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ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW (NAS)

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW (NAS)

Some time ago we took a look at a couple of NAS devices from ASUSTOR and it was clear that they were going to be a significant player in the storage industry. Their hardware was solid and the operating system fast evolving. They also offered some really interesting functionality such as HDMI out which many of the competition lack. Today we take a look at one of their latest high end models in our ASUSTOR AS7004T Review.

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW – Packaging and Bundle

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ASUSTOR package their NAS in a fairly large box which features a couple of clear images on the front along with plenty of feature info. A handle on top makes it easy to carry and inside we find the NAS wrapped in plastic, suspended in foam with the bundled items off to the side in a separate box.

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Bundled with the NAS we get two RJ45 cables, a mains cable, screws for installing our drives, a software disc and a short product guide.

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW – The NAS

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The AS7004T is shown above and as the name suggests it is a 4bay NAS. The main construction of the NAS is metal and only the front panel features any plastic and our dimensions are 185.5x170x230mm (HxWxD) with a weight of 3.9Kg. Looking around the front surface we have a set of status LEDs and the power button on the top left. The bottom left has further status LEDs and a button for quick copy to/from USB which surrounds the first of our USB 3.0 ports. Across the front of the NAS are four quick access bays which support 2.5″ and 3.5″ drives with a maximum capacity of 24TB and each can be locked in place with a simple flat head screwdriver. Above the drives is an LED display which has four control buttons beside it. These give us access to information on the NAS status as well as configuration options without accessing any software. Finally, although not visible here, there is a hidden IR receiver which allows us to control media functionality.

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Turning the NAS around we see that there is a small perforated section on the left panel which combines with the vents on the drive bays to allow airflow in. This then passes across the internal components and is exhausted out the back by the 12cm fan. There is a second fan specifically for the PSU. Other than the power input top left of the back panel all of our other connectivity runs down the right side and this starts with a 4K capable HDMI out. Next up are dual GB LAN connector as well as 2xUSB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0. Two eSATA are next and these sit above a 7.1 capable optical S/PDIF out port with our final item of note being the kensington lock slot. Also worthy of note is that the bottom surface has four rubber feet which raise the unit off our desk/surface and keep it in place.

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW – Installation and Specification

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Installation of drives in the AS7004T is a very easy process, we simply press the button at the base of the tray and a handle springs out. We can then pull that to remove the tray. Regardless of the drive used we install it with four of the bundled screws and then slide the tray back in. Simple.

So what else is inside the NAS other than drives? Well our key component is a 3.5GHz dual core Intel i3 series CPU. That is paired with 2GB of DDR2 (SO-DIMM) which can be expanded up to 16GB. ASUSTOR rate the power consumption of the NAS at 39.1w when operational and 1.8w in sleep mode.

Now on with the install.

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With our drive installed and the NAS connected to our network we launch the Control Centre application which is a free download from the support site. It launches and searches for compatible NAS devices and when appropriate launches the initialisation wizard for us.

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The main configuration steps for the AS7004T are performed in our browser and start with a simple question. Do we want to go with one click setup, or get a bit more in depth. The second option give us a little more control of the NAS configuration…

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…however all of the key options are available on the one click screen. The set-up assistant and PC/Mac applications are available from ASUSTOR.

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW – The OS

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The OS used by the AS7004T, and all modern ASUSTOR devices, is ADM. Currently on version 2.3. Our experience with that OS begins on the login screen. On first boot we get a helpful wizard which explains some of the key features of the NAS and then where appropriate the NAS will prompt us about any patches for the OS.

From there we are in a standard OS experience with a set of shortcuts on the desktop, leading us to key features. A taskbar runs along the top of the screen and is the location where we find any minimised windows and then over on the right is a user menu with power options, quick access to settings and that sits next to the search bar.

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Running through some of the main functionality of the NAS we start with the applications available for it. These are accessed through “App Central”. A small number of apps are installed by default, such as Surveillance Centre which includes free camera IP licences and Download Centre which manages our downloads. Interestingly we also get an internet browser (Chrome) which is often lacking on NAS devices.

Other key apps include Storage Manager which allows us to manage our drives, Access Control which allows us to manage users  and Backup & Restore offering easy recovery for our systems in the event of failure.

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Settings takes us into a wide range of configuration for the NAS and then we have the media functionality. As well as supporting features such as iTunes server and a standard UPnP server we also have XBMC on this NAS. Currently it supports version 13.2 which has full support for 4K and 7.1 playback as well as control via remote or smartphone app.

Speaking of smartphone apps, ASUSTOR also provide AiMASTER which allows us to control our NAS from iPhone/iPAD or Android handset/tablet.

Anything else of note? Actually yes… the apps above are just the key functionality… looking through the massive list of software available for the AS7004T we have the likes of FTP manager, Dropbox, Google Drive, Boxee, Bit-Torrent, Avast Anti-virus, Spotify and many many more… including a Super Nintendo emulator!

ASUSTOR AS7004T REVIEW – User Experience and Conclusion

Starting with the build quality of the AS7004T we have a NAS from ASUSTOR which is very well put together. The metal body feels solid and the finish is very good. One thing which could be said about the NAS is that it isn’t particularly high style as far as the front panel goes, this is more a functional techy looking device than a sleek one. Not that this is a huge issue for most people but on future NAS units ASUSTOR could maybe provide a removeable front cover which gives people the option.

Would we change anything else? Not much. The OS while very good, could do with a few little tweaks or extra wizards to help novice users through the more advanced options but on the whole it is a very easy device to use.

Back to the design, there is plenty going on across the front panel with some useful status LEDs, the handy display and of course the always useful front USB 3.0 port which allows us quick and easy access to a high speed port. There is also plenty of connectivity round the back of the NAS with all the key ports offered, sometimes multiple times over. This allows us to expand our storage past the internal devices with ease. Clearly though the stand out ports are the HDMI and audio outs which make this one of the best network storage devices for media use.

Looking at the performance of the NAS the general OS use is super responsive thanks to the i3 CPU, as is media playback. Support for SMB 2.0 means our network performance is top notch and the ability to support RAID 0 (as well as 1,5,6 and 10) means we have some very fast copy speeds across the two GB LAN ports. ASUSTOR have a handy summary of that performance here. (Performance TAB)

Just to clarify, you can essentially see this NAS as a mini-pc as far as performance and functionality is concerned. That includes the media functionality… for example many other NAS units stream files to our TV, where we have to hope that the display supports the file format for playback etc. Here the OS/app handles the playback and the TV purely acts as the display, just as if we were playing a media file within Windows or OSX.

We also note the ability to upgrade our memory over time and add wi-fi or 10GB LAN card (some models) but on the upgrade front are most impressed by ASUSTOR’s claim of migration. If we outgrow the AS7004T and want to move to say, the AS7008T which is an 8bay model, we simply remove our drives, insert them into the new NAS and it is ready to go. That is a great feature.

Summary:
ASUSTOR have come a long way with their NAS devices. The AS7004T is an exceptional unit which offers fantastic performance, great features and plenty of future-proofing. A worthy winner of our Gold Award.

UPDATE 21/12/2014: WIN THIS NAS! We are giving our review sample away!

Gold Award

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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