HomeTechTerraMaster F4-424 Review | PCMag

TerraMaster F4-424 Review | PCMag

Designed for home-office and small-business use, the TerraMaster F4-424 ($499.99) is a four-bay network attached storage (NAS) device that offers a generous assortment of I/O ports, including a pair of multi-gig LAN ports. The F4-424 also offers an HDMI video output and two high-speed USB ports. If you’re running a multi-gig network, this NAS will deliver speedy performance and do it quietly, even though its operating system could use a few more apps for businesses whose storage needs would benefit from additional customization.

Design: Fast and Easy Drive Hot-Swapping

With the F4-424, TerraMaster has abandoned its long-used silver aluminum alloy enclosure and instead switched to a black plastic enclosure, which measures 9.0 by 7.0 by 6.0 inches (HWD). As with the F2-212, a simpler two-bay NAS for home use, the F4-424 sports perforated TerraMaster badges on the left and right side panels for increased airflow. The four front-loading drive bays use tool-free drive sleds designed for fast and easy hot-swapping, while the right side panel slides off, making it easy to install M.2 SSD modules for caching. This NAS supports 2.5- and 3.5-inch SATA hard disk drives (HDD) as well as 2.5-inch SATA solid-state drives (SSD).

To the right of the drive bays are activity indicators for each drive and a power LED. Around back are two 2.5GbE LAN ports, a 10Gbps USB-C port, a 10Gbps USB 3.2 (Type-A) port, an HDMI 2.1 video output, the power jack, and the power switch. The F4-424 can achieve LAN connectivity speeds of up to 5Gbps using link aggregation.

The rear I/O of the TerraMaster F4-424 NAS

(Credit: TerraMaster)

Under the hood are an Intel N95 quad-core CPU, 8GB of DDR5 RAM (expandable to 32GB), and a single 120mm fan to keep everything cool. The F4-424 supports 4K hardware transcoding and can handle up to 88TB of raw storage using four 22TB drives. It supports configurations using RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10, Single, JBOD, and TRAID (TerraMaster’s hybrid RAID configuration). Btrfs and EXT4 file systems are also supported.

You can set up and manage the F4-424 using the same web-based TOS operating system as previous TerraMaster NAS devices. You can also manage it using the TNAS mobile app, but the app doesn’t offer many of the advanced settings that you get with the web console.

A screenshot of the TOS main screen of the TerraMaster F4-424 NAS

(Credit: TerraMaster)

The web console’s desktop comes populated with tiles for File Manager, App Center, Control Panel, Backup, Remote Access, Help, Technical Support, and Security Advisor apps. Use the File Manager to access public and private folders, upload and download data, and manage background tasks. The App Center is where you go to browse and download TerraMaster and third-party apps that let you use the NAS as a multimedia server, a cloud server, a photo organizer, a video-camera surveillance center, and more. As you download more apps from the App Center, they each get their own tile on the desktop. The catalog currently has 58 apps, which is minuscule compared with the more than 270 app choices that you get with the Asustor Flashstor FS6706T.

A screenshot of the TOS apps screen of the TerraMaster F4-424 NAS

(Credit: TerraMaster)

When you tap the Backup tile, it launches a screen where you can create automatic backup schedules, configure Time Machine and RSync backup settings, install the Snapshot disaster recovery tool (which requires you to use the Btrfs format), and configure external USB drive backup settings. The Control Panel tile allows you to add users, create user groups, assign file and folder permissions, monitor drive health, and configure security settings, while the Security Advisor tile opens a screen where you can see the results of your latest security scan and determine which items are considered security risks that require your attention. Lastly, use the Remote Access tile to configure settings that let you easily connect to the NAS over the internet.

Testing the F4-424: Speedy File Throughput

Configuring the F4-424 for first use was easy. I installed four Seagate Ironwolf 10TB drives and connected the device to a 2.5GbE switch. Using a desktop PC that was also connected to the switch, I downloaded the TNAS utility, which automatically searched for and found the NAS. I tapped Start and selected Default as my initialization method, which configures the NAS with TRAID. This yielded 30TB of available storage, but you can also choose Custom to apply one of the other above-mentioned RAID types.

A screenshot of the TOS control panel of the TerraMaster F4-424 NAS

(Credit: TerraMaster)

The utility then installed the TOS software, and after 10 minutes, the NAS restarted. I logged back in using the default name and password and was immediately prompted to create a “superuser” name and password. After verifying my email and adjusting my time zone, the installation was complete. The F4-424 needed around 18 hours to complete the drive synchronization process before it was ready for testing.

To test a NAS device’s file transfer performance, we record its read and write times by moving a 4.9GB folder containing a mix of music, video, photo, and office document files between the NAS and a desktop PC. This is the first multi-gig four-bay NAS that we’ve tested using our updated testbed, which includes a QNAP 2.5GbE switch and a desktop PC with a 10GbE LAN port. As a result, the F4-424’s throughput scores were much higher than what we’re used to seeing from other multi-bay drives that were tested using our previous 1GbE LAN connection. The Asustor FS6706T, which uses M.2 SSD storage, is the only other NAS device we’ve tested with our new equipment, and we’ve posted those scores below for comparison. We also ran a second batch of tests on the F4-424 using a 1GbE switch to see how it stacked up against the Asustor FS6706T and Synology DiskStation DS923+ 1GbE scores.

On the multi-gig test, the F4-424 delivered a write score of 178MBps and a read score of 280MBps, compared with the Asustor FS6706T’s scores of 306MBps (write) and 288MBps (read). On the 1GbE test, the F4-424 managed 83GBps on the write test, while the Synology DS923+ delivered 89MBps and the Asustor FS6706T delivered 116MBps. The F4-424 scored 116MBps on the read test, beating the Synology DS923+ (89MBps) and matching the Asustor FS6706T.

In regards to noise output, the F4-424 is relatively quiet for a NAS that uses hard drives for storage. It’s obviously not as quiet as the solid-state Asustor Flashstor FS6706T, however, which has no spinning platters to make noise.

Verdict: A Big, Fast NAS That’s Light on Software

If your small business requires a multi-bay NAS that will function as a backup server, a media server, a mail server, or a cloud server, give the TerraMaster F4-424 a look. It is loaded with high-speed LAN and USB ports and delivers very fast performance when using those connections. Installing the NAS is easy thanks to its tool-free enclosure and user-friendly web console, but we would like to see TerraMaster provide a more expansive catalog of apps. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for the fastest-performing NAS, the similarly priced Asustor Flashstor FS6706T is the way to go, but you’ll spend significantly more for the M.2 SSD modules that it uses for storage instead of traditional hard drives.

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