Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440 review: Seagate BlackArmor NAS 440

With built-in digital media and iTunes servers, the BlackArmor can automatically stream music, video, and photos to compatible devices, including computers, set-top boxes, and game consoles. To share these types of files, simply place them in their appropriate folder within the default "Public" share folder. For example, if you want to share music via iTunes, place the music files in the "Our Music" folder, which is inside the "Public" share folder. Then, you can set the intervals that the server will automatically scan for new music to add to the share, ranging from every 5 minutes to once a day. We tried this out, and it worked very well.

The BlackArmor NAS server has support for Network File System that lets the system administrator store resources in a central location on the network, providing authorized users continuous access to them. It can work as a FTP, HTTP, and a secure HTTPS server. It also has support for Dynamic DNS through dyndns.com, meaning you can set up the servers to work over the Internet for free with an easy-to-remember address.

Like most high-end NAS servers, the BlackArmor supports self-downloading with its Downloader Management feature. This lets you run three download jobs at a time and, in our test, the feature worked well with Web sites that require authentication. You can also schedule the download jobs to run at a particular time, for example at night, to avoid bandwidth congestion.

Remote access: Apart from FTP and HTTP servers, the BlackArmor also comes with a very convenient way for people to access its data securely over the Internet via Seagate's free Global Access solution. This method of remote access was introduced first with the Maxtor Central Axis NAS server, and the BlackArmor brings it up a notch.

The BlackArmor supports multiple Global Access accounts, one for each user account on the NAS. For example, User1 can create a Global Access account, then log in to the NAS server via its Web interface to associate his Global Access account with the user account on the NAS. Then, User1 can go to the Global Access Web site and access his private folder as well as public folders on the BlackArmor from anywhere in the world. User2, User3, and so on can all do this simultaneously. Seagate suggests that the BlackArmor can support up to 50 users.

If logged in to the NAS from a remote location, you can transfer files back and forth between the remote computer and the NAS server. Though this vendor-assist method of remote access is nothing new and can be found in other NAS servers such as the WD My Book World Edition, Seagate's Global Access allows for easily copying entire folders from the NAS server to the remote computer, which is not available on the My Book. You won't be able to simply drag and drop the folder; however, instead, once you've selected a folder to download, the NAS server will compress that folder into a ZIP file and you'll need to decompress it once it's downloaded. This helps the file download faster, and since Windows (and Mac OS X) support ZIP file natively, we didn't see this as a big hassle.

Backup and dual Gigabit Ethernet: The BlackArmor by far offers the best backup solutions we've seen in a NAS server. The wizard-based backup software allows for a long list of backup options including incremental and differential backups. You can restore data by running a restore wizard, by booting using the included CD, or by mounting the backups into a virtual hard drive and copying data using Windows Explorer.

Other than being the destination to store the backups of network computers, the NAS also comes with many options to back up itself, including NAS to USB and NAS to NAS. The first one allows for backing itself up to USB external hard drives and the latter means you can back up one BlackArmor NAS to another. Either of these options can be used without a computer, manually or automatically.

The server supports external hard drives formatted using FAT32 and NTFS file systems, allowing you to simply plug any existing USB drive into the NAS and immediately share its files. The NAS can also format external hard drives using the FAT32 file system, regardless of the drive's capacity. This is really useful, as Windows only allows you to format a hard drive that's smaller than 32GB using FAT32.

The BlackArmor 440 NAS server comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports. These ports, apart from allowing for the linking of multiple units together for NAS to NAS backup, can also be used for aggregation.

Performance
A year ago, we tested the BlackArmor 440 using Windows XP Professional; we did the same set of tests again using a Windows 7 64-bit computer. Though the new scores were significantly better than what we got a year ago, they were still noticeably slower than recently released NAS servers. As this is a four-bay NAS serve, we tested it with RAID 0 and RAID 5, which are the most popular RAID configurations.

In RAID 0--which is optimized for performance and maximum amount of storage at the expense of data integrity-- the BlackArmor 440's write speed was at 245Mbps; its read speed was 567.1Mbps. For comparison, the Synology DS410 scored 429.4Mbps and 867Mbps for write and read, respectively.

In RAID 5, which is the recommended configuration to be used with the BlackArmor 440, as it balances between data safety and the amount of storage, the NAS' scores were slightly lower, as expected, at 223.8Mbps and 465.0 145Mbps for write and read, respectively. Again for comparison, the Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra did much better with 443.7Mbps (write) and 875.2Mbps (read).

Overall the BlackArmor 440 posted decent data transfer rates, above average in reading and slightly below average in writing on our charts. With this performance it's capable of handling most data sharing and media streaming needs. However, as it's one that offers the most amount of storage, we wish its performance were on par with that of the Synology DS410 or the ReadyNAS Ultra4.

CNET Labs NAS performance scores via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Seagate BlackArmor 440 (RAID 0)
567.1 
245 
Seagate BlackArmor 440 (RAID 5)
465 
223.8 
Synology DS209+ (RAID 0)
375 
256.3 
QNAP TS-259 Pro (RAID 0)
361.5 
299.2 
QNAP TS-259 Pro (RAID 1)
350.6 
268.1 
Synology DiskStation DS710+ (RARID 1)
322.7 
321.8 
Synology DS209+ (RAID 1)
322.3 
240 
Patriot Valkarie Dual-Bay (RAID 0)
80.2 
70.7 
Patriot Valkarie Dual-Bay (RAID 1)
60.9 
48.1 

The BlackArmor 440 worked quietly in our tests, but we happened to run into very unusual situations where the NAS didn't work well at all with certain routers that have their QoS features turned on. More specifically, we experienced extremely slow read speed with both the D-Link DIR-655 and the D-Link DIR-825 when the QoS feature is turned on. It's recommended that you turn off your home router's QoS when you use the BlackArmor 440.

Service and support
Seagate backs the BlackArmor 440 NAS server with a decent three-year warranty, whereas most other NAS servers are backed with one-year warranties. Toll-free phone service is available weekdays, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT, or you can e-mail technical support via a Web form. Seagate's support site offers installation and troubleshooting assistance, a download library, a knowledgebase, and a drive troubleshooter.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Data Link Protocol Ethernet
  • Type hot-swap
  • Compatibility Mac
  • Total Storage Capacity 4 TB
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