Promise SmartStor DS4600 review
It’s also worth remembering that in this mode (as with RAID 1) only half of the total capacity of the installed drives is available, albeit it’s all mirrored, giving your data excellent resilience against hardware failure.
For added protection, when configuring your system you can also designate one of the four bays as a spare drive: this drive won’t be used to build the original RAID array, but if one of the other disks subsequently fails (in any mode except RAID 0), the SmartStor can automatically dismount the wayward device and rebuild the array using the spare. A bank of 11 multicoloured lights at the front makes it easy to check the unit’s status at a glance.
Otherwise, the SmartStor DS4600 can be managed via the basic SmartNavi software suite, which can set up your RAID array in a few clicks and exposes a few system controls, such as controlling the fan and the audible failure warning. If you leave it running all the time it can also email you error notifications and perform backups, supporting both scheduled tasks and on-demand backups instigated by pressing the button on the front of the unit. It’s a little intrusive though, offering no way to disable the big ugly splash screen that comes up every time you boot your system, nor the icon in the system tray.
An additional irritation is the fact that the software requires the device to be connected by USB, even though eSATA is clearly the more desirable option – the DS4600 even comes with a bracket you can fit into a desktop case to turn one of your motherboard’s internal SATA ports into a rear-facing eSATA socket.
Finally, there’s no escaping the fact that the all-plastic casing looks and feels a little cheap. Its plastic drive trays are awkward too – you have to screw one to each hard disk before you can insert it – not to mention flimsy. These may be superficial complaints – hopefully you won’t need to change the drives for a long time after initial setup – but they make it harder to feel good about the premium price.
Ultimately, the SmartStor DS4600 doesn’t dazzle. Its performance is good, but not strikingly better than any other eSATA-connected device, and without a network connection it can’t offer much more in the way of features than a regular – much cheaper – external drive.
However, if you need a set-and-forget RAID device, this will certainly do the job with a minimum of fuss. For small businesses or home offices that generate high volumes of mission critical data, it’s a sensible investment in peace of mind.