The NAS server comes with four media-related default folders, including Photos, RecordTV, Music, and Video. Files inside these folders are streamed to any media-server-compatible devices, including set-top boxes, game consoles, iTunes, and other computers. You can turn the streaming features on or off at the Windows Home Server Console's Settings page. The server supports virtually all popular digital content formats currently available on the market.
As the Asus TS Mini is just another Windows computer, it's very easy to access its share folder by browsing your network with Windows Explorer. Mac users will also see it automatically in Finder. Unfortunately, unlike the HP EX495, it doesn't offer any support for Time Machine.
Storage and backup
Despite the fact that this is a dual-bay NAS server, the Asus TS Mini doesn't offer support for RAID configurations, such as RAID 1, which allows you to set up the hard drive in redundant settings to protect data. Instead, the TS mini uses Windows Home Server's folder duplication feature as a redundant backup. You can turn this feature on or off for any shared folder; once it's turned on, the folder's content will be duplicated across different physical hard drives to be protected against single hard-drive failure. When a new hard drive is installed, the server will automatically rebuild the copies of data that have been lost. You can use this feature with any folders of your choosing; however, you'll need at least one additional hard drive installed. This hard drive can be internal or external (connected via the USB or eSATA connections) but it must be added as an extension of the server's storage.
Though this features worked very well in our tests, we noticed that when you choose to duplicate a folder that contains lots of large files (such as movies), working with these files noticeably slows down the overall performance of the computer.
The NAS server accepts extra hard drives in two modes: extension and backup. In extension mode, the added drives will be the extension of the internal hard drive with their storage blended together. You won't have control over which hard drive your data is stored to, unless you use the duplication feature. In this mode, the NAS will format the drive before you can use it, meaning you won't be able to use a hard drive with existing data on it. In order to add a drive that already contains data, you'll need to use the backup mode. In this mode, the added drive will act as a separate volume that can be removed later. You can only use this drive to be the destination to back up the NAS' internal hard drives. This is useful, as it allows for backing up the server's main hard drive for recovery in case it fails.
The Asus TS Mini offers a convenient backup solution for PCs. The server can silently pull backups from any network computers that have Windows Home Server Console installed without any interaction from the user. The NAS can even automatically wake the computer from standby mode to do the backup if need be. Restoring files is made easy thanks to the interface. When viewing a backup file, the NAS will convert it to a virtual drive. Then, you can just browse for files and copy them over using Windows Explorer just like you would do with an external hard drive.
Like other Windows Home Server-based NAS servers, the Asus TS Mini doesn't allow for backing up or restoring multiple PCs at a time. This means if you use it as the backup destination of multiple computers that have lots of data, some computer will have to wait for a long time before they can start backing up.
The Asus TS Mini offers remote access via the free Windows Live Custom domain service. You can use this service as long as you have a Hotmail or MSN account. Just type in your account information, and everything is set up for you. Now you can remotely access the server from anywhere via the Internet by going to xyz.homeserver.com, where xyz is the name of your Hotmail account.
Remote access allows for access to multiple accounts on the server that have the remote access feature enabled. You can browse files stored in the shared folder and upload/download files from and to the remote computer. The Asus TS Mini allows for downloading multiple files or an entire folder from the NAS server to the remote computer. If you choose to download a folder, you have the option of downloading that folder in the form of a ZIP file or an executable file that will decompress the downloaded content for you.
The Asus TS Mini did very well in CNET Labs' performance tests, topping our charts of single-volume NAS servers.
In the write test, the server scored 467.1Mbps, outdoing the HP MediaSmart Server LX195, which scored 341.8Mbps, by a large margin.
The server did even better in the read test, registering a staggering 690.3Mbps, by far the fastest among single-volume NAS servers.
The TS Mini worked smoothly in our testing process without any hiccups. It was also relatively quiet, even during heavy loads. The server felt rather warm, however, even with just one hard drive installed internally.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Asus backs the TS Mini with a rather parsimonious one-year warranty, though this is now very much the standard for a lot of NAS servers. At the company's Web site, you'll find downloads, FAQs, the manual, and other support-related materials. You can contact the company's tech support via e-mail.