ASUStor AS5004T 4-Bay NAS

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Product: ASUStor AS5004T 4-Bay NAS
Provided By: ASUStor
Price: ~$459 Online at time of Publication

 

Introduction:

Today we are looking at another NAS from ASUStor. The first one we looked at was back in 2013 and it was their AS-604T - a 4-bay unit that was powered by a dual-core Atom processor. Today we are looking at another 4-bay unit - but this one is powered by a dual-core Celeron processor. The AS-604T's processor was clocked in at 2.13GHz and actually supported Hyper-threading, while the new unit we have on our bench today doesn't support Hyper-threading, but the processor is clocked in at a speedier 2.4GHz. This unit is in the same "Home to Power User" class as the 604T, so we should see similar performance. Time will tell how this unit holds up with slightly different hardware and a much updated software package than what we saw a couple of years ago.

Box

ASUStor has a few different 4-Bay units that range from the very affordable AS-204T all the way up to the crazy-fast AS7004T that is powered by a Core i3 processor. ASUStor also has a line of 2-Bay units and extend their storage solutions up to 12-Bay rack-mount units. They really have something for everyone and what makes these all amazing is the fact that the software is pretty much universal on all of these. 

 

ASUStor has packed so munch into their units in way of software that we simply can't cover it all in one review. We will touch base on several key features, talk about performance, and do some comparisons with other units we've looked at in the past, but unless we did a 20+ page review, we couldn't cover it all. The AS5004T is really that impressive in terms of features - both local and remote via internet and mobile application. Let's face it, most people wouldn't a 20+ page review anyway. With that bit out of the way let's take a look at what we get in the box.

Bundle

 

First Look:

The new ASUStor AS5004T looks very similar to the older AS-604T at first glance. In fact, there really isn't a lot different on the front of these units in terms of ports, drive racks, LEDs and the like. The one thing that is different on the front of the AS5004T is that it doesn't have a display and buttons that allow limited operation of the unit. Many NAS units end up in a closet or are just out of the way, so having a few buttons and a display - while being a luxury - is not really needed for many users. This is one way that ASUStor can cut some cost and get a higher-performing product into the hands of consumers for less.

Front Profile

 

There is some passive ventilation in the chassis on the left side and when combined with the large rear fan, cooling and airflow really shouldn't be a problem.

Front-Side Profiel Rear Profile

 

The rear of the AS5004T contains a pair of USB 3.0 ports in addition to a couple of USB 2.0 ports. Also for connectivity are a pair of eSATA ports. Although many companies have abandoned eSATA for USB 3.0, it is nice to see that ASUStor has still included it on this model. Network connectivity is taken care of by a pair of 1GB Ethernet ports while video comes courtesy of a HDMI 1.4a connector. If you don't want to pump sound out of the box via HDMI or have a pair of USB speakers handy, you can use the S/PDIF optical output. All in all, there are more ports that you will likely ever need for your NAS application and this unit takes you into a multimedia server solution as well.

While the previous NAS we looked at from ASUStor had a built-in power supply, the AS5004T does not. As you may have noticed in the image of the bundle near the top of the page, the power supply is a "brick" that is allows some space to be saved in the unit and it also helps trim down the power consumption of the unit as this "brick" is more efficient that a standard power supply.

Drive Racks

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the hot-swap bays and drop in a bunch of drives before we look at the specifications.


 

Drives & Installation:

We pulled out all of the racks and took a look inside of the slick AS5004T's hot-swap bay. The drive racks have a nice smooth plastic rail integrated on a steel frame so they are very rigid - unlike some cheaper racks we've seen on other devices. These racks support both 2.5" and 3.5" drives and we opted to put in four Western Digital 2TB Red drives.

Hot Swap

 

While performance will certainly be faster with other drives - and SSDs, we felt that these drives represent the average users budget and the performance should be pretty solid. While the price of the AS5004T is pretty sweet at ~$459 currently, we double the cost of the unit with these drives. While there may be cheaper drives available (such as WD Green drives) they won't last as long as the Red drives (speaking from experience).

WD Red

In my experience, Red drives are really solid and many NAS users are using either Western Digital Red drives or Seagate NAS drives. Our goal in this review is to replicate the experience of the average user. While slapping four 1TB SSDs inside would be amazing, the performance wouldn't be comparable to the experience of the average consumer.

In Rack

 

ASUStor has some really nice racks and installation is a breeze. There are no sharp edges and everything fits as it should and slides into place like butter.

 

Software Initialization:

Once the drive are installed successfully, it's time we fire up the unit and go about initializing and installing the software on the drives. This box has some ROM that contains the basic OS, but it will need to be installed on the drives and then the RAID array configured before we can actually use the box. As you can see below, you have a couple of options - 1-Click or Custom. We chose the custom setting so we could customize a few more details as we set up this unit.

Setup

 

Once we specified a few details including how we wanted our disk volume setup, as well as admin password, language, timezone, server name, network features and more - we sat back and waited just a couple of minutes for the magic to take place. At the end of this short time, we were ready to go.

Setting Up

 

On the next page, we'll cover some of the hardware specifications as well as the software and applications available before we jump in any farther and show more of the web-interface.


Features:

There is so much information about this NAS that we've included only some of the more interesting specifications for you. If you want all the details, please make sure to head on over and visit the manufacturers site

 

  • High performance technology
    An Intel Celeron 2.41GHz Dual-core processor and 1GB DDR3L memory, provide premium, energy efficient processing power. With read/write speeds of up to 112 MB/s, the AS50 series’ excellent performance is sure to satisfy your storage application needs.Furthermore, when AS50 series devices need more computing power, they can increase the CPU computing power from the original 2.41 GHz to 2.58 GHz, providing a smooth and seamless experience.


     
  • Effortlessly upgrade memory
    Depending on your usage preferences, you can decide whether or not you want to upgrade memory. AS50/51 devices provide users with the ability to flexibly upgrade memory so there is no need to worry about the memory before you purchasing the device. When upgrading memory, you simply need to remove the cover of the NAS to do it (There are 2 expansion memory slots in total. Memory can be expanded up to a maximum of 8GB.), letting you easily improve system performance and allowing your NAS to simultaneously run more Apps.


     
  • Metallic design
    Different from other NAS devices on the market which feature plastic cases and suboptimal cooling, the AS50/51 devices feature aluminum casing along with a rust and corrosion resistant coating which combines with the metallic hard disk trays to fully make use of the natural cooling properties of metal. This significantly enhances the entire cooling ability of the system.


     
  • Expand your storage space
    A professional grade NAS needs to be equipped with a diverse array of expansion functionality. In addition to the 4 drive bays, we have also included 2 USB 2.0 ports, 3 USB 3.0 ports and 2 eSATA ports, allowing you to create a tailored storage space for both your work and entertainment needs.
    AS50/51 devices emphasize the flexibility of expandable capacity, providing more expansion slots than any other devices in their class. With this many expansion slots, the only question that remains is how you are going to fill up all that storage space!

 

Specifications:

There is so much information about this NAS that we've included only some of the more interesting specifications for you. If you want all the details, please make sure to head on over and visit the manufacturers site

Specs 1
Specs 2
Specs 3

Apps:

Apps
Apps 2
Apps 3
Apps 4

 

On the next page we'll take a look at the interface as well as a few other setup options before we discuss the performance and overall use of the product.


 

Interface and Setup:

While the interface may not be the most exciting thing to take a look at when it comes to selecting your NAS, the reality is that this is probably one of the most important aspects of the NAS. ASUStor uses their "ADM" software package that makes up the interface and it is far superior that QNAP, Synology and Thecus to name a few. While I haven't looked at products from Netgear, Western Digital and others, these first four names (including ASUStor) are pretty much the go-to companies for great NAS products. I really favor the clean, icon-based interface that adorns the AS5004T and find it super simple, clean, elegant and well laid out. While personal preference always plays a big role, I believe that you'll agree that the layout and "Desktop" look is pretty awesome.

ASUStor ADM Desktop

"Desktop" with multiple windows open in a browser

 

Once you click on one of the main icons on the main screen, you are met with a window that pops up much like you are used to on your PC or Mac, this familiarity is very welcome and the level of productivity it adds is awesome. You can have multiple windows open, minimize them and they stay running in the "taskbar" at the top of the browser window. You can jump between the two without opening the program again and this makes switching between tasks and windows much faster. I'm a fan.

Before we take a look at the folder sharing options, we'll take a very fast tour through the interface by way of a video so you can see it in action. Please click on 1080p HD and then view full-screen so you can see everything clearly.

 

 

The ASUStor AS5004T is so much more than a file server, but for many people this will be the primary use for file serving and backup storage. We have a few extra screenshots of the setup and folder options available for setting up user shares, hiding certain folders and more. There are a lot of options in this little area alone.

Users
Access Control - Users

Access Control - Shared Folders
Access Control - Shared Folders

Access Control - Virtual Drive
Access Control - Virtual Drive

 

One of the niftiest things that made VulcLAN easy for us was the "Virtual Drive" feature. You can mount an ISO and then map it on your local computer as a network drive. As such people who had to install all the latest patches and such for games could easily connect to the NAS without a CD drive in their system. Of course, they all had to provide their own CD key, but this saved a ton of downloading all the games over Steam. A great feature that is implemented extremely well, and with 10+ people connected to it, their installs still were faster than by loading off the a local CD.

 

On the next page we'll talk about general use of the AS5004T before we wrap up with our final thoughts.


Usage:

ASUStor has put together a very solid product here in the AS5004T NAS. It offers you pretty much everything you could want in a local storage server, plus the ability to be a UPnP media server, run XBMC, Plex, FTP, iTunes, Time Machine, WebDAV, MySQL, RSync and more. If you want more applications and services, they have well over a hundred more applications that can be easily installed through the interface with just a couple of clicks.

As this box is so powerful, you can turn on pretty much everything you want and still have enough power to transfer files like crazy. As it runs a version of Linux, I was able to run a terminal and even install a Mumble server. While doing things with the shell isn't probably the wisest thing to do, the ability to is pretty incredible. 

As the ASUStor AS5004T has an HDMI connection, you have to stop thinking about this is a remote box. It is also a media center, computer and more. You can plug in a wireless keyboard and mouse, plug it into your TV and digital receiver through the optical audio S/PDIF connection and play Minecraft, Emulators, use a Chrome browser, ASUStor's own SoundsGood and LooksGood apps for playing audio and video directly onto your TV or even trascoding on the fly and streaming to your portable device. 

The AS5004T takes your data on the network, keeps is secure from HDD failure with multiple RAID modes and then pushes it anywhere you have a data connection through their mobile applications and more. We tested many, many features of the AS5004T and I had no complaints with any of it. Everything worked as advertised and the interface - while good a couple years ago - is much better now. It is very logical and everything you need to find will probably be exactly where you look the first time. There will be very little hunting around to try and find what you are looking for. 

 

The Download Center is pretty awesome as well. You don't have to go hunting online for your favorite PBS TV programs or Linux distributions. Fire up the Download Center and type in what you're looking for and you'll easily be able to click and connect to peers and see how many people are seeding the files you need. It is so simple, so seamless and so speedy. 

If you are having issues setting up a proper RSync connection, one-click install of applications like BitTorrent Sync make life that much easier and keep all your files synchronized on another ASUStor product next door, at your home, your business or around the world. 

As much as I'd like to have a major complaint about the ASUStor AS5004T, it's pretty hard to find any downsides. It works very well and while you may want to add more memory if you are running a full-on web hosting company with their NAS (which is easily done), I never experienced any issues at all. It was rock solid and did everything they claimed it could do - and did so very quickly.

While ASUStor claims that it can reach read speeds of ~220 MB/sec and write speeds of up to ~188 MB/sec, we never saw results quite that high. Keep in mind that this test is using 10GB files and SSDs, while we used a bunch of image and video files (real-world usage) on mechanical Western Digital Red drives. These drives certainly aren't the fastest drives around, but we saw performance peak at a pretty incredible 183MB/sec... in real-world usage with real drives.

183MB/sec

 

Conclusion:

The ASUStor AS5004T has all the features that any of the competition has and more. The fact that ASUStor has designed their hardware and software to come out of the server closet and sit beside your TV for use as a media center is a great value. The keyboard, mouse, controller, WiFi, Bluetooth, Printer, UPS, and external support options are pretty incredible. If you have a device that supports eSATA or USB, it will probably plug into the NAS and work just great instantly. It has a lot of ports on the back and a single USB 3.0 port on the front to keep things looking clean. The "One-Touch" backup button around the USB 3.0 port is great for quickly backing up whatever device you just plugged into it. I use this feature regularly for customer data and it's super handy - and super speedy.

We setup a four-drive RAID 5 array and used Automatic Load Balancing to get the most out of the dual Gigabit network connections and when in use at VulcLAN 2015, we managed to connect over 40 people to it and absolutely punished the NAS with some crazy heavy load. It didn't hiccup, flinch or hesitate at all. Performance was top notch. While ASUStor has labeled this drive in their 'Home to Power User' performance tier, it can easily be used in a small business for data backup, central storage, cloud storage, media serving and more.

It comes fully equipped to handle tons of different tasks but you can always add more if you're not satisfied.  Installing Apps is simple and fast and gives you greater flexibility to quickly install Wordpress, Joomla and more at the click of a button onto any of the virtual hosts you've set up. 

At the end of the day, the ASUStor AS5004T is an amazing piece of hardware. While this box retails for a very cost effective ~$459 (at time of publication), it is a bargain when compared to the high-end QNAP devices that it is competing with. Even the original AS-604T we looked at a couple of years back had a slower processor and was priced $200 more.  The AS5004T is no mere Network Attached Storage box for your home.  This isn't built for your average home user.  It certainly works in that situation, but this box is built to work in SMB environment and as you can see in the review - it can do that and more.  It is designed for a corporate office where data management, redundant backup, and media sharing are a priority.  It delivers on its promises, and much, much more.

This box easily earns our "Gold Award" as it has great value, tremendous performance, incredible features and does everything ASUStor says it can do and more. The beauty of ASUStor products is more than just the great hardware, it is also the great software that keeps improving with each new version. The people at ASUStor don't rest on past victory, they keep pushing, innovating and making their products better. That is why it is Gold.

 

Pros:

  • Lots of connectivity options (USB2.0/USB3.0/eSATA/HDMI, S/PDIF)
  • Supports JBOD, RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and Single Disk Volumes
  • Servers: MySQL, FTP, HTTP, Printer, iTunes, BitTorrent, UPnP Media Server, Surveillance and much more through Plugins
  • Automatic Load Balancing allows read/write speeds over 200MB/s on a network.
  • Backup: External Drive, USB One-Touch, RSync, FTP, BitTorrent Sync and more
  • Excellent power management and noise levels through standby and fan control options
  • Much more affordable than the competition
  • LooksGood / SoundsGood
  • Fast and super affordable!

 

Cons:

  • No display on unit

 

I'd like to thank ASUStor for sending out this unit for a review and for Dallmann Computers for hooking us up with a pile of drives to put in the box and test for a month or so. It's been a pleasant surprise and I figured that this series would be a bit lacking in the performance department. Boy, was I wrong.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this review, please feel free to post them in the forum at the link below.

Comment here.