|At a glance|
|Product||Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay (STCS8000100) [Website]|
|Summary||Marvell Armada based dual drive “personal cloud” NAS focused on media storage and playback from anywhere on any device|
|Pros||• DLNA server
• Very good backup and sync apps
• Easy remote access setup
|Cons||• Nothing glaring|
We reviewed Seagate’s single-drive Personal Cloud back in March. Since then, Seagate added an app for the popular Plex media server. The new app runs on both the single and dual-drive Personal Clouds. But we took the opportunity to see how the 2-Bay version performs for RAID 1.
The Personal Cloud 2-Bay is available in 4 TB, 6 TB and 8 TB capacities. Seagate sent the 8 TB STCS8000100 model for review, which at time of review costs around $450. The cheapest you can get a 2-Bay is $285; there are no diskless models. The two-bay version comes configured in RAID 1 by default, but you can change that to RAID 0 if you’re ok with the complete drive erase that comes when you change RAID modes in either direction. Neither RAID level migration or capacity expansion is supported.
Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay Box
Since it has to hold two drives, the 2-Bay is about twice as deep, but just as wide as the single bay Personal Cloud. I tried to show this in the crudely-crafted composite image below; the single bay is 4.7 in. / 119mm deep, the 2-bay 9.2 in. / 234mm.
Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay , 1 Bay footprint comparison
The rear panel has the same layout as the single-bay, except for the right-side cover relase button. You give this a press to lift off the cover to get at the drives. I’m not sure why Seagate wanted you to be able to easily access the drives in the 2-Bay and not the 1-Bay. You’ll see in a bit that it takes some work to swap them out.
The objects of interest on this panel are (left to right): power switch; power socket; 10/100/1000 Ethernet port; USB 2.0 port; reset button and cover release. The USB 3.0 port is on the left side (viewed from rear). The single power/activity light is at the top front right (viewed from front) of the box. The controls and positions are the same on the 1-Bay.
Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay rear
Both Personal Cloud models appear to use the same motherboard, with alternate loadings. The 2-Bay version gets a combo SATA/power connector for the second drive. Key components are summarized in Table 1. I corrected the processor model from the 88F6706 I had in the 1-Bay review.
|Seagate Personal Cloud 2-Bay|
|CPU||Marvell ARMADA 370 88F6707 C1 SoC @ 1.2 GHz|
|RAM||512 MB Samsung K4B4G1646D|
|Flash||1 MB Macronix MX25L8006E|
|Ethernet||Marvell Alaska 88E1518 Gigabit Transceiver|
|USB 3.0||Asmedia ASM1042A dual-port USB 3.0 PCIe host controller|
I decided to get better board pictures this time and took the whole thing apart. Most of the components are mounted on the side of the board facing the bottom of the product. The Marvell SoC and Asmedia USB 3.0 controller are coupled to the bottom shield/heatsink plate via thermal pads that were removed for the photo. The connector at photo right plugs directly into Drive 1.
Seagate Personal Cloud board
Drive 2 is cabled to the vertical connector just to its left, as shown in the photo below. Note the two-bay has Seagate NAS series drives (ST4000VN000); the 5 TB single bay Personal Cloud had a Series Desktop series drive (there is no NAS series 5 TB drive).
Seagate Personal Cloud inside – shields off
Similar to the single-bay, the 2-Bay has all metal pieces tied together with metalized tape; the better to minimize its RF noise from interfering with other devices. So if you need to change a drive, you need to carefully peel the tape aside.
Seagate Personal Cloud inside
Noise from the Seagate Personal Cloud was rated Low. While there is no fan, drive noise was definitely audible in my quiet home office. Power consumption for the external “brick” power supply was 11 W, the same as the single-bay with its one drive. Unlike the single bay, the 2-bay spun the drives down properly so I could measure its 6 W standby power draw. But a short time later, the drives would power up again, even though I wasn’t accessing it.
As mentioned earlier, Seagate added the popular Plex Media Server to its other supported apps shown below.
Seagate Personal Cloud apps w/ Plex
Plex is supported on Windows, MacOS, Linux, FreeBSD and many NASes. The screenshot below is the Plex home page from the 2-Bay, running on port 32400. I’m not a Plex expert, but it looks like everything is there, including the ability to play video in the browser window.
Plex Home on Seagate Personal Cloud
Support on all NASes, however, is not equal. All the listed NASes will run Plex and support its basic DLNA and library functions (except for old Sparc-based NETGEARs). But video transcoding is not supported on PowerPC or ARM-based NASes, only Intel. This Google Docs spreadsheet compiled by Plex community members is a great resource if you’re wondering if the NAS you’re considering will support transcoding.
I tried paying an old video from a Canon digital camera that usually causes media players to throw fits (480p @ 30fps MJPEG, mono PCM audio) and wasn’t disappointed. Sure enough, the in-browser window properly informed me that my viewing was not to be. On the other hand, trying to play the same file using a Roku Streaming Stick running Roku’s Plex app, didn’t throw a similar message.
Trying to play MJPEG video
Instead, Plex dutifully launched its transcoder and maxed the CPU, trying to play the file, while the Roku app just hung.
Trying to play MJPEG video – Personal Cloud monitor
My luck was different trying to play a Blu-ray rip of Star Wars Episode 4 (MPEG4, 1920×816, 24fps, DTS audio). This time, the in-browser player didn’t throw the warning, even though the Plex New Transcoder was running. The CPU was again maxed, but the video played, albeit with enough pauses to make it unwatchable. The Roku Plex app also was able to get the video started after a long "loading" cycle. But with even more pauses and lower resolution, the video was again unwatchable.
I tried a few other experiments and also checked the same files running plex on a QNAP TS-251 (2.41 GHz Intel Celeron J1800 Bay Trail D dual-core). It was able to play them all, with the Plex Transcoder using about 63% of the CPU. The moral here is that your success with using Plex in general—not just on the Personal Cloud—will depend on the source material, the capabilities of the player and the connection between them. On the Personal Cloud in particular, however, if your video file needs to be transcoded, you’ll be out of luck.
The Personal Cloud was tested with 188.8.131.52 firmware using our Revision 5 NAS test process. Tests were run with the two 4 TB drives in single RAID 0 and 1 volumes. Comparing the Benchmark summaries for the 2-Bay and single-bay Personal Clouds shows many improvements in the 2-Bay. RAID 0 File Copy Read performance almost doubles and write increases over 50%, too. NASPT File Copy From NAS (read) improves just shy of 300% from 36 to 104 MB/s.
Since I didn’t lay eyes on the single-bay’s processor, I’ve reached out to Seagate to confirm that it’s the same for both products. The other possible contributors to the differences are newer firmware on the 2-Bay and RAID 0 vs. single drive.
The NAS Ranker ranked the 2-Bay #8 out of nine two-bay NASes tested with the current test process. ASUSTOR’s Intel Atom CE5310-based AS-202TE ranked right above it, Seagate’s NAS 2-Bay, which also uses the same 1.2 GHz Marvell Armada 370, ranked right below. The currently top-ranked ASUSTOR AS5102T rings up at $408, sans drives and with two 4 TB Seagate NAS or WD Reds adding $320, that’s not a fair price comparison.
Instead, I compared the #9 Seagate NAS 2-Bay with the Personal Cloud 2-Bay. The NAS 2-Bay is actually a bit more expensive at $500 from most vendors than the Personal Cloud 2-Bay. Aside from the fact the NAS family supports iSCSI and the Personal Clouds don’t, the two families’ feature sets are pretty much the same. The NAS 2-Bay beats the Personal Cloud 2-Bay only in the total Mixed Read/Write Benchmarks, and then, not by much.
NAS Ranker Performance Summary Comparison
Seagate looks like it has done its pricing homework on the Personal Cloud 2-Bay. At around $450 for 8 TB RAID 0 or 4 TB of RAID 1 storage, it has a combination of price, performance and features that’s hard to beat. Like its single-bay sibling, the Personal Cloud 2-Bay should be very attractive to the home user who wants centralized storage with simple setup, wide selection of backup options, flexible media serving and the ability to easily grab files when away from home.