Asus Home Server TS Mini 1TB review
Asus' Home Server TS Mini runs Microsoft's Windows Home Server (WHS) operating system. It’s very easy to use and the setup wizard gets you up and running within minutes. The WHS Connector management interface is clearly labelled and logically laid out thanks to a tabbed interface.
Creating password-protected user accounts and assigning them different access permissions to different shared folders is particularly straightforward. Chosen files from each of your networked computers can be backed up on a schedule. You can’t set individual backup schedules, though, so all your computers will be backed up at the same time. Versioned backups (multiple backups of files) are supported, but older backups will always be purged to make room for newer ones.
WHS supports DynamicDNS and has a remote-access web interface so your files can be accessed over the internet using a web browser. If your router supports UPnP, it will attempt to use UPnP port forwarding, so may not need to open any ports yourself. The TS Mini streamed stored music, videos and photos to an UPnP network media player without fuss.
Extra features can be added using plug-ins. There's a fairly wide selection available, but it's best not to go overboard since they're all added to a scrolling, fixed-width toolbar in WHS Connector, so managing any more than a few plug-ins quickly becomes unwieldy. Still, the plug-ins partially make up for the fact that certain basic features, such as printer sharing and RAID, aren't supported. Asus has included some of its own plug-ins, adding extra features such a file browser and access to online storage, but these aren't particularly compelling or well-designed.
The TS Mini has an unusual design built around a FlexATX Asus-manufactured motherboard fitted with 2GB of laptop RAM and a soldered-in Intel Atom N280 processor. There's a gigabit Ethernet port, plus four USB ports for connecting external hard disks. These can be used to add more network storage, or their contents can simply be backed up to a shared folder.
Other manufacturers of Windows Home Servers put hard disks in easily removable trays, but getting to the TS Mini's 1TB SATA disk is a tedious hassle. Removing the screw-on side panel is easy enough, but yanking out the cage holding the 1TB disk takes considerable force. The cage also has space and spare SATA connectors for accommodating another disk.
Examining the cage reveals a bizarre arrangement – the 1TB disk is connected to a SATA controller card that plugs into the PCI Express x1 slot on the FlexATX motherboard. This ungainly arrangement makes it awkward and difficult to reassemble the TS Mini. It's impossible to visually align the card to the slot during re-insertion while ensuring the cage hooks slide back into position smoothly. We suspect this odd setup is at least partially responsible for the TS Mini's generally slow file transfer performance – only when reading small files did its speeds reach double digits.
Although the TS Mini has support for two hard disks, WHS doesn't support RAID of any kind. It does have a feature roughly equivalent to RAID 1 called folder duplication. This will automatically mirror shared folders of your choice onto the other disk. It's more flexible than RAID 1, but there's no equivalent to RAID 0.
The TS Mini feels like many of the first-generation WHS NAS devices from a few years ago – slow, poorly-designed and extortionately expensive at an eye-watering 35p per gigabyte. Avoid it at all costs.
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