Promise SmartStor NS4300N Review

I purchased a Promise NS4300N NAS from Fry's with the intention of replacing my 'server' with something that uses a bit less power; unfortunately there were a few short-comings that I could not get over.

The NS4300N is a fairly well constructed device- save for the hard drive 'trays'.  It has a study plastic casing with a push-latch door on the front.

ns4300n_002 ns4300n_003

The premise is fairly simple; install one or more SATA drives in the system and log into the device via a web page and configure drives, shares and permissions to share the data to other computers on the network.  There are also plug-ins (well, actually just one plug-in) that allows the unit to do other things- such as act as a DLNA media server (which a PS3 and other devices can connect to).

Drives can be constructed in RAID0, RAID1, RAID1+0 and RAID5 arrays.  RAID5 also has the option of having a hot spare for additional redundancy/protection.  I started off with a single 500GB drive in a stand alone RAID0 and two 250GB drives in a RAID0 (giving me two 500GB arrays).  The initial build is destructive, so be sure that you do not have any data you want on the disks.  I believe the drives are formatted with an EXT3 file system, but I did not 100% sure...

The initial build is pretty quick- I would estimate about 5 minutes for the single 500GB and 15 minutes for the two 250GB drive arrays; but expansion can take a bit longer... I expanded my single 500GB single drive RAID0 array to a two drive array by adding another 500GB drive; the array expansion took about 5 hours plus another 1.5 hours to expand the file system.  One good feature is that the array expansion is non-destructive- so all data on the single 500GB drive was available on the new 1TB array.

After the array is built you will use the web management to configure shares and permissions.  The software supports file share formats for Windows (SMB), Apple (AFP), Linux/Unix and FTP clients.  Permissions can be set by user or group for read/write/deny access and the software also offers active directory or CIFS integration for authentication. 

A basic email alert system is included, but I could not find options to set what conditions would trigger an alert email.  The system has internal temperature and fan RPM monitoring, so I assume there is a way to alert on this criteria- or in the event of a drive failure.

The 4300N has two USB ports and the can be configured for USB drives, printers or APC UPS devices.  USB drives will allow for increased storage and can read/write to FAT32 or EXT3 formatted drives (and I am told there is read-only support for NTFS formatted drives?).  Attaching a supported USB printer allow the device to act as a print server and a USB attached APC UPS (only the SmartUPS 750 is supported) to initiate a graceful shutdown in the event of a power loss.


There are options for one-touch 'smart sync' backups and nas-to-nas replication, but I did not have the chance to test these options out.

The inside of the NS4300N has a metal cage with four SATA ports on the rear of the cabinet.  Drives are head in place via plastic 'trays'- and these are the cheapest feeling feature of the system.  The trays act as guides to insert the drives and as handles to remove the drives.  I would have much preferred a tray-less design like many manufacturers are now using.

ns4300n_004 ns4300n_005

A detail picture of the 'tray'.


Overall the system is pretty incredible- but it is not without issues.

The system features a gigabit Ethernet connection but it seems to be wasted on the performance of the system.  I ran some test transfers of several files (including an an 8GB MKV and a 9GB WMV-HD file) to and from the system via FTP (the only way I could find of accurately monitoring the transfer speed).  Upload speeds averaged about 35Mbps and download speeds averaged about 75Mbps.  The speeds were similar for both single and multiple RAID0 disk arrays.  By comparison, FTP transfer speeds to my file 'server' were about 260-270Mbps for both uploads and downloads (limited mostly by the 300Mbps speed of SATA II, I assume?).  But in defense of the 4300N transfer speeds, my AirLink Office NAS offers similar upload speeds (40Mbps) and much slower download speeds (42Mbps).

I had some issues with the DNLA media sharing; my PS3 could only see MPG files- DivX/XViD files appeared only as 'unsupported filetype' icons.  Many other times the 'SmartStor NAS' would appear and there would be no items accessible under the icon on the PS3 XMB.

The deal-breaker was the system would occasionally drop offline; twice when doing a file-copy to the device via Windows share, once during a FTP transfer to the device and two times while playing a media file (MPG movie once, MP3 for the other) on my PS3.  I do not have these connection drop problems between my systems and I have a hard-wired GB network- so either this was a defective unit or it has some connectivity issues.

The final result of my testing was that I could not rely on the unit and it was returned to Fry's...  


HD DVD is Dead; Long Live HD DVD!

The HD DVD format has been abandoned, but my HD DVD collection is ever growing. 

There are a lot of older movies that I like- and already have in DVD format.  Most of these will never be re-purchased as the Toshiba A3 and the PS3 do a kick-ass job at upscaling the 480p format DVD to 1080i/p.  HD DVD discs are going down in price every day and I have been picking up 2-3 discs every time I go to Fry's.  Tonight's purchases were 'Time Cop' for $15 and 'A Clockwork Orange' for $13.

My '5 Free HD DVDs' arrived in the mail yesterday, so I total of HD DVDs is now up to 22...

For the other format, I currently have a total four Blu-Ray movies; two were used DVDs (one from Fye and another from Movie Stop) and the other two ('Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End' and 'Live Free or Die Hard') were on a buy one-get one free sale at Target.  I almost picked up two Blu-Ray movies at Fry's on another bogo sale ('Hellboy' and 'Underworld') but I realized these these movies will always be available and will probably be $10 in a few years (the DVD and 720p MKV versions I have will tide me over until then).

HD DVD prices are about right for an 'impulse buy' item; $15 isn't too bad for a high definition 'upgrade'- but $30-$40 (current Blu-Ray pricing) just means that I will be waiting a few years before I really consider replacing my other oldies with a hi-def version...

Good idea- back in the day

If they upgrade to DDR2, more than 4GB and SATA II (300Mbps) this would be pretty cool...


Gateway monitor with 1600p resolution

Wow- I thought 1080p was good- looks like 1600p is better?

The Gateway XHD3000I a 24" 'Extreme HD' monitor for only $1700... D'oh!


Things I am Doing this Sunday

Games I am playing (or at least trying to play)...


Klegg MediaShare Mega Review

In my quest for the perfect video device, I chanced upon the Klegg MediaShare Mega device at Fry's.  It appeared to be a fairly interesting device; It plays 'HD' video and has the range of composite, s-video, component and DVI output (use a cable to convert to HDMI).  For audio it has optical and coaxial digital outputs as well as 5.1 discrete RCA connections.  For networking it has a 10/100Mbps RJ45 connection and a wireless 802.11g integrated. 

The system is designed to use a 3.5" SATA drive internally for local storage or to allow shared storage via 'NDAS' (which appears to be a dumbed-down version of iSCSI for a desktop system).  It can also connect to Windows shares to stream music, video or images.  There are two USB ports on the back of the device which be attached to USB drives to expand the storage capacity of the unit.

There are a plethora of accessories included; component cables, composite video + L/R audio cables, USB cable, power cables, an IR remote, 2xAA batteries, user manual and NDAS CD.  The whole package looks pretty good- but sadly looks do not account for much in this situation...

The menu system is decent, albeit basic.  From the menu you can set TV format & resolution, configure the network settings, perform firmware upgrades, etc.  The menu is navigated by buttons on front of the unit or via the IR remote; 1st Rant- the included remote is pitiful!  The buttons are 'mushy' with no tactile feedback so I often pressed a button 2-3 times before getting a response.  The IR receiver must me almost perpendicular to the remote- more than 30 degrees off-side makes the remote useless.  I did not have a chance to 'learn' these into my Logitech Harmony to see if it is a problem with the remote or the sensor as the unit is being boxed up to go back to Fry's- and I didn't want to waste time testing this out further.

Uber-cheap remote aside, the codec support is abysmal; the PS3 or xBox 360 has much better codec support (at least these devices can play DiVX!).  The Klegg web site states the unit can support:

  • AVI: MS-MPEG4v3/XviD/WMV9 (Does not support XviD with the GMC option applied)
  • WMV 9
  • MP4
  • DAT - MPEG 1
  • VOB - MPEG 2
  • MPG/MPEG - MPEG 1 / MPEG 2

From my research DiVX is very similar to the XviD codec but with the GMC option- so this kills my ability to play about 1/3 of the movies on my system that are encoded in DiVX!  WMV9 does not include WMV-HD, so there goes another chunk of my video files.  I gave up on TS files a long time ago in favor of MKV files, so my video options were fairly limited before all was done (just some pure XviD, some old MPEG and MPEG2 files).  A PS3 wit the latest firmware runs circles around this device for video playback ability.

I tried to playback some VOB/IFO files (DVD) but I have most of my network shares set to require authentication- and this information cannot be entered into the MediaShare (shares must be granted access to 'everyone'). 

I went to the Klegg support page to see if there were any firmware updates and found their site to be devoid of any useful information.  There is an email link to contact support, but no downloads to be found.  A little research on the web turned up that the Klegg MediaShare is a rebranded Eureka LX-350HD/LX-351HD so I went questing to find this firmware.  Eureka is a Korean company and their entire web site is in Korean- as are the firmware downloads from the site.  I finally found an English v1.1.1.160 firmware update for the Eureka and applied it to the MediaShare; there was no change save for the main screen now showing the Eureka logo.

After being thoroughly disappointed with the device I decided to remove the 250GB SATA drive I installed in it and box it up for return.  The SATA drive was so hot that I could not hold it in my had upon removal- I had to leave it on my desk to let it cool off!  The MediaShare has a very small (15mm?) and VERY loud fan on the back with the intention of keeping the unit from overheating- I am very surprised the unit didn't shut down to to a thermal even during my testing!

As I mentioned before, the NDAS appears to be a form of iSCSI.  To use you must first install a driver on the system (iSCSI initator is my guess) and after a reboot you can connect to a NDAS device by entering a 24 character identifier (located inconveniently on the bottom of the unit) and a six digit write enable code.  Windows indicates that a SCSI disk device was installed and adds the drive located in the MediaShare a a local disk drive.  In spite of this being attached as a local drive I was unable to format the 250GB drive- it kept preparing to format but never started.

So, in review of the Klegg MediaShare Mega:

Pros Cons
Small Form Factor
Multiple audio + video output options
Supports 480i/480p/720p/1080i/1080p
Easy to use menu
Integrated LAN + WAN
Can access SMB shares
Additional storage via USB drives
NDAS Support
Fairly inexpensive
Can use LX-650HD firmware updates
Very Limited codec support
No HDMI output (DVI)
Cannot access secured network shares
Cheap remote/IR setup
LAN only 10/100Mbps (no 1Gbs)
Internal HD gets VERY hot
VERY loud cooling fan
No direct support from Klegg's web site


Personally for me the lack of codec support is the deal-breaker; if you are starting of a new video library and you choose to encode all of your videos in straight XviD or MPEG2 then this may be a viable device (unless you plan to have it in the same room as your TV as the fan sound is unbearable).  This guy is going back to Fry's and I will start researching the DVICO TViX M6500A that I saw mentioned on the AVS Forums...


I have gone over to the dark side...

I couldn't find a 60GB Playstation 3 (at least from a place that will ship to a work address) but I did find a local GameStop with a refurbished 80GB PS3 for about $450. 

I even bought two Blu-Ray movies; The Fifth Element and Ultraviolet (I'm a Milla fan, what can I say?)

So far I have been very impressed- there are very few things I can find a flaw with in the system.  Sony will have a winner when the console comes down to about $300.

First a little about the differences in the PS3 units:

  • 1st Gen: 20GB and 60GB
    PS2 compatibility via embedded Emotion Engine CPU
    60GB has integrated WiFi and a memory card reader; 20 GB does not
  • 2nd Gen: 80GB
    Same as the prior 60GB but removed the Emotion Engine CPU and uses software for PS2 Compatibility
  • 3rd Gen: 40GB
    Dropped all PS2 support, removed the memory card reader and dropped down to 2 USB ports (from 4 on all prior models)

All PS3 units can play Blue-ray and DVD movies, use Bluetooth for wireless 'Sixaxis' controller connectivity and have HDMI output.  I have heard rumor that all PS3s can play all PSX games, but I need to find an original PSX disk to test!

The reason for the progressive decrease in hardware is cost-cuttings Sony lost an estimated $240 for every 60GB PS3 unit it sold for $599.

All the technical jumbo aside, the PS3 is a very powerful machine- with some small caveats.


  • The machine is quiet- more so than I expected
  • It can connect to media servers in the network (such as Media Player 11) and stream:
    • Video in MPEG-1, MPEG-2, WMV, MPEG-4 SP (DiVX/XViD) and MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (Quicktime and HD) formats to my TV over HDMI.
    • Audio in MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV and ATRAC
    • Images in JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF or BMP formats
  • I can pair Bluetooth headphone, mice, keyboards and remote controls.  (Games can be written to allow mouse/keyboard interface- such as Unreal Tournament 3 was).
  • I can 'pair' my PSP to the PS3 and enable 'remote play' of the PS3 over a wireless connection- from both LAN or the Internet.  Remote play allows me to play any video, audio or image my PS3 can see (locally stored on the PS3 HD or from my home network media servers) and play games that are configured to allow remote play (such as Lair).
  • Hard drives are easily upgraded- it is a standard 2.5" SATA drive (the note on the installed PS3 drive that says 'not for laptop use' means that it does not have the inertia dampening/shock absorption systems that a typical laptop would need- it is designed for a stationary system).
  • It can read a USB hard drive/thumb drive that is attached via USB (there is a specific folder structure it uses but pressing the triangle will let you browse the folders
  • It works with most USB devices- including mice, keyboards and the xBox 360 cam (but not the xBox 360 HD DVD drive!)
  • Game saves and system settings can be backed up to a USB drive (or downloaded from the Internet and copied back to the PS3!)
  • The wireless controller recharges via a standard mini-USB cable
  • The system upscales DVD nicely.
  • Unit can be configured to dual-boot with a Linux OS


  • USB Ports are only on the front of the system
  • No support for TS or MKV files (without transcoding via TVersity or similar product)
  • No homebrew apps (yet!)
  • No integrated IR receiver (so will not work with universal remotes unless you get the Nyko Blu-Wave IR remote for about $20)
  • Not able to direct all audio output to a paired Bluetooth headset- only to HDMI, optical or analog audio out.
  • Price

Personally I think Sony has really screwed themselves for after-sale accessories by using standard USB and Bluetooth connectivity- but this is good for the end user; why buy a Sony Bluetooth headset when the Jabra for your old phone will work just the same?

The DVD upsampling on the PS3 is so good

The largest 'pro' for me is the PSP remote play connectivity.  This functions much like a Slingbox device that has been tailored for the PSP screen.  To start, the PSP must be registered by plugging it in locally via USB to the PS3.  At this point the PSP can connect over a private network (including the PS3's internal wireless) and can control the PS3 while it is in 'Remote Play' mode.  Going a step further you can register your PS3 with the Playstation Network and now the PSP can connect via external Internet to the PS3 (by using your Playstation Network login and password) -and even remote power on the PS3 (when configured in the PS3 menu)!

I haven't been able to find a way to activate remote play unless the PS3 is in the 'remote connect' mode (under the networking menu) or powered down- if I leave it at the main menu or in a game demo it is inaccessible via PSP.

Sony included the Folding@Home program in the system- which is much like the seti@home project but this uses CPU cycles to analyze protein folding instead of looking for ET signals.  Due to the PS3s cell CPU configuration I have heard it can crunch numbers about 20x faster than a standard (single core) computer.

One good thing Sony has done is allow the user to copy media to the PS3 by simply hitting the triangle and selecting 'Copy'.  This works for videos, pictures and music on local media or on network drives.  On the xBox 360 the ONLY way to get MP3s to the system was to rip them from the original CDs.  The PS3 also has a CD rip option (up to 320kbps MP3 format)- and it also allows one to copy them from the PS3 to an external HD! (folder copies are also an option).

Sony has a basic online store and online friends similar to other game systems (i.e. xBox Live).  The online store has some pros and cons when compared to competitors offerings:


  • Easy menu system, grouped by games, movies, etc.
  • Online purchase for games- and some older PSX games include both PS3 and PSP versions in the same download.
  • Game Demo downloads
  • Option to 'download in background' or 'download and play' for videos
  • Able to download PSP demo games


  • Game demo downloads must be installed before playing (If I want to download it, the PS3 should automatically install and have it ready for me when I want to play- installs can take 2-3 minutes for larger games)
  • No movie downloads

Once someone figures out a good hack to play homebrew games on the PS3 it will be an awesome device; until then I will be happy with playing God of War (PS2), watching DVDs and buying an occasional used PS3 game on the clearance rack at GameStop!


I think I want a PS3...

I helped Diana move this weekend; it wasn't as bad as it has been in the past- I guess she is getting better at moving! :o)

She moved to a neighborhood where she already knows a few people; one of them is Todd.  We stopped over at Todd's and he let me try out his PS3- I am pretty sure I am getting one now! (as soon as my bonus check comes in).

I am pretty set on wanting an original 60GB model- the one that was released at $599 about a year ago.  It has the 'emotion chip' for hardware PS2 compatibility (the newer 80GB only has software compatibility- and the 40GB will not play PS2 games!), four USB ports and a memory card reader (the 40GB has 2 ports and no reader).  I also suspect that the 1st gen PS3s will be the easiest to hack if a mod chip comes out... :o)

Gamestop sells a refurbished PS3 60GB for $439 but no one has them in stock!  I can purchase online, but I am very impatient and would rather have one in-hand in case it is defective and needs to be returned.

I have already purchased my first PS3 game: Untold Legends - Dark Kingdoms (for $10 from a clearance bin at Fry's)

I have also been playing Patapon foP the PSP; a very addictive rhythm-based game that lets you guide little characters across a landscape by beating on drums (associated with the PSP keys).  Very good, but very difficult once I got to the 'crossing the desert' stage...  God of War for PSP is due out Wednesday.

I also setup a pownce page...


My Birthday

Wednesday was my Birthday and it was pretty good.  (I turned 39)

Diana and I had dinner at Little Azios- It has been a long time since I was last there.  We all had chocolate cheese cake from Copelands for desert- one of my weaknesses. It was good to get together with the girls for a bit... 

Diana and Tracy picked out some great presents for me:

The Archos is pretty friggin' awesome- I can throw just about any video on it and it will play (especially since I spent another $20 for the MPEG/AC3 codecs).  I picked up a series 4 DVR cradle for it but I am very unimpressed with their implementation of this accessory (I am using it as a USB charging cradle at the moment).  Archos did a great job on the player and a shitty-ass job on the DVR!

For myself, I returned the Mylo 2 on Tuesday and picked up a Garmin Nuvi 380 from BestBuy (I must do a write-up on this- it is an awesome item) as it was a deal I couldn't pass up:  $599 marked down to $359, and an additional 10% off for being an open box buy (so  $323.10!).  It has a 1 year subscription to MSN direct for traffic, weather, movie info and gas prices.  It plays MP3s, audible books, has Bluetooth (for phone connectivity) and an integrated FM transmitter (for transmitting music, GPS directions and phone calls through the car radio).

Additionally I picked up a HD DVD drive for my xBox 360- It was $50 on closeout at BestBuy and I had $25 in 'reward zones' coupons- so it was $25 + $1.20 in taxes.  It included a copy of King Kong HD and I am eligible for another 5 free HD DVD movies by mail (if they ever ship- I am still waiting on the 5 from my HD-A3 purchase!)