I recently replaced an aging QNAP TS-251 network-attached storage system with a new Asustor AS5402T. And while I shouldn’t be surprised that my new NAS is significantly faster, it’s been a long time since I’ve upgraded hardware and noticed as much of an improvement as I’ve seen by jumping from a system with a 2013-era Intel Celeron J1800 chip to one with a Celeron N5105 chip released in 2021.
But now I’m wishing I’d held out a little longer, because NAS systems with even newer, higher-performance Alder Lake-N processors are starting to hit the streets.
We’ve already seen a few Alder Lake-N NAS computers from small companies like AOOSTAR and IceWhale Technology. But now NAS maker Terramaster has introduced three models with 12th-gen Intel Alder Lake-N processors.
The Terramaster F2-424 and F4-424 are 2-bay and 4-bay network attached storage systems with a 15-watt Intel N95 processor featuring 4 cores, 4 threads, support for CPU speeds up to 3.4 GHz, and 1.2 GHz Intel UHD integrated graphics with 16 execution units.
That chip should deliver around 25% faster CPU performance than the N5105 chip in the Asustore AS5402T, and an even higher boost in graphics performance. Both systems ship standard with 8GB of DDR5 memory, but they support up to 32GB of RAM.
Prices start at $380 for the 2-bay F2-424 and $500 for the 4-bay F4-424, but keep in mind that you’ll still need to supply your own hard drives for storage.
And if you need even more performance, the $700 Terramaster F4-424 Pro has a 7-watt Intel Core i3-N300 processor with 8 cores, 8 threads, speeds up to 3.8 GHz, and a 1.25 GHz Intel UHD GPU with 32 execution units. This model ships standard with 32GB of RAM.
Terramaster says the F4-424 Pro is the “most powerful 4-bay NAS in the industry to date,” and while that’s probably not strictly true (a NAS is just a computer, so anyone can build their own with an even more powerful processor), it’s probably one of the highest-performance off-the-shelf models available.
Just keep in mind that while all of these models feature relatively low-power processors, the F4-424 Pro might be a little more power hungry than the others, with expected power consumption of around 33 watts while active, compared with 22 watts for the other models. That matters in a system designed for 24/7 operation, and this model comes with a 90W power supply while the others have 40W power adapters.
In addition to support for up to 4 x 3.5 inch hard drives, each of the new models also has two M.2 2280 slots for PCIe NVMe storage, allowing you to either use an SSD for cache or primary storage.
Networking features for all models include two 2.5 Gbe Ethernet ports, and each model also has an HDMI 2.1 port and two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports.
There are a few reasons I still don’t have buyer’s remorse over my Asustor AS5402T though. First, it has two SODIMM slots for memory while these Terramaster NAS systems have just one. That makes it cheaper and easier to add memory.
Second, the AS5402T has four M.2 slots for PCIe NVMe storage. After deciding that the WD Red hard drives I’d initially planned to use in the NAS were too noisy, I replaced them with a pair of 4TB PCIe NVMe SSDs and now my NAS is whisper-quiet and uses less power. And if I want to add more storage in the future, I can easily add a few more NVMe SSDs without removing the ones that are already installed.
An Alder Lake-N processor is still tempting though.