Near the end of our testing on the Thecus N2810, ASUSTOR contacted me, because they too had a new NAS they were excited about. This new platform dubbed the 32 series, takes advantage of the Intel Braswell platform just as the N2810 from Thecus and TS-253A from QNAP do. The largest difference here is the number of bays, with the previous having two bays and the AS3204T that sits on my table includes four.
Going into further detail, the AS3204T is a consumer-focused appliance aimed to be a multimedia powerhouse with Kodi and Plex support. At the heart, ASUSTOR claims 4K support out of the box along with 7.1 HD audio. Adding to this, ASUSTOR has added the necessary controls to allow AES 256-bit hardware encryption to secure your data, preventing your data from entering the wrong hands in the event of loss or theft.
The hard specifications of this platform show it using an Intel Celeron quad-core CPU operating at 1.6GHz, the same N3150 we spoke about in the Thecus review. ASUSTOR has cut some corners with the memory on this unit being non-upgradable and soldered directly onto the motherboard, with a capacity of 2GB.
You get three USB 3.0 ports, a single Gigabit Ethernet, along with an HDMI 1.4b port for connecting directly to your television. Power consumption is said to hover around 16 watts, depending on the drives used.
MSRP of the four bay ASUSTOR AS3204T lands at $399.99 with a three-year warranty.
ASUSTOR AS3204T NAS Appliance
Packaging and a Closer Look
Packaging is rather clean for the 3204, with an image of the unit to the right and marketing information to the left. The top left gives a quick run-down of the specs of this NAS along with mention of its three-year warranty.
The scope of delivery of this solution includes the power adapter, Ethernet cable, and set of screws for securing your drives.
The front of the NAS has a set of LEDs to the far left while using a diamond pattern for aesthetics.
The backside of the NAS has a rather large power button at the top followed up by two USB 3.0 ports and the HDMI connection. At the bottom, we have the single Gbe port and power input, while to the left we have a large cooling fan for the drives and internal components.
The AS3204T uses a similar design to the QNAP TS-451 from a few years ago. As you can see, the two halves of the enclosure separate by sliding them in opposite directions.
After opening the NAS, you have access to all four bays with plenty of room to spare.
The motherboard for the 3204T has the N3150 in the center with the Samsung DDR3L next to it, to the far right we have the SATA DOM and the far left houses a PCIe interface for the backplane.
Test System Setup and Web Management
Tyler's NAS Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Z170 Premium - Buy from Amazon
- CPU: Intel Core i5 6500 - Buy from Amazon
- Cooler: Noctua NH-U12S - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Klevv CRAS 16GB (4x4) DDR4 3000 - Read our review
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS Storage: Intel 730 480GB SSD - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Secondary Storage: Intel 750 400GB U.2 SSD - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Thermaltake P5 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200 - Buy from Amazon
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
To set up ADM on the 3204T, we start with the Control Center app from ASUSTOR. Here it searches the network for NAS units.
Moving on, we hit the setup wizard that will guide you through the process of installing the firmware and setting up the disks and any services you want to use.
In this setup routine, you have a choice of what type of array you would like to run; the AS3204T supports JBOD along with RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, and 10.
The desktop area in ADM is rather clean and organized with all icons in the center of the screen.
Starting with Access Control, we have the ability to setup users and groups along with shared folders and even assign privileges on an application level.
Activity monitor is just that, monitors the CPU, Disk and Memory usage of the NAS.
App Central is the library of programs that can run on the 3204T. Of course, Plex is one of the most downloaded solutions, along with download center and uTorrent.
Backup and restore is everything you need to maintain archived backups of your NAS locally or on the cloud.
Above, we have a list of file services that come embedded with ADM.
Lastly, we have storage manager that gives you access to configuring your volumes along with iSCSI features.
Benchmarks – Single Client and Sequential Throughput
Single Client Throughput
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 - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes
File Copy from NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads
File Copy to NAS - 64kB writes
Moving over to testing, I first started with RAID 0 in our single client testing. As you can see, the 3204T did quite well with 89 MB/s in playback and 119 MB/s in record. Peak performance topped out at 122 MB/s in file copy.
Moving over to RAID 5, the ASUSTOR unit did quite well in everything except file copy where it only managed 48 MB/s.
Last, we have RAID 10 results, where the ASUSTOR unit bounced back slightly with 53 MB/s in file copy while most other testing reached well over 100 MB/s.
Benchmarks – Sequential Workloads in RAID 0
Our Sequential read/write workload is centered on 128K transfer sizes.
Sequential read shows the 3204T running pretty steady at 118 MB/s across the board.
Sequential write showed similar performance, with the 3204T reaching 117 MB/s in RAID 0, 116 MB/s in RAID 5, and 117 MB/s in RAID 10.
Benchmarks – SMB Workloads
In testing with workloads, I found the 3204T to excel in RAID 0 with an average of 350, more IOPS than any other appliance I have tested. With that, said database and file server gathered the best results at 700 IOPs while Email produces a touch over 600 and Web Server was the lowest at 500 IOPS.
RAID 5 closed the gap slightly, but the ASUSTOR unit still managed close to 800 IOPS in Database, 700 in File Server and 600 in Email, Web, and Workstation.
RAID 10 has the ASUSTOR reaching over 1000 IOPs in our Database workload. File server touched just over 750 IOPS while Email Server and Workstation a smidge under 600 IOPS.
For those just wanting to get their first NAS appliance, the 3204T from ASUSTOR is certainly a great place to start. Its power coming from its quad-core Intel platform is plenty to handle direct media content, storage operations, and even streaming over Plex. Transcoding is always the thing that kills these appliances, and until you get into the high-end platforms running real x86 hardware like an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7, you are stuck dealing with what you can get. With that said, it's not so much a vendor fault as it is Intel's for not supporting hardware transcoding in Linux, what nearly all vendors use for their OS.
The build quality of the 3204T is decent for an entry-level unit and while its split halves design does take away from the traditional feel of a NAS unit, it is rather easy to get inside to install drives. On the other side of things, I was disappointed that ASUSTOR cut corners and soldered the memory to the board as I doubt it would have cost much more to slap a SO-DIMM slot on the board.
Performance is solid, top to bottom. Apart from a few tests in single client, this NAS unit decimated our workload charts with some obnoxious performance including over 1000 IOPs in RAID 10. Sequential performance hovered around the 116 to 118 MB/s area, which is quite good, and even looking at NASPT or single client results, it was right with comparable solutions including the Thecus N5810 reviewed last month.
On the software aside of things, ADM is still looking quite good with solid app support, and the only issue I did have was the unit failing to swap between RAID modes on occasion, causing a reboot and try again scenario. Besides that, all good.
|Quality including Design and Build||90%|
|Bundle and Packaging||80%|
|Value for Money||95%|
The Bottom Line: ASUSTOR's AS3204T carries solid performance, but what's more surprising is the angle ASUSTOR is taking with pricing. At an MSRP of $399, you may never find a better equipped NAS appliance.
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