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Pros: Sips power through a straw
Powerful graphics card handles MKV, MP4 and BluRay with ease
GigE streams local content quickly and easily
Integrated Bluetooth easily enables keyboards, mice and remotes
Cons: Not 100% fanless (but awfully quiet!!)
Lacks SPDIF; only delivers analog audio through headphone jack
USB 3.0 ports means some USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices need not apply....
Other Thoughts: I have a pair of book-sized HTPCs, one on an AMD E450 and one on Cubox i-series. The AMD HTPC runs Windows and handles video well, but takes too much (Windows 7) maintenance. The Cubox handles most video well, but was extremely difficult to customize. I wanted an HTPC that could run a simplified OS, didn't require a ton of work to maintain and could handle any variety of MKV, MP4 and streaming web content.
I am extremely pleased at the performance and versatility of the ASUS Chromebox. I installed OpenELEC in less than 5 minutes, and had XBMC indexing the content on my NAS almost immediately. It easily plays 1080 MKV from my NAS via GigE with no issues. YouTube and other streaming content plays smoothly.
It was nice to see the WiFi and Bluetooth worked out of the box, both on ChromeOS (before I flashed it) and on OpenELEC. It make setting up the HTPC in my living room a breeze, so I can use my Harmony remote, in conjunction with an older Microsoft eHome IR receiver. You can buy a Rosewill remote on Newegg for little or no cost, and put together an incredible HTPC setup.
The USB 3.0 ports support many USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices, but I was unable to get an old set of USB 1.1 gaming pads to work, as well as a USB 2.0 home automation interface (to control a light system). Most recent USB peripherals should work, but you'll want a backup plan. Similarly, if you only have SPDIF optical for your stereo receiver, you'll need a workaround there. The ASUS Chromebox lacks SPDIF, so you'll need to rely on HDMI for audio. I bought an HDMI to SPDIF audio converter, so I will see how that works shortly.
The unit is not fanless, but I could only drive enough to spin up the fan while playing a 1080 movie, and then it come on intermittently over the course of the movie. If I sat more than 3ft from the Chromebox, I could not hear the fan at all.
I intend to replace all of my HTPCs with Chromebox as my budget allows!
Pros: NAS pulls SMART data successfully from drives
Drive speed moves from power-saving to performance with ease
Drives perform very quietly
Drive temperatures stay low and uniform
Cons: Different firmware (NASware 2.0) is limited to getting drives with the "right ship date" or upgrading yourself.
Other Thoughts: I purchased six 3TB WD REDs for a ReadyNAS Pro 6 in August 2013. I performed a factory reset on the NAS to properly format the drives and prep them for use. I had no issues with this process and was ready to rock. I opted to use all six drives in RAID-5, not RAID-6, to get 13.4TB usable, 10.8TB. This is because my NAS holds music, movies and TV shows, all of which can be (easily) downloaded again from the internet. I have a small 150GB share that I backup to the cloud separately, so I have little fear of losing important content.
The WD REDs have performed very well since installation. I pull SMART data from them on an hourly basis, and map the stats with MRTG. In the last six months, I have seen little variation between drives, and performance has been excellent. I run PLEX Media Server on the ReadyNAS and regularly transcode video to other computers on the LAN and to our iPad and Android phone over the internet. My only complaint was the difficulty with upgrade two drives to NASware 2.0 firmware (which is standard on the WBD 4TB RED). WD's forums have a few tips and tricks to get it done. I was unable to do the upgrade with WD's supplied tools, but I was able to do so with third-party software.
Pros: Dock is well-constructed
Simple to use
eSATA ports recognized at 3Gb/s in BIOS
Cons: None worth mentioning
Other Thoughts: I purchased two eSATA docks for my home PCs. One PC uses an extension cable from two internal SATA ports, converting to eSATA in a slot cover; the other PC uses a two-port eSATA PCIe card. I can drop drives into the dock and have them recognized in the OS with no issue. Performance is more than adequate, as I use the docks to duplicate drives with tools like Partition Magic and CloneZilla. I've recommended these to friends and coworkers and have been very satisfied.READ FULL REVIEW
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