We first heard of ASUS' new network attached storage business a couple of months ago, trailed by Intel in their announcement of the new Atom-based storage platform. A couple of weeks later, the company reached out to us with details of their AS 6 series NAS range. Positioned for small-business and home use, the AS 6 series has been built to compete directly with Synology, Thecus and QNAP ranges offering a broad range of features and expandability.
With storage options from two to eight bays, and a couple of neat hardware and software innovations to be found, the plan is to offer a product for the simplest home up to the largest small business – but will this new upstart give the experienced NAS specialists a run for their money? Let's find out!
Who is ASUSTOR?
We start with a simple question. Who is ASUSTOR? The company website doesn't give too much away about their heritage:
Founded in 2011, ASUSTOR Inc. is a leading innovator and provider of private cloud storage (network attached storage) and video surveillance (network video recorder) solutions. We are devoted to providing the world with unparalleled user experiences and the most complete set of network storage solutions possible.
In fact, ASUSTOR is a division of ASUS (ASUS STORE – you see what they did there?) or rather ASUSTeK Computer, as they're more formally known – builders of computers under it's own brand (it's the fifth largest PC manufacturer globally) and components for the likes of Apple, Dell, HP and others. You may remember that ASUS dabbled with a Windows Home Server-based product a few years back in the shape of the short-lived TS Mini and accompanying Cloud storage offer. Whilst those products and services are no more, the new ASUSTOR AS Series seeks to fill in the network attached storage gap left behind.
I referenced Intel's new storage platform at the beginning of the review. The chip giant has launched a number of iterations of Atom-based platforms for network attached storage servers over the last few years. This latest release brings a number of hardware innovations to the fore, all of which have been delivered by ASUSTOR in the AS 6 Series. Most notably for consumers is HDMI support – that's right, no longer should your NAS be consigned to the cupboard. On board HDMI means that you can connect your NAS directly to a big screen TV – offering a more stable, higher speed direct-connection for media playback than streaming over the network.
Also worth noting is support for high speed USB 3.0 devices, helpful for faster transfers to and from compatible external hard disks – if you're still in the world of eSATA and USB 2.0, don't worry, you'll also find those technologies supported. Processor wise, we're looking at Intel's latest Atom processor, speeding along at 2.13 GHz with support from 1GB RAM (expandable to 3GB). Twin Ethernet ports ensure that you can maintain a connection to the NAS even if one port decides to play up.
Overall, it's a strong specification for a NAS – reflected in the AS 6 Series' premium pricing – and that HDMI port provides interesting opportunities for media enthusiasts.
What’s in the Box?
The 4-bay AS-604T ships in “business-formal” packaging, providing a professional feel at first glance. As we've seen with Synology and Q-NAP devices, the product generally ships without disks, so these will need to be purchased and fitted before your first boot – a reasonably simple job.
In the box you'll find:
- AS-604T Unit x1
- Installation CD x1
- AC Power Cord x1
- RJ-45 LAN Cable (Cat 5e) x2
- Flat Head Screw (for 3.5″ HDD) x16
- Flat Head Screw (for 2.5″ HDD) x16
It's worth saying – the ASUSTOR AS Series looks the business. Forget the high gloss, cheap looking plastics of the past – the design team have created a device that you'll be happy to show off in your home or office. A gun-metal, brushed steel surround gives a premium feel and protects against unsightly fingerprints whilst the front panel materials and build quality deliver a great fit and finish. Your eyes may water slightly at the price of the AS-604T, but open the box, and you'll know where your money has been spent.
The quality extends to the drive trays, which have a very solid mechanism and are cast in a combination of steel with a plastic surround – they feel very sturdy, unlike the flimsy trays you'll find in other products.
Upfront, you'll find an LCD Display with associated control buttons, the aforementioned drive trays with release buttons and handles (no locks), power and drive access lights, a front-mounted USB 3.0 socket (handy for those positioning the product in a TV cabinet) and a USB disk copy button.
Meanwhile, around the back you can expect to see a power socket, second USB 3,0 port, twin eSATA ports, four USB 2.0 ports, two Ethernet sockets and that HDMI port. Unusually for a a NAS device, each of the back panel ports are labelled – a nice additional touch. Overall, it's a highly polished specification – great design, decent expandability, strong connectivity – I'm not sure if there's such a person as a NAS connoisseur, but if there were, they'd probably own the ASUSTOR AS Series.