LaCie's 5big NAS Pro is a major upgrade to the company's previous
The 5big NAS Pro does have some shortcomings, however, including a spartan feature list and the lack of customization options. The sever also doesn't provide a way to quickly set up its hard drives into a RAID configuration.
All things considered, at the current price of some $500 (disk-less version, or $1,100 and $2,000 for 10TB and 20TB, respectively) it's an excellent choice if you're looking for a robust and easy-to-use network-based storage solution. For more options in terms of features, also check out the
Design and setup
The 5big NAS Pro looks exactly the same as the previous model, the LaCie 5big Network 2. With its cubelike design, the NAS server looks more decorative than you generally expect a storage device to be. On the front, there's the signature design touch found in all of LaCie's storage devices: a big, round LED blue indicator. This indicator light doubles as the server's power button.
On the back, the server has five drive bays to host five SATA standard 3.5-inch hard drives of any capacities. With hard drives currently capping at 4TB each, the server can offer up to 20TB of raw storage space. When used in a RAID setup, it offers up to 16TB of protected storage space.
The bays are locked in by a latch that can be opened with a coin. Once opened, each bay can be pulled out easily when you want to upgrade or replace the hard drive. While the latch can be opened with a coin, you do need a screwdriver to install or remove the drive from the tray.
The 5big NAS Pro supports three standard RAID configurations: RAID 0, RAID 5, and RAID 6. On top of that, it also comes with LaCie's new SimplyRAID configuration. (Read more on RAIDs.)
Similar to Synology's Hybrid RAID or Netgear's XRAID 2, LaCie's SimplyRAID automatically sets up hard drives in the best RAID configurations depending on the number of hard drives being used, to offer redundancy against a single-drive failure (at least two hard drives required) or two-drive failure (at least three hard drives required). (Read more on redundancy.). For example, when two hard drives are used, SimplyRAID is equivalent to a RAID 1, and when three drives or more are used, it will be similar to RAID 5 or RAID 6, depending on the user's choosing. In addition, SimplyRAID also allows for upgrading an existing RAID setup to larger capacities without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch, and using hard hard drives of different capacities in a RAID setup.
While SimplyRAID worked well in my trial, it takes a long time to set up. For example, it took almost a day to put five 2TB hard drives into a SimplyRAID setup. Expect it to take even longer if you use larger drives. In fact, other than RAID 0, which takes just a few minutes, the rest of the server's supported RAIDs take a long time to set up. This is not really a big deal if you can just let the server run overnight, but it's a hassle if you want to get the server up and running right away.
While it's common for RAID building to take a long time, other NAS servers, such as those from Synology, have a quick-mode option that lets you set up a RAID in just a matter of minutes regardless of how large the hard drives are.
If you choose to use SimplyRAID, note that it also takes a long time to upgrade/replace the hard drives (tens of hours for each) and you can only change one hard drive a time. This is again quite normal and similar to when you replace a hard drive in a standard RAID setup. The server is still working during the upgrade, just at a slower speed.
Also on the back of the server, the 5big NAS Pro comes with two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. These ports can be used to host more storage devices or printers. The server comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Only one of these ports is needed for the server to serve a network but they can be used at the same time to either balance the load or for failsafe purposes. They can't be aggregated to increase the data throughput rates of the server, unfortunately. This is similar to the case of the recently reviewed
As with the 5big Network 2, the LaCie 5big NAS Pro's setup process was fast and easy in my trial. The device includes the LaCie Network Assistant software that helps identify the NAS on the network and maps the network drives. If you buy the 10TB or 20TB versions, the server is preconfigured with SimplyRAID, comes with one public share folder, and can be used right away via the single mapped network drive. The LaCie Network Assistant software also helps launch the device's Web interface, which helps further customize the NAS server via its NAS OS 3.0 firmware.
The LaCie 5big NAS Pro's Web interface is very well organized and easy to use. It consists of two lines of big buttons on the bottom and the right side of the Web page. Each button is a category (such as Users, Shares, RAID Management, and so on), and when clicked on, shows all the functions and settings of that category on the main part of the Web page for users to customize. Since there are only so many buttons that can fit on the two sides of the page (three on each side), the lower right corner area of the page contains little icons for other categories that you can drag out to replace any of the buttons that are currently displayed on the sides. This design worked very well in my trial; everything was self-explanatory.
The 5big NAS Pro has a rather short list of standard features for home users. There's a built-in media server (UPnP/DLNA, iTunes), native support for Apple's Time Machine backup, integration with LaCie's Wuala online backup service, and Download Machine, which supports both BitTorrent and regular HTTP/FTP setups. While these features worked as expected in my testing, they generally lacked depth. For example, Download Machine doesn't support downloading from sites that require authentication, nor does it offer the ability to search for torrent downloads. Also, with the media server feature, you can turn it on or off and manually reindex it, but nothing else, such as designating specific folders to use with it.
I also noticed that the server required restarting for its newly created share folders to be available to the network. This is not a big deal but can be a nuisance; all the other servers I've reviewed allow you to do that on the fly.
For business users, the server offers NetBackup, iSCSI, and integration with Active Directory. NetBackup allows for rsyn-compatible devices or other LaCie NAS servers to use the 5big NAS Pro as the backup destination. iSCSI is a feature that enables network computers to use a portion of the server's storage as their own. Active Directory means that in a centralized network, the administrator can manage the NAS server's resources via the Windows-based domain controller.
Overall, the server supports Windows and Mac OS very well, and its features worked as intended in my trial. I do wish it had more to offer, though.
What the 5big NAS Pro lacks in features, it more than makes up for with its performance. I tested the server in SimplyRAID, RAID 5, and RAID 0, and it excelled in all three. SimplyRAID and RAID 5 offered almost exactly the same performance, which was to be expected.
Via a Gigabit Ethernet connection, in RAID 5 and SimplyRAID the 5big NAS Pro offered some 83MBps in writing and 105MBps in reading; both were very impressive and faster than most USB 3.0-based external drives. It did even better in RAID 0, scoring 103MBps and 105MBps for writing and reading, respectively.
This performance was among the best I've seen for a five-bay NAS server. The 5big NAS Pro was also relatively quiet throughout the testing process and was just a little warm even during heavy operation.
The 5big NAS Pro isn't the most feature-rich five-bay NAS server on the market, but it more than makes up for that with its excellent design and superfast performance. Its ease of use doesn't hurt, either.