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NAS Reviews

4-Bay Personal Cloud Storage
At a glance
ProductZyxel 4-Bay Personal Cloud Storage (NAS540)   [Website]
SummaryFour-bay dual core Freescale-based NAS with loadable apps and cloud access.
Pros• Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports
• Quiet and Eco friendly
• 3 USB 3.0 ports and 1 SD card slot
• Personal cloud features
Cons• No audible alarm or front panel indication of RAID failure
• Relies on UPnP port forwarding for remote access
• No iSCSI support

Typical Price: $238  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

The NAS540 4-Bay Personal Cloud Storage is ZyXEL's first four bay NAS. Like the two-bay NAS325 V2, the NAS540 offers lots of features and decent performance at a nice low price.

The NAS540 offers all the features you'd expect in a 4-bay NAS. It supports RAID 0/1/5/6/10 and RAID5 + Hot Spare volumes and accepts both 3.5" and 2.5" SATA drives in hot-swappable bays.

ZyXEL NAS540

ZyXEL NAS540

The NAS540 is the first ZyXEL product with "personal cloud" features. So we'll be taking a look at these features and the slightly updated UI based on ZyXEL's NSM 5.0 (NAS Station Management) OS.

Like many other 4-bay NASes, the drives in the NAS540 are mounted vertically. The NAS540 measures 7.48" x 8.85" x 6.29" and weighs about 4.4 lbs without disks. The callouts below show the front and rear panels.

ZyXEL NAS540 front and rear panel callouts

ZyXEL NAS540 front and rear panel callouts

It's worth noting that of the four least expensive 4-drive NASes we'll be including in our comparisons in this review, only the NAS540 has three USB 3.0 ports as well as an SD card slot. It also has two Gigabit Ethernet ports - a feature shared only by the recently reviewed D-Link DNS340L.

The front panel is relatively plain. It features a power on/off switch, a system LED and individual LEDs for each drive. The One-touch Copy/Sync allows you to initiate the copy or sync function of memory devices inserted into USB or SD ports. The front panel SD slot and 1 USB 3.0 port are covered by a hinged plastic door. The front panel that covers the drive bays is secured to the case with four corner-mounted magnets.

The rear panel has two additional USB 3.0 ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, a Kensington security slot and a power input jack. The callouts for the power port contains an error. The NAS540 is powered by a 19 VDC 4.7 A external "brick" power supply. The external power supply helps reduce the heat inside the case. ZyXEL touts the 120 MM Smart fan as a contributing factor to the NAS's low noise. Indeed, in our tests, the NAS540 earned a "low" noise rating. Not identified in the rear panel callout above is a reset switch. It's located just above the power socket.

Inside

The NAS540 is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core Freescale FS1024 (M86203G12) SoC with 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and 256 MB of Spansion Flash. The Gigabit Ethernet ports are a pair of Realtek RTL8211E.

Since there are no other Freescale powered four-bay NASes in our current NAS Charts, I'll be comparing three other least expensive four-bay NASes, i.e. the ASUSTOR AS-204TE, Thecus N4310 and D-Link DNS-340L. Key components for all four products are shown in Table 1.

  ZyXEL NAS540 D-Link DNS-340L ASUSTOR AS-204TE Thecus N4310
CPU Freescale FS1024 (M86203G12) Dual Core @ 1.2 GHz Marvell Armada 370 88F6707-A1 C120 @ 1.2GHz Intel Atom CE5310 @ 1.2 GHz (dual core) AMCC APM86491-RKB1000T 1GHz SoC
RAM 1 GB DDR3 512 MB Hynix H5TQ2G83FFR ?512 MB DDR3 (x2) 1 GB DDR3 on board 1 GB DDR3 Sk Hynix H5TQ4G43AFR (x2)
Flash 256 MB Spansion S34ML02G100TFI000 128 MB Hynix H27U2G8F2CTR 16 MB Spansion FL128SAIF00 1 GB Spansion S34ML08G101TFI000
Ethernet Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet (x2) Marvell 88E1518 Gigabit Ethernet (x2) Realtek RTL8211E Atheros AR8035-A
USB 3.0 USB 3.0: Asmedia ASM1074L 4 port USB 3.0 controller Etron Tech EJ168A Etron Tech EJ188H None
SATA Asmedia ASM1061 2 port PCIe to SATA
- Pericom PI3EQX4951STZDE SATA2 ReDriver(x2)
Marvell 88SE9215 4 port PCIe 2.0 SATA 6Gb/s and PATA Host Controller Asmedia ASM1061 PCI Express to two ports of Serial ATA JMicron JMB320 SATA II 3.0 Gbps port multiplier
Price $231 $292 $351 $199
Table 1: Key Component Summary and Comparison

The image below shows the NAS540 main board. In the center, the chip with the silver cover is the Freescale SOC. The Realtek RTL8211E Gigabit Ethernet controllers are on the left side of the board adjacent to the Ethernet connectors.

ZyXEL NAS540 Main PCB

ZyXEL NAS540 Main PCB

The image below shows the drive backplane with four SATA connectors. It plugs into the connector near the upper left corner of the main board above.

ZyXEL NAS540 backplane PCB

ZyXEL NAS540 backplane PCB

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