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NAS Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle= Introduction, Inside}
NAS Server
At a glanceRAID5 NAS Performance
June 2015
ProductASUSTOR NAS Server (AS7004T)   [Website]
SummaryFour-bay dual core Intel Core i3 NAS with lots of ports and wide range of downloadable apps.
Pros• Top of the chart performance
• USB 2.0, 3.0 and eSATA ports
• RAM upgradable to 16 GB
Cons• No 10GbE option

Typical Price: $945  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

Update 12/11/14: Price lowered

In order to help buyers find the right NAS, ASUSTOR breaks its product line into multiple categories. We have already reviewed products from the "Personal to Home" 2 series, products from the "Home to Power User" 3 series and the AS-604T from the "Power user to Business" 6 series.

This review will focus on the AS7004T, also a member of the "Power user to Business" family. As you might suspect, the 7 series boasts better performance and, of course, a higher price than the any of the lower numbered series. The 7 series includes our review model, the 4-bay AS7004T, as well as an 8 bay (AS7008T) and a 10 bay model (AS7010T).

All 7 series NASes are based on a dual-core 3.5 GHz Intel core i3 processor, 2 GB of SO-DIMM DDR3 memory (expandable to 16 GB) and multiple expansion ports including three USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports and two eSATA ports. All models also feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports and an LCD panel.

The 8 and 10 bay models also have a PCIe Expansion slot for an optional 10 GbE card. For audio output, the 7 series products drop the 3.5mm audio jacks found on the 2 and 3 series products in favor of a S/PDIF digital audio output port. The 7 series also boasts XBMC Version 13.1, which supports 4K video output via an HDMI 1.4 port.

Front panel callouts and LED meanings are shown below. Fortunately, there is an LCD panel and navigation buttons to more clearly communicate status.

Front panel callouts

Front panel callouts

Rear panel callouts are shown on the AS7008T's panel view below. The PCIe expansion slot at the upper right next to the reset button on the AS7008T and AS7010T only is not marked.

ASUSTOR 7 series rear panel callouts

ASUSTOR 7 series rear panel callouts

Inside

As noted above, all 7 series models are powered by an Intel i3-4150 running at 3.5 GHz. This is a significantly more powerful processor than found on the lower series ASUSTORs. To compare components, I selected the ASUSTOR AS-304T and AS-604T as well as the QNAP TS-470 Pro.

The QNAP also features an i3, but running at lower clock speed and also ships with 2 GB of memory. Like the AS7004T, it can be expanded up to 16 GB, but not by the user—not easily at least. The AS7004T's memory expands easily; just remove the case cover, lift up the flap on the exposed backside of the mainboard and insert the SoDIMM. There's even a YouTube video you can follow.

The table below summarizes the key components for these four products.

Component AS-7004T AS-604T ASUSTOR AS-304T QNAP TS-470 Pro
CPU Intel Core i3-4330 @ 3.5 GHz dual core Intel Atom D2700 @ 2.13 GHz Intel Atom CE5335 @ 1.6 GHz (dual core) Intel Core i3-3220 Dual-core Processor @ 3.3 GHz
RAM 2GB DDR3 SoDimm (expandable to 16 GB) 1 GB DDR3 DIMM (expandable to 3 GB) 1 GB DDR3 on board 2 GB DDR3 SoDIMM (expandable to 16 GB)
Ethernet Broadcom BCM57781 (X2) Broadcom BCM57781 (x2) Realtek RTL8211E Intel WG82574L (x2)
USB 3.0 Not visible - under heat sink? NEC D720200AF Etron Tech EJ188H Etron Tech EJ188H
SATA - Device under heatsink
- ASM1466 one lane (Dual-channel) 6 Gbps Serial ATA Repeater (x6) These buffer four internal SATA connectors and 2 eSATA
Marvell 88SE9125 SATA 6Gb/s and PATA Host Controller (x2) Asmedia ASM1061 PCI Express to two ports of Serial ATA (on backplane - AS-304T only) Marvell 88SE9235 quad PCIe to SATA 6 Gb/s controller
I/O ITE8728F Super I/O ITE8728F Super I/O ? ITE IT8721F
Video Unknown part marked DP139 Chrontel CH7318 HDMI level shifter N/A N/A
Table 1: Key component summary and comparison

The image below shows the AS7004T's mainboard. As you can see, the majority of the key components are covered by a massive heat sink connected via heat pipe to a radiator.

ASUSTOR AS7004T main PCB

ASUSTOR AS7004T main PCB

The photo below shows the backplane shot from the rear of the device. The main board and all connectors are to the right. The heatsink's radiator is mounted so that the large (120mm?) case fan is right in front of it.

ASUSTOR AS7004T backplane PCB

ASUSTOR AS7004T backplane PCB

We loaded the NAS with four WD Re 3 TB (WD3000FYYZ) drives on permanent loan from WD. Power consumption measured 62 W with the four drives spun up. We were not able to get a power consumption reading with drives spun down because the idle drive spindown function didn't work.

Fan and drive noise would be classified as low. But the review sample periodically spun the fan up to full speed over the course of a minute in 10 second or so steps, then stepped it right down again. ASUSTOR thinks this is a review sample flaw because they were not able to reproduce the behavior. So we will check this again on the replacement sample they're sending and update.


Features

The AS7004T came loaded with firmware version ADM 2.3.0.RB41. Earlier this year, I did an in-depth review of ASUSTOR's ADM 2.1 operating system. The basic look and feel of ADM 2.3 is very similar, as are the features. From the ASUSTOR website, here are the new features introduced in the ADM 2.2 upgrade:

New core features

  • Night Mode scheduling
  • Hard disk hibernation indicators
  • Multilingual username support
  • More advanced UPS functionality
  • Support for external optical drives (CD, DVD, Blu-ray)

New Apps

  • Photo Gallery
  • MiniDLNA
  • Google Drive
  • HiDrive
  • Mail Server

ADM 2.3, only recently released, features a refreshed UI, support for Windows Active Directory and ACL permissions and support for SMB 2.0 to improve windows networking performance. ADM 2.3 also supports the latest version of XBMC (Version 13.1). XBMC can be installed from App Central and on the AS7004T supports high-resolution 4k and 10-bit movies. If you'd like to experience the new UI for yourself, ASUSTOR has updated the live demo to ADM 2.3.

To give you a feel for the ADM 2.3 UI, here's a screenshot of the desktop.

ASUSTOR AS7004T ADM 2.3 desktop

ASUSTOR AS7004T ADM 2.3 desktop

Performance

Performance tests were run using our Revision 5 NAS test process on four-drive unencrypted RAID 0, 5 and 10 volumes with a 1 Gbps LAN connection. The firmware installed was ADM 2.3.0.RB41.

The Benchmark Summary below shows Windows File Copy read and write performance was remarkably consistent for both file copy read and file copy write performance for all RAID levels tested. (RAID 0, 5 and 10). Write performance was virtually identical across all RAID types at about 110 MB/s with read times showing just a little more variance ranging from 104.2 to 110.1 MBps.

Similarly, NASPT file copy to NAS and file copy from NAS were similarly consistent across all RAID types with file copy to NAS (write) holding a slight edge over file copy from NAS for each RAID level. File copy to NAS showed the highest performance turning in identical 114.6 MB/s for RAID 5 and RAID 10.

ASUSTOR AS7004T Benchmark Summary

ASUSTOR AS7004T Benchmark Summary

Attached storage also showed consistent and high throughput results. Backup using USB 2.0 ranged from 46.5 MB/s (EXT3 format) to 48.0 MB/s (NTFS). Backup using USB 3.0 showed identical results at 124 MB/s for EXT3 and NTFS with FAT lagging slightly at 120.7 MB/s. Likewise, backup results for eSATA were the same (120.7 MB/s) for EXT and NTFS formats with FAT trailing only slightly at 111.6 MB/s.

At 67.6 MB/s, network backup is the fastest that we've seen. Similarly, iSCSI write performance was also the fastest we've tested at 107.0 MB/s. iSCSI read of 101.3 MB/s tied with Thecus' N7710-G and for all intents and purposes with QNAP's TS-251 at 101.1 MB/s.


Comparative Performance

Update 12/11/14

Please note that MSRP was lowered to $1130. Keep this in mind when reading the competitive comparisons below.

I used the NAS ranker and filtered for 4 drives to compare four bay NASes. I sorted by both descending price and rank for different perspectives.

NAS Ranker comparison for 4-bay NASes by price (left) and rank (right)

NAS Ranker comparison for 4-bay NASes by price (left) and rank (right)

The descending price sort shows the AS7004T at $1260 is the most expensive 4 bay NAS of the 26 currently available in our charts. But QNAP's i3-powered TS-470 Pro isn't far behind at $1241.

The rank sort showed the AS7004T as not only the most expensive 4 bay NAS, but also the top-ranked four-bay. The second most expensive 4 bay NAS was the QNAP TS-470 Pro which, as noted above, is also an i3-based NAS and ranked third. Surprisingly, the second ranked NAS, the QNAP TS-453 Pro priced at $651 looks like a real bargain as compared to the $1260 AS7004T.

Note: Pricing is somewhat skewed, as the Buffalo products include disks in a 4 X 1 TB configuration and the Seagate price is for a 4 X 2 TB product. The ASUSTOR and QNAP products do not include disks in their pricing - they are BYOD.

Tweaking the NAS Ranker filter to include only dual-core general-purpose processors narrows the results to only four products. Again, the ASUSTOR AS7004T sits securely in first place followed by the QNAP TS-470 Pro. The image below shows the four, 4-bay dual core Intel-based NASes.

Four bay, dual core Intel-based NAS products

Four bay, dual core Intel-based NAS products

For detailed performance comparisons, I decided to include the QNAP TS-470 Pro and QNAP TS-453 Pro. The chart below shows individual test results as well as category rankings for these three products. The performance summaries show rankings for all products tested (84 products), not just filtered results. So while the AS7004T has a #3 ranking for total NAS, compared to a #1 ranking within the 4-bay filter, it was bested by the $1696 Thecus N10850 10 bay Xeon-based NAS (#1) and Thecus N8850 8 bay i3-based NAS (#2).

As you can see, the AS7004T had three #1 category rankings (Mixed Read/Write, Backup and iSCSI). Both the AS7004T and the TS-453 Pro missed a #1 ranking in the Video category by just a couple percentage points in the Video playback/record tests. Drilling down into some individual tests, all three NASes scored a ranking of #1 for both Windows File Copy Write and Windows File Copy Read at ~ 110 MB/s.

NAS ranker performance summary for the top three Total NAS 4-bay products

NAS ranker performance summary for the top three Total NAS 4-bay products

Closing Thoughts

Update 12/11/14

Please note that MSRP was lowered to $1130. Keep this in mind when reading the competitive comparisons below.

As I've noted in previous reviews, you need to look at the individual test results for performance features that are important to you based on your intended use of the NAS. For example, if you don't intend to use iSCSI or RAID 10, lower scores for those benchmarks that reduce our overall rating might not be important to you.

Looking at the numbers, both price and performance, it's clear that the ASUSTOR AS7004T is a premium-priced product with top-of-class performance. Priced at $1260, it is the most expensive 4 bay BYOD NAS of the 26 that we have tested. But that premium price is rewarded with top-rated performance in most categories. At $1241, the QNAP TS-470 Pro is the closest price competitor for 4 bay NASes. Like the AS7004T, the TS-470 Pro uses an Intel i3 processor, albeit a slightly slower one. On many of the read/write tests, it runs neck and neck with the AS7004T.

With more NAS vendors moving towards virtualization, I think that memory expandability is a really important feature to consider. Currently, the three products called out above all ship with 2 GB installed. The ASUSTOR AS7004T and QNAP TS-470 Pro can each be upgraded up to 16 GB. The TS-453 Pro is limited to 8 GB (2 X 4 GB).

If I were going to plunk down $1200+ for a 4 bay NAS (not likely in my household), I'd probably opt for the ASUSTOR AS7004T, but it would be a close call with the QNAP TS-470 Pro as the alternative. What tips the scale for me?

  • Top of the chart performance in benchmarks important to me.
  • Ease of memory upgrade. The QNAP TS-470 Pro isn't really designed for easy RAM upgrade. On the other hand, expanding the memory on the AS7004T is a fairly simple matter. Upgrading the factory-installed memory requires removing quite a few more screws. But ASUSTOR has posted a video that walks you through both upgrades.
  • The latest version of XBMC that supports 4K video (not that I have a 4K monitor, but I might some day)
  • S/PDIF optical audio output that supports both 5.1/7.1 Multi Channel Audio and 5.1/7.1 HD Multi-Channel Audio.
  • 3 Year Warranty. ASUSTOR recently upgraded its warranty period to 3 years. QNAP has a 2 year warranty on SMB/SOHO NAS products and a 3 year warranty on Enterprise products.

Those on a more modest budget, but still looking for a top-performing 4 bay NAS might want to take a good look at the QNAP TS-453 Pro. It offers very similar performance and features at a price that is about half the cost of the AS7004T.

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