ASUSTOR AS7004T Review (Page 3 of 8)

Page 3 - A Closer Look - Hardware (Internal)

There is no wasted room inside the ASUSTOR AS7004T network attached storage. Actually, if you have seen any of our business class four bay NAS reviews from QNAP since 2009, the ASUSTOR is practically identical. It is built nearly the exact same way as QNAP boxes like the TS-470, from the way components are mounted to the way panels are interlocked. We can see the LCD controller module at the front, its four 3.5" drive bays occupying majority of the area, as well as the power supply located right above the drive bays. A few centimeters of clearance room can be seen between the rear 120mm fan and the hard drive bays. This allows some space between components to reduce heat congestion. Its well placed rear exhaust fan can then easily take out the warm air, and allow cooler air to flow over the mounted hard drives with minimal turbulence noise. A tower heatsink with heatpipes connected to the CPU is placed between the fan and the hard drive bays to cool the processor. The motherboard is mounted with its components facing inwards to take advantage of the airflow generated by the sole rear fan as well, with the entire back covered by a piece of black plastic, just in case anything makes contact with the shell and short circuits. Generally speaking, it is pretty packed inside the ASUSTOR AS7004T, but everything is neatly placed and cabled to maximize cooling efficiency.

The power supply is a Delta Electronics DPS-250AB-44H power supply rated at 250W maximum. Sustained power output is set as 240W when all three rails are active -- distributed as 6A on +3.3V, 12A on +5V, and 17A on +12V. There is no mention of such being an 80 Plus certified power supply, but other variants of Delta's DPS-250AB series power supplies are 80 Plus Bronze certified.

Unless you are someone determined to void your warranty and persistent enough to rip your new $1000+ file server apart, it is actually quite a challenge to dig into the further details on this product. I bet the guy who designed the chassis was probably thinking to himself, "No one is going to take this product apart, but if someone tries, I will make their life as hard as possible." Similar to QNAP, ASUSTOR has 'conveniently' made everything interlocking -- for example, the motherboard cannot be removed unless you release the SATA backplane, which cannot be taken out by itself, since it is blocked off by the chassis frame and power supply. But if you are as inclined as I have, then a bit of persistence and a half an hour of time will prove to be quite rewarding. (It took me almost two hours with my first QNAP, but with some experience, half an hour was good enough this time around.) After removing the power supply and disengaging the chassis back panel, remove both screws on the SATA backplane. You can now slide it out by moving it to the left. Take out all the screws at the back of the motherboard, disconnect all the cables, and a small bit of wiggle room will allow you to take it out entirely. Now we can finally really take a closer look at the hardware under the hood.

ASUSTOR's AS7004T NAS features an Intel Core i3-4330 dual core processor, along with 2GB of DDR3 SODIMM memory featuring eight Samsung K4B2G1646Q ICs. There are some glue on the stock RAM clips, but you can still remove it. The CPU operates at 3.5GHz with Hyper Threading enabled, and it is a standard LGA1150 processor rather than an integrated chip. Does this mean you can install a Core i7-4790K in there for fun? Well, sort of, but I do not recommend it, due to thermal limitations. Either way, ASUSTOR's embedded Linux based operating system is installed on an ADATA IUM01-001GFHL 1GB SLC flash memory chip on a module.

Intel's C226 chipset provides native support to all its USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and SATA 6Gb/s ports. Intel's Gigabit LAN controller powers its two Gigabit Ethernet ports at the back. ASMedia ASM1466 SATA repeater chips are found in various places to ensure data signal quality and integrity, while a Realtek ALC887 audio codec handles the optical output at the back. All of these mentioned ports are soldered directly to the motherboard.

There is a large heatsink near the center of the motherboard with a heatpipe connected to a tower fin array in order to cool down the Intel Core i3-4330 processor and C226 chipset. It is attached by four screws, which can be removed, as shown in our photo above. The user upgradeable memory slot can be seen on the left. Since this is the back of the motherboard, you can easily add extra RAM to the system immediately after taking the shell off, which means you will not void your warranty. Even the black plastic sheet that covers the back of the motherboard has a small cutout for easy RAM installation. From my experience, I never needed any more memory than my ASUSTOR NAS already came with, but user upgradeable memory is always a good thing for more RAM intensive applications.

Lastly, we have the SATA backplane, and the rear 120mm fan. All of them are SATA 6Gb/s ports supplied natively by the Intel C226 platform controller hub. On the right, the Y.S. Tech FD121225SB is a 120mm dual ball bearing PWM fan specified at 2.30A for a maximum of speed of 5200 rpm. The rated airflow is 208.4 CFM and 18.8 mm-H2O static pressure at 59.5 dB of noise.

We can see ASUSTOR used excellent hardware for their network attached storage system. But we must understand the sum of the system is not limited to just the hardware, but also the software. Over the years, network attached storage systems have evolved from relatively simple file servers to fully fledged network appliances with more features than I can keep track of. As such, we will take a look at the latest operating system update from the company, ADM 2.3. After putting everything back together, and praying that my AS7004T still starts, we hit the power button to fire it up.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware (External)
3. A Closer Look - Hardware (Internal)
4. Configuration and User Interface, Part I
5. Configuration and User Interface, Part II
6. Configuration and User Interface, Part III
7. Performance and Power Consumption
8. Conclusion