Secure and faster than the average NAS, but will you outgrow it?
If you don’t need a lot of storage, Seagate’s diminutive BlackArmor NAS 220 can be tucked into a bookshelf or the even the corner of your desk where it will quietly serve the needs of a small office or workgroup with as many as 20 PCs. The NAS 220 has two drive bays and can purchased with either one or two terabytes of capacity; we reviewed the 2TB model, which is street-priced at $279. Note that since the drives come from the factory in a mirrored configuration (RAID 1), usable capacity is actually 1TB.
The NAS 220 is housed in a steel enclosure painted gloss black (keep a feather duster at hand if you’re the fastidious type). Remove three very small Phillips screws and pull off the three-sided cover to access the 7,200RPM drives, which are user-replaceable, but not hot-swappable. Unlike Western Digital’s WD ShareSpace, you’re not limited to using Seagate drives. But since the NAS 220 doesn’t support online RAID expansion or migration, most people will never access the drives unless they fail.
Finishing our look inside the box, we see Marvell’s 800MHz 88F6192 system-on-chip on the motherboard, paired with 128MB of soldered-on DDR2 SDRAM. The chip integrates a two-port SATA controller, a two-port USB controller, and a Gigabit Ethernet controller. This processor handles most of the compute workload, including running the RAID software. As mentioned earlier, the NAS 200 comes from the factory in a RAID 1 configuration, but the system also supports RAID 0 and JBOD.
The front panel harbors a power switch, a reset button, and LED indicators for system and drive status. Flip the box around and you’ll find two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a jack for the external power brick, a Kensington slot for physical security, and a very quiet cooling fan. The NAS 220 does not support eSATA, so external expansion opportunities are limited to adding USB 2.0 hard drives (if you’re not using the ports for NAS-to-USB backup, connecting to an uninterruptible power supply, or sharing a printer, that is). NAS-to-NAS backups can be performed over the network (either on demand or on a schedule); bare-metal restores can also be performed over a network.
The NAS 220 comes configured as a single volume with two shares: Download and Public. Volumes can consist of one or more drives or part of a single drive. Share folders can support CIFS, FTP, and NFS file protocols; files can be protected from unintended deletion by activating the BlackArmor Manager Recycle Bin service. Seagate’s Drag&Sort Service automatically saves downloaded media files into the appropriate share (MP3s to a music folder, JPEGs to the Photos folder, and so on). A user with administrator privileges can create additional volumes, public and private and shares, and user accounts; establish storage limits (with a grace period) on a per-user basis; and otherwise manage the NAS either locally or remotely via the Internet, using Seagate’s free Seagate Global Access services. Individual users can also use Seagate Global Access to view, download, and share files they’ve stored on the NAS 220.
Seagate bundles five licenses for its BlackArmor Backup software; additional licenses cost $50 for a two-pack or $100 for a five-pack. Incremental, folder-level, or full-system client backups can be performed on demand or on a user-defined schedule, but only from the client side; we’d be more impressed if the NAS administrator could schedule backups to avoid congestion. An administrator can cap download bandwidth, limit the number of simultaneous Internet downloads (although the box won’t permit more than three at a time anyway), restrict the days and times during which downloads are allowed, and reorder the download queue.
We benchmarked the BlackArmor NAS 220 on a gigabit network using a Netgear WNDR3700 router and an SMC Networks SMCGS24 gigabit switch. Our client was a home-brew rig consisting of a stock-clocked Intel Core i7 860 and 4GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 memory installed in a Gigabyte P55A-UD6 motherboard. We used the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Writing our collection of small files to the NAS took 38 seconds, a performance that far exceeds Western Digital’s 8TB WD ShareSpace, even though the drives in that box were configured as RAID 5; on the other hand, the Seagate’s performance fell far short of Synology’s 6TB Diskstation DS409+, which is also configured as RAID 5. The NAS 220’s read speeds also left the Western Digital box in the dust, coming much closer to parity with the speedy Diskstation DS409+; in fact, the Seagate device required only five more seconds to read our collection of small files than did Synology’s offering.
The BlackArmor NAS 220 isn’t the absolute fastest NAS on the market, but it delivered very good performance in our tests. A single terabyte of storage won’t accommodate very many users, but the data redundancy of RAID 1 will protect whatever data you store on the box. And Seagate’s software and remote-access service add significant value to a well-priced product.
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220
Relatively fast read speeds; useful software utilities; integrated iTunes and DLNA media servers; quiet.
Small capacity; no integrated BitTorrent client; no eSATA port.
Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220
Synology Diskstation DS409+
Western Digital WD ShareSpace
2TB in RAID 1
6TB in RAID 5
8TB in RAID 5
PC to NAS, small (min:sec)
PC to NAS, large (min:sec)
NAS to PC, small (min:sec)
NAS to PC, large (min:sec)
Best scores are bolded. We used the contents of Maximum PC's November 2007 CD for the small-file testing and a single 2.79GB file for the large-file testing. All scores are averages of three transfer trials.