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NAS Reviews

Performance

The NSA325 was tested with NSA325_4.50(AAAJ.0) firmware using our standard NAS test process. The Benchmark summary below shows Windows File copy write tests running significantly lower than their equivalent Intel NASPT benchmarks. But read results between Windows File copy and NASPT are pretty much the same. This isn't unusual, since the two benchmarks use different files.

ZyXEL NSA325 Benchmark Summary

ZyXEL NSA325 Benchmark Summary

As mentioned earlier in the review, probably the closest comparison for the ZyXEL NSA325 is D-Link's DNS-325. We highlighted that the ZyXEL had a processor that is about 30% faster than the D-Link and it also has double the RAM. As you’ll see from the charts below, the faster hardware clearly translates into better throughput in almost every performance category. To filter the chart, I selected only NAS devices with two drives.

The first image shows File Copy Write Performance (RAID 0) where you’ll see that the ZyXEL NAS is 1.72 times faster than the D-Link (62 MB/s vs. 36 MB/s).

File Copy Write Performance - the Zyxel NSA325 was 1.72 times faster than the D-Link DNS-325

File Copy Write Performance - the ZyXEL NSA325 was 1.72 times faster than the D-Link DNS-325

If you compare RAID1 File Copy Write Performance, you’ll see almost the same performance difference between the ZyXEL and the D-Link. The ZyXEL is 1.76 times as fast (54 MB/s vs. 30 MB/s).

RAID 1 File Copy Write Performance - the Zyxel NSA325 was 1.76 times faster than the D-Link DNS-32

RAID 1 File Copy Write Performance - the ZyXEL NSA325 was 1.76 times faster than the D-Link DNS-325

Read performance is a slightly different story. For the File Copy Read performance, the NSA325 was only about 20% faster than the DNS-325 (87 vs. 72 MB/s).

File Copy Read Performance - of the four comparisons, this was D-Link's best

File Copy Read Performance - of the four comparisons, this was D-Link's best

However, for RAID 1 File Copy reads, the ZyXEL turned in almost twice the performance of the D-Link (86 vs. 45 MB/s).

RAID 1 File Copy Read Performance

RAID 1 File Copy Read Performance

We were able to get attached backup results for FAT32, NTFS and EXT3 formats, courtesy of the NSA325's built-in formatter. The formatter also can create EXT2, ReiserFS and XFS volumes. Backup throughput to our Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCKU3SEF) containing a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive essentially maxed out the USB 2.0 connection with throughput in the mid-20 MB/s range.

The Marvell processor had enough power to produce higher backup throughput using the USB 3.0 connector, turning in best throughput of 55 MB/s using an NTFS formatted drive. We were not able to measure networked backup because we didn't have a second ZyXEL NAS on hand. As noted earlier, like Buffalo, ZyXEL has elected to allow network backup only to another of its own NASes.

The NSA325 doesn't support iSCSI, so there are no test results to report.

Closing Thoughts

There's a lot to like about the NSA325. It's easy to setup and configure, though neophytes might find it a bit challenging and might opt for a NAS with drives already installed and configured. It supports RAID 0, RAID1 and JBOD - what you'd expect in a two drive NAS.

Its price on Amazon currently hovers around $174, making it one least expensive dual drive BYOD NASes on the market. That doesn’t mean that it’s short on features however. It comes with a built-in DLNA/iTunes server, USB 3.0 port for faster backup, one touch file copy or sync, web publishing, automatic downloads and automatic uploads to YouTube or Flickr. With the purchase of a couple of 2 TB drives for about $110 each, you can have a 4 TB (or 2 TB if you use RAID 1) fully-featured NAS for under $400.

If you're on the fence between the NSA325 and D-Link's DNS-325, my vote is for the ZyXEL. It has higher performance, more features and faster backups via its USB 3.0 port for about the same money.

My favorite feature of the NSA325 is the downloadable packages. Using downloads supplied by ZyXEL, you can add additional features to an already fully-featured NAS. The DLNA (TwonkyServer Premium) server worked as expected and crunched through indexing close to 4000 images, 8400 songs and 1200+ videos in about 15 minutes. I was a bit disappointed that the web-based media UI didn't let me search by album or Genre, but was happy that the iTunes server seemed to work well.

My biggest disappointment was with the handling of a hard drive failure. Though I realize that the device doesn't claim to be hot swappable, there should be some kind of front panel notification that the RAID has been degraded. Email notification of drive removals/failures would also be a real plus. I'd like to see the rebuild process be a bit more user friendly, though admittedly, the people who will purchase this device probably won't have much of an issue with resynching the volume. Bottom line, I didn't lose any data during either of my two drive pull tests and the array resynched in what I consider to be a reasonable amount of time.

I'm the kind of guy who likes a lot of configuration options, so the NSA325 really appeals to me. I frequently grow frustrated with more "consumer friendly" NAS products because there just isn't enough control for my taste. Offering a great value, good performance, expandability and control, the NSA325 is a great choice for a dual bay BYOD NAS. I could even see it replacing one of my other NASes.

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