Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are similar in one respect to the iPod on release -- until one used it, the utility wasn't immediately apparent, and then, upon acquisition it becomes nearly vital to day to day operations. The Iomega PX2-300d is the Cadillac of NAS boxes. Driven by a dual-core Atom processor, the device is brutally fast for what it is, and runs a host of services, including the core of a security system, bit torrent, iTunes, iSCSI initiation, file sharing with user management, and automated off-site backup. In the NAS ecosystem, where does it fit? Electronista got a hold of a 4TB unit, and ran it through its paces.
From a hardware standpoint, the PX2 runs an Intel D525 Atom dual-core 1.8GHz processor sitting on top of 2GB of RAM. RAID expansion is provided by a front-mounted USB 3.0 port and a pair of rear-mounted USB 2.0 ports. A pair of Ethernet ports can be used for link aggregation or connection failover. The pair of enterprise-class drives can be configured at RAID 0 or 1. A single VGA port in conjunction with the MindTree software allows the device to be used as the core of a IP camera security system, with some caveats, but more on that later. The PX2 supports a litany of network protocols: NFS, AFP/Bonjour, SMB, Rally, CIFS, FTP, TFTP, and SFTP are all supported, and the device can also stream media to uPnP DLNA set top boxes.
The hardware design is best described by the word "rugged." With a pair of drives, the unit weighs over 8 pounds. No cheap plastic cases here -- the device is shrouded in sheet metal, well secured. Where some hard drive cases feel creaky to the touch, the PX2 is a solid hunk of steel and silicon. A door, unfortunately bereft of any functional lock, covers a pair of pop-out trays for SATA hard drives, with both 3.5 and 2.5-inch drives supported, including SSDs.
The cross-platform nature of the device extends to its management as well. The software for the device runs on Windows XP SP 3 or newer, OS X 10.5 and above, or several flavors of Linux. Files stored on the device itself can be accessed by a wider range of OSes, network protocol depending. With the right software installed, we managed to retrieve data from an iMac G3/400 running OS 9.2.1 and a Pentium II running Windows 98.
Initial configuration couldn't be simpler. Plug the device into the network, plug in the power, and start the device. With DHCP configured on the network, the PX2 nearly immediately picks up an IP address, displays it on the LCD, and starts service. Application-specific settings, like personal cloud storage, enabling file access while away from the home base is configurable by way of a web-based interface. This functionality is nearly seamless, when a uPnP router hosts the network, with the PX2 automatically configuring the router to allow the access. Remote management of the device is left as an exercise for the user, as well it should be -- WAN security and leaving a large, very capable, device like the PX2 accessible on the internet is not for the timid, and should be strictly managed by savvy users with the skill set to do so to prevent data loss and pilfering.
Besides just the personal cloud, the NAS works with Amazon S3, Atmos Backup, Mozy Backup, Axis Video Hosting, and can perform Apple Time Machine backups as well. Other applications are available for the NAS for other backup solutions, but the listed ones are provided "out of the box." If a specific backup provider or function is needed, some research before purchase is in order. We performed some testing with Amazon S3 as well as Time Machine, and found the process flawless, both in backing up, and restoring a computer from a simulated disaster at speeds rivaling a directly connected hard drive.
Across our Gigabit Ethernet network, in our tests with both large and small files, the device clocked in at around 80 MBps when writing to the device, and read at 71 MBps, topping nearly every other NAS we've tested. These max speeds seem to be device-limited, as transferring files from multiple devices seemed to top out at these speeds combined across all devices whether the drives were mirrored or striped. Just the same, these are excellent speeds from a NAS and are hard to beat in this class of device.
IP video cameras are a controversial topic, and not always the easiest to set up. The PX2 simplifies this process somewhat, and can suck up the video from up to six cameras and use the RAID array as a DVR of the security footage, or view the cameras in real-time with the use of the on-board VGA port. We found this in practice to be very finicky, and greatly subject to compatibility. A quick perusal of Iomega's website didn't find a list of compatible cameras, but there are some listed in the user manual that's downloadable from the site. Again, as with backup, some research pre-purchase is in order if the device is to be used as the central hub of a video monitoring system.
In short, the Iomega PX2-300d is a best-in-class network attached storage device, intended for heavy users. The problem is, best-in-class comes with a top price -- as configured the two-drive, 4TB total solution we tested tops $1000, with the bare case running $500. As with most reviews, it all seems to come down to price. This one box can replace an dedicated server in a small to mid-size office for just about any need, from video, to a music jukebox, through photo storage, automated backup, and loads more. The problem is, not everybody needs that kind of functionality, or needs to pay for enterprise-class drives capable of 24/7 operation.
Iomega does classify this device as a home and small office device, but the PX2 is total overkill for most home users with the super-durable drives. Our rating is applicable for home users at the $500 bare case price, then filled with drives by the user, or for the added durability at $1000 for small offices, replacing a dedicated server. While the unit would be fantastic in a home scenario with the durable drives, it may be hard to justify the added expense. Other than the price loaded with drives, there is nothing to dislike about the PX2 at all, and it is making this tester rethink the repurposed desktop computer currently in use as a server.