A Closer Look
The AS6204T ships in a retail-friendly package. Inside, we find the appliance secured in place by dense foam. Its accessories come in a separate box that keeps them from scratching the chassis.
Asustor is a fairly young NAS vendor, and this design dates back to its earliest products launched in 2012. The layout remains clean and modern, though. That's a good thing, as we've started seeing more appliances loaded with plastic to reduce manufacturing costs.
There are several LEDs that indicate power, disk and network activity. When engaged, the one-touch copy function LED also comes to life. All of the lights, including the LCD display up front, can be dimmed or even turned off completely. This is a welcome addition, particularly when the AS6204T sits at the heart of a media center.
Once you get past the setup process, the LCD becomes a novelty more than anything. Prior to that, it'll walk you through configuration and flash the IP to use for accessing the NAS. Should a problem arise later, though, the display can help point you in the right direction.
Over the years, we've heard companies argue in favor of single- and dual-fan designs. Asustor uses one low-speed fan to keep the drives inside cool. Those large blades do help minimize noise, and Asustor claims that the system at idle generates just 17.6 dB(A). That's lower than we can accurately measure outside of an anechoic chamber. Almost all of what you hear from the AS6204T comes from whatever hard drives are inside.
The single-fan design does have one drawback: it adds a single point of failure. Then again, we've tested a number of Asustor appliances and never seen a fan go out. Replacing it wouldn't be difficult, but we also know most folks don't keep spares.
Most of the platform's I/O is accessible from the back, along with a Kensington ClickSafe lock slot. We rarely see eSATA anymore, but we applaud Asustor for keeping the interface; the capacity it enables is useful when you run out, and its performance matches native SATA. You can also offload surveillance recordings to a more secure space using external disks.
Several competing systems also include HDMI connectivity, but the S/PDIF audio output is more unique. Software like XBMC (now under the name Kodi) takes advantage of those hardware capabilities to enable a personal library of entertainment for your living room. Asustor leads with this feature, though other companies are taking steps to close the gap.
The system is mainly metal, including a steel frame and aluminum cover that goes over three sides. We prefer metal cases; they help dissipate thermal energy under heavy workloads. This system uses very little power, but high-capacity drives with a lot of platters do get hot.
The drive sleds support both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch disks. The only fault we found with them is their locking mechanism, which isn't particularly secure. We'd prefer to have a key lock the sleds to the chassis. This is important to SMBs that might not have space free of foot traffic and meddling hands.