- Easy setup
- Apollo Lake CPU brings much needed grunt
- HDMI 2.0
- USB Type-C
- Metal construction
- 3 year warranty
- AES hardware encryption support
- EZ Connect cloud ID
- No HEVC 10bit hardware support
AS6302T and AS6404T NAS
The AS6302T is a mid level 2-bay NAS designed to be the central hub in a interconnected multi-device digital home or small business. It is one we’ve had our eye on for some time due to its comprehensive feature list. It really is chock full of features and capabilities: 60Hz 4K playback via HDMI2.0, USB Type-C, wake on WAN, Dual LAN with link aggregation, not to mention impressive encryption and cloud capabilities and a mega list of apps available within the Asustor Data Master software ecosystem. Not least among its features is an impressive current generation Intel Apollo Lake processor that we’ll go into later.
We’re also taking the opportunity to take a look at the new Asustor Data Master (ADM) 3.0 software.
While many of our readers will never be without a NAS after integrating one into their networked lifestyle, there are many PC users who think of them as glorified external hard drives. A modern NAS does much much more than this. NAS devices continue to go from strength to strength. Just about everyone in an advanced economy has a mobile phone or tablet, PC, laptop or home theatre and many have all of them. Throw in some more advanced uses, such as surveillance, cloud storage, business use and about a million other things and it becomes clear that an external HDD is not in the ballpark. That’s before we even begin to touch things like security and ease of sharing across the room or across the world. The Asustor AS6302T is positioned a as a powerful solution for all these applications at the center of an advanced home network.
The key specs of the AS6302T can be seen below. We have 2x1Gb of DDR3L memory, support for 10TB hard drives (possibly higher in the future) HDMI 2.0, S/PDIF, dual Gigabit LAN and a typical power consumption of 13.8W.
Now that we know the key specs, lets consider some of the key features of the AS6302t.
Apollo Lake CPU. The AS6302T uses Intel’s Celeron J3355 processor. This is a dual core CPU clocked at 2.0Ghz with a turbo of up to 2.5Ghz with a 10W TDP. The Apollo Lake family really is a major upgrade over previous generation Braswell solutions. In addition to an approximate 30% performance gain, Apollo Lake brings some crucial features to the table. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is the ability to decode 4K HEVC and VP9 content natively. Digital media is everywhere so to have capable 4K (60fps) streaming capability is a big plus.
The J3355 supports AES-NI hardware encryption. This allows high speed transfers of encrypted-files, this alone will appeal to users with older NAS that may not have this level of encryption capability.
Wake on WAN is a useful feature for users who want remote access to the NAS. Rather than having the NAS powered on all the time, its possible to power the unit on and off as well as wake from sleep. This is a good feature from a power saving and security point of view. A user can remotely wake the NAS via a mobile app, upload some data and then power it off again. Nice!
USB Type-C. Credit to Asustor here for a bit of forward thinking. While Type-C is not quite ubiquitous yet, there’s no doubt its the connector of the future. The flexibility of Type-C opens up a range of potential possibilities beyond file transfers. Who knows what sort of Type-C devices will be available in a few years?
HDMI 2.0 brings 4K60p capability. While 1.4 can handle playback of movies at 4K, HDMI 2.0 means you are no longer restricted to typical 24fps movie or TV content. These days even some smartphones can shoot 30fps 4k content and video cameras certainly can, meaning HDMI 2.0 will be a valuable feature going forward.
A Closer Look
The box is quite large given the size of the unit itself. The NAS is securely packed inside twin foam shells that prevent any movement inside the box. It is well protected from knocks and should be capable of surviving a drop. The accessories come securely packed inside a cardboard box that fits securely inside the overall package. The box itself illustrates many of the key features of the NAS and ADM along with some of the apps available and mobile functions.
The accessories include a top quality Delta Electronics adapter. Delta are well known for their power supply prowess and its good to see Asustor is not cutting any corners when it comes to an often neglected component. This power supply is capable of providing up to 60w so there is more than enough juice on tap to power the NAS and its drives without issue. In addition to the PS, We’ve also got screws for attaching the hard drives (two sets for 2.5″ and 3.5′ drives), two Cat 5e Ethernet cables, software disc and installation guide.
As always, while using the disc is a perfectly valid option, we’d always advise visiting the manufacturer website to obtain the latest software and operating system.
Now we move onto the AS6302T itself. Unlike the company’s lower tier units, the AS6302t features an all metal construction which lends a premium quality feel to the unit as well as assisting with keeping the drives cool.. There are a set of activity LEDs, a USB 3.0 port, and of course the drive bays themselves, which feature a solid connection mechanism and individual activity LEDs.
As we move to look at the rear of the unit, you get an idea of the kind of functionality the AS6302t is capable of. From the top we have a USB 3.0 Type-C port, HDMI 2.0 port, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports supporting link aggregation, S/PDIF optical port and finally the DC in port and a Kensington lock connector. Wow, that’s some list!
Here is one of the drive bays. The HDD fits snugly even before screwing it in. The clip mechanism is solid. If you intend to do a lot of hot swapping, we think these drive holders will prove to be very durable thanks to their construction and well designed clip mechanism.
Now we get into the guts of the unit. There are 3 circuit boards inside the unit. There’s one in the front of the NAS, that has the power switch, front ports and LED’s etc on it, the motherboard and this daughterboard we see below, which contains the SATA power and data connectors. This connects to the motherboard via a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot which means there’s 2 GB/s on tap. That’s plenty of bandwidth for SATA 3 SSD’s should you be using them.
Below we see the main motherboard. On the center right you can see the PCIe 2.0 x4 slot which the drives plug into. The small connector on the left connects to the front of the unit.
The small heatsink is easily capable of keeping the J3355 CPU cool. It is well placed to receive airflow from the fan and with a low 10w TDP, there won’t be any problems keeping the unit cool. You can monitor the temperature from within the ADM OS.
We should also note that there are some additional components on the board to handle the array of connectors. Of note is a Realtek ALC887 chip that would be responsible for the S/PDIF optical output. While it’s being used as a digital output, and is capable enough, ideally we’d have liked to see a more capable codec used here.
The rear of the motherboard is where you’ll see the twin RAM slots. These are user upgradeable which is a nice option to have on a modern NAS.
Here is one of the RAM modules. These use Samsung IC’s and run at an impressive DDR3-1866. Asustor could have easily saved a few bucks here. Kudos to them for not taking that easy option.
System setup & Installation
Installation is simple. There are a couple of ways to start. You can run the CD and go through the process there or you can simply install the Asustor Control Center software. This app starts off by finding the NAS on your network. Then, its a simple matter of following a web based installation procedure. You can also map the drive from here, so it will show up as a storage device on your PC. Other controls such as on/off, some of the core apps and the wake on LAN feature can be accessed here too. overall its a nice simple piece of software that does its job with no bloat or fuss.
The NAS will ship with a version of the Asustor Data Master software (ADM) but we’d advise visiting the website and downloading the latest version. You can also check out the beta section if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous or keen to see what ADM 3.0 has to offer, as we chose to do.
Once that is done, the NAS will then initialise, where you’ll select your RAID level. Being a twin bay drive, you’ll be able to choose from JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks), RAID 0 or or RAID 1. That’s pretty much it! The whole procedure is streamlined very well, so even a novice user shouldn’t have any real issue, as long as they understand what RAID is. There’s an option to register for an Asustor ID, which is used with the array of applications and services that can be used by the ADM software.
ADM 3.0 First Look
Here is our first look at the Asustor Data Master (ADM) 3.0 operating system. ADM is a Linux-based operating system that Asustor uses across their range of NAS devices. It is still in beta and it may change a little from the final product, but we’re confident is saying that any changes are more likely to be under the hood. Some apps will require a bit of tuning before it goes out of beta. The ADM can be accessed via a web browser or the HDMI port, as long as the NAS has a mouse connected or an app such as AiMaster which can be installed on mobile devices.
There’s a host of new features and improvements. At first glance, the design is broadly similar. The home screen layout will be instantly familiar to users of Asustor NAS’ as the only thing that’s changed here are the icons themselves. you’ll notice the icons also resize according to your resolution and window size. You can mess about with different themes, widgets and layouts. In our brief testing we believe the general navigation and access to specific functions is easier and more streamlined than the previous 2.x versions of ADM. We really do need more time to understand everything it has to offer though. Given the incredible array of applications the ADM 3.0 and AS6302T are capable of, of course we cannot say if it is 100% ready for primetime, but we know Asustor is hard at work and we’re sure the final production release of the ADM 3.0 will be impressive.
ADM 3.0 isn’t just about a new design, there are a host of changes and improvements across the entire system. One of the first things we noticed was the way shortcuts to apps have been improved. Rather than having to go into the ADM desktop, you can actually pin apps to the login screen to avoid having to go through the extra steps to access them as you’d have to do previously.
Now lets take a closer look at some of the things ADM brings.
The App Central tab is where you can install apps to suit your usage requirements. There are a huge range of apps available, both from Asustor and third party developers. There’s apps for the cloud, security, web browsing, file sharing, iTunes, productivity, Spotify, surveillance, coding tools, Kodi, Plex and about a million other apps. As you can see below, listed are the ones we had installed at the time, followed by the rest in alphabetical order. The list goes to C! There are hundreds of apps available.
The File Explorer tab is where you’ll access the content of the NAS. You’ll note there are sub folders that tend to be accessed by the apps according to the file type. EG Kodi will look into the Video folder, music apps will default to the music folder etc. Some of the useful features here include access to a virtual device’s contents. Another feature is the ability to add an external optical drive.
There are an absolute mountain of things to look at in the main settings menu.
First up we have the General tab. Apart from what you see above, there’s also the Sign in page style tab, where you can set things like themes, background image, shortcuts and other general layout options.
The Network tab is next. Key settings include manual controls over DNS, IP, VPN, Proxy settings and the option for link aggregation. VPNs are becoming more and more prevalent in the age of data mining and geo-blocking, so a VPN isn’t a bad thing at all to have.
Next is the Regional Options tab which has things like time and date settings and the interface language.
The Hardware tab is where you can control things like the disk hibernation or sleep settings, fan controls and a cool LED brightness adjustment. I personally use a Synology DS215J NAS and its LEDs are bright enough to light a room, so adjustment over the LED brightness on the Asustor is a small, but nice little option, particularly if you are planning to use it as a media playback device or with a HTPC in a darkened movie watching room. Fan control is also found here.
The Notification tab allows system log entries to be sent via email or SMS. For example, if a drive is failing or the fan freezes, the unit can be shut down remotely.
The ADM Defender is a firewall application designed to protect the NAS from attacks.
The Certificate Manager tab is probably not all that needed for our readers, but if the NAS is used in a business environment, this would be used to control access to sensitive information.
The ADM update tab is pretty self explanatory. Here the NAS will tell you which version you are running and if there are any updates, and notification methods if there are any available.
The Network Recycle Bin tab is useful if you are worried about accidental data loss. This can be set to a per folder basis.
The Energy Saver tab is where you can also control the drive sleep and hibernation settings, and wake on LAN.
The EZ connect tab is a cloud ID for controlling remote access to your NAS. It’s an excellent feature. Let’s say you are overseas and want to upload a batch of pics to the NAS back home? No problem! With the internet passthrough function, its easy to connect to the NAS from outside the network.
The Manually Connect tab is where you’ll find DDNS settings or connecting a mobile device.
The Factory Default tab is self explanatory. Apply this setting if you want to restore the NAS to its default state, but note you will lose all your data if you choose to do this.
The final tab is the Registration tab where you can use your Asustor ID to utilise advanced features and cloud options.
Its also worth mentioning the Surveillance capabilities of the AS6302T. This allows the NAS to be turned into a comprehensive 24/7 security system that can be accessed remotely via a mobile device. It comes with 4 free channels. We don’t have the equipment on hand to test this feature, but it does check most of the boxes on paper. There’s a heap of options for exporting, scheduling, watermarking, fisheye dewarping and support for a range of cameras. I need to catch that douche who has been stealing my garden gnomes!
There’s so much more.. We’d need about 20Tb of text to document it all. Suffice to say, you’d expect in depth monitoring and diagnostics including SMART, backup and restore options, full Windows and MAC integration, FTP, server options and more.
Asustor AS6302T Multimedia Applications
The AS6302t is well featured to become a genuine home multimedia center. The inclusion of HDMI 2.0 and ability to support 4K 8bit HEVC (but not 10 bit) and vP9 (youtube) mean it is a clear step above older Braswell based solutions when it comes to 2017 era multimedia support. Popular apps like Kodi and Plex are well placed to take advantage of this. While 10bit support would be nice, we cannot criticize Asustor for this. That’s Intel’s choice. Only Kaby Lake CPUs support 10bit HEVC. We’ll probably have to wait for Gemini Lake or Mercury lake processors next year to see support for this.
Plex performance is much improved over prior Braswell based platforms, but we still had a few issues, there was some choppy playback with very high bit rate files, and of course 10 bit HEVC will not play. 1080p content had no issue and 4K x.264 played well too.
Kodi over HDMI worked very well. HEVC 8bit content played back flawlessly with a high bit rate with CPU usage hovering around 20%. We tried a very high bit rate copy of The Martian, which weighs in at about 60Gb! This is a x.264 file with 8 bit depth. CPU use was around 30%. 10 bit 4k is simply beyond the capabilities of the Apollo Lake.
AiVideo handled this pretty well to. It has options to downscale but the relatively poor WiFi performance of our test Lenovo Yoga Book with Android made high quality testing a moot point.
Overall it seems Kodi is the most capable solution at this time. We just need Intel to get with the times and provide CPU’s with full hardware support for new generation codecs. For an indication of the popularity of 10bit over 8bit, go to a bit torrent site. Search for HEVC 8bit and HEVC 10bit. We’ll leave it at that ?
Lets not ignore the S/PDIF port. With this, you could integrate the unit directly into a HiFi amplifier or receiver. If you were using A/V, you’d probably use the HDMI. With the likes of Spotify and iTunes available, using the AS6302T as a music server is a definite option. Though perhaps overkill for that purpose, the NAS is capable of other things simultaneously.
Of course a NAS is designed to interact with other devices on the network, so the way the network clients interact with the NAS is a key part of the user experience. Lets take a look at some of the client side applications.
We used an Android phone, which means accessing the Google play store to access Asustor apps. Searching for ‘Asustor’ you are greeted with an array of ‘Ai’ apps. Of course these apps are available for iOS as well.
Here is a screenshot of almost all of the Ai apps that are available.
Starting with the AiData. This is a tool for accessing the files on the NAS and connecting them with the cloud. Dropbox and Google Drive are two of the several options available for sharing.
AiRemote. This is an app that lets you use your phone to control the NAS when it is connected to a display via HDMI. you can use the phone to move the cursor, control apps and type on a keyboard as well. It removes the need to have a keyboard and mouse. A perfect example would be to use Kodi with the NAS hooked up directly to a TV or HDMI receiver without the need for any PC in between. Nice!
AiMaster is the master control app for Asustor NAS’. You can do things like monitor status, backups and manage services and applications of the ADM OS.
AiFoto is the photo gallery app. With this you can manually or automatically send photos from your device straight to the NAS. It doesn’t appear to support geotagging though which would be a nice feature.
AiDownload is the go to app if you wish to download without a PC. It supports HTTP, FTP and bittorrent. It can control various parameters such as up/down ratios, connection speeds and it supports RSS too.
AiSecure is the surveillance mobile app. This will be a vital app if you want to check in on your cameras while you’re out and about and interact remotely with the surveillance center app.
AiCast is similar to the likes of a Google Chromecast. You can access the NAS via WiFi and transmit the content to your WiFi equipped TV.
AiMusic is pretty self explanatory. This is the app that allows you to stream music from your NAS to your mobile device.
AiVideo is the same thing, but for video. With this you can stream to a Chromecast dongle.
Overall, the range of things you can do remotely is quite staggering. Its amazing to think about what a NAS can do, and once you;ve used one and gotten used to its functions, you’ll wonder how you managed to get by without one!
Test Setup & Results
We equipped the AS6302T with a pair of Seagate ST2000VN000 NAS drives in a RAID1 configuration. RAID0 wouldn’t make much sense given the speed would be bottlenecked by the Gigabit Ethernet connection. With link aggregation activated, you may wish to use RAID0, but then you lose redundancy of course. Remember that the choice of drive has a major impact on the performance of a NAS, so as always, your mileage may vary. In 2017, we also need to consider the limits of Gigabit networking as current hard drives are easily capable of transfers much faster than Gigabit. Really its about time the entire PC ecosystem made the transition to something faster than Gigabit.. it’s so …1990’s..
First up, we test a simple transfer to and from the NAS. We are clearly right up against the limits of Gigabit networking here.
ATTO’s disk benchmark also shows the drives are fast enough to be bottlenecked even by smaller kb sized files.
Anvil is a good all round test for hard drives, SSD and NAS. The read result is a little slower than we’d like. Perhaps the ADM 3.0 firmware needs that last bit of polish?
The Asustor AS6302T brings key new features including a more powerful Apollo Lake CPU, HDMI 2.0. Wake on WAN and USB Type-C that are befitting of a year 2017 NAS. The ever increasing selection of apps from Asustor and 3rd party developers continues to improves on the capabilities of network attached storage. The term NAS is almost a misnomer these days. They are servers in their own right complete with a highly refined OS, features and capabilities. Many of our users will be familiar with, and using their own NAS’ but users unfamiliar with them should be impressed by some of the things the AS6302T is capable of. It can do so many things.. a multimedia center, surveillance, backup, content creation, business applications, cloud storage, download managing and more. Oh it can also store data!
Setup is a breeze, both from a hardware and software point of view. The drives are hot swappable and our first experiences with the ADM 3.0 software were positive. Users familiar with prior version should have no issues finding the things they want in the new version.
The HDMI user interface is excellent if you wish to connect it straight to a TV or display. A lot of folks like to have a NUC or HTPC, but with a HDMI 2.0 port, the AS6302T can do all of these things. You can access Youtube, Netflix, web browsers, surveillance and all the other things much the same way you would with a fully fledged PC. The Apollo Lake CPU adds that bit of grunt that was lacking with Braswell when it came to general use.
The multimedia capabilities of the AS6302T are first rate, with HDMI 2.0 and S/PDIF allowing for easy integration into a Home Theater or HiFi setup. there is one particular caveat: HEVC 10bit support. To be fair, this only comes with Kaby Lake generation CPU’s so this is hardly the fault of Asustor. It will do 8 bit stuff well, and all kinds of x.264 content, provided the software you choose on the client side is properly set up to take advantage of it. Kodi in particular is a good choice, and we found Asustor’s own Ai apps worked well on a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, which is not a cutting edge phone anymore. If you’re doing your own encoding, then 8bit support will be perfectly adequate, but the trend is towards 10bit depth and we are still not there yet with Intel CPU’s. Of course this is no fault of Asustor. Other vendors using Intel CPUs are in the same position.
The Asustor’s ADM operating system is a terrific piece of software. It is intuitively laid out with most settings easy to find or easy to search for. Initialization and mapping the drive is very easy and we’re also impressed by the incredible variety of applications available . It’s like a separate networked PC really. The Asustor AS6302T is going for $699 SGD, so it’s not cheap, but it is very powerful with excellent construction and is packed with the level of features you’d expect at this price. The 3 year warranty is a nice feature considering some competitors are only offering two year warranty. This is a really nice NAS!