I still have a hard time figuring out what's the benefit of a NAS boxes like these. Be it 1-2-3 or 4 drives inside enclosure.
In local market you have to pay roughly 80$ for 1-drive NAS. If you go to 2-3-4-bay systems, price goes up more than simple 2x80/3x80/4x80$ so you end up with 500$ price for 4 drive NAS (Promise NS4300N).
If I take a Sempron LE-1200, 780G MBO, 2GB of RAM, case, PSU and DVD drive - I end up with 200$ price (no screen or inputs, as it would be a remote-controled server anyway). For extra 300$ I can even buy a MS Home Server (230$) to make it a real nice home/office server and not just simple linux-based "NAS" (file server), and I still have ~70$ to spare which I could invest in better CPU or more RAM, or more storage.. whichever I need more. Or I could make it a HTPC with storage array built in, depending what is needed more.
So what's the point again? It's certainly not low price in any configuration, and features are always inferior to the full-blown server/PC. And don't mention ease of use, you still have to be an IT admin or advanced user to go through all those web-based management options in most NAS boxes.
Maybe it's power consumption?
Let's see, for above described PC/server system with no HDDs, idle power is roughly 40W, and it will be mostly idle anyway as HDD/ethernet transfers don't task CPU too much and they don't occur all the time anyway. It's kinda hard to find power consumption data for NAS, but found this line for above mentioned Promise NAS:
Power consumption 78W typical (with four 250GB drives)
(doesn't say if that's peak or idle, or average). So let's say HDD is 12W peak for 250GB models, 2x12W=48W. So NAS itself spends 30W power, and idle PC (780G+LE1200) is 40W. 10W for extra functionality or half the price seems resonable to me, specialy since same office/home probably has several PCs which don't exactly save energy on every step (having HD4870 in one PC will waste you 4-5x more power in idle than this server box).
So again - what's the point? It's not features, it's not easy of use, it's not price, it's not power consumption. So OK, compact size perhaps? Let's compare a midi-tower which has space for 6 drives (amount even most microATX 780G MBOs support easily) vs NAS for 4 drives. Sure, midi tower is much larger, but is it that big to be an issue in either home or office enviroment? I doubt it, especialy since it houses 50% more drives, and if it will double-up as a server or HTPC, thus combining two devices in one, it's a clear winner (or tie at least).
And now I'm left without any points to defend NAS boxes. Soooo... I'd like some help from anyone else to point me in the right direction regarding this issue. And I'd sure like next round of NAS reviews include a PC as a direct competitor as well. And test them all extensively in all of these categories: size, speed, features, power consumption, ease of use, price/storage size, price/performance and so on.
Thanks for reading