ASUSTOR AS6102T NAS Review
A great back-end for your media player
What is the ASUSTOR AS6102T?Since this is our very first Network-attached Storage (NAS) device review, we should probably explain what a NAS actually is before we really begin. In simple terms, it’s basically a little computer that sits on your network with its sole purpose of serving files to any other devices also on your network. As far as AVForums readers are concerned, a NAS drive is a place to keep your video and audio files for convenient, low-power, low-noise access via video streamers, music streamers, Smart TVs, mobile devices, Blu-ray players and basically anything else that can playback movies, TV and music.
The ASUSTOR AS6102T – and in fact most of the ASUSTOR range – are particularly geared toward AV enthusiasts with some additional bells and whistles, including 4K video playback via an HDMI port, an infra-red remote control and a digital audio output. At the time of publishing (February 2016), the ASUSTOR AS6102T is available for between £300 and £350, online.
SpecificationsThe ASUSTOR AS6102T utilises an IntelCeleron N3050 Braswell dual-core processor and comes with2GB of dual-channel RAM, although if you’re a real power user, that’s expandable up to 8GB via two expansion memory slots which are located under the hood of the 6102T. The manufacturer claims all this horsepower enables read speeds of over 224 MB/s and write speeds of over 213 MB/s, under RAID 1 configurations, which would be pretty impressive. The 6102T is a dual bay device which can accommodate 2.5 or 3.5" SATA II/ III drives or a couple of Solid State Drives (SSD), if you prefer and it also supports hot-swappable drives; the ASUSTOR doesn’t come with any disc drives but it’s likely you can get a bundle from a retailer. The ASUSTOR 6102T supports a maximum of 8TB of storage.
Design & ConnectionsThe ASUSTOR 6102T is about the same size as a smallish shoebox with a footprint of 150x160x230mm (WxHxD) and, for what it is, it’s actually quite a pleasing looking device although the chances are the majority out in the wild will be stowed away somewhere. To the front are two indicator lights that show when the device is powered up and ready for action, the blue light also doubles as the power button. Below those is a USB 3.0 port, which is convenient for ad hoc connections to external storage and to the right hand side are the two drive bay enclosures – despite the user manual saying to the contrary, there is no locking mechanism for the drives as you do find on others in the range. There’s also an infra-red receiver on the front panel which works in conjunction with the optional remote control; that will set you back not far off £30 which is steep for what it is so maybe stick to the app for control.
Moving around the ASUSTOR 6102T and we immediately see the cooling fan which can be set to auto, low, medium or high speed; we certainly never found the noise obtrusive in use and that was with the setting at auto and the device out in the open next to our display(s). At the top of the connection plate is an S/PDIF Toslink digital audio output below which is an HDMI 1.4b port and under that are two eSATA ports for further storage expansion possibilities. Moving further down we have two similar rows of connections with a Gigabit LAN port at the left-hand side of each and two further USB 3.0 ports on the upper row, whereas the lower row has two USB 2.0 connections. Next to the power input right at the bottom is a Kingston lock to prevent someone running off with your precious collections.
SetupEven the novice user, with some computer literacy assumed, setting up the ASUS 6102T for the first time is not too tricky and there’s a user-friendly installation wizard on a CD with the package. Obviously you will need to install some storage to the 6102T to make it useful and that’s just a case of placing a hard drive in to at least one of the bays and screwing it in to place with the supplied screws. Most will be making use of both bays, however, as why else go dual bay and we’d recommend choosing the option for keeping your data backed up (RAID 1) rather than for maximum storage but that’s ultimately your choice.
There are three different installation methods to choose from; it can be done via the supplied CD; if you know (or are capable of working out) the NAS’s IP address you can choose to do it through a browser; there’s also the option of using your mobile device – iOS & Android – with the AiMaster app. We couldn’t really pick a favourite but, as said above, anyone with a half-decent degree of computer literacy won't really struggle with the process and ASUS has made it nice and easy for beginners. For the record, our set-up was done using two 4TB Seagate 3.5-inch drives under a RAID 1 configuration with shared folders - a combination of SMB (Server Message Block) and NFS (Network File System) protocols for testing purposes - we would normally keep our media folders as NFS only, as it’s generally much quicker, but first-timers might well find SMB set-up easier.
FeaturesThe ASUS 6102T sports an absolute wealth of features both in terms of its capabilities as a ‘straight’ NAS and other more all-in-one aspects such as the ability to run KODI, as well as a number of other apps. By default, the Control Center portal comes pre-loaded with a File Explorer, an Activity Monitor, an External Devices Manager and an Internal Storage manager which all can also be used with the mobile app as well as via the web. It’s a nice way of splitting up what would have otherwise been a daunting and highly complex menu system – you know, like the ones you find in some routers – and each is very simple to use in themselves. The only bugbear we had was with File Explorer not working fully with Chrome as it needs the latest (or at least very recent) JAVA update to unlock all the features. Without that, you can’t use it to manage files on your PC, just locally attached or internal, which is limiting, so we were forced in to using another browser.
There are well over a hundred other apps you can install from ‘App Central,’ including the obvious ones like torrent clients, download managers, media servers and players, VPN (Virtual Private Network) software – also configurable in settings - and other more work orientated applications like content management systems, email servers and the like.
A nice feature of the ASUSTOR 6102T is its built-in dual Ethernet allowing it to keep a connection even if the other one fails, which obviously decreases the possibility of any unexpected drop-outs. Providing your router/networking set-up supports it, you can also use the link aggregation function of the AS6102T which improves transfer speeds and also provides load balancing for better reliability. For those with really demanding needs, the easily expandable RAM should be a big bonus with it simply requiring the removal of the back panel and the fixing in place.
Video & Audio PerformanceObviously we couldn’t possibly check out all of those apps mentioned above and our concentration was focussed on media playback. For this we went with the open source favourite, KODI, which is a build based on version 15.2 and, therefore, a little out of date but it works well enough. We were going to comment that it felt very sluggish to operate but that was before we dispensed with the supplied (for review) Asustor Remote and used a USB keyboard instead. From there, we had no complaints about navigational speed although we’ve reviewed more dedicated-for-the-purpose devices that outshine it.
In terms of video playback the built-in Intel chip of the ASUSTOR 6102T proved perfectly capable of switching refresh rates at 24/23.976, 30/29.97 and 60/59.4 but not for 25 and 50 frames per second. The solution here is to set the default output of the device itself to 50Hz, which is fine for running the user interface, although we did find KODI would sometimes get stuck at another frequency.
There is no support for 3D playback using this chipset but you can get HD audio at up to 5.1 channels through HDMI and the 6102T had no issues passing standard Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 via both optical and HDMI. Whilst there is advertised support for Ultra HD, testing proved the AS6102T a pretty mediocre 4K player. There is no support for HEVC, even at low framerates, and we found it could even struggle with 8-bit 4K MP4 with some serious stuttering visible. If you’re not bothered about 3D, seven channel HD audio and 4K, the 6102T is a perfectly serviceable KODI machine but if those are important to you, best to steer clear of that use-case and get a dedicated device.
Speaking of which, we had no issues distributing 1080p video to six devices simultaneously without the ASUSTOR AS6102T seeming to break sweat and it perhaps could have done more but we’d run out of displays. This was with four of the devices on a wireless connection and two wired. Obviously the capability of your own network infrastructure comes in to play here but it is indicative of how well the ASUSTOR performs and fan speed barely increased either.
Read/Write PerformanceWe’ll preface this by saying we don’t have a router that is capable of link aggregation so tests were carried out using a single Ethernet connection which, in all likelihood, is how most will have it set up at home. We tested using a 4GB video file, copied back and forth three times, using both the ASUSTOR File Explorer and the Windows version as well as using a wired gigabit LAN connection from our Windows 10 PC direct to a gigabit port on our router; we also used Wi-Fi over a 5Ghz 802.11ac connection.
There’s no doubt that Windows explorer was much quicker than the ASUS version with wired writing speeds averaging 103 MB/s, against ASUS Explorer’s 49.5 MB/s average. That meant in Windows we could write the 4GB file in almost exactly 32 seconds, which feels very swift indeed. The same file written over Wi-Fi averaged 27.2 MB/s which meant it took almost exactly four times longer so, if you didn’t already know, wired is the way forwards. Read speeds were almost identical over Wi-Fi with an average of 26.2 MB/s whilst the wired was actually a bit more impressive still at an average of 110 MB/s via Windows; again ASUSTOR Explorer was a lot less impressive with a wired read of 57 MB/s and wireless close to just 10MB/s. It is, however, far more beneficial to use ASUSTOR File Explorer when moving files and folders around the NAS, or even multiple NAS on the same network, as it's near instantaneous.
Any Issues?There were certainly no deal-breaking issues during our time with the ASUSTOR 6102T but there were a few niggles, now and again. The biggest problem we had was when hooking up the 6102T to a TV, well three in fact. We got a momentary flash of the boot screen but once fully up and running, the bottom of the television screen was showing a few rows of grey blocks at the bottom and nothing else. It turned out the NAS was outputting a 1024x768 video signal at 75Hz which wasn’t compatible with any of our TVs. The solution proved to be plugging in a USB keyboard and hitting a few buttons whereupon the HDMI handshaking magically sprang to life and we were greeted with the TV UI. ASUSTOR need to look at changing that default resolution output, it’s not a very sensible one for an HDMI connection.
The power input connection could also do with being a bit tighter as, with some relatively gentle movements of the unit when powered up, the terminal did drop out of the socket on a couple of occasions. Now, because it’s a review sample it did get treated in ways the typical home user wouldn’t – photo shoots etc, nothing sinister – but it still is a bit of a flimsy fitting, we feel. We also had three random network disconnects in approximately four weeks of use, which isn’t too bad but still mlldly troubling. We also couldn’t get our Samsung M3 1TB external drive to be meaningfully accessible via the AS6102T – it could be seen but no folders accessed and this is a USB storage device that has thrown up zero issues with probably twenty, or so, other review devices. Finally, the remote control ASUS sells as an accessory is very poor for the money and the 6102T reacts tardily to it so we would not recommend a purchase of that.
- Super-fast file transfer
- Easy setup
- Lots of control options
- Excellent connectivity
- Nice & quiet in operation
- Flexible upgrade path
- Can feed multiple clients with ease
- Initial HDMI Issues
- Some disconnects
- ASUSTOR optional remote is poor
- Limited as a 4K player
ASUSTOR AS6102T NAS Review
Should I buy the ASUSTOR 6102T?For the AV enthusiast and novice NAS user, the ASUS 6102T makes a very fine choice. This dual bay device can accommodate up to 8TB of storage and runs from a dual core Intel Braswell processor with 2GB of RAM installed. The design is smart, installation of drives is a breeze and there’s great connectivity too.
The interface and setup are extremely easy and there’s some really nice added value features available, including app access, KODI and PLEX support and even HDMI and digital audio outputs. As a 4K media player it’s only mediocre, however, with no support for HEVC, 10-bit or HDR but as a back-end server to something more capable of handling the future, it’s simply excellent.
Wired transfer speeds using a single Ethernet connection ran close to the maximum of a gigabit per second, meaning even full Blu-ray rips can be done in around three minutes and, when called upon by client devices, playback was near instantaneous. You can beef up the already impressive performance with extra RAM and by utilising a dual Ethernet connection improve speeds further but most will likely be satisfied with the out-of-box results; there will be power users and business that require more and it’s good the options exist.
All in all, the ASUSTOR 6102T is a great choice for the AV Enthusiast that is just slightly lacking in its native cutting-edge video playback capabilities, thus slightly diminishing its all-in-one tag but it still comes very much Recommended.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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