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Asustor AS-604T 4-Bay NAS Review

Asustor AS-604T 4-Bay NAS Review

Asustor hit the market in late 2012 with several models that fit into each of the key NAS categories - today Chris looks at the 4-bay AS-604T unit, and fully puts it through its paces.

@ChrisRamseyer
Chris Ramseyer
Published Tue, Apr 23 2013 10:16 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Asustor

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 134 IMAGES

Our introduction to Asustor came at CES 2013 when the new NAS builder displayed their wares with parent company ASUS. Building a competitive NAS brand would have been difficult for ASUS, as GIGABYTE can attest, so ASUS brought in a number of experienced personnel from competing makers.

Although subtle, it's easy to find the 'tributes' to QNAP and Synology in the Asustor AS-604T we're looking at today. Thankfully, Asustor managed to bring the best features from each to the new venture with QNAP-like hardware design and a simple software layer for easy configuration.

The AS-604T is one of many products introduced by Asustor in late 2012. At CES, the company gleefully shared their entire 2013 roadmap leading into 2014 and a number of products peppered the timeline. Asustor won't be a company here today and gone tomorrow. Here today and because of it NAS shoppers have another genuine builder to look at before making their purchasing decision.

Our first sample from Asustor is a four-bay, full feature NAS. The most heavily contested and fastest growing segment in the consumer space with very good products already on the market from QNAP, Thecus, Synology and a number of low cost units that we can't justify giving the full feature tag make up this 4-bay market.

Asustor did pick a very good time to enter the market. New features like HDMI output and smart phone control further increase the functionality while pulling small, quiet NAS products into the living room. A new door opens on the consumer side while existing enterprise functions come deeper down to the small business market, iSCSI and virtual storage come to mind.

Hardware Specifications and Pricing

Modern NAS servers have moved beyond data storage through a wire network. In order to get the most out of a NAS you need to look at the extra I/O hardware and the mountain of potential software features.

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At the heart of the AS-604T is an Intel Atom dual-core 2.13GHz processor designed for low power operation. Feeding the processor is a single 1GB DDR3 SODIMM. The AS-604T is expandable to 3GB total and the second SODIMM slot is easily accessible.

As we've mentioned already, the AS-604T is a 4-bay unit with RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 and 6 capability. Single drive (JBOD) and spanning are also options. Two Ethernet ports link your NAS to the rest of your network. Asustor implemented Wi-Fi over USB, but the AS-604T doesn't ship with a Wi-Fi dongle.

Further connectivity comes from dual USB 3.0 ports, one on the back and a special implementation on the front that accompanies a one touch USB 3.0 backup function. On the back of the unit, we found four USB 2.0 ports as well as two eSATA ports.

The new 'it' feature for NAS products is HDMI connectivity. Units designed for enterprise down to smaller consumer / SMB models like the one we're looking at today now feature HDMI with audio and video output. The obvious use for HDMI on a NAS is media center capabilities. Asustor sells a remote control for obvious reasons, but if you don't want to spring for the optional accessory, Asustor put together a nice smart phone application (iOS and Android) that controls the media functions as well.

After an exhaustive search on Google we found the AS-604T as low as $679.99 at the time of writing. The price is lower than our current favorite in this bay size, the Thecus N4800 ($772.45). Both units share many of the same specs, but the N4800 does ship with 2GB of DRAM, where the AS-604T falls into the 1GB club.

Software Features

NAS products are equal parts hardware performance and software features. One compliments the other in a balanced product. You need more hardware performance to run more software features at the same time.

Just because a NAS has the ability to run SQL doesn't mean the hardware will let you run SQL at a high rate of speed while a user downloads Bit Torrent, watches YouTube and decompress an NZB file.

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Packaging

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Asustor put together a nice retail package that lists the product specification on a small label, but a full color package might be better for retail big box stores.

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The inner package was put together and protects the NAS very well.

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Inside the package we found two Ethernet cables, a power cable, screws and a software disk.

Asustor AS-604T NAS

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Here we get our first look at the Asustor AS-604T. The four front bays are on the front of the NAS. The drive sleds speak volumes about the intended use, their lack of a locking mechanism means this NAS is meant to be used in a secured environment like a home or locked cabinet.

The front display has four action buttons next to it. The buttons scroll through the onscreen menu system to configure or monitor your AS-604T.

On the top left we found the power button that has a blue light strip running through it. Just under the power button is a green light strip that shows HDD activity.

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At the bottom left is a USB 3.0 port in the middle of a special backup button. You can place your thumb drive or external USB HDD into the slot, press the button and your files move to the NAS.

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The AS-604T accepts SATA drives and the drive sleds support 2.5" and 3.5" form factor drives.

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System cooling comes from a single 120mm fan. A replaceable power supply fits at the top of the unit.

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We've seen several NAS products with the power supply buried deep in the unit. Power supplies are the weak link in NAS products and we think Asustor choose to make the AS-604T power supply replaceable for that reason.

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I/O connectors are located on the back in streamlined cluster.

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The power supply rating is 80 Plus Bronze.

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With the top off we found the extra SODIMM slot easily to reach. If you want to increase the memory capacity, the AS-604T accepts an additional 2GB DDR3 SODIMM stick for 3GB total.

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The drive sleds are sturdy with a mix of metal and plastic pieces.

Configuration Menus

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Test System Setup

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Our NAS test 'system' has migrated to a full 45u rack like what you'd find in a datacenter. There are ten servers that attack the target NAS with 120 Hyper-V installations of Windows 7 64-bit, each with a dedicated gigabit Ethernet port. The systems feed to three Extreme Networks Summit 400-48 switches that link together via Extreme Network's proprietary link cable system. One switch has a two 10GbE Xenpak adapters installed. When testing NAS products with 10GbE capability, the NAS connects to the switch via single or dual 10GbE courtesy of an Intel X520-SR2 installed in the NAS.

This level of testing wouldn't be possible without the help and support from several companies, many of which have little to do with NAS products. We would like to thank AVADirect, Antec, Corsair, Gigabyte, Icy Dock, Kingston, LSI, Noctua, Rosewill and Western Digital for their much-appreciated support.

Intel NASPT

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct measurement of home network attached storage (NAS) performance. Designed to emulate the behavior of an actual application, NASPT uses a set of real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications. Traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more provide a broad range of different application behaviors.

TweakTown Custom 120-Client Office Test

The TweakTown Custom 120-client Office Test uses 120 Windows 7 Hyper-V installations and custom software to stress each NAS with traces from Microsoft Office tasks. Both throughput (in Mbits per second) and latency (in milliseconds) are measured.

Western Digital RED - The NAS HDD

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TweakTown uses Western Digital RED 1TB hard drives for all of our NAS tests. You can read our full review of the Western Digital RED 1TB here.

Benchmarks - 1 HDD / JBOD

JBOD: A single or combined multiple drives and capacities linked together to form a single drive.

Note - No Data Redundancy

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

One of the easiest ways to start with a NAS is to purchase your NAS and use an existing drive until more HDDs are purchased.

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 0

RAID 0: Normally used to increase performance and useful for setups such as large read-only NFS servers where mounting many disks is time-consuming or impossible and redundancy is irrelevant.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 10

RAID 10: A Stripe of Mirrors. Multiple RAID 1 mirrors are created and a RAID 0 stripe is created over these.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 5

RAID 5: Use block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 6

RAID 6: Extend RAID 5 by adding an additional parity block; thus it uses block-level striping with two parity blocks distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

The Intel NAS Performance Tool (NASPT) is an excellent way to determine NAS performance in a single user environment. Any review that only uses NASPT assumes that only a single computer will access the target NAS at one time. We took issue with this method of testing and spent over a year designing, building, programming and finally validating the TweakTown Multi-Client Test.

The test uses Microsoft Office data recorded to traces and played back to the NAS from up to 120 client Windows 7 installations. We record total throughput and average response time per client.

Over time we'll populate the two multi-client charts with several NAS products from a span of categories ranging from a dual Xeon server with 2x 10GbE to a 2-bay NAS and then let the NAS being tested fall into its performance category.

Throughput

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The Asustor AS-604T delivers peak throughput at 24 office environment clients and delivers 563.5 Mbits of read / write performance. The AS-604T actually performs better than the QNAP TS-669L, a six-bay NAS.

Latency

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The Asustor AS-604T also delivers better latency than the larger QNAP system.

Final Thoughts

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The 4-bay NAS market has a few very good products and many very poor quality, low cost units. Sifting through the sand to find treasure can be quite a task when shopping for an entry level NAS. Also, making shopping even more difficult, many of the NAS products on the market now share similar hardware specifications. One way to remove a large volume of products from your shopping list is by looking at the processor inside. If you don't see Intel Inside or a manufacturer doesn't list the processor type, mark it off your list. The Marvell based units just don't perform as well as the Intel NAS products, even in a single user environment.

In our single user tests, the Asustor AS-604T performs well and slots right in with the Thecus N4800 and Synology DS412+. The feature set matches the N4800, but even though Thecus has been around much longer than Asustor, the AS-604T matches Thecus' software package. In testing we noticed that Asustor already has nearly 100 software add-on features that can be easily installed from right within the NAS's software layer.

The price is the same deal. The AS-604T fits in between the more expensive Thecus N4800 and slightly less expensive Synology DS412+. Personally, I like the AS-604T's user interface a little better than Synology's, but at times I found it so simple to use it was complicated since I'm use to more complicated software. If the AS-604T is your first NAS then you don't have the experience with complicated software to begin with so the Web 2.0 style interface will come easy. I guess the easiest way to explain it is when I, a Windows person through and through bought an iPad. Sometimes simplicity is complicated when you come from complicated and are accustomed to it.

In our small office, multi-client testing, we found the AS-604T performed well up to 24 clients where it peaked in throughput. This is also the point when the latency started making large jumps with each new eight clients added to the test.

The Asustor AS-604T is a quality NAS that's built by an experienced group of NAS developers. If you're shopping for a 4-bay NAS, I wouldn't hesitate to put the AS-604T in the same high category with the Thecus N4800. If you plan to connect your NAS to your TV, I feel the Asustor NAS units with the Boxee software are better than any other NAS we've tested as a media center.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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