NAS shoot-out: Thecus N5200XXX

The Thecus NAS is fast and flexible, but lacks the simplicity and ease that business users need

For many InfoWorld readers, the name Thecus will not be a familiar one. This Taiwan-based corporation has been around since 2004, and I remember when it showed off its first NAS in 2005. If you go to the Thecus website, you'll find an overwhelming number of different NAS options (about 30 at my last count). If you look at the market share numbers for NAS, Thecus is usually part of "other." This is unfortunate because these NAS boxes are little powerhouses.

The Thecus N5200XXX was certainly the fastest and -- I dare say -- the most flexible NAS I tested. Its performance is excellent, and the software is powerful, but this box isn't for a newbie. In the hands of an IT person or prosumer who knows what they are doing, this hardware can sing. But if you are a small business looking to get your data protected and have little IT expertise to draw on, you should probably search elsewhere.

The five-bay N5200XXX model is the largest of the Intel Atom-based XXX series before you get into rack-mounted systems. Thecus does have seven-bay tower units in higher-end lines based on Intel Celeron and Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The unit Thecus sent me for testing had six 2TB drives (Western Digital RE4). An extensive drive compatibility list on the Thecus website nicely breaks out supported drives into enterprise-grade and consumer-rated models. If you plan to go with 3TB drives, the Hitachi Ultrastar 7K3000 and Seagate Constellation ES.2 are the only two on the enterprise list.

Thecus N5200XXX: Hardware considerations
The Thecus hardware is a mixed bag. The solid steel case and a big 200W power supply will give you a workout when you take it out of the box. Unfortunately, the rest of the unit doesn't measure up to the case itself. The chintzy plastic door either would not open or would not shut after it was opened. I was tempted to tear the door off out of pure frustration. The hard drive trays look fancy, but they're merely stylized plastic and very flimsy. The good news is that they are lockable. There's a single USB 2.0 port in the front, but it sits behind the accursed front door and placed on the far left side of the unit, which made it more difficult to get to when I had the NAS on a shelf in the server room.

The back is fairly straightforward: a single eSATA, four USB 2.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a nine-pin serial COM port. Yes, you read that last one right -- a serial port. At first, I could not imagine why that would be there, but then I realized that some of my older UPS units at home still communicate with serial ports. I tried to use it, but from what I understand, it is for factory use only. The only other gripe I have with the Thecus hardware is that it was easily the noisiest NAS in my testing. If you have to place it on a desk in a remote office, the people there will not be very happy.

Test Center Scorecard
  30% 30% 20% 10% 10%  
Thecus N5200XXX 7 6 8 5 7



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