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Written by Bruce Normann   
Monday, 28 November 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage Device
Closer Look: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE
Insider Details: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE
IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Features
IOCELL NDAS Software Features
IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Specifications
NAS Testing Methodology
Basic-Disk Test Results
Non-Traditional NAS Test Results
NAS Server Final Thoughts
IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Conclusion

Insider Details: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE

The NetDISK 351UNE comes apart easily, by removing two screws on the bottom, and then separating the two halves of the unit. They're not quite equal halves, as the side shown on the left below is more of a cover and the one on the right is more of an enclosure. Despite the molded plastic construction, it all fits together cleanly, with no gaps or exposed flashing. The case has a lot of open area around the edges, and I'm surprised the designers didn't go for something a bit smaller in overall size.

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_Two_Halves.jpg

The construction inside is very straightforward and robust. It's almost as if the 351UNE was designed to be a portable drive, instead of a transportable device.

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_Interior_01.jpg

The metal drive tray is quite solid, and constructed of carbon steel. There were no sharp edges or other manufacturing defects that you sometimes see with products on the lower end of the price range. It's always nice when you can finish an entire review without using any adhesive bandages.

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_Drive_Tray.jpg

Taking a closer look at the system board, it doesn't look like much, but each function is managed by a dedicated Application Specific IC (ASIC). I'll detail them in the very next section, but here's how they line up. The key IC on the board is the NDAS disk controller, sourced from the originator of NDAS technology, Ximeta. It's also the largest chip, second from the left, sandwiched between the Ethernet transceiver on the left, and the SATA bridge that supports the eSATA port. The fourth large chip from the left is the USB to SATA bridge device that supports the USB 2.0 port, the interface of last resort. Most of the other visible components are power management ICs or discrete passives. There's actually a lot of Silicon here on this small PC board, which is an indicator of the enhanced functionality this unit offers over a typical external storage box. OTOH, it's less than you would typically see in a NAS server, which also makes sense, given the lightweight nature of the LPX protocol that Ximeta pioneered. Significantly absent is any form of CPU, which IOCELL says is a good thing. Testing is where Benchmark Reviews will validate that claim.

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_Main_Board.jpg

Now, let's look at each of the four major ICs in detail. The first one is a USB/SAT to SATA bridge, sourced from 'initio'. It's not a name I'm familiar with, but they've been around Silicon Valley since 1994, so they must be doing something right. The INIC-1611 is capable of transferring data at 60MB/s on the USB side, and 150MB/s on the SATA side. This is equivalent to SATA I performance specifications, although the chip will support both SATA II and eSATA interfaces. The largest and most interesting chip on the board is the Ximeta NDAS3012, which houses all the proprietary NDAS functionality that makes the NetDISK 351UNE fairly unique in the marketplace. All of the distinctive features that we've discussed in the first several sections of this review are due to the code that runs on this IC. It's a tight, fast, direct link between Ethernet and SATA that you just won't find any place else. It doesn't do everything; there are a couple of kitchen-sink items that still need taking care of, which is why there are four major chips on the board, instead of two.

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_Initio_Ximeta_ICs.jpg

JMicron supplies their JM20330 SATA bridge IC that supports eSATA. Just like the USB connection, this chip only supports a data transfer rate of 150MB/s, which is SATA I class performance. While this was not an issue for dog-slow USB 2.0, eSATA is capable of so much more throughput. I suspect it's not going to a huge success to use this NetDISK 351UNE as a high-performance eSATA drive, with a killer HDD loaded inside. In fact, IOCELL recommends "Green" HDDs anyways, due to the lower current draw for their low-speed spindle motors. ("High performance hard disks, especially ones which have high starting current consumption of over 2.5 Amp, are not recommended.") The last chip to look at is a Gigabit Ethernet Transceiver sourced from LSI. It's a bit ironic that LSI, which is such an iconic brand in storage controller technology, is supplying just an Ethernet controller here. The reality is that LSI's storage products are aimed at a completely different market (enterprise solutions), and if they also happen to make a decent GbE transceiver for a good price, why not use it?

IOCELL_Networks_NetDISK_351UNE_NDAS_JM20330_LSIET1011C2_ICs.jpg

To measure isolated NAS power consumption, Benchmark Reviews uses the Kill-A-Watt EZ (model P4460) power meter made by P3 International. Obviously, power consumption is going to depend heavily on the type of drive that's installed. In idle standby mode the IOCELL NetDISK 351 UNE consumed just 6 watts of electricity. During heavy file transfer operations, it drew between 16 and 17 watts. Read and write consumption was similar, I never saw a consistent difference between the two.

We've seen the ins and outs of the hardware; now let's take a detailed look through the list of features and the included software that you get with the NetDISK NDAS product line. It's a much shorter list than you're used to seeing in our NAS reviews, but there are a few unexpected tricks that these units can do. You don't want to be fooled into thinking it's just a box and a drive.



 

Comments 

 
# RE: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage DeviceMack 2011-12-01 20:38
Pretty cool device. Its good to see some creativity out there.
Thanks for the review!
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# AgreedBruce 2011-12-02 07:33
Yeah, I was sorta caught off-guard by this product. I wasn't really expecting something this unique and this good. There's so many me-too products out there, and it can be tough to spot the stand-outs.
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# RE: IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage DeviceAthlonite 2011-12-05 23:20
Me likes I've been looking at getting a small NAS to plonk on the GB switch but I seriously wasn't interested paying 2~300 bucks for the ability.... This product is just what the disk space shortage ordered
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# Look for the bargains.....Bruce 2011-12-07 04:59
"The models with 1TB and 2T drives preinstalled are better bargains now that the Thailand flooding has driven the price of bare HDDs up through the roof."
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# Where have you been all my life.Mergatroid 2011-12-06 17:54
Wow, I sure could have used this a few months ago. I have a NAS with a single drive, not very good but serviceable for file streaming and storage. I have a dual drive NAS in RAID 1 backing up the first NAS, and backing up my system backup drive. I didn't really need a RAID1 for backing up my NAS and system backup, but it added redundancy as you mentioned. One of these network drives (or two) would have been just what I was looking for. I hope they're still around when I need more storage. I really like the transfer rate and the universal nature of the added ports (USB and eSATA). I think this is an amazing value at the price mentioned. Nice review too. Good breakdown on what the drive does and what it doesn't do.
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# It's a great alternative...Bruce 2011-12-06 20:41
It's a great alternative to some of the other solutions out there. There's no doubt that it's the most cost-effective choice for several usage scenarios, where it performs as well as devices that are 5x the cost.
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