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Promise SmartStor N2300N

At a Glance
Product Promise SmartStor (NS2300N)
Summary Low-performance dual-drive BYOD Network Storage Device with streaming media features
Pros • Hot-Swap RAID
• Gigabit Ethernet with jumbo frame support
• AD, NFS, AFP support
Cons • Bottom of the pack performance
• Firmware still a work in progress

We previously looked at Promise's four-drive NS4300N, both in its original and soon-to-be-released and quieter Rev B incarnation. This review will take a quick look at its two-drive sibling, the NS2300N.

Promise bills the 2300N as a "Home Digital Media Server", but has the same "media" features as the 4300N, specifically a DLNA / UPnP media server that includes PS3 and XboX 360 streaming support and an iTunes server. And for gathering that media, both products include a "Download Station" that can automatically download using HTTP, FTP, BitTorrent and eDonkey protocols.

What the 2300N doesn't have is some of the 4300N's backup capabilities including volume snapshot and NAS to NAS remote backup. And, of course, with only two drives, the 2300N supports only RAID 0 and 1. See the NS4300N review and Rev B update if you need more details on the SmartStor features.

Figure 1 is a front view with the cover removed, showing the two drives, indicators and single power switch. Build quality is similar to the 4300N's, although its smaller size somehow doesn't convey the same, uh, cheap, feel that the 4300N does. It uses the same cheap plastic drive sleds, which Promise touts as a drive vibration isolation "feature" in its Reviewer's Guide.

Front Panel

Figure 1: Front Panel

Although it isn't clearly documented in the User Manual, the Power button also serves as the "One Touch Backup" switch, which I think is a not-so-great choice. Promise also doesn't use the on-board buzzer to confirm the start of a shutdown sequence that is initiated by pressing and holding the Power button. The power switch does start to flash when the sequence has started. But with my finger covering most of the button, the flashing was easy to miss.

Figure 2 shows the rear panel, with the single USB 2.0 connector. I tried using a hub to connect more than one USB flash drive, but the system recognized only one. While I had the hub attached, I also tried plugging in a USB printer to go along with the USB flash drive. But when I went to enable the Print server (File & Print > Protocol Control > Printer Server), I found the Enable grayed out. This wasn't due to the USB hub, since I had the same problem when I connected the printer directly to the 2300N.

Rear Panel

Figure 2: Rear Panel

The 2300N uses a large external power brick and so has only the single fan shown. This, plus the system fan speed control, helped to keep the system relatively quiet. Disabling the Fan Control spun the fan up to around 3800 RPM from the ~ 2300 RPM that it was running at. At the higher speed, the fan noise was definitely audible.

I measured power consumption around 30 W with two drives installed. There is no idle drive spindown or other power saving features in the current firmware. But I suspect it might be coming, since the feature is in the current NS4300N firmware.

Internal Details

Figure 3 shows a photo of the 2300N's main board. The CPU is a 333MHz Freescale MPC8313 and two hot-swappable SATA drives (up to 1 TB ea.) are supported via a Promise PDC20771 Serial ATA RAID controller. A Realtek RTL8169SC provides the Ethernet port and there is 128 MB of RAM and 32 MB of flash.

A modified EXT 3 filesystem is used, so drives are not readable by standard EXT 3 systems.

NS2300N main board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: NS2300N main board

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