SOLID Asustor Drivestor 4 – Promising 2.5Gbe NAS

SOLID Asustor Drivestor 4 – Promising 2.5Gbe NAS

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Welcome back to Techspin, and Asustor ‘shipped’ over a Drivestor 4 and a bunch of new Seagate NAS drives for us to test and use. Our DIY NAS running unRaid does have its limitations; this cube may solve some issues with our teleporters err multi-user remote access that there is no easy workaround for in unRaid. This may prove a better solution, but what else can an off-the-shelf NAS offer that’s better than DIY? And for a fast RAM solution which doesn’t require assimilation, is our sponsor TeamGroup.

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Quick Summary: Asustor Drivestor 4 NAS

If you want a NAS as a fast file server on your network or to back up files, the Asustor Drivestor 4 is a great entry-level NAS with decent build quality, 2.5 gigabit Ethernet and you can download, upload and stream with 4K transcoding. Also you can connect USB devices like hard drives, printers, UPS and WI-fi and Bluetooth dongles, a 120 millimeter fan, and it’s got an quick easy interface.

Setting up a group, new user and getting remote access took under 10 minutes, pretty fast. The software on the NAS has possibilities but don’t expect much as this Drivestor 4 is entry level, though music, video streaming and even Jellyfin is possible. There are Android apps also which require more testing on my part.

With a compact form factor, the Drivestor 4 really sips power so it won’t add much to your power bill. So if you’re looking for an entry-level NAS with a little added functionality, this one fits the bill. Others needing more power and capability like running VMs would need something higher up or more tailored for these requirements.

Asustor Drivestor 4 NAS Specs, Assembly

So this Asustor Drivestor 4 handles up to 4 NAS hard drives, with a Realtek RTD1296 Quad Core CPU at 1.4 Gigahertz and 1 gig of DDR4 ram, with a fast 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port. We have four 6 terabyte Seagate Ironwolf NAS drives, thanks to Asustor. Let’s open up the box. Inside is the box with cables, and the Drivestor 4 NAS is pretty well padded with lots of foam and plastic wrap to protect it in shipping. Peeling off the front plastic we get to see the patterned front.

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Inside the cardboard box we get a power brick, a typical IEC power cord to connect to the brick, and an 145 centimeter long Ethernet cable and a cable fastener, along with a quick start guide. This is my second take on opening the case, I had to grab a Philips screwdriver to help as the screws were on fairly tight from the factory. Even though this is a tool-less design, usually first time out of the box you can expect to need to use a screwdriver as that’s how cases are assembled, and is typical industry-wide.

Four rear screws off, rotating the case so the ports are at the bottom, and the cover slides back and comes off easily. Turning the Drivestor 4 around, you can see the back-plane for connecting the rear of the drives to the main board. Next we’ll put in the drives, bottom first just so i you can see if there are any alignment issues, but these went in very smoothly.

Next are screws on both sides, found using a Philips on camera for the bottom screw helpful as it’s a little close to the bottom plate. Next the cover goes on, back slightly then slide forward, and the screws are pretty easy to put back in. Last step will be to connect the power, and plug in the network cable to the Drivestor 4.

Software, Online interface Walk-through

You need to download Asustor Control Center from the website download page. After a quick install, we’re going to initialize the NAS, it’s great that it has a dark theme right out of the gate, and we’re choosing the 1-click setup method.

Next page you need a login admin name other than admin, choose the shortest possible password and plan to change to strong later, and your data storage requirements. Maximum capacity is RAID 0, Superior data protection is RAID 6, and Balanced is RAID 5, what I chose. If you choose custom setup, you have RAID 1, 10, and JBOD options, and I’ll quickly go over RAID later.

Setting up the RAID array takes time, so the first night if your NAS appears very busy, it’s because it’s building the array. Building the array isn’t the same as a quick format on a Windows disk; it needs to read from all drives installed and calculate the parity for each sector. For a 4TB drive, this could be up to a day, 8TB would be around 2 days, and so on.

First thing we’re going to do is make sure we have the latest OS installed, the Asustor Data Master or ADM. Asustor is upgrading their setup, I didn’t have luck with an update on config, or with Update Now, so I’ll choose Manual Update, and choose the file I’ve downloaded from their website, this ARM image file. Update went smoothly… and then it auto restarts.

AV, Data Backup, Apple/Android Apps

Dr. Asustor runs a health check on your system, great as it prompts you to install both Antivirus and schedule that, as well as pushing you to think about backing up this data, so that’s pretty welcome.

After this was all done, I setup an Asustor ID in the bottom Registration option, then in EZConnect I enabled the service, set a Cloud ID and it gives me a custom URL, which is helpful. Not readily apparent but you can click on these QR codes to take you to the page on Apple’s App store and Google Play to install the different available mobile software.

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From here, I set up a new group, new users, added a new folder and was able to share it on the network, and access it remotely in about 10 minutes. Don’t forget to set the all the security permissions for the group, user, and folder that you’re giving access to. You can also customize the login screen which is great.

We actually spent a bunch of time on Android App testing, Asustor seem to be upgrading this as it wants to use the older “yourcloudID.myasus.com”, so we’ll bring this up with them in our feedback. Important to note that the Apps need companion software installed on the Drivestor 4 also, as shown here.

Android App NameAsustor Drivestor Companion App
AiDownloadDownload Center
AiFotoPhoto Gallery
AiMusicSoundsGood
AiVideosLooksGood
AiSecureSurveillance Center

Drivestor 4 Power Savings over DIY, Cooling

Onto Power savings, and over a DIY NAS they are substantial. For comparison our DIY NAS, link up here, uses an AMD Ryzen7 3700X with 8 gigs of DDR4 on an Asus Strix B450-F Gaming board with 4x 4 terabyte drives. On boot, we saw 115 to 120 watts, first access idle 92 watts, and with disks spun down roughly 55 watts. Shut off we see a 1.5 watt drain, wonder if there’s powered USB ports happening?

On boot we see the Drivestor 4 mostly in the 20 to 28 watt range, with a couple of spikes, max was 46 watts, after the beep indicating it’s online, first access idle is between 23 to 26 watts. At full idle, which means drives have spun down and you’re not using the web interface, it’s sitting at 6.9 watts, and off… 0 watts. So we drop to 75% less power consumption or more, this is really fantastic.

Our DIYDrivestor 4Power
Boot/Spike115-120w20-28w-80%
First access92w23-26w-75%
Drive Idle55w6.9w-87%
Shutdown1.5w0w

Are the four 6 terabyte Seagate Ironwolf NAS drives cooled well? The fairly silent rear 120 millimeter fan cools the unit, the default Auto setting has drive idle temps at 38° Celsius at 22.2 watts idle, ambient temp is 24 degrees. Medium speed has a small increase in noise, the drives are 5 degrees cooler at 33 with 22.8 watts draw. High speed the fan noise is pretty noticeable, and drives are 31 degrees at 24.2 watts.

Fan Setting (Room: 24°C)TempsInitial Set~1minSpindown
Auto/Low38°C24.8w22.2w6.4w
Medium33°C25.5w22.8w6.9w
High31°C26.8w24.2w8.3w
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Quick Overview of RAID Levels

If RAID is new to you, for most users the Balanced option, RAID 5, will be best, but lets quickly explain RAID, as each has pros and cons. JBOD is just a bunch of disks, so Pros: 100% capacity. Cons: No speed increase, and when a drive fails that single drives’ whole data is gone.

RAID 0 splits writes across drives, so files have chunks on different hard drives. Pros: 100% capacity, and write speed almost doubles to 240MB/s, Reads around 270MB/s. Cons: If a drive dies, the whole array dies, that’s ALL data over all drives, so not recommended.

RAID 1 is a mirrored copy of each drive, writes from 170 to 230MB/s, Reads 250 to 270MB/s. Pros: One drive can fail, and replacing the drive is much faster as it copies data back from the mirror drive. Cons: 50% total capacity as half your hard drives are used as mirrored drives.

RAID 10 combines RAID 1 and 0 together, requiring 4 or more drives. Pros: Near the speed of RAID 0, with mirrored backup, you can lose one drive, rebuilding time is much faster. Cons: 50% storage capacity for the mirrors.

RAID 5 requires 3 or more hard drives, and writes parity bits of data across all installed drives, using up one drive worth of space. Pros: Good Write speed around 230-250MB/s, with Reads 250-270MB/s, and one drive can fail without data loss. Cons: Rebuilding the array from parity takes a up to a day for a 4TB drive, with 3 hard drives you’d have 66% capacity, with 4 drives, 75%.

RAID 6 requires 4 or more hard drives, and writes double parity across all drives. More overhead means slower writes, reads are near RAID 5 level. Pros: Two drives can fail, when you’re rebuilding an array from parity you can run into an error which prevents the rebuild with RAID 5, so this level has a much higher probability of finishing. Cons: Two whole drives of space are used for parity.

LevelCapacitySpeedSafetyFail?
JBOD100%1xnoneLose 1 drive of data
RAID0100%1.9xnoneLose whole arrays’ data
RAID150%1.8x1 HDDFaster copy rebuild
RAID1050%1.8x1 HDDFaster copy rebuild
RAID566-75%1.9x1 HDDSlow parity rebuild
RAID650%1.7x2 HDDSlow parity rebuild

So there’s always a trade-off for each RAID level. For most users, the Balanced RAID 5 will be sufficient, giving a decent trade of speed and capacity for the ability to lose just one drive. If your NAS is going to be your main storage and your data is critical, you should plan to have a backup of this too. Remember that hard drives have a typical lifespan of 3 to 5 years, but can fail at any time. It’s not IF they will fail, but WHEN.

By the way Seagate has made a great calculator that explains each level and you can play with configurations, link in the description for this nice tool. https://www.seagate.com/internal-hard-drives/raid-calculator/

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Asustor Drivestor 4 Summary… And for Improvement

If you’re looking for a current-gen network storage solution and don’t have a big budget, the entry-level Asustor Drivestor 4 really serves this sector, with a $295 USD price tag without drives. The 2.5 gigabit Ethernet is ready for future network upgrade, with a responsive GUI that’s easy to use and quick to setup. You may be looking at this Drivestor 4 just for file storage, but what functions do you really need? If you need the basics with remote access and 4K media streaming, the Drivestor 4 is optimized for this, you definitely save yourself the headache, time, and money on your power bill over a DIY.

For me, I spent a month researching, sourcing parts, assembling, testing and troubleshooting my DIY NAS, with an AMD CPU and unRaid there was a learning curve, as the CPU didn’t have onboard graphics, didn’t play well at first, unRaid sometimes glitched, and I’ve been in the settings menus way too much.

For improvement, number one is the 1 gig of DDR4 ram. It’s currently at 60% utilization- it was 80% during RAID initialization. Preventing upgrading with whatever RAM you want improves reliability and removes support issues, but limits what you can do. I’d prefer to have a slot and a ‘you take your own risk’ approach, or Asustor could recommend modules they’ve tested.

We’ve seen PC cases choked by solid panels and small intakes, and NAS hard drives need good airflow. With a 120 millimeter fan, the Drivestor 4’s small bottom intake and drive cage with its solid walls does force the air over the drives and temps are well in spec, though I’d like to see a bigger, filtered intake.

On Auto fan speed, drives idle at 38 degrees, removing the case cover lowered this to 36 degrees, so there’s a little room for improvement here. Cover on, the Medium fan speed uses about a half watt more for 5 degrees cooler, though I think it won’t speed up if the drives get hot. So, I’d like to see a custom or more aggressive auto fan profile, and would like to have drive temps pulled into System Information so you can see all temps in one place.

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There’s a couple of Android app things to iron out, but this Drivestor 4… just works. With a 2.5 gigabit Ethernet port, it saves a ton of time and effort, and also about $400-500 dollars over a DIY. Plus, the footprint is so much smaller, and there’s over 75% cost savings when it comes to power. If you do decide to pick this Drivestor 4 or another model up on Amazon, shopping through our affiliate links will help us here with no extra cost to you. And follow us on Twitter and Facebook at techspinreview, and there’s companion posts for these videos on techspinreview.com.

Thanks again for Asustor for sending over the Drivestor 4 along with the hard drives for testing. Coming up on Techspin, we’re doing a Steelseries keyboard review, and it’s looking good.

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Rick Novlesky

Rick balances his work for Techspin writing, shooting and production with equal parts of sleep deprivation and coffee intake.