ASUSTOR AS6204T NAS Review
Now that's what they call an All-in-One
What is the ASUSTOR AS6204T?Regular readers of AVForums might notice the similarity of the ASUSTOR AS6204T to the recently reviewed AS6102T NAS (Network-attached Storage) device. In actual fact, it’s only because of a mix-up at the warehouse that we received this flagship NAS from ASUSTOR at all, much to the chagrin of the manufacturer. For the uninitiated, think of a NAS as a low power PC packed with storage that is attached to your network for the purpose of delivering files and data to any other devices you also have on your network, whether that be a video or music streamer, a smartphone or tablet, Blu-ray players or whatever you use for media playback. The ASUSTOR AST is especially aimed at AV enthusiasts with features including 4K video playback via an HDMI port, an infra-red remote control and a digital audio output. At the time of publishing (May 2016), the ASUSTOR AS6240T is available for between £429 and £499 online.
SpecificationsThe ASUSTOR AS6204T utilises an Intel Celeron N3150 Braswell processor and comes installed with 4GB of dual-channel RAM, although you can expand that up to 8GB via some slots beneath the case at the rear. The manufacturer claims all this horsepower enables read speeds of over 224 MB/s and write speeds of over 213 MB/s, under a RAID 5 configuration. The AS6204T has four bays that can accommodate 2.5 or 3.5" SATA II/ III drives or Solid State Drives (SSD) and supports a maximum of 16TB (terabytes) of storage.
Design & ConnectionsThe ASUSTOR 6204T measures 185.5(H) x 170(W) x 230(D) mm and weighs in at 2.9Kg before you’ve inserted any drives, so it’s a fairly large device and there’s a display panel at the top-front, which allows for some very basic configuration; in truth, we only used the display once, when we’d forgotten the system password and had to reset. Also at 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 four drive bay enclosures which feature a basic locking mechanism to prevent accidental removal. 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 mobile apps for control.
Moving around the back of the ASUSTOR AS6204T we immediately see the cooling fan which can be set to auto, low, medium or high speed; not that we had any noise complaints about the smaller model but the 6204T is definitely quieter, probably because the fan is larger and doesn’t have to move as fast. 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. 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 media and NAS.
SetupEven the novice user, with some computer literacy assumed, setting up the ASUS AS6204T for the first time is not too tricky and there’s a user-friendly installation wizard on a CD with the package. Experienced users will probably want to take a more hands-on approach but at least those less savvy shouldn’t be daunted. Obviously you will need to install some storage to the AS6204T and that’s simply a matter of placing a hard drive in to at least one of the bays and screwing it in to place. 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 option 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 AS6204T has an abundance 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, Netflix, Chrome/Chromium and much more. 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. All of these can be used with the mobile app as well as via the web. The only annoyance 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 great feature of the ASUSTOR 6204T 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 AS6204T which improves transfer speeds and also provides load balancing for better reliability. For those with really demanding needs, the easily expandable RAM should also prove a nice feature.
Video & Audio PerformanceWe were running the latest beta of the ASUSTOR ADM operating system which also allowed us access to a more up-to-date version of KODI (based on the latest 16.0) than was available when we conducted the AS6102T review. Also, since we’d last checked in to ‘App Central,’ a Netflix app has been added to the roster, although calling it an app might be a bit of a stretch; in actual fact, clicking on the Netflix icon actually opens up the Chrome browser at the Netflix log-in screen. It’s not a bad solution but Chrome pegs the maximum resolution to only 720p so it’s not one we would use, ourselves, when we want a minimum of 1080p or, better still, the Ultra HD content.
Still, we were far more interested in how the AS6204T performed with our locally stored media – it is its raison d'être after all – and here we saw a marked improvement over previous testing. Navigating around KODI still felt a little slow, compared to most of the dedicated players we see but not to the point where it is anything like an issue. Where it mattered, with actual playback of a wide variety of files, the AS6204T would actually rank amongst the best players we’ve used and we’re not embarrassed to say that came as a pretty big surprise.
In terms of video playback the built-in Intel chip of the ASUSTOR 6204T proved perfectly capable of switching refresh rates at 24/23.976, 25, 30/29.97 and 60/59.4 and 50Hz at all resolutions, where previous tests failed with 50 and 25Hz content. More impressively, the AS6204T chomped through all our 4K/Ultra HD files bar 10-bit HEVC encodes but, again unlike last time, 8-bit HEVC proved no problem whatsoever. The only relatively routine video it failed with was VC-1 files at 29.97 frames per second but the far more common VC-1 at 23.976fps was handled perfectly. There’s no support for frame-packed 3D, either ISO or MKV, but both would play back in 2D fine and there’s no issue with top-and-bottom or side-by-side 3D content.
In terms of support for HD audio codecs, we are very pleased to report the ASUSTOR AS6204T played everything we had perfectly. Our test files include regular DD/DTS 5.1 in addition to 5.1/7.1 DTS-HD MA/HR as well as Dolby TrueHD 5.1/7.1. Although we don’t have an AVR supporting either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, the assumption would be they would also play fine given they were passed-through as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA 7.1, respectively.
As per previous testing, there were zero problems when distributing six separate 1080p videos to six devices simultaneously without the ASUSTOR AS6204T seeming to break sweat and it perhaps might possibly be capable of more but we’d run out of displays on which to test. We can’t attest that would be the case in your home but you should only need half decent networking kit to achieve similar results. We certainly can’t envisage many, if any, domestic scenarios where the ASUSTOR AS6204T wouldn’t be more than adequate.
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 as well as an Ethernet switch; we also used Wi-Fi over a 5Ghz 802.11ac connection and a set of Devolo dLAN 1200 powerline adpaters.
There’s no doubt that Windows explorer was much quicker than the ASUS version with wired writing speeds averaging 102.5 MB/s, against ASUS Explorer’s 54.7 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 25.6 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 25.2 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 59 MB/s, wireless close to just 10MB/s and powerline around 22MB/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.
ASUSTOR AS6204T NAS Review
Should I buy the ASUSTOR AS6204T?Assuming you are looking at the very specific requirement of an all-in-one network storage device rolled up with a media player and/or server, then the ASUSTOR AS6204T makes for an absolutely terrific choice. Setup is extremely straightforward, even for a novice user, but of course those more versed in the ways of the NAS are also well catered for with a plethora of apps, settings and options available via the Control Center.
In terms of the AS6204T as a distributor of your media files around the home, we really couldn’t fault it; data read and write speeds were spot-on to the maximum capable in our gigabit network and we had the ASUSTOR sending Full HD video to 6 devices simultaneously without it batting a metaphorical eyelid. The even better news for AV fans is that on the back of the upcoming April software release, the ASUSTOR AS6204T is a brilliant media player, in its own rights, with support for 8-bit HEVC encoded 4K, HD audio pass-through over 7.1 channels and near faultless playback of just about every other codec, container or resolution you care to think of. Its limitations are the expected non-support of frame-packed 3D, the lack of 10-bit HEVC compatibility and the fact it can’t play Ultra HD material at anything beyond 30 frames per second; still, we’ve tested many a dedicated media device that can’t do those and more besides so they are hardly black marks against this device. We should also mention that the AS6204T is whisper quiet in operation too. As a true all-in-one solution to those with large media collections, the ASUSTOR AS6204T comes Highly Recommended.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.