ID3 information or add to favorites. While the music plays properly, you don't get the rich library experience showing all song titles, genres, artists and albums.

Similarly for photos, the viewing experience is fairly basic. You can scroll through directories of photos, and thumbnails appear. As with the other media types, right clicking on an image provides you with access to more options. For photos, you can start a slide show at the current photo, delete/rename, add to favorites, change settings or view picture information. The slide show in the gallery below will give you an idea of the features that you'll find in XBMC.

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