ASUSTOR blew us away with their demonstration high above the city of Las Vegas. Ultra HD video was a hot topic at CES this year, but media is still hard to come by. Without optical media, and few steaming services available, most Ultra HD content comes from large files encoded in codecs off the normal beaten path. If you haven't seen native Ultra HD or 4K content displayed on an equal resolution screen, then you are truly missing out on video perfection.
Perfection is a powerful term, and it's overused in all industries. Can anything truly be perfect? ASUSTOR's AS7004T is as close to perfect as we've come in a personal NAS product. Instead of aiming this product at business users and letting the features win over consumers, ASUSTOR just went all the way, and built a NAS for prosumers.
This is where the Ultra HD portion of this introduction comes back into play. For the past year we've talked about NAS products from both the low-end consumer and high-end enterprise markets that have been shipping with HDMI ports. Early tests left us a bit disgruntled mainly due to third-party software instability, user interfaces that lack responsiveness, and existing devices already in place that can play content at resolutions we viewed.
A lot has changed over the past year. Now, if you want an Ultra HD TV, you can buy a nice 55-inch model for $1200 or less at your local big box store. The NAS sector has changed as well. Haswell increased performance processing and GPU power, while reducing overall power consumption, which makes ASUSTOR's 7-Series products even more silent. What we're left with is the first NAS that I would consider running in my living room, the AS7004T.
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.
At the heart of the new AS7004T is a Haswell based Intel Core i3 dual-core hyper-threading processor running at 3.5GHz. The processor incorporates Intel's GPU, and runs on an Intel chipset that has several hardware features like native USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4a, and S/PDIF, all wrapped up in a low-power design. The system ships with 2GB of DDR3 DRAM, but can be easily upgraded with an additional SO-DIMM.
A USB 3.0 port on the front of the NAS features a one-touch copy function for easy flash device data backup to the internal storage of the NAS. Two additional USB 3.0 ports are located on the back of the system, along with two USB 2.0 ports, and two eSATA ports for storage expansion.
The multimedia functions of this system go well beyond what we've previously tested. We tested the AS7004T connected to my home theater with 7.1 surround sound, and with a projector as well as a TV. We used the latest build of XBMC with the official ASUSTOR remote control that talks to the NAS through the onboard IR receiver, and an Android tablet. The ASUSTOR remote was tested in a previous review, and it felt slow to respond to commands. On the other hand, the tablet communicated with the NAS through the IP network, and was very responsive. I would recommend using a phone or tablet to control XBMC for its two-way communication, responsiveness, and ease of use.
The software played both local files, and files from another NAS, and worked flawlessly with our system. We have several Blu-Ray ISOs that stutter and drop audio on media playback devices that we own. The AS7004T played those movies back without issue, and we could even use the Blu-Ray menus. Transcoding is also supported, but you need to select the files, and the format for transcoding. This will help with playing content on tablets, on the network, and over the internet.
Communication to the network happens over two gigabit Ethernet ports that run independently, or teamed together. The AS7004T also supports an optional Wi-Fi dongle, but it's not included in the package.
We found the ASUSTOR AS7004T available online at several e-tailers for $1099. The price includes a three-year warranty from ASUSTOR. A power cable, two Ethernet cables, a software disk, screws for mounting drives to the trays, and a paper manual are included with the system.
PRICING: You can find the ASUSTOR AS7004T for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.
United States: The ASUSTOR AS7004T retails for $1,099.00 at Amazon.
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