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Introduction: This Is Not a NAS
The new WSS NAS series from Thecus contains some very interesting devices, and particularly so at the entry-level price with the unit we’re looking at today. WSS is the abbreviation for Windows Storage Server (in this case it’s 2012 R2), and this provides a huge increase in functionality compared to a standard NAS, as you might imagine.
Need a server? Just add a keyboard, mouse, and monitor
It’s really quite remarkable what Thecus is doing in partnership with Microsoft here in terms of value, as this entry 2-bay unit costs just $350. While this may seem high for a dual-bay NAS, we really aren’t talking about a NAS at all with this - which will be readily apparent to the user upon first powering it up. We are talking about a full-scale server here, replete with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials goodness. Of course a savvy user could easily deploy a small server in a home or office, and there are many advantages to managed solutions beyond the simple NAS appliances. But the advantage of a NAS is just that: it is significantly less complex and accessible for a consumer. The W2000 presents a very interesting option due to one particular aspect of its own accessibility: price. At $350 you are getting a very compact server with internal hardware much more akin to a standard desktop than you might imagine, and it ships installed with Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials.
What is “Storage” Server Essentials?
Ok, so I was a little confused as to the specific difference with the Storage version of the Server OS, unless it was simply a licensing distinction. My research first brought me to this quote from Microsoft:
“Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials is based on Windows Server 2012 R2. In fact, when it comes to functionality, you get key some features that aren’t included in these first two editions.”
After looking through the available documentation it appears as though Storage Server Essentials is, essentially, just Server Essentials with the distinction of being licensed differently. Microsoft TechNet defines it further:
“A computer that runs Windows Storage Server is referred to as a storage appliance. Windows Storage Server is based on the Windows Server operating system, and it is specifically optimized for use with network-attached storage devices. Windows Storage Server offers you a platform to build storage appliances that are customized for your hardware.”
ASUS RT-N56U Wireless Router Review
On deck for review today is the ASUS RT-N56U “Black Diamond” Dual-band Gigabit Wireless-N Router. ASUS has a broad stable of networking equipment including wireless adapters, wireless routers, wired networking gear and even some power line networking gear. Released in late 2010, the RT-N56U is one of the lower cost offerings in ASUS’ Dual Band N series and can be found online for around $99.
ASUS RT-N56U Wireless-N Router Overview
The media review information supplied to us by ASUS claims the ASUS RT-N56U “Black Diamond” offers “Extreme performance in style.” The router’s “Aesthetic design” has a “Sexy and stylish approach with streamlined, meticulously designed and well-rounded appearance, just like diamonds sparkling and twinkling in the dark.” Now I don’t know about you, but if it’s dark, I’m not sure how you see diamond’s twinkling? But I digress; the RT-N56U is a great looking router, with the black cross hatched lattice surface we liked from previous ASUS routers.
Amped Wireless R20000G and UA2000 Introduction
Continuing with our networking adapter and router reviews, today we have a pair of devices on tap from a relative newcomer to the home and office networking field, Amped Wireless. Founded in 2007, they began selling Wi-Fi products in 2010. In those 2 years they’ve already pushed out a wide array of Routers, Range Extenders, Access Points, USB Adapters and Antennas/Boosters. While they don’t have the history of Cisco, Netgear or D-Link, it’s great to see new companies entering the fray as more competition can only benefit the consumer.
Today we’re looking at their flagship High Power Router, the Wireless-N 600mw Gigabit Dual Band R20000G as well as one of their leading USB adapters, the High Power Wireless-N Directional Dual Band UA2000. List price for the router and adapter is $169 and $99 respectively, but the router and adapter can be found online for about $10 less each at Newegg.
Some computer components get all the glory. Your normal lineup of FPS crushing GPU’s, Handbrake dominating CPU’s, and super-fast Memory end up with most of the headlines. Yet behind the scenes, there are some computer components we use that are pivotal in our use and enjoyment of computers and receive very little fanfare. Without networking we wouldn’t have file sharing, LAN parties or even the Internet itself. Without routers and network adapters, we wouldn’t have networking.
ASUS recently sent a whole slew of networking components our way and we’ve decided to take them for a spin and see if they’re worth your hard earned dollars. Our box of ASUS goodies included:
- ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
- ASUS PCE-N10 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
- ASUS PCE-N15 - Wireless N PCI-E Adapter Wireless-N
- ASUS USB-N53 - Dual Band Wireless N Adapter
- ASUS USB-N66 - Dual Band Wireless-N900 Adapter
Without further ado, let’s jump in and tackle each one.
ASUS RT-N66U Gigabit Router – Dual Band Wireless-N900
Routers are one of those components that most of us don’t really think about unless something goes horribly wrong. Most people will buy one they find on a big box store shelf (or even worse, just use their ISP’s router), pull it out of the box, plug a few cables into it and then forget about it in a closet for a few years.