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Best Hardware of 2015 – The KitGuru Editorial Awards

NAS and Routers

Enterprise-scale approaches to communication and data storage are the target of some large and very focused solutions from specialist players. Here at KitGuru, we have traditionally evaluated two kinds of solution: One for small to medium sized businesses (SMB) and one for home use – with corresponding price points.

Business storage solutions will focus more on expandability, while home solutions need to be affordable, reliable and easy to set up. When we evaluated routers this time around, we found that the best hardware available was equally adept to both environments.

Business NAS
With the recent drop in the price of massive mechanical hard drives, we find ourselves able to buy an 8TB SATA HDD for £180. Populate a 5-bay NAS with that drive and you have the potential for 40TB of pure space or 24TB in a secure RAID 6 array.

At £520, the Synology DS1515 isn’t cheap, but it does a good job of ticking off the requirements that any SMB is likely to have on their check list, including a quad core processor, hardware encryption engine, four Gigabit LAN ports and scalability up to 15 hard drives by daisy-chaining a pair of DX1513 units. The additional LAN ports obviously provide redundancy, but they can also be cleverly paired to provide something called Link Aggregation which, in our tests, had a significant impact on transfer speeds for large files.

KitGuru’s choice for Best Business NAS in 2015 goes to the Synology DS1515.

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Home NAS
There are plenty of cool solutions in the £100-200 range if you just fancy having a couple of drives outside your main rig for backup. If you want a pair of Gigabit LAN ports, an Intel quad core processor and four drive bays, then you’ll need more budget – but you could also be pleasantly surprised. At £358, the QNAP TS-453mini also includes an HDMI port so the onboard QTS operating system can access/output to a screen/TV. Power consumption is trivial and the NAS itself is, effectively, silent.

Populating the unit is simple and tool-free. Once up and running, you can then run a Windows VM on top of the Linux distribution provided – should you desire. There are also plenty of surveillance options included for good measure. Overall, this is a fast, affordable NAS with enough bays for a home system and a good set of features like 256-bit military-level encryption and an integrated anti-virus solution based on the open source clamAV toolkit.

KitGuru’s choice for the Best Home NAS of 2015 goes to the QNAP TS-453mini.

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Router
As the average speed of broadband continues to increase, it’s a constant shock to KitGuru just how many people use the router supplied by their ISP. In most cases, the units that are supplied ‘for free’, struggle to penetrate plasterboard walls. It’s no surprise then that when you look to buy a router online (and you ‘filter results by popularity’), then – in most cases – the best-selling units are all range extenders.

At launch, the Asus RT-AC3200 Tri-Band Wireless Router claimed to offer the world’s fastest combined data rate – with 2,600Mbps through a pair of 5GHz bands plus another 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Seeing a router with 6 antennas (3 send and 3 receive) is an impressive sight and this configuration has been created to allow maximum throughput for all your wi-fi devices.

At £199, it isn’t the cheapest router out there, but when you consider how important your ‘wireless umbilical cord’ to the world is, then you start to take a more balanced view.

The supplied software is brilliant, with plenty of useful tools (including the real time bandwidth monitor), and Smart Connect which improves performance for any wireless product – at any range.

There is definitely a law of diminishing returns that kicks in when you choose to spend more than £100 on a router, but at the same time if you need serious performance – at distance – then the additional investment will be worthwhile.

KitGuru’s choice for Router of the Year 2015 goes to the Asus RT-AC3200 Tri-Band.

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