The consumer Network Attached Storage (NAS) market has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. As the amount of digital media generated by the average household increases, the standard 2-bay NAS is no longer sufficient. Today, we are going to take a look at two different 4-bay solutions, the Western Digital My Cloud EX4 and the LenovoEMC ix4-300d. Both of them use ARM-based Marvell SoC platforms and target the home consumer / SOHO markets.

Western Digital has had a lot of experience supplying SMB NAS units with more than 2-bays, but those have been based on Microsoft's Windows Storage Server. On the consumer side, their attempts with a custom Debian-based embedded Linux NAS system were very functional and cost effective. On the other hand, LenovoEMC (Iomega) has a long history of servicing various tiers in the NAS market, ranging from single-bay network attached hard disks to ARM-based SOHO targeted NAS units (the ix-series) and SMB / SME-targeted rackmount / tower form factor units (the px-series).

The two units that we are going to look at today were released a year apart, the LenovoEMC ix4-300d in late 2012, and the WD MyCloud EX4 in late 2013. One would definitely be excused for thinking that the ix4-300d would be based on an older platform and the WD EX4 on a more modern one. The interesting aspect is that the ix4-300d was one of the first NAS units to use Marvell's ARMADA XP platform. WD, on the other hand, has gone with the older Kirkwood platform to keep the costs low. The following table summarizes the features of the two NAS units that we are covering today.

LenovoEMC ix4-300d and Western Digital My Cloud EX4 Specifications
  ix4-300d My Cloud EX4
Processor Marvell MV78230 dual-core ARMv7 SoC @ 1.3 GHz Marvell 88F6262 Kirkwood @ 2 GHz
RAM 512 MB DDR3 512 MB DDR3
Drive Bays 4x 3.5" SATA II (No Hot Swap) 4x 3.5" SATA II (Hot Swappable)
Network Links 2x 1 GbE 2x 1 GbE
USB Slots 1x USB 3.0 + 2x USB 2.0 2x USB 3.0
eSATA Ports None None
Maximum Capacity 4-bays 4-bays
VGA / Console / HDMI None None
Full Specifications Link LenovoEMC ix4-300d Specifications (PDF) Western Digital My Cloud EX4 Specifications (PDF)
Suggested Retail Pricing US $270 US $360


Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

Our NAS reviews use either SSDs or hard drives depending on the unit under test. While rackmounts and units equipped with 10GbE capabilities use SSDs, the others use hard drives. The ix4-300d and My Cloud EX4 were both evaluated with four 4 TB WD Re (WD4000FYYZ) drives. Evaluation of NAS performance under both single and multiple client scenarios was done using the SMB / SOHO NAS testbed we described earlier.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB HDD + 100GB NAND)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Teardown and Platform Analysis
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  • OoKiE69 - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Having owned a LenovoEMC ix4-300d for two months before returning it, I am surprised to see that your review does not mention the intermittent slow downs experienced. Or flagging perfectly good disks as failed. Or the random dropping of all your data on a RAID 10 configuration. This really annoying considering it takes over a day to establish the raid 10 on 4 x 3TB drives. None of these faults even generate a single email alert. Yes the email alerting was configured and tested.

    Despite claiming Full Windows 8 compatibility, it's not. None of the shares can be added to a library without a bit of fudging under the hood. Even with the fudging done it doesn't work with any of the Modern UI applications.

    Fortunately a HP Micro Server and a license for Home Server 2011 all for just a little bit more money seems function with the same hard drives in RAID 10 without a single issue and fast. In short I found LenovoEMC ix4-300d NAS to be just really bad.
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    What was the firmware version you used before sending back the unit ? I had lots of trouble with 3.x and even the first 4.x version (documented with links tot he support forums in the article under the ix4-300d: Springing Surprises sub-section). However, with the November firmware release, things have improved quite a bit. Still not trusting the NAS with any essential data, though.
  • crazysurfanz - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Quote: Still not trusting the NAS with any essential data, though.

    Really isn't much more that needs to be said about it then is there.
  • Bob Todd - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    If you don't mind rolling your own and want a small footprint, those almost-always-on-sale at Newegg HP micro servers and something like WHS are indeed a very good option (with RAID or even something like DriveBender/SnapRAID).
  • blaktron - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Hey, great article. I wonder, on either of these units can you configure the NICs independently? Do they have VLAN support?

    I have a storage VLAN and prod VLAN at home, and without the ability to attach one NIC to each VLAN for separate purposes then I'm still locked out of the home NAS market :(
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Not sure what extent of VLAN support you want, but if you want the NICs to be in separate subnets - yes, that is possible.
  • muratai - Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - link

    Can anybody explain me why 2ghz cpu WD nas performs far worse than Synology DS413J with same model but 1.6 ghz cpu?
  • ganeshts - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    As I explained in the teardown and component analysis, there is a bottleneck in the way the drives are connected to the SoC. Out of two PCIe lanes, one is dedicated to the USB 3.0 to PCIe bridge (Etron EJ168A) leaving only one PCIe lane for the 4x SATA to PCIe bridge (the only link through which the four drives can talk to the SoC). Ideally, a 4x SATA should be connected through four PCIe 2.0 lanes for good performance.

    I can't comment / analyze the performance of the 413J unless I take a look at the components on the board.
  • Uwanna - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    So, I still do not understand why I would choose a NAS that has a proprietary SATA controller and software over an Intel ICHR 5- 24. If these units fail which you review there are no alternatives offered to replace these units with anything which can replace the reviewed units.
    If I at least "build my own" BYO, then I at least have the option to upgrade the entire BYO NAS with the equivalent Intel ICHR chipset or a more current offering.
  • ganeshts - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Neither of these units use hardware RAID.

    If the unit fails, take the drives out, image them and access the data using a Linux system or, if on Windows, something like UFS Explorer. [ Check the last paragraph / gallery here: ]

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