The Gadget: A RAID-enabled, four drive, DLNA supporting, internet streaming, Apple Time Machine supporting NAS that, while not a Windows Home Server, has tons of functionality built into the tiny box.
The Price: $US434 on Amazon
The Verdict: Strong. I hate going running down the feature list in reviews, but the NS4600 has quite a big spec sheet.
• Hot-swappable 3GB/s SATA, 1.5TB per drive, up to 4 drives • RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 support • Gigabit Ethernet • USB HDD and printer support • One-touch backup • Built-in BitTorrent and eDonkey downloads • SMB/CIFS/AFP/NFS Network Protocols Support; Shared Storage for Windows, Unix, Linux, MAC clients • Time Machine support • DLNA Streaming (PS3, Xbox, DLNA TVs) • mobile phone video/music streaming (iPhone, Nokias, PSP, Windows Mobile) • Internet management/access
And all these features work! Streaming to the iPhone was slick (just enter in the username and password) and fast, and streaming to the Xbox 360/PS3 worked as well as any other DLNA network device. This means that if you set up the correct port forwarding options on your router to punch through your NAT, you can have access to your library of music and videos on your mobile phone no matter where you are.
What's also very useful is the RAID support, which you can check our Giz Explains to see why you'd want one. In short, you're going to have all your media and documents on here, and it pays to have some sort of redundancy when (not "in case") a drive fails.
There are editions of their SmartNAVI management client apps for Windows and Mac, which lets you manage shares, stream media, set up new users, set up BitTorrent and eDonkey downloads (very useful if you don't want to keep a separate PC on all the time) as well as set up a Time Machine backup. And yeah, the Time Machine backup works. The backup folder mounts as a drive on your machine, and you back up normally, via Time Machine.
The only downside of this beefy NAS is that it doesn't ship with drives. That means you're paying $US434 for just a box, which you still have to populate with your own drives. If you want to max out the storage with four 1.5TB drives at $US120 each, that's an extra $US480. A 1TB RAID solution at $US80 each would only cost you $US320. But the fact remains that this is a BYOD solution.
Is this worth it? It depends. We're big fans of pre-built Windows Home Server machines here, and that already has a lot of backup and streaming and remote access apps built in. But it doesn't have RAID, and it doesn't have Time Machine support (except for HP's), and it doesn't have everything this unit has. So yes, even though the Promise SmartStor NS4600 is a little pricey because it runs almost five bills and you have to bring your own drives, it is quite a sturdy and capable NAS. [Promise]
Tons of features
Time Machine support
The SmartNAVI user interface is kind of clunky, but it does what it's supposed to
Expensive for something that doesn't ship with drives