This article first appeared in HWM Aug 2011.
Is There Such A Thing As An Over-the-Top NAS?
Fancy a storage box that lets you throw in a bunch of hard drives, and then share your media and data over your home or small office network with ease? If your answer is “yes”, Thecus just might have what you’re looking for in the N5200XXX.
In terms of hardware, Thecus throws in an Intel Atom D525 dual-core processor running at 1.8GHz, as well as 1GB of DDR3 memory on-board. You get a pair of gigabit Ethernet ports at the rear, with link aggregation functionality provided (though you’ll need the right networking hardware to be able to take advantage of that). For additional storage capacity, you have a single eSATA connector at the rear, as well as four USB 2.0 ports (there's one more at the front) for devices like additional USB storage, or even USB-enabled printers.
Installing hard drives is quite easy; simply pull out the drive racks, screw in your hard disk drives, and slide the racks back into the NAS’ chassis. For additional security, you can lock the drive racks in place with keys, while the power button is handily kept from view (and accidental presses) behind a swiveling door. One feature we particularly like is the inclusion of an LCD display, which shows little tidbits of information such as the status of the ventilation fans, as well as the IP addresses of both Ethernet interfaces.
Post installation, setting up the NAS was quite easy, thanks to Thecus’ V5 firmware, which does have a good amount of options and settings to cater to the more advanced user. Design-wise however, the V5 firmware still needs some work as the interface still looks very amateurish, and far from the polished look and feel as seen on Synology or QNAP’s offerings.
In the case of benchmarking with the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit, HD Video playback and record scored 83MB/s and 113.9MB/s respectively, while content creation and office productivity scored 12MB/s and 25.8MB/s each. File copies to and from the N5200XXX averaged 113.5MB/s and 65.8MB/s respectively, while directory copies to and from averaged 11.3MB/s and 11.1MB/s respectively. Speed-wise, Thecus manages to compete very strongly with the Synology DS1515+. It must also be mentioned that the N5200XXX was noisy during operation, thanks to a rather loud exhaust fan. There doesn’t appear to be an option to adjust fan speeds either.
Overall, the N5200XXX strikes us as a NAS box definitely worth considering, given that the asking price is not only lower than the Synology DS1511+, but with a feature set and performance that’s just as good.