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TheCus 4100 Pro vs Buffalo Linkstation Quad

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gquiring

Occasional Visitor
I bought a Linkstation Quad a couple of weeks ago. I have not been too impressed with it. I thought buying the Buffalo name would be a safe bet. I decided to buy another NAS - TheCus 4100Pro and have both connected to my home network. I am going to post my opinions and results to hopefully give assistance for anyone looking to buy a NAS. I have no affiliation with any hardware or software company. Both NAS's were about the same price, I paid $360 for the 4100 and $385 for the QUAD. The QUAD did come with four 250gig drives which I swapped out for larger 1TB drives.

First day setups the N4100 Pro is clear winner. You can use your own disks and the firmware is in FLASH RAM. The Buffalo stores it's code on the hard drives making it a very painful process to use your own disks. Both the Quad and 4100 have removable drive caddies. Installing the drives is very easy. One plus for the 4100 is the caddies have a keylock for each caddy. I don't find that useful but I am sure someone could.

The 4100 has a backlit LCD display. It shows you the boot process of the NAS. The Buffalo has no panel, if something is wrong you have to guess. The 4100 shows you the IP addresses, date/time, fan speed, temperature, RAID status (healthy, build percentage) and other info.

The Buffalo setup CD could not find the device. I was able to locate it in my router DHCP log and just used the web interface for the setup. The N4100 comes with a default IP of 192.168.1.100 which is compatible with my network. So I did not try their setup CD. The Buffalo web interface is painfully slow and the 4100 is no speed demon either but is much faster. I also hate the aggressive timeout on the Buffalo web interface, during the email setup and looking up my gmail POP information the Buffalo timed me out on the form. There is no parameter that I can find to change it's timeout. The 4100 so far has not timed me out on any screen.

Overall the 4100 is better made, less plastic. I do like the faceplate on the Buffalo better, it is held with magnets and uses no door like hinge. The 4100 has a fatal design flaw, the LED's for each hard drive are blocked with the faceplate closed. When I inserted some used 1TB drives in the 4100 I had no idea it found an issue with one of the drives because the red LED was lit but blocked by the faceplate (photo enclosed). I only found the error later on when surfing around the web interface.

The power supply is internal on the 4100 and the QUAD uses a power brick. I prefer the power brick, if the power supply goes it will be an easy replacement.

Now I know the Buffalo comes with drives and they don't say you can use your own disks but they also don't say you cannot. Swapping the drives was an adventure. I pulled the drives and swapped in my 1TB drives. The unit would not boot. Having no LCD like the 4100 makes it a guessing game as to what's wrong. I later found out on the Buffalo forums the OS is installed on the drives. I had to reinstall their drives and swap one of my drives in at a time and do a rebuild to migrate the disks in. That took 4 hours per disk for a total of 16 hours but the RAID is not smart enough to grow the RAID 5 requiring dropping the config and creating a new RAID volume. That took an additional 24 hours, all tolled 40 hours to use your own disks.

The 4100 you install your drives and the unit boots up in under 2 minutes. You configure your RAID type (I choose RAID 5) and it took 16 hours to prep the drives. I had an issue with one WD drive where the disk status showed a warning on the SMARTINFO. I had a 'current pending sector' of 1 which causes the warning. The manual documents the error and suggests replacing the drive. I choose to continue and see what happens. The drive should remap the error so I was not sure why there was an issue. After the RAID finished the SMARTINFO showed 0 for current pending sector but the red LED was still lit. I had to reboot the NAS to clear the LED.

Firmware updates the 4100 wins easily. It works like any typical router, you download the firmware from the manufacturers site and browse to it from the web interface. The Buffalo is in the stone ages requiring a TFTP server setup to upgrade the firmware. You also must change the IP on your PC prior to upgrading the firmware.

Here are some photos, I will post the Buffalo shots in the next post. Take note the front photo of the 4100 has a red LED error but you cannot see it with the faceplate closed unless you look at the unit from an extreme angle.
 

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I am still loading up the 4100 with some data. I have 2TB to copy to it. It's taking some time to get the data uploaded. Some simple file transfers are showing about the same speeds as the NAS charts show. I am getting 10meg/s on the Buffalo QUAD and 20meg/s on the 4100 writing data to a RAID 5 setup. Considering both NAS's are about the same price the Buffalo really is a poor performer here.

My PC is Vista 64 with a Realtek RTL8169/8110 chipset. My switches are Netgear GS608. The NAS's are connected to a 2nd Netgear GS608 switch. My first try at jumbo frames was not successful. When I enable jumbo on my PC I cannot access either NAS. I will do more research on this later after the data is all copied over.

One nice feature of the Buffalo interface is when you log in it shows on the main page any issue with the NAS and shows the current rebuild status. The 4100 requires reviewing the log and RAID menu for current rebuild status. The 4100 has a nice detail log listing which the Buffalo does not offer. Here is the current contents of my 4100 log:

2009/03/25 10:43:31 nas2 : Healthy: The system nas2 is healthy now.
2009/03/25 10:43:27 nas2 : nas2 boot
2009/03/25 10:40:38 nas2 : The system nas2 shutdown.
2009/03/25 10:35:22 nas2 : Healthy: The system nas2 is healthy now.
2009/03/25 10:35:18 nas2 : nas2 boot
2009/03/25 10:33:28 nas2 : The system nas2 reboot.
2009/03/25 10:33:08 nas2 : Changed WAN network setting, DHCP setting = OFF, IP = 192.168.1.100, Gateway = 192.168.1.1, DNS = 192.168.1.1.
2009/03/25 10:26:43 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/25 01:45:50 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/24 22:21:49 nas2 : You have add folder [ X ].
2009/03/24 22:19:54 nas2 : User [ xyz ] has been added.
2009/03/24 22:18:31 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/24 22:14:36 nas2 : Healthy: The system nas2 is healthy now.
2009/03/24 22:14:32 nas2 : nas2 boot
2009/03/24 22:10:43 nas2 : The system nas2 shutdown.
2009/03/24 22:10:07 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/24 21:47:49 nas2 : Healthy: The system nas2 is healthy now.
2009/03/24 20:30:41 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/24 18:39:01 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/24 17:30:32 nas2 : Hard Disk 3 on nas2 has an I/O error.

Email alerts are offered by both devices. But the 4100 has a major flaw, it does not support SSL which means using gmail is not possible. The Buffalo works fine with gmail. There is some ssh hack discussed on the TheCus forums that requires modding the database with a SQL command to use SSL but not everyone is reporting success stories. I won't get near the hack, it seems each TheCus NAS has different code which seems to risky to me.

Below are the photos of the Linkstation Quad and external power supply.
 

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I tested a rebuild on the 4100 to see what happens. It works very well. I pulled a working drive while the device was powered up and an external red LED that is not blocked by the cover glows and a loud alarm is also heard. The LCD display also displays 'degraded RAID'. I was very pleased to still be able to use the device to stream blue ray rips with a missing drive. The performance is very good.

I replaced the drive with a different unprepared drive. Within seconds of installing the new drive a rebuild is automatically started. The LCD display also indicated the % rebuild status.

I was able to find a mail service that does not require SSL so I could receive email alerts. The emails were detailed and showed all the degraded and rebuild steps. The system log also had all the details:

2009/03/27 15:24:56 nas2 : Healthy: The system nas2 is healthy now.
2009/03/27 15:24:54 nas2 : The system nas2 change to degrade mode.
2009/03/27 09:55:57 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.4
2009/03/27 08:35:10 nas2 : User admin logged in from 192.168.1.2
2009/03/27 07:06:14 nas2 : The system nas2 is recovering the RAID and rebuilding is in progress.
2009/03/27 07:06:03 nas2 : Disk 3 on nas2 has been added.
2009/03/27 07:02:48 nas2 : The system nas2 change to degrade mode.
2009/03/27 07:02:45 nas2 : Disk 3 on nas2 has been removed.
 

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