Proware's DN-500A-CM isn't a NAS device for the feint-hearted. It looks and feels like a home-made attempt at network-attached storage construction wise, and it is also difficult to configure and maintain. If you are up to the configuration challenge, this device offers expandable storage options and has fast throughput speeds, as well as comprehensive RAID configurations and good media server features.
The DN-500A-CM NAS device is nothing exciting design wise with its boxy shape and grey colour scheme. On the front, it has status LEDs and an LCD screen to display network and RAID information. It also has five lockable and hot-swappable drive bays for 3.5in SATA II hard drives. Above the drive bays, a SATA II CD/DVD burner can also be installed and used to backup data, though it requires you to tinker with the internal components.
The back panel features connections suited more to a desktop PC than a NAS device — including D-Sub, serial, and PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, as well as 3.5mm headphone, microphone and line in jacks; an eSATA port allows you to attach external hard drives. There are also two available Gigabit Ethernet ports, which support both failover and load balancing.
Powered by an Intel Celeron 420 1.6GHz CPU, the DN-500A-CM NAS device doesn't have quite the same grunt as the Intel Core 2 Duo CPU found in the QNAP TS-809 Pro Turbo NAS but it is adequate for this 5-bay storage device. Two DIMM slots support between 1GB and 4GB of DDR2 RAM. The CPU fan is very audible, and perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the Proware DN-500A-CM's build quality.
The initial setup of the DN-500A-CM NAS device can be very time consuming to work out, as well as confusing and complicated to understand. Even though its DHCP server is automatically disabled by default, our review unit assigned itself an IP address and separate gateway from the router, requiring us to reconfigure the rest of the network to suit. We also had to map the network drive manually as well, further evidence that this NAS device isn't easy to configure.
As found in other NAS devices we've tested Linksys by Cisco Media Hub NMH-405 Proware uses a Flash-based Web interface, but again this isn't easy to use. Large icons and a tab system make the interface easy to navigate but the individual NAS functions are scattered somewhat illogically within these tabs. Using Flash slows the interface as well, so we would have preferred a similar system built on HTML or AJAX.
The DN-500A-CM NAS device supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD drive configurations, but we performed all our tests using RAID 0. It has Web, FTP and DHCP servers. Furthermore, you can configure an iTunes, DLNA or photo server with a customised share location. This is a positive feature of the DN-500A-CM considering most NAS devices have a pre-configured source that can't be changed. It also has print server capabilities and a BitTorrent download interface although there are no scheduling options.
Individual users and user groups can be configured with quotas and specific share privileges. Unfortunately, each share volume has to be individually configured to work with Samba, NFS, AppleTalk and RSync file transfer protocols.
In the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit High Definition playback tests, the DN-500A-CM NAS device averaged a read speed of 56.5 megabytes per second (MBps) and the device was able to capably play back and record 720p video files simultaneously at a rate of 68MBps. Directory copy tasks, which are typically slower than other tests because they use more files, slowed to 11.8MBps for writing data and 28.2MBps for reading data.
We transferred 20GB worth of files sized at 3-4 gigabytes per second each between the ProWare DN-500A-CM NAS and a test PC running an Intel Core i7 965 and a Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD3000GLFS) hard drive. In this test, the DN-500A-C wrote at 43.5MBps, read at 40.4MBps, and performed a simultaneous read/write test at 19.4MBps.
A more intensive benchmark — transferring 3GB of individual 1MB files — was still reasonably fast too. It wrote at 33.3MBps, read at 31.6MBps and performed a read/write simultaneous task at 16.7MBps. These speeds aren't the fastest for a NAS device but are definitely competent for a 5-bay NAS device.
We certainly can't recommend the Proware DN-500A-CM to technical novices. It is confusing to setup and use, though the resulting performance is noteworthy. If you're looking for something to tinker with and expand, this NAS device is a reasonable choice.