I would like to thank Akasa Europe
for providing the review sample.
The Akasa Group of companies was founded in 1997 with offices in Taipei and London. Their management team is experienced in Electronic and Electro-mechanical product development. The core business is based around Heatsink design, manufacture and distribution to the PC manufacturing sector. The company also supplies the Distribution channel with PC thermal solutions. Their market leading portfolio of Retail based PC products aimed at the Custom PC market has been supplemented with a successful range of PC peripherals marketed into the mainstream PC channel.
The Akasa integral LAN series is available in 3 different colors:
- Interface cables for LAN RJ45 and USB 2.0
- Supports any 3.5" PATA HDD up to 400GB
- Hi-speed transfer
- No TCP/IP settings required
- Data can be secured with software key access
- Multiple unit aggregation up to 8-LAN disks
- RAID-0 and RAID-1 for backup
- Hot swappable on USB and network
- Sleek aluminum body enhances heat dissipation
- Blue LED power and access indicator
- OS Support Win 98SE/ME/2000/XP, Mac OS 8.6 and above
Akasa was kind enough to ship us the black and blue variants.
Package & Contents
The front of the package clearly shows the Akasa Integral! enclosure. The back lists all the features in five different languages on a black background.
Inside the colored box, you will find a plain white card board box with all the contents. There is the enclosure in the color depicted on the package, a very thick manual, a CD and flyer and the cables for all the possible ways of connecting the unit.
The afore mentioned manual, flyer and CD. The flyer notes the connection for the LED, in case you disconnect it. The manual covers the installation of the device in all the needed languages with a lot of pictures, while the CD includes the software to run the device with the Ethernet port. Overall a very complete support package.
The power supply is inside a little cardboard box. It is a universal 100-240V power supply which supplies 2A to the hard drive enclosure. There is a crooked Akasa sticker on there. Beneath the sticker the name "CS Power Supply" appears.
A Closer Look & Installation
A Closer Look
These are the two colors supplied by Akasa. There is also a silver variant for the buyer to chose from. The plastic standoff is quite solid and does the job, but it does simply look cheap with the high quality aluminum enclosure being used.
The front of the enclosure sports a large "Integral" logo with the little word "LAN" next to it, denoting the variant of the case. The entire logo turns blue when the power is turned on and turns red while the hard drive is accessed. The back has the USB, Ethernet and power plug. The power switch is located all the way to the right, making it fairly easy to reach.
Installing a hard drive is quite straight forward, but a screwdriver is needed. Two screws are removed, the back of the case pulled out and the hard drive screwed into place. Then the entire part is slid back into the case. This system may not be the easiest and quickest installation we have seen, but it holds the drive perfectly safe in place.
Before installing the drive, or in case you actually have the software CD lying around - make note of the ID and Key, as you will need it when using the Ethernet connection to gain read and write access to the drive.
The CD actually just opens an Internet explorer, or in my case a Firefox window where the language can be chosen. Upon picking the language of your choice you are presented with manuals for the different Integral! hard drive enclosures. The LAN variant also has a link to the software.
I opened up the CD and went straight into the folder of the Integral! P2 LAN case. There I had the option of choosing one of two installers. The first I chose, is the pure XiMeta installer. Turns out the chip used in the enclosure is the XiMeta NDAS 2011 chip.
The chip has the following features:
- Networks connection
- Supports 10/100 MBit/s
- Share the storage in the network
- Supports PC and digital electronics(non PC)
- Highest performance(over 10 MByte/sec)
- Use as local disk drive
- No need to setup IP address or network configuration
- Safe from Internet hacking
After the installer was finished, the above screen appeared. This is the reason you need the afore mentioned ID and Key to the drive.
After installing the first installer, I tried out the second one as well. This time the installer finished without any notifications. After a reboot, I was given the option to register a drive with the software.
The wizard to add a new drive is quite straight forward. After entering a desired name for the hard drive, the user is prompted to enter the ID and the Key found on the drive or the corresponding CD. The ID is used to acquire read access, while the key is needed to gain writing rights.
Once the information is entered, the software looks for the enclosure on the network and automatically maps a drive on the PC. So the drive appears as a normal hard drive to the end user in Windows. Entering the ID and key is only required once, after that the enclosure is registered in Windows and any operation like changing RAID or access to it, can be performed.
A Seagate 7200.7 8MB cache 7200RPM drive was used for our performance tests.
The USB interface is quite constant up to around 140GB on this hard drive with around 32MB/s. After that the transfer dips and stays just above 30MB/s
This image shows how the hard drive behaves when hooked up directly to the IDE channel (blue) compared to the USB speed achieved (red). As you can see, there is a tiny dip toward the end when connected to USB is limited by the slow outer read speed of the Seagate drive. The CPU utilization of 8% is a bit high for such an enclosure.
The ATTO benchmark gives us quite similar results. Write speeds with USB 2.0 are just above 33MB/s while read speed max out at just over 26MB/s.
The transfer speed over the Ethernet connection is a very good and constant 10.6MB/s. The CPU utilization rises to 15% which is quite high, for a simple operation of moving data.
The ATTO benchmark gives us very similar results once again, but read speeds are constantly larger compared to the writing speed. Still this result is quite good.
Two or more enclosures, to a maximum of 8 can be bound together by using the "NDAS Bind Manager" Software. At first, both drives appear as single drives. They can be bound by selecting them and then selecting the type of binding (RAID 0 or RAID 1). To successfully bind drives, they need to be unmounted in windows and then remounted and formatted once bound.
The two enclosures were first bound as RAID 1. This means that all the data available on one drive is mirrored on the other. If one of the two drives fail, the user does not lose the data, as there is still one healthy drive available.
Naturally, the read speed of RAID 1 remains very close to that of a single drive, as there is no extra workload on the RAID array when reading from it.
The ATTO benchmark also shows similar read speeds of just under 10MB/s, but the write speed maxes out at just under 4MB/s. This was to be expected, as all the data needs to be mirrored.
Next, the drives were bound in RAID 0. This should increase read speeds as both drives are written on at the same time and can be read from at the same time. This means that both drives show up as one large drive in Windows. If one fails, all data on both drives is lost.
Here we find something interesting. First selecting a start size of 0.5KB is not possible anymore, the smallest size possible is 1KB. While the RAID array has some great performance, with read speeds climbing fast up to 64KB block size. After that the read speed shows up as a mere 0.3MB/s. The write speeds have not changed much when compared to a single drive. Needless to say, the RAID array reached the same read speeds of a single Ethernet based drive at a block size of 32KB.
Testing the drive with any other tool beside normal HDD benchmark tools is not possible, due to the NDAS software. The drive shows as a normal Windows drive, thus there is no way to use IPs or networked drives to test the bandwidth.
Value and Conclusion
- The Akasa Integral! P2 LAN enclosure can be had for just around 40€, which is quite normal for any high quality, external enclosure with two connection methods.
- Good USB transfer speed
- Great Network transfer speed
- Low CPU usage
- Thinner hard drives will fit
- Hard drive does not move inside enclosure
- Very solid software
- Great build quality
- All cables included
- Stackable design
- No direct heat transfer (space around the hard drive)
- Complex NDAS installation
- Real Autorun application would be better.
The Akasa Integral! P2 LAN enclosure is a very good, solid and fast enclosure. The looks of the enclosure are very sleek and the available colors are a nice addition. The Integral! P2 LAN scores where it counts: it is silent as it does not need to use a fan, has some very fast and solid Ethernet and USB 2.0 speeds. The downside of the enclosure would be a CPU utilization which seems a bit high. USB will tax your system with 8%, while Ethernet will raise that to 15%. The verdict is still a solid "Recommended" award for such a great, good looking and fast enclosure.