Length:: 1:23 Mins
The Terra Master TM-F2-NAS (F2) networked attached storage (NAS) device offers a strong hardware environment for adding up to 8TB of storage capacity accessible via a variety of physical and services options. Like other NAS devices, this is not for the technically timid. Those already familiar with NAS devices won't find many surprises. Users who are generally comfortable with the basics of multiple disk (especially RAID) management and common network service/data transfer should also be fine. Those who like their SOHO computing to be totally plug and play (or nearly so) can expect to be frustrated without assistance from a reliable alpha geek (which seems to be common among all NAS products).
-Hardware. The F2 has a self-contained 1.6GHZ processor and 512 MB of RAM.
-Storage capacity: accommodates up to 8 GB total storage (via 2x 3.5" SATA drive bays).
-Abundant network service options: all the usual suspects, plus a few that were new to me (see "Cons" discussion below!)
-Powerful configuration options through a detailed browser-based user interface.
-Large data storage capacity (up to 4 GB redundant and 8 GB non-redundant)
-Multiple connectivity options (ethernet, eSATA and USB 3.0 ports are all available). I have not tested connecting either a USB or eSATA device to the F2.
-"China-centric" defaults (including Shanghai as the default time zone, and a great possibility of content on the Terra Max website appearing in Chinese. I don't have an automatic bias against "made in China", but since these are being marketed in North America, defaults to this region would be better.
-Similarly, the quick start guide, user guide and user interface could benefit from additional work by editors with stronger English language skills. The contents aren't profoundly bad, but are often non-informative due to their awkward usage.
-Even though a more current firmware version was available on the Terra Master website, the only firmware upgrade instructions I found were in Chinese. I'm pretty confident in figuring out computer tasks like this, but would *not* risk attempting something that could brick my system without the assistance of instructions in English that I confidently understood.
-Bumpy integration with Windows: I got there, but had to do some digging (who knew that Samba services had to be enabled for Windows networking integration...not me, until I dug into the user guide).
-Fan sound levels: the F2's fan can be manually set to either low (500-900 rpm), medium (900-1600 rpm), high (1600-2000 rpm) speed or to an automatic "smart mode". At the medium or high speeds (and when the auto places it in this range), fan noise is very noticeable.
None of these are show-stoppers for users already comfortable with the concepts addressed at the the start of this review. Just be aware they could present problems for those with reduced levels of networking, disk management and general SOHO computing kung fu.
I used two WD Red 1TB 3.5" SATAIII hard drives
--specifically designed for the "always on" 24/7 demands of NAS-- as the storage hardware for the F2. I set these up in a RAID 1 (mirrored) configuration, resulting in slightly less than 1 TB of fully redundant storage. The F2 also offers "JBOD" (just a bunch of disks) and RAID 0. These two options do not include any redundancy: lose one drive and lose all your data. Users whose overriding needs are sheer volume or slight gains in performance (and who have another backup strategy) will want to consider the JBOD and RAID 0 choices.
Initial set-up took about 15 minutes as the browser interface walked me through basic configuration options. After that, it took about 2 hours for the F2 to have the disks prepared for RAID 1 service.
The browser-based interface for the F2 is generally very good. Options are deep, and similar ones are managed categorically (some via a tabbed interface, some on their own pages).
I was able to rapidly integrate this into my existing backup software via both Windows file management and FTP options. Windows integration is slightly awkward as the F2 inconsistently displays as both its device name and IP address; I'm continuing to work through understanding this behavior.
Overall, this is a strong NAS device. It would be stronger if it assumed less about users' overall technical expertise (common among all NAS units I've worked with) and with stronger attention to the language needs of North American customers (on the website, in the user guide and --occasionally-- within the user interface options).
Note: this item was provided for review purposes.