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Mediasonic SU2LA Dual Bay RAID + NAS Review

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AkG

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Mediasonic SU2LA Dual Bay RAID + NAS Enclosure Review




Manufacturer Product Page: Mediasonic Web Store
Product Number: HUR1-SU2LA
Availability: Now
Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Warranty Length: 1 year



You know when a technology is truly matured when you can hear “Jane & Joe Six Pack” talking about “their computer THIS” or “their network THAT”. In the case of networks I here it all the time, average non tech people having and using “their home network”. Do they understand the underlying technology? Of course not, they just know that they plug in the “phone jack looking thingy” and it allows them talk to their other computers. Just recently, home storage and network attached storage has started to enter the average computer user’s lexicon. One thing is for certain: these NAS boxes are not exactly what you think of when you think Network Attached Storage.

In this emerging new market niche it seems that Walmart Rules are in effect and cost truly is paramount. Jane & Joe Six Pack may not exactly know what a NAS does but they certainly know they don’t want to spend a lot of money finding out. To this end most of the value oriented NAS’s are BYOD or Bring Your Own Disk(s) and are either in single bay or dual bay configurations. They are not fancy devices and sheer speed is not a top priority. Yes, they have to be fast enough to stream a movie or song across the network but they don’t have be any faster than that. In the never ending battle of “right sizing”, advanced features like Print Server or even native multi-OS support have been removed, or severely truncated; luckily “right sizing” on most dual bay versions still means RAID is included. The upside to all this down sizing is that these solutions are fast enough, easy enough, stable enough and above all cheap enough for normal everyday people to want to find out what NAS is all about.

Just recently we reviewed two dual bay storage enclosures from MediaSonic. The HUR1-SU2 and the HUR1-SU2FWB and they were found to be very good “no frill” devices that got the job done. During that review we decried the lack of any NAS features on the higher end SU2FWB model and MediaSonic seems to have answered our musings.

Today we will be looking at one of their newest products: the HUR1-SU2LA. This unit is a 2 bay Raid+ NAS Drive Enclosure Kit that not only includes USB connectivity but also RJ45 network abilities. Just like its other siblings it has RAID 0 and 1 capabilities and can use any standard SATA 3.5” hard drive. Also like the other two units it comes with a one-year warranty and will be widely available at various e-tailers throughout the country (can also be purchased directly through the MediaSonic webstore). However, the biggest difference between this unit and its siblings is that this unit is not marketed towards the SOHO customer; rather this unit is more for the first time NAS buyer AKA Consumer Marketplace. Due to this market strategy change we will answer the most important question of them all: will this new and different market focus have a negative or positive impact on this unit's performance?

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AkG

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Features and Specifications

Features and Specifications

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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging & Accessories

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The box color scheme consists mainly of white, black and gray background with red highlights, all with basic black and white coloured text. It seems that MediaSonic like to keep things simple as this HUR1-based NAS came in box so similar to the ones we reviewed previously that unless you are very careful you may end up picking up the wrong box. The “quick and easy” way to tell them apart is by a colour coded sticker on the front lower corner which tells you what the enclosed box supports. In the case of the SU2LA model it was a blue sticker that proclaims its support for both RJ45 and USB. It is easy to understand why MediaSonic recycled nearly the exact same box from model to model, as it does keep art design costs low. This lowered cost is directly reflected in the impressively low MSRP. The downside to this re-use is that fact that it makes for a very confusing box. No one, especially busy moms whose mantra literally is “Time is more important than money”, might not want to purchase a NAS box just to find out when they get back to their home that they picked up the wrong model.

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Yes MediaSonic does use little stickers to distinguish between its models and does have “NAS edition” up in right hand corner but in all truth a small sticker and an unobtrusive note just does not cut it in today’s busy marketplace. Mediasonic would have been much better off taking their neutral colour scheme and applying it in a more forthright manner. For example if they had left the "USB only" model’s box mainly white with black and gray background, the FireWire 800 model Black with a white and gray background, and the NAS box gray with black and white background; people would not have been confused over which box contains what model. While stickers are great for bringing attention to the box, their forte is certainly not helping people distinguish between similar yet highly specialized products. Or to put it bluntly leave the stickers for the kids' toys since they are ignored at best and gimmicky at worst. The same goes for the small unobtrusive note, instead of making a big deal over “RAID+” with “NAS edition” in a much smaller font, how about swapping the two? That would be a fairly quick, easy and workable solution if MediaSonic has their heart set on the one colour scheme “to rule them all” approach.

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On the positive side the box is not only ascetically pleasing, but the box itself has a dearth of information plaster all over it to help first time buyers make an informed decision. In particular, the use pictograms on the back of the box were especially nice. These pictograms not only tell you what the different RAID levels are, it shows you in easy to understand “laymen’s terms” what a NAS is. Overall it’s a very nice box that advertises its contents fairly well; it is just too bad it is a near duplicate of the other models boxes.

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The trend that started with the outside of the box continues to the inside. When you do open the box you are greeted with the exact same cardboard “split level” packaging scheme that was seen on the previous two HUR1 models. The top section is comprised solely of the plastic wrapped loosely placed HUR1-SU2LA box. When you remove both the SU2LA from the box and its cardboard divider you can see the accessories are loosely packed in the bottom of the box. Where this NAS is BYOD or “Bring Your Own Disk(s)” unit it does not contain any super sensitive electronics, so this packaging scheme is more than adequate to protect it from the occasional knock, bang and other typical sundries that happen in transit with shipping. Overall, this box is a fairly effective packaging scheme that should not require a secondary box for shipping long distance. Of course, there is no such thing as too much protection, so investing in secondary box wouldn’t not be a foolish investment if you are planning on shipping it.

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Like most external storage enclosures, Mediasonic provides everything except the necessary hard drives.

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The full list of accessories included is:

• USB 2.0 Cable
• RJ-45 Cable Cat 5 (10/100 Capable)
• AC Adapter 100V - 240V
• Power Cord
• CD for Manual & Software
• Screws for hard disk drive

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Once again the list of accessories is very similar to what you get with the other two HUR1 models. This is not a bad thing as the quality level that was found to be very good on the previous models carries over to this model as well. The small screwdriver that we liked so much on the previous versions is included; it seems to have a hundred and one computer uses and having an extra spare is always nice. As mentioned in the previous review the screw driver is not a costly accessory but it’s the right size to make it extremely handy and it is always a welcome addition. The included network cable is a little on the short side yet still serviceable and its quality is actually a lot higher than one would expect for a NAS costing less than a good sized hard drive. The cable’s short length may or may not be an issue for you; it all depends on how close you had planned on placing the NAS box to your router / switch. In any event, premade cables are fairly cheap and are always a wise investment. One thing worth noting is that the cable is Cat 5, not Cat 5e. This is for the simple and yet frustrating reason that this unit only supports 10/100 connections. In this age of 1GB home networks this low limit of 12,500KB/s is going to severely limit its mass appeal as we will see later in the testing stages.

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Overall the included accessories does leave one with a good first impression. However, just as with the previous models this unit also lacked installation instructions. The CD that comes with the enclosure includes fully diagramed installation instructions but having to print them off does not leave a good lasting impression. It is one thing to not include setup instructions for an external enclosure that is basically “plug and play” but it’s bordering on disrespectful to not include one in a NAS box that requires a secondary software installation to be able to use it. I say “disrespectful” because most NAS customers (even in this price range) are going to be average Joes who do not have an IT department to set things up for them. Regardless of whom this unit is targeted for, this oversight is at the very least frustrating.
 
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AkG

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Exterior Impressions

Exterior Impressions

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Just as the box that the HUR1-SU2LA is shipped in is similar to the other HUR1 model boxes, so is the enclosure itself very similar to them as well. Even though this enclosure has very different specifications than those of the other models, there is nothing to readily distinguish them apart from one another upon first glance.

The case itself is made of plastic with aluminum side panels and while the metal is not overly thick it does not feel weak or fragile. The case is also surprisingly thin and not much larger than many single bay drive enclosures that we have seen in the past. However, when one considers the price range of the SU2LA model it would have been reasonable to expect a completely metal enclosure. More puzzling still it is advertised on Mediasonic’s website as being made of aluminum or at the very least it infers an all aluminum enclosure. In their own words “Aluminum is an obvious choice when it comes to constructing a quality hard drive enclosure”, so why did they make it partially out of plastic?

On the positive side the exterior of the enclosure has a very nice and refined gray and black color scheme. This use of neutral colours allows the enclosure to blend seamlessly in with any background. I was very impressed with the inclusion of bright information LEDs on the front of the unit. With a simple glance you can quickly ascertain if the unit is on, has a good network connection, the condition of the hard drives in the enclosure, if they are active and even if the enclosure is rebuilding its array. Overall it is a fast and concise way of telling you exactly what is happening at any given moment…and once again is almost a direct carry over from the other HUR1 models with just minor “tweaking” to make it work for a NAS enclosure.

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Also on a positive note, the unit has 4 small rubber feet on the bottom of the enclosure and this makes for secure mounting when placed on a desk. A minor annoyance is that you cannot lay the unit on its side since with its slippery aluminum sides it has a tendency to slip and slide around on a desk. Hopefully, this unit will not have the same connection issues that the FireWire model had that necessitated us using that model on its side.

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Just as the front is for information display, the back is where all the various connection options, an on/off switch and even a 40mm exhaust fan are located. This is a very well executed layout with everything clearly labeled and unlike the interior does not feel cramped or cluttered.

In general this unit has all the positives and all the negatives of the previous two models we tested. Mediasonic has made a very nice looking unit, just a unit that has a few minor quirks. Or as I put it in the last Mediasonic review: “Overall…. (they all) look good and would fit equally well with any décor.”
 
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AkG

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Interior Impressions

Interior Impressions

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When you first remove the two side panels you are greeted to the first real change seen compared to the other Mediasonic models. In the other models the interior is fairly spacious and nothing is cluttered or bunched up; rather, everything is well laid out and you can tell careful planning went into the placement of every part and its effects on airflow. In this model things are not quiet as nicely executed. To get Network connectivity, MediaSonic had to cram a lot more circuitry and another controller chip into the same (now seemingly small) space as before. Since the single PCB found on earlier modes was obviously at full capacity, the solution MediaSonic’s engineers came up with is to take advantage of the relatively unused backplane board. In this model most of the original PCB controller board found on the other two models has been relocated to the much larger backplane area, thus leaving room for a completely new Network PCB to fit in. In a nutshell this makes the interior very cramped and “messy” when compared to the earlier models. One does have to wonder how all this additional clutter will affect the NAS’s air flow characteristics.

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The same exhaust fan which was used on the previous models is once again carried over to this model. Where this unit has twice as many PCBs and more heat producing parts to cool, one has to wonder if this small fan has enough cooling potential to get the job done. On the positive side it is a standard 40mm fan that uses a standard 2 pin connector and removal of the fan consists of unplugging it from the printed circuit board (PCB), and sliding it out of its cradle. This means that if you do find its cooling properties to be lacking it can quickly & easily be swapped out for a more high performance fan. Later in the review we will see if this extremely quiet fan can handle the heat even when the NAS is under the most demanding of loads for extended periods of time.

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The all-metal two bay hard drive cage is mounted to the enclosure with two easy to remove screws. When these screws are removed a gentle horizontal tug and then vertical pull removes the drive cage & backplane board from the main PCB. The drive cage itself uses the reliable mounting method of screwing the hard drives to the sides of the drive cage, allowing for a very secure mounting that keeps vibrations to a minimum.

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As mentioned previously the backplane on this unit does a lot more than just power the hard drive and act as a data intermediary. In this iteration all the internal RAID communications take place on the board. Since the controller is much closer to the hard drives and data has less distance to travel, it will be interesting to see if this translates to an improvement in real world performance numbers. Alternatively, where the data and external communication now have to go through a second chip before entering/leaving the NAS will any of the above befits me made moot? Or even worse, will the overall real world performance suffer because of the increase complexity of the controller circuits? We will answer this question later in the review.

Even though the backplane board itself is different from previous HUR1 models it is mounted to the hard drive cage the same way with the help of 4 simple screws. This does make it very easy to be removed and replace but extra care should be taken not to damage the sensitive board while removing the screws. Metal screwdriver + easily cut data pathways = high risk of dead backplane and this would not only ruin your new NAS but probably your whole day as well!

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As you can see this HUR1-SU2LA RAID+ NAS model uses the same Oxford chip for their USB controller as did previous models. While its location greatly differs from that of the previous models we reviewed, the Oxford 921DS chip is still not only the dual SATA to USB controller chip, but is once again also responsible for all of the enclosure's RAID functions as well. Where this unit does use the same chip for RAID and USB as the earlier models it does raise an interesting question about the data recovery IF the enclosure itself fails: Would you be able to simply swap out the circuit board and not loose your data?

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As commented on in previous models, Mediasonic once again opted for Evercon capacitors, a this time a whole bunch of them (and way more than used on previous models). Yes as before these capacitors are rated for 105c and we have no issue with this. What we do have issue with is the fact that “Evercon” was formerly known as “GSC”. This Chinese manufacturer was one of many that sold less than optimal capacitors to various motherboard and video manufactures earlier this decade. In some instances these capacitors quickly swelled and failed. It is for this reason that many video and motherboard manufactures stopped using older style capacitors and went to “solid state” capacitors.

Please note: This is a low voltage device and these capacitors are not the same model as the ones that failed. One should never condemn a company’s full line because of one bad product. We would however, be remiss in not mentioning Evercon’s history and let you the consumer decide if this is a big issue or not.

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As you can see from the above picture Mediasonic opted for a Codetek 1618 network controller chip. This chip is very limited in capabilities in that it only supports 10/100 Ethernet and not the newer 1000 or “1GB” Ethernet. Why Mediasonic opted for a 10/100 Network controller is extremely puzzling but it is probably due to keeping costs down. This will certainly have a negative impact on its “marketability” as many of its competitors can use 10/100/1000 Ethernet. While no NAS in this price range can truly take full advantage of 1G Ethernet it would have been nice to have it as an option.
 
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AkG

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Software Installation

Software Installation

As with any NAS, the actual installation process is a two stage procedure. The first stage is the physical installation of the hard drives and getting the NAS enclosure ready for use and is executed exactly the same as the previous Mediasonic HUR1 models. After this has been completed, and unlike the other enclosures that were “plug and play”, a second software installation step is required. This second stage is just as (if not more) important than the hardware and this is what will “make or break” a NAS’s usability. After all you are only as good as the tools you have and the same holds true for NAS boxes. If the software is user friendly and yet still powerful enough to get the job done it can take a mediocre performing NAS and turn it into a highly sought-after item. I like to call this phenomenon the “Apple Ipod effect” for obvious reasons.

For detailed instructions on hardware installation please see the http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...al-bay-raid-hard-drive-enclosures-review.html. For better and for worse not a single thing is different from those models and this model, except the different location of the RAID array selector pins (which are now on the backplane).

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The software installation is a bit quirky to say the least. What one must do is first insert the CD-ROM, click on the “User Guide” button and find the instructions which are hidden under the system requirements section of web page that opens up. When you understand what is expected, you can then go back to the pop up and hit “Utility” which opens up the older Microsoft explorer program. When this is done you simply have to run Sdisk.jar and allow it to search for the NAS. If you do not have java installed on your system this obviously needs to be downloaded and installed first to get Sdisk to work. Unfortunately, this is potentially crucial step is not mentioned in the instructions and could possibly leave first time users unable to set up up their NAS. This unit is priced for the lower end of the market and a customer who doesn't have java installed on their system is a situation that is more than likely. Mediasonic really needs to revise their instructions and not only include a printed version but not make assumptions such as this one about how one goes about installing the NAS.

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After the Sdisk program has found your NAS, you simply press the “Connect” button and type in “admin” for both username and password when it asks you in the popup window and then wait for the IE window to fully load the NAS admin page. When it finishes loading you then have to set up a SMB account to use this NAS. This is very straight forward process and all you have to do is hit create, input a user name and password and save it. This creates a small file on the hard drive that is essential for accessing the NAS. Every time you change the array mode or format the hard drives you must recreate your SMB accounts, otherwise your network drive will not be accessible.

Then you are expected to set up an XP user account with the exact same name and then log out of xp and log in using this new account you just created. Yes that is correct, Mediasonic doesn’t expect you to use your regular account and just map this NAS as a network dirve; nope, they expect you to log out and then change accounts for the privilege of using this NAS. To say that this is a kludgey pain in the butt is an understatement. Luckily you can easily ignore this and simply map it like you would any other network drive. Unfortunately, there is no software or “wizard” included to do this and you are expected to know how to do this yourself. If you do not know how to map a network drive you may want to ask someone who does as it is much easier than changing user accounts every time you want to actually use the darn thing.

Overall, what should have been a very easy, intuitive process has the potential for being anything but easy. If you are not very technically inclined we strongly recommend you get a friend who is so inclined to set up and install this unit for you. It is a shame that this is necessary but until Mediasonic revises their installation instructions it will save you many hours of frustration.
 
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AkG

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Performance Tests

Performance

Testing Methodology

Testing an external storage array is not as simple as putting together a bunch of files, dragging them onto the arrays drive folder in Windows and using a stopwatch to time how long the transfer takes. Rather, there are factors such as read / write speed and data burst speed to take into account.

For these tests I used a combination of the ATTO Disk Benchmark, HDTach and the SIS Sandra Removable Storage benchmark for testing the USB connection. For Network Testing IOZone was used.

For all USB & RJ45 testing a Gigabyte PA35-DS4 motherboard was used, with it’s built in USB and network controllers.

All tests were run 4 times and only best results are represented.

For information purposes here is the theoretical maximum each connection is capable of:
USB 2.0 = 60,000KB/s (480Mbit/s)
100Mbit Ethernet = 12,500KB/S

Complete Test System:

Processor: Q6600 @ 3.2 GHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte p35 DS4
Memory: 4GB G.Skill PC2-6400
Graphics card: XFX 7200gt 128mb
Hard Drives: 1x Western Digital Se16 500GB
Power Supply: Seasonic S12 600W
Case: CM 690 w/ 6 Scythe E 120mm fans
Router: 5 port 10/100 D-Link 604
Cable: Cat 5e shielded 5ft runs max distance used
NAS hard drives: 2 x Seagate 7200.10 320GB


HDTach

Read Bandwidth

For this benchmark, HDTach was used. It shows the potential read speed that you are likely to experience with these enclosures.

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As we suspected, there was little to no difference between any of the HUR1 enclosures when USB was used. These numbers are very good for any USB enclosure and for a NAS they are also very impressive, we just wish we had seen this speed when using its RJ45 connection.


Random Access Time

Once again, HDTach was used for the benchmark. This benchmark tests how quickly different areas of the drive’s memory can be accessed. A low number means that the drive space can be accessed quickly while a high number means that more time is taken trying to access different parts of the drive.

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Once again there was no difference between the enclosures when USB was used. Overall, such a small increase in random access is to be expected as a second controller is now involved in data communications.


ATTO Disk Benchmark

The ATTO disk benchmark tests the drives read and write speeds using gradually larger size files. For these tests, the ATTO program was set to run from its smallest to largest value (.5KB to 8192KB) and the total length was set to 256MB. The test program then spits out an extrapolated performance figure in megabytes per second.

Please note: USB results were exactly the same for ALL three enclosures. For ease of viewing only one set has been included.

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34MB a second is not bad performance at all and it if this had been over Ethernet instead of USB it would have been down right amazing given the price of this NAS.


Sandra Removable Storage Benchmark

This test was run with the removable storage benchmark in Sandra XII Standard. All of the scores are calculated in operations per second and have been averaged out from the scores of 4 test runs.

Please note that both enclosures USB results were the same with the biggest deviation being 6ops/min. For ease of use only 2 sets of USB results have been included, the NAS and a USB only model.

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As you can see, all three enclosures have nearly identical numbers when it comes to USB. Obviously we will have to use different tests over RJ45 to see if the SU2LA can distinguish itself from the other models.


IOZone

The IoZone test is a much more thorough and exhaustive test of the network bandwidth and hard drive performance of a given NAS being tested. The true power of IoZone is that it can be configured in a near endless variety of ways with the use of command line swtichs. These switches quite litteraly tell IOzone what it should use for its testing methodology. We have included a detailed break down of exactly what switchs we used but to sum up the command that we have put together, IoZone will be reading and writing files varied from 64KB in small 4KB chunks up to 1GB in 16MB chunks and every combination in-between. This provides us with an extremely complete picture of how the device handles a variety of traffic over the network. The following command was used for the testing:
iozone -Rab MediaSonic.wks -i 0 -i 1 -g 1G -+u -f y:\iozone\001.tmp
-Rab
is 3 settings in one
R generate excel report
a auto mode 1(the “short” or quick test run
b filename of excell spreadsheet to use (in this case “MediaSonic.wks”)
-g 1G sets max size to 1GB for auto mode
-+U Enable CPU utilization output (IF there is large spikes, it means OS caching and / or buffering is taking place)
-i options are tests to run
-i 0 = write/rewrite
-i 1 = read/re-read


READ

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As you can see this Mediasonic enclosure is quite slow with a “peak” of about 6,000 KB/s reading the single large file and even for 100 Ethernet it is not a great performer.


WRITE

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At first these numbers look better than those in the read tests (which is counter intuitive to say the least), however, as this is a 100 megabit Ethernet capable device so any numbers over 12,500KB/s (red bar in graph) are nothing more than CPU buffering and/ or OS caching. This is actually a very good example of how IOzone cannot be totally trusted at face value with its default “area graph” results.


Simplified Read

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On first look such a flat line across such a wide range of file sizes is puzzling until one remembers that this is only a 10/100 capable device. This enclosure obviously has much more potential, but its highs are being capped by its limited network interface. If this unit was gigabit capable we would certainly have seen a much nicer looking graph. Who knows, it may have even given more expensive NAS appliances a run for their money. As it stands it is a slow but fairly consistent NAS when it comes to read speeds.


Simplified Write

IOzone_64write.jpg


While these numbers are better looking than the read graph they still have a tendency to hover around the 5000 KB/s range just as the read did. It is not until the size of the files increases above 32MB that we see any significant decrease in speeds.
 
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AkG

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Performance Tests part II

Real World Data Transfers

No matter how good synthetic benchmarks like IOZone are it can not really tell you how your NAS will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of review items true capabilities. To this end we will be running timed data transfers over a typical network to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. In general a NAS will be used on a day to day basis for either transferring large multi Gigabyte files (for example .ISO’s) or a random mix of small to medium files (for example .mp3 and album art). To help replicate these conditions we will be we will transfer a 4.32GB single contiguous RAR file and a folder containing that includes 40 subfolders and over 4000 files varying in length from 8mb to 6kb (6.50 GB total). Testing will include transfer too, and transferring from the devices timing each process individually to provide Read and Write performance.

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case it’s more like a thousand sighs. It is not really fair to compare a 100 megabit NAS with a gigabit jumbo packet capable device (like the QNAP TS 109 and 409) but the Plextor shown above is a 100 megabit NAS and even it easily beats the Mediasonic SU2LA. The best thing you can say about recorded times like these is that at least it’s fairly consistent. Regardless of file size, transfer speed (both read and write) was in the 5000 – 6000 KB/s range. While these numbers are perfectly fine for music streaming they would not necessarily be high enough for movies without a lot of buffering (though it does depend on the format used, Divx/Xvid would be more fine but DVDs probably not). Overall, it is a value orientated NAS and as such its main priority is obviously not speed.


Extended Runtime Testing

Where this unit is marketed towards the consumer environment, it is reasonable to expect it to be able to handle moderate extended usage, with random multiple requests for data. To test how robust this unit is, and how well their cooling would work under a heavy workload, the SU2LA was subjected to a 48 hour nonstop session. During this time the enclosure were directed to not only fill and then empty their contents but were also expected to handle multiple simultaneous read and write requests from different computers on the network.

After approximately 16hours of nonstop use the MediaSonic NAS for no apparent reason “locked up” and had to be reset. It is not clear why it did this as both hard drives were only warm to the touch but none were overly hot and all appeared to be adequately cooled. More importantly the Oxford controller chip and the CodeTek while very warm to the touch, were not hot enough to burn skin or to have heat damage. A simple power cycle cleared this issue up and the test “clock” was reset and 48 hours later the NAS continued to work perfectly as if there had been no “hiccup” at all during this testing phase. This unit really is not meant for heavy multitasking as its low speeds did get worse under heavy loads, but it did manage to complete this test with the only one minor problem. Overall this unexplained snag is puzzlingly but as it was quickly fixed so it is not overly worrisome.
 
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Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery

Testing Methodology

While a NAS appliance should be easy to use and have decent performance there is one area where it absolutely has to be 100% reliable and that is with its ability to recover from a dead hard drive (aka Disaster Recovery). Unfortunately, in the real world things are rarely as black and white as this and nothing should be taken for granted; especially when precious records are on the line. Even more basic is that while yes a NAS should always recover from a bad drive, but what about its rebuild times? The amount of time it takes for a NAS to rebuild its array is very critical, as this is a time where it is most vulnerable to catastrophic loss of data. This test can therefore be considered a three part test. The first part is PASS/FAIL and deals with did the RAID array work, is the array’s data still available and not corrupt when a hard drive “dies”. The second part deal with how the array deals with replacement of the missing hard drive and is also a PASS/FAIL in that does the array start rebuilding or will it crash / hang? Does it require you to rebuild the array manually by first destroying all data on the array and starting from scratch (which is in our opinion unacceptable performance). The third part (should it pass the first two parts)deals with how long it took for the array to get out of degraded mode and is also a PASS/FAIL. Regardless of performance we will inform you how long it takes but if its rebuild performance is less than 50 gigabytes an hour it is not fast enough to be considered effective.

To this end for each mode that the NAS offers that has disaster recovery, we start by first formatting and then filling them to the maximum capacity available in a given mode. After this was completed and we then verified that the data was indeed stored on the NAS before simulating a catastrophic failure. This failure was accomplished by removing one of the hard drives, while the unit is running (if it supports hot swapping, if it does not we power off the unit and remove the hard drive and then turn the unit back on). We then checked to see if the data was still available. If it is we then replace the “dead” hard drive and observe what the unit does with it. As soon as the hard drive is reinserted we start the timer and keep it running until the NAS informs us that it has finished its rebuild. All tests were run twice. All tests were not performed “one after the other”; rather they took place over a period of a week and were widely spaced out so as to help reduce any possible chances of overloading the array and introducing any non repeatable errors. If for any reason, the array fails a section of the test. The test will be reran, if it fails a second time it will be considered a true FAIL, we will however inform you of any errors we get during testing even if the error did not reoccur.

Test Results

RAID 1:

In RAID 1 the enclosure's hard drives showed as one single drive. When one of the hard drives was removed all data was still secure. The only noticeable difference was that the HDD1 Failure light went on. By reinserting the now reformatted second drive the enclosure immediately started to rebuild its array. Rebuild time took a few minutes over 5 hours to complete. Overall, this is acceptable performance (if just barely) for a NAS in this price range and can be considered a PASS on all 3 sections.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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Conclusion

Conclusion

The SU2LA is a puzzling mixture of ease of use and frustrating, needless complications. The instructions are not complete and unless you know exactly what you are doing you may end up hitting a seemingly dead end. If you do actually know what you are doing, its instructions are annoying at worst and ignorable at best. This duality does not stop when the installation process is finished; rather, it seems to be a reoccurring theme throughout the SU2LA’s user experience. On the one hand you have a robust enclosure, but on the other its performance is purposely hobbled by MediaSonic.

This annoyance can be overlooked as most of its intended customers do not use anything but their 10/100 router for their home network and we will never notice its lack of speed. However, for the user who has a 1GB network you may wish to look at more expensive NAS’s and invest in a good 10/100/1000 capable NAS.

With all that being said anyone seriously considering purchasing their first NAS for their home network that does not want to spend megabucks on accessories or features they will never use should give this unit some serious consideration. While I would be hesitant to recommend it for a power user, HTPC or any environment where speed is important; it could be a cheap & easy way of setting up a small FTP server, a good music server or just storage of important documents.

Overall with an online retail price of less than $120 this “no frills” basic NAS can be considered a good beginners model as long as one understands its quirks and limitations before buying. More importantly if you do outgrow it and want to invest in a bigger NAS, this initial outlay of funds is minimal and will seem like money well spent. If however you find this unit performance and features “good enough” you can rest assured for if it does break when its older you know that your data is still safe and will require only a modest investment to get it back.


Pros:

- Price
- Good Front Side information display
- Good USB performance
- User replaceable fan
- Quiet operation
- Can use any standard 3.5” SATA Hard Drive(s)


Cons:

- Plastic body
- 10/100 Ethernet
- Slow RJ45 performance
- No printed instructions
- 1 year warranty
- Incomplete installation instructions
- Mysterious “hang” during extended test
- Not easily identifiable as a NAS enclosure
- Packaging can be confused with other HUR1 Models



Thanks to Mediasonic for providing us with this product

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/foru...read-mediasonic-dual-bay-raid-nas-review.html
 
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