- Speedy quad-core Intel processor.
- Supports many common apps.
- Supports 4K HDMI video output.
- Requires download and installation of most services, including media servers and download managers.
- Uses multiple mobile apps instead of a single mobile interface.
The Asustor AS3202T is a powerful file server and NAS, but it requires a lot of effort and add-on utilities to take advantage of all its media capabilities.
Design and Features
The black plastic on the front of the AS3203T has a diamond-check pattern molded into it, which is a bit more tactile than the plain white plastic on competitors like the Synology DiskStation DS216j$169.99 at Amazon and the Western Digital My Cloud Mirror Gen 2$254.99 at Amazon. The drive bays are hidden in the case, unlike the removable drive sleds in the Netgear ReadyNAS 202. On the upper left of the front panel is a row of green LEDs indicating power, status, network connectivity, and disk activity. There’s a front-mounted USB 3.0 port for connecting additional external hard drives, as well as an IR sensor for the included media remote control. The case measures 6.5 by 4 by 8.6 inches (HWD), so it’s compact enough to fit next to your home router. The AS3202T comes with a three-year warranty, which is a year longer than many NAS boxes.
The side panels and interior drive bays offer tool-less access, using included thumbscrews to secure the case door and internal hard drives. The appliance is sold without hard drives, so I installed two Hitachi Deskstar NAS 6TB drives, which cost $249 each at the time of this review. They slid into the internal bracket assembly without a hitch, and I secured them using the thumbscrews. You’ll need to budget for internal drives when you buy any diskless NAS, though you can run the AS3203T with only one drive and add the second later.
I formatted the Deskstar NAS drives together as a RAID Level 1 array, which protects your data by mirroring all your files on both hard drives. The NAS had 5.41TB free after I set it up. RAID Level 0 (striping) is also supported, in which case the AS3202T would have about 12TB available. I prefer RAID Level 1 for two-drive NAS arrays, since you’re better protected in case one drive fails. In RAID Level 0 mode, if one drive fails, you could lose all your data.
The AS3202T comes set up for bare-bones file services. Core file serving functionality for Windows PCs is on by default, as is RSync (a file syncing service that replicates your data with any remote Asustor NAS also running RSync). Other files servers are supported, but you have to activate them manually. These include AFP (macOS), FTP, HTTP/Web Server, MariaDB (open-source MySQL database), NFS (Linux/Unix), SNMP, Terminal/SSH, TFTP, and WebDAV. You’ll also need to turn on Time Machine support if you’re planning to back up your Macs over the network. This might have you feeling more in control if you’re a stickler, but other NAS devices like the Netgear ReadyNAS 202, the QNAP TAS-168$196.99 at Amazon, and the Synology DS216j are easier to install in a mixed environment, since they at least have macOS, Time Machine, and NFS services enabled by default.
The back panel has the rest of the device’s ports, including a jack for the AC adapter, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI port, a Kensington lock port, and two additional USB 3.0 ports. You can connect external USB hard drives or third-party accessories like an external optical drive, a USB printer, or a USB Wi-Fi adapter to the NAS for additional functionality. The settings for these external devices are in the Asustor Data Master (ADM), the Web interface you can use to administer the NAS. An included CD contains an installer for Control Center, a stripped-down administration utility program that can be used to configure and monitor the NAS hardware (network settings, drive health, and so on), but most of the administration (software and services) settings are in ADM. Control Center can also be downloaded from Asustor’s website.
As with the QNAP TAS-168 and the Synology DS216j, you’ll need to download a bunch of programs from Asustor’s App Central app store to take advantage of all the AS3202T’s possibilities. For example, downloading and installing the Asustor Portal app activates the AS3203T’s HDMI jack, so you can enjoy locally stored media files on a 1080p or 4K TV. Portal also includes a Chrome browser, and access to services like Kodi, Netflix, Plex, Vimeo, and YouTube, which could let you use the NAS as a quasi-DVR for Internet video. You can control Portal with the included IR remote, or the AiRemote mobile app. Other utilities include Avast Antivirus, Download Center (an FTP and Torrent download manager), iTunes Server, LooksGood (a video player and streamer), SoundsGood (a music player and streamer), Surveillance Center (a DVR for security cameras), and a VPN server.
You can download lots of other apps from App Central, like eMule and Plex server software, but on the whole it’s a lot more work to set up than the QNAP or Synology NAS appliances. You may be able to get to a point where The AS3202T is a perfect media store and server, but you may spend more than a few hours researching all the downloadable apps on App Central to figure out which ones meet your needs. For example, is Popcorn Time the right streaming video player for you, or is Kodi a better fit? The QNAP and Synology servers have fewer options in their app stores, but both come with more apps and services preinstalled and ready to use.
Asustor also has a small group of apps available on Google Play (for Android) and the iTunes Store (for iOS). You can use these to monitor your downloads (AiDownload), control the Portal interface and Chrome browser (AiRemote), check your security cams (AiSecure), or remotely manage your NAS (AiMaster), access your files (AiData), or enjoy your media (AiMusic, AiFoto, and AiVideos). They’re all useful, but I prefer the simple, unified apps on the Western Digital My Cloud Gen 2 and the Netgear ReadyNAS 202. I suppose giving your kids access to a music and video player separately might be more secure if you withhold administrator access, but doing so could mean you’d end up manually managing a lot of apps.
Performance and Conclusions
The AS3202T is powered by a quad-core Intel Celeron J3160 processor running at 1.6GHz with burst speeds up to 2.24GHz, and is loaded with 2GB of RAM. While those specs don’t seem impressive for a PC, they are very good for a NAS, particularly when you consider that the competition usually operates with power-sipping ARM-based processors and as little as 512MB of RAM. In any case, the NAS reacts quickly once you’ve woken it from sleep, and changes I made to the configuration using the ADM interface went through almost instantaneously.
On our timed transfer test, the NAS performed admirably. It transferred our 4.9GB test folder with a throughput of 70MBps write and 66MBps read over a Gigabit Ethernet connection to our testbed. That’s much faster than the QNAP TAS-168 on both tests (44MBps write, 25MBps read), and faster write speeds than the Western Digital My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 (49MBps write, 73MBps read). The AS3202T is comparable in speed to the Buffalo TeraStation 5200DN$453.99 at Amazon and the Netgear ReadyNAS 202. When I switched to a wireless 802.11ac interface using our testbed’s wireless router, transfer speeds slowed accordingly (10MBps write, 24MBps read), though these were still comparable to what we’ve seen from other NAS devices with one or two drives.
The Asustor AS3202T is a very good NAS, as long as you’re willing to tinker with it. Out of the box, it’s speedy at serving files to and from PCs on your network. To maximize its media functionality, however, you’ll have to be willing to explore the settings in its Web interface and download and install one or more apps. The Netgear ReadyNAS 202 lacks HDMI output, but it is about the same price, and it is a lot easier to setup and administer, so it stays on as our Editors’ Choice for SOHO NAS devices. If you’re looking to set up a NAS as a media set-top box, and you’re willing to forego the extra security of a RAID Level 1 array, the QNAP TAS-168 is another NAS that rewards power users, and it costs $60 less (not counting the cost of an internal NAS hard drive).