Can You Game Off A NAS? FPS Benchmarks and Load Times

PC games are so large these days that you
can very quickly use up all available disk space on your PC or laptop. This can be more
of an issue with laptops, some of which only have a single M.2 drive, or no 2.5” drive
bay for larger and cheaper hard drive storage, so let’s see how a NAS can help and find
out how well we can actually play games off one over the network. A NAS, or network attached storage, is basically
just a box that contains a bunch of hard drives that you connect to your network. You can
then access this larger external storage over the network. For this testing I’m using the Asustor AS5304T
4 bay NAS. The key features are that it’s got two 2.5 gigabit ethernet ports, four drive
bays, quad core CPU and 4GB of memory. Interestingly, this one also has a HDMI 2.0a port, allowing
you to stream video directly from the NAS. The guys at Gear Seekers have covered the
steps to setup this same model, you can find more information on that in their video if
you’re after it. In my test setup I’ve got four 16TB IronWolf
hard drives from Seagate, and these are designed with 24/7 NAS operation in mind, which is
perfect for me because I never turn my NAS off. I leave it on overnight backing up everything
to the cloud, which in my case is about 10gb of 4K video that I shoot each day. You of
course don’t need to start out with as much space as this, you could start out with one
or two smaller drives and expand from there in the future if you need more space. You
could also go for a smaller 2 bay NAS, and this Asustor one actually allows you to connect
additional expansion units for up to an additional 192 TB. Although you can save some money by
using cheaper drives, if you’re storing important data I’d highly suggest picking
NAS drives like Seagate’s IronWolf series as they’ll be less likely to fail in a NAS
environment over time. Basically they’re just made to run all the time and also deal
with the increased levels of vibration you get when running multiple drives so close
together. Regardless of which NAS you’re using, you’ll
likely have a few RAID options to choose from. Usually I go for RAID 6, which means the array
can survive two disks failing at once, but in this case I’ve chosen RAID 10 for a mixture
of redundancy and performance, I want to try and put the 2.5 gigabit connection to use
after all. Luckily I happened to have the ASUS Mothership
in for review, as it’s got a 2.5 gigabit ethernet port. Here are the results from Crystal
Disk Mark when reading and writing to the NAS with the 2.5 gigabit connection, we’re
close to 300 MB/s for both the read and write which is well above typical gigabit speeds.
In this test I was fully saturating the network connection both ways, so the RAID 10 array
was sufficient for a single connection. I also manually set the network speed to 1 gigabit
and performed the test again, just to show what a standard connection would get, and
as we can see the results are a fair bit lower compared to the 2.5 results. The ASUS Mothership
also has WiFi 6, so if I also had a WiFi 6 access point I would also be able to access
the NAS really fast wirelessly too, but I’m still living in the past with a WiFi 4 access
point. Here’s how long it took to load up a game,
Watch Dogs 2 in this case, from different storage options. Loading from the SSD was
the fastest, as we’d expect, it’s fast local storage but it also costs more and we’re
limited by how much we can fit into our device. The 2.5 gigabit connection from the NAS was
next, though realistically in this test it wasn’t even that far behind the SSD load
time, and then the gigabit connection was slower still. I’d expect loading from a
2.5” hard drive in a laptop to be around the gigabit connection speed, as the reads
and writes for a single hard drive are typically around that speed, it will of course vary
by disk though, a 7200 RPM drive should outperform a 5400 one for example. Unfortunately I couldn’t
test that here as the ASUS Mothership has no 2.5” drive bay to install one, a good
example where your only option is expensive and smaller M.2 SSDs, well maybe not as it
has 3 M.2 slots, but many other laptops just have one. The ASUS GX701 comes to mind. It will also of course depend on the specific
game too, I also tried The Witcher 3 and had the same 23 second result to get into the
game regardless of where it was loading from. I was rebooting between tests, so unless it
caches to local storage this confirms that it will vary. For the most part, game load
times are what will be the most noticeable when you’re storing the game files on different
media, such as a NAS, as this is when the bulk of the data is read. The actual frame rates while playing games
will see no changes in most cases, so you shouldn’t lose much performance while playing.
Generally once a game has fully loaded, everything within the area will be cached in memory,
so you’ll only experience slowdowns when assets needed to be loaded from disk. I’ve
actually tested this in an older video with more games, but just for example with this
single game we can see there are no real differences to frame rate, it’s margin of error stuff. Although most people today don’t currently
have 2.5 gigabit capable network devices, as we’ve just seen in terms of FPS the network
transfer speed doesn’t actually matter, it only affected load times as we saw earlier. For every laptop that arrives for me to test,
I need to test around 1.5TB worth of games on it. As I live in Australia, the land of
crappy Internet, downloading this much data multiple times a week for every machine is
not feasible, so for me a NAS is essential. I copy my games from the NAS over to the laptop
and run them off of local storage rather than the NAS. This is because for my benchmarks
I want to provide as close to the results you’d see if you bought the machine yourself.
Plus when I have to open 20 games multiple times this is greatly sped up if the machine
has an SSD. For my personal workflow, having a local centralised repository of games that
are kept up to date saves a lot of time as I can just copy them over when needed. This
could be a good option for you too, Steam has a good option to let you move games between
drives, so you could just map the NAS to a drive letter and then move games back and
forth as needed. The copying process does still take quite
a while with standard gigabit ethernet. Although the Asustor NAS I’ve been testing with here
does have 2.5 gigabit support, most laptops I get in for testing don’t have this, I’ve
only seen it in more premium options so far, but presumably that will change in future.
The times where I have had it though, like with the ASUS Mothership, I can get started
testing hours sooner due to the faster network speeds. A NAS solution definitely isn’t for everyone,
it really depends what you do and how you access your data. For me it works very well,
and multiple people access it from the home network to get files, especially games, so
we don’t need to worry about getting large drives in all of our PCs and laptops. I basically
just get a fast NVMe M.2 SSD for a boot drive and use the NAS for mass storage. There’s so much more it can do too, I’ve
only just scratched the surface here as I think these use cases are probably going to
be most beneficial for most of my audience. You can install different apps to do pretty
much whatever you need. Another quick example would be if you’re
a game streamer and you also save copies of your stream to disk, you could have these
save to the larger NAS storage and not have to worry about your machine running out. Let me know if you run a NAS at your place,
and if you just store everything locally on your machine is it something you’d consider
upgrading to in future if you need more space? Let me know in the comments, and if you’re
new to the channel consider getting subscribed for future tech videos like this one.

54 thoughts on “Can You Game Off A NAS? FPS Benchmarks and Load Times”

  1. Thank you so much for the video featuring the Nimbustor 4! We are thrilled to have been working with you and our customers and viewers.

    Marco speaking here(Yes, that Marco from Taiwan). If you have any product questions or comments. Feel free to reply to me and I will happily answer your questions. We do hope that all questions and comments are respectful in nature, but I welcome and listen to all opinions.

  2. Whaaaa you have crappy internet!?
    But I'm jealous that you can upload in 4K!
    I still have no NBN and it took me 12 hours the other day just backing up a 10-minute 4K video on my phone to Google…

  3. Dont complain about your internet bro. Be grateful. Try living in a third world country. Even YouTube barely works😂😭😭

  4. Great video as always Jarrod!
    I was wondering if you could help me decide between an msi gs65 (8th gen i7, gtx 1070 and 16gb ram) or a lenova legion y540(9th gen i7, RTX 2060, 8gb ram). It sucks that in the UK i cant find a 16gb lenova but would i still be able to play overwatch while running youtube in the background with only 8gb ram?
    Thanks in advance 😀
    PS. I was also contemplating the Dell g5 5590 and Asus TUF Fx505d but the reported thermal issues on the dell and 120Hz monitor on the asus detered me. Do you think that a 120Hz monitor is even that much more noticeable compared to a 144Hz?

  5. Interesting, I have never used a NAS but it makes perfect since to have one…definitely something I will add to the home in the future

  6. i just use an 8tb external hard drive, not really a NAS, but only as a backup in case something bad happens. thankfully haven't bought any really new games so only 90gb max per game so far

    yayy 2tb ssd with a 2nd slot

  7. So… NAS gon give it to ya

    But yeah, never thought about one before even though it makes a lot of sense. Especially as the household usage of shared stuff keeps increasing. Thanks

  8. With upcoming games like Red Dead Redemption 2 – 150GB
    Call of Duty Modern Warfare – 175GB
    there cant be more perfect time to upload this video. Wish there was some kind of optimization in terms of storage being occupied
    by modern games.

  9. Well to be fair, most people are still most likely using Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is just starting to come to devices like smartphones, so at this point it’s more of an optional thing to have. Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n) I think is still enough for most people so long as multiple (7-10) devices aren’t connected to it all at once.

  10. The question is, does it hiccup on big AAA games
    I have to store all AAA games on local HDD because if it was on my 3.5" USB 3.0 enclosure it would hiccup sometimes and I find that unacceptable

  11. Regarding the local SSD, what kind were you using? That might make a difference too, for example I have a Samsung Evo 970 m.2 SSD

    Anthem was a great example of needing an SSD to not load zones slowly, but FPS seemed the same.

    The NAS server seems super useful for YouTube videos, and yes I love that you can even put Steam games on SD cards(if neccessary)

  12. Remember when games used to come with multiple disc for installation. I got DOOM in 1993 and it came with 3 or 4 floppies.

  13. what type of connection you use here? iSCSI or SMB?

    afaik, SMB is huge bottleneck so I guess try using iSCSI if you havent.

  14. There's actually a steam cache docker that you can use assuming ASUSTOR allows you to run a docker.

  15. Good thing we have services like Google Stadia, GeForce now, and Microsoft Xcloud so we don’t have to worry about spending more on storage and hardware.

  16. Rubs chin seeing the nas box with RAM and CPU being combined with the laptop to boost performance over tb4/usb4 with egpu box in the other tb4/usb4 port.

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