When we reviewed the Valkyrie Dual Bay NAS server five months ago, we thought it was by far the slowest NAS server we've seen in recent years. Now the Plextor PX-NAS2 has joined the ranks.
The Plextor PX-NAS2, priced at around $210 (storage not included), appears to be a good deal when compared with other dual-bay NAS servers such as the $300 Synolgoy DS209+. However, considering its lackluster performance, terrible hard-drive-bay design, and lack of features, you really get what you pay for.
If you're looking for a dedicated NAS server to replace the basic network storage function of a router with a built-in USB port, such as the Cisco Linksys E3000, the Plextor PX-NAS2 will get the job done. Otherwise, any other NAS server, excluding the Valkyrie, will make a better choice.
Design and setup
Out of the box, the Plextor PX-NAS2 has the shape of an oversize brick. Measuring 10 inches long by 5.3 inches wide by 4.7 inches deep, the server is the bulkiest dual-bay NAS we've seen.
On the front, it has one USB port and a Copy/Sync button. When you insert a thumb drive into this port and press the button, the drive will back up its entire contents into the NAS' internal storage. This is a nifty and pretty popular feature among NAS servers. The Plextor, however, extends this feature a bit further by allowing it to work the other way: backing up the NAS' data onto an external hard drive. You can change which way the Backup/Sync button work via the server's Web interface.
The Plextor PX-NAS2 has another USB port on the back. Like the other USB port, it supports printers and external storage devices and is the only way to add more storage to the server. There are no eSATA or peripheral ports.
The NAS server's two hard drive bays require you to open the server's chassis for access. After that you still have to remove a few other parts and use a screwdriver before you can install or replace the hard drives. In short, if there was a competition among NAS servers for making a hard drive difficult to service, the PX-NAS2 could make it to the finals easily.
The Plextor PX-NAS2 has a standard setup process. The included CD contains the Plextor PX-NAS Utility software, which helps detect the NAS in the network, map its share folders to a local computer (to show them as drive letters for easy access), and launch the Web interface for customizing its features.
We had complications trying to log into the NAS' interface. Though the included instruction book indicates that the NAS' default password is "1234," after many trials we discovered out that it was actually "password." Though this is just a small typo, it created a big headache and we wasted about an hour before we could get the server up and running.
Otherwise, the server's Web interface is relatively well-organized and self explanatory. On the downside, it's sluggish. Every time we clicked on an item, it took from 2 to 7 seconds for its content to materialize. This, combined with the fact that it's hard to install the drives, could make the initial setup of the Plextor PX-NAS2 a frustrating experience.
You can set up the Plextor PX-NAS2's hard drives in three configurations, RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD.
Of these, RAID 1 is the only configuration that offers data protection, but at the expense of 50 percent of the total storage space. Alternatively, RAID 0 combines the two drives' storage for faster performance, but you'll lose the data if either fails. With JBOD, you can choose to set up the two hard drives into two separate volumes.
The server can handle any SATA hard drives with capacities up to 2TB each, making the total storage space up to 4TB.
The NAS server offers a standard set of features including the ability to handle multiple user accounts with separate access privileges. You can set each share folder to be public (accessible by anyone) or private (accessible by the owner only). An admin user can set any user to be the owner of a particular folder.
For each share folder, you also can enable the media server feature to make any stored digital content, including photos, music, and videos, available to network streamer.
The Plextor PX-NAS2 supports both the Windows and Mac platform, meaning you can browse it using Windows Explorer, just like you would assess another computer in the network. When you're on a Mac, the server will appear automatically in the Finder. Unlike what Plextor's claims, the server didn't seem to support Time Machine.
The Plextor PX-NAS2's most noticeable feature is that it can download files on its own without the help of a computer. The server can handle both BitTorent and downloading from regular Web sites. To our disappointment, however, it can't work with Web sites that require authentications, so it's not possible to download a large file from RapidShare, for example.
For backup, the Plextor ships with a license of Memeo backup software that can locate and back up important data automatically, such as documents, photos, music, and so on. Also, you can set it to back up any folders of your choosing.
We tried all of the server's main features and they worked as intended. Note, however, that some of these features, such as the media server and backup, require a decent throughput performance to work well. And performance is where the Plextor PX-NAS2 lags the most.
The Plextor PX-NAS2 is one of the slowest NAS servers we've reviewed in a long time. We tested it with both RAID 0 and RAID 1, and the scores were consistently abysmal compared with others.
In RAID 0, which is the setup that focuses on performance at the expense of data protection, the Plextor scored 73.4Mbps and 98.3Mbps for write and read, respectively. This was more than three times slower than the 223.9Mbps and 373.9Mbps of the Synology DS209+, though slightly faster than the Valkyrie's 70.7Mbps and 80.2Mbps scores.
In RAID 1, which is the setup that safeguards data from single-disk failure by mirroring the data from one disk to another, the Plextor PX-NAS2, as expected, did even worse with just 48.7Mbps and 75.4Mbps for write and read, respectively. Ironically, these numbers were about the same as those of the Cisco Linksys E3000 router.
We also noticed that the NAS was rather noisy, even during idle time. The server's large fan on the back appears to work at full force consistently, and there's no way within the server's Web interface to adjust this.
Service and support
The Plextor PX-NAS2 comes with a one-year warranty, which is short. The company's Web site offers very little support information via a forum that you can't use without registering first. The only download we could find at the Web site for the NAS server is the PX-NAS utility that's used to set up the device.