The Asustor Flashstor 12 Pro FS6712X is similar to a NAS we looked at recently, just with more. With 12x M.2 NVMe slots, one may think it is a superior performer, but it also has a relatively modest CPU without enough connectivity for those drives, and only 10Gbase-T networking. To be clear, the reason we have this one is that we thought the entire line was silly, but then we tried the FS6706T 2.5GbE version and realized we could actually use this. That is the kind of churn in the process that should make for a really interesting review.
Before we get too far in this review, we have a video review going into both the Asustor Flashstor FS6712X (12x M.2 and 10Gbase-T) as well as the Flashstor FS6706T (6x M.2 and 2x 2.5GbE.) You can find that here:
As always, check it out in its own browser, tab, or app for the best viewing experience.
Asustor Flashstor Pro 12 FS6712X External Hardware Overview
The sole USB 3 port on the front of the box is an interesting choice. The USB is mostly for external storage. During testing, we tried hooking up an external USB 3 2.5GbE NIC to the port, but Asustor’s management software would not give us another interface.
On the rear, we get base power, USB, and so forth which are typical of NAS units. We also get things like HDMI, S/PDIF, and so forth which are found more in desktops. The big difference externally between this FS6712X and the FS6706T we reviewed previously is that this unit has a 10Gbase-T port.
On one side, we get a vent.
On the other, we get a power button. This one lights up the side of the chassis red when turned on, which is a cool feature. We show this briefly in the video.
The bottom of the chassis has the same four large rubber feet and cooling fan design that we saw on the Flashstor 6 FS6706T.
Next, let us get inside the system to see what kind of magic Asustor used to get this all working, and it involves a lot of Asmedia.
Asustor Flashstor FS6712X NVMe NAS Internal Hardware Overview
Originally we planned to review the FS6712X and FS6706T together. So we only took a picture of the common bottom 6-drive portal once. Accessing the bottom six drives is done via four screws to reveal the first six drive bays.
For those wondering, Asustor engineered the fan for this system to have a USB interface. Sliding the bottom cover off disconnects the USB Type-A port and that is how they made a quick disconnect fan. It works better than one might think.
Taking the chassis off for a second, we can see this side of the motherboard. We are using cheap Crucial P3 Plus 4TB drives that have been selling for under $225 each. At that price, we did not go up to 8TB drives since those cost ~4-5x as much for 2x the capacity. We also learned that the 1TB configuration we had in the Flashstor 6 pro was too little even though those drives were cheap. We did not use more expensive drives because we had a suspicion that the performance of the unit would be suboptimal. The net result was we were around $71/ TB to connect this flash storage to 10GbE with this setup.
The two heatsinks above cover the Marvell AQtion 10Gbase-T 10GbE NIC controller as well as the CPU. This system is powered by the Intel N5105 which is a quad-core Jasper Lake CPU that we have seen many times on fanless edge devices at STH.
Flipping the unit over, two screws can be undone and give one access to the top of the chassis with the SODIMM memory and the other six M.2 slots. One can see that we have 4GB of memory installed as standard.
We upgraded this to 2x 32GB using three brands of SODIMMs. While it booted, we kept getting errors during file transfers so it was not stable. Our suggestion is to stick to 16GB (2x 8GB) max. 2x 16GB DDR4 SODIMMs are about $35 on Amazon (here is what we used via an affiliate link.) This worked perfectly. We really wish that Asustor either made 16GB standard or even a single 8GB standard to make the upgrade process easier. We could take the second 4GB module and make 8GB in the FS6706T, but it would have been nice for Asustor to add a few dollars of cost here and make this unit better able to handle apps.
One nice feature this unit has is tool-less drive installation. There are clips to keep the drives in place instead of screws. With twelve drives we are glad we did not need to install twelve tiny screws.
Here is a shot of the motherboard populated from the front where the sole USB port is.
Here is the rear view with most of the I/O including the 10Gbase-T NIC.
One of the big challenges with 12x M.2 NVMe SSDs is that the drives each need to connect to the system via at least a PCIe x1 link. With 12 drives, plus 2-4 PCIe lanes usually reserved for the 10Gbase-T NIC, that is a lot to ask of the Intel N5105 with only 8 PCIe lanes total. Asustor is using ASMedia ASM2806 PCIe switches and ASM1480 PCIe mux devices to help tame the PCIe needs in this system. The ASM2806 switches were not present on the FS6706T version since it only had six drives.
Still, on average, each drive here has roughly the bandwidth equivalent of a PCIe Gen2 x1 lane. While we are using fairly low-performance PCIe Gen4 NVMe SSDs, given that level of bandwidth constriction, this seemed like a good place to go for capacity over performance. As a plus, they tend to be lower-power than high-performance drives.
Next, let us get to the topology of how this is all hooked up.
Asustor Flashstor FS6712X NVMe NAS Topology
When we first heard about these units, the first question that came to mind was probably the topology. The question was how Asustor fit 12x drives onto an Intel N5105. Here is the topology diagram with everything connected:
Something to keep in mind is that there is also an 8GB eMMC device for the OS boot onboard. This is about what we would expect as we can see the three ASMedia ASM2806 devices each with four drives attached.
For comparison here is the 6-slot version without the PCIe switches:
We wanted to quickly note that we took these screenshots with non-standard memory configurations. The FS6712X had 2x 8GB installed which is our recommended upgrade. The FS6706T had a single 32GB SODIMM installed, and it was not stable with that. Again, 4GB is standard.
Next, let us look at the management and performance.