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Network-attached storage (NAS) may not be the sexiest hardware purchase, but for serving up media content or sharing files across a network, such investments can be a godsend. Asustor's Apple-friendly NAS lineup combines attractive hardware powered by dual-core Intel Atom processors with its own innovative ADM (Asustor Data Master) operating system for cross-platform support across Mac, Windows, and Linux. We reviewed the six-bay Asustor AS-606T ($890), but the lineup also includes two-bay ($495), four-bay ($700), and eight-bay ($1,020) models.
Because the feature set is identical across each model, choosing one comes down to budget and how much storage you need (more drives equals more storage). This decision also determines how much space the box will take up, although we were pleasantly to find that even the six-bay model was smaller than expected. Roughly nine inches wide and deep, seven inches high and weighing in at 9.48 lbs. without drives, Asustor hits all the right notes here with good-looking, well-made hardware.
While each model can work with a single hard drive or SSD, the advantage of network-attached storage comes when combining multiple drives into a RAID. ASUSTOR allows the use of multiple disks in just about every conceivable configuration (single, JBOD or RAID 0/1/5/6/10), with protection from one or even two disk failures with the higher RAID levels. Installing four 2TB drives and using the default RAID 5 netted us just under 6TB of space after formatting; the additional 2TB is used for protection against a single drive failure. It's easy to hot-swap in a new drive—even a larger capacity drive—and the NAS will synchronize data with the replacement.
Asustor did a remarkable job of keeping everything simple. After connecting to your network via Ethernet or the optional USB Wi-Fi dongle, a small LCD panel guides you through formatting and then displays the IP address you'll use to access the unit.
Logging in from any modern browser presents an iOS-style row of finger-friendly icons, perfect for computers as well as the iPad. Tap the App Central icon to download more than 80 free and open-source apps to make the NAS do all sorts of amazing things, including hosting websites, posting photo galleries, starting a WordPress or Drupal blog, and serving media. There’s also an app to manage external devices plugged into any of four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0, and two eSATA ports, all with support for HFS+ Mac-formatted volumes. File Manager allows users to copy, move, or delete files and folders from the NAS, and even create file-sharing links for those outside the network. The NAS even has an HDMI port, letting you watch content from the free Boxee app on your HDTV, no network required.
Shared folders can be mounted on any Mac via AFP or CIFS/SMB through your local network, where they appear as volumes on the desktop in the same way external drives do. NFS, FTP, WebDAV and Rsync options are also available, and with a few clicks, the NAS can even be set up to host Time Machine backups for multiple users.
With a Gigabit Ethernet-equipped Mac on your network, the NAS can push data at up to 125MBps; this can be doubled via link aggregation by using an 802.3ad-compatible switch with the included dual Ethernet ports. Using the Blackmagic Speed Test app on our 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, we frequently clocked upwards of 100MBps on both reads and writes, so Finder-based transfers felt almost as fast as they do with local storage. Transfers via 802.11n Wi-Fi are slower, but still quite usable for all but the largest files.
The bottom line. Coming from an aging D-Link DNS-323, the Asustor AS-606T was like a breath of fresh air. With a sleek, web-based interface, out-of-the-box compatibility and companion apps for Mac and iOS, this NAS is a real winner.
OS X 10.4 or later, one or more supported 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch internal SATA II/III hard drives or SSDs, Gigabit Ethernet (for fastest data transfer)
Simple, desktop-style UI offers intuitive access from any web browser. Attractive, easy-to-use hardware with LCD screen, USB 3.0 and unique HDMI connectivity. Cloud ID makes logging into server painless, even when outside of the local network.
Wi-Fi requires separate USB dongle. No option to hide invisible files when browsing in File Explorer app. Intel Atom processor too underpowered for Plex Media Server transcoded 720p and higher media.