Promise's SmartStor DS4600 is a direct-attached storage (DAS) enclosure that can house up to four hard drives and provide up to 8TB of storage. It's suitable for a direct connection to servers or workstations, it supports RAID arrays, and its design allows you to hot-swap the hard drives. Its management interface and build quality leave something to be desired, however.
The Promise SmartStor DS4600 DAS device can be connected to a PC or server through the single eSATA, USB 2.0 or FireWire 400 ports or one of the two FireWire 800 ports. It has the same physical design as the Promise SmartStor NS4600 NAS device. Four drive bays sit behind a lockable front panel. Instead of caddies, the SmartStor DS4600 uses plastic rails which surround the drive in order to prevent vibration during operation. We didn't notice any vibrations, but the rails' lack of rigidity makes it installing drives painful.
Promise includes its SmartNAVI software to manage the SmartStor DS4600 DAS device, and it's available in Mac and PC versions. Using SmartNAVI, you can configure RAID volumes, monitor hard drive health and upgrade firmware. Media Centre and Photo Album functions are also available, but these are of questionable usefulness without the ability to serve media over a network.
SmartNAVI provides backup and restore features for any of the drives on the connected computer. Backup is as simple as dragging and dropping the desired folder onto SmartNAVI.
The four hard drives can be configured in a RAID array; there is support for RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10. However, even if all four drives are inserted, the SmartStor DS4600 external hard drive only allows you to treat them as one volume. This means you can't configure the four drives in two or more separate volumes or in multiple RAID arrays.
Holding down device's one-touch backup button will automatically configure a RAID array when new hard drives are installed. If there are two drives, it will configure a RAID 1 array; for three or four drives it will use a RAID 5 configuration. It formats the array using the NTFS file system; Mac users will have to format the volume to HFS+ after the process is completed.
The SmartStor DS4600 will automatically detect when it has been disconnected from a computer and stop the hard drives from spinning.
We tested the SmartStor DS4600 with two 1.5TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 hard drives installed in a RAID 0 configuration. Our tests involved transferring files between it and a PC equipped with a [[Artnid:257954|300GB Western Digital VelociRaptor hard drive|Western Digital Velociraptor (WD3000GLFS) internal hard drive. Over USB 2.0, it performed slowly. In our large file test — transferring 20GB of 3 to 4GB files — the SmartStor DS4600 had a write speed of 26.4 megabytes per second, a read speed of 27.9MBps and a read/write speed of 11.7MBps. When transferring 3GB of 1MB files, it had read and write speeds of 25MBps, and performed a simultaneous read/write operation at a rate of 10.2MBps.
Connected over eSATA, the SmartStor DS4600 improved significantly. In the large file test, it had identical read and write speeds of 78.2MBps, as well as a simultaneous read/write speed of 35.1MBps. Small file operations were somewhat slower; the external hard drive wrote 3GB of 1MB files at a rate of 50.8MBps, read the same data at 68.2MBps and performed a simultaneous read/write operation at a rate of 34.5MBps.
Overall, the SmartStor DS4600 is slightly faster than LaCie's 4Big Quadra but fails to match the My Book Studio Edition II from Western Digital. For data storage, the SmartStor DS4600 suffice, but high-performance data processing tasks would benefit from a faster hard drive.
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