First Looks - Thecus N5200XXX eAegis Reviews

 

THECUS N5200XXX 5-bay Ultimate Network Storage Server

The proliferation of 4 and 5-bay NAS devices has made it very difficult to select a single unit that stands out from the crowd. The Thecus N5200XXX does give this theory a run for its money. The pedigree is strong, The N5200, originally the first ever 5-bay NAS from Thecus, was launched back in 2006 in direct competition to the Infrant (now Netgear) ReadyNAS NV a 4-bay NAS. Thecus did exceptionally well and have never looked back on the 5-bay platform, so much so, that nearly all its close competitors have opted to omit this configuration as Thecus continues to dominate.

The N5200XXX appears to be in the same mould as the N5200 and is literally a ditto of the N5500, except in this instance the door is designed to fit! The lntel Atom D525 processor platform and 1GB of DDR3 memory and a host of business and home features supported by the unified platform gives this device a unique advantage when one considers the other units in close comparison are hundreds of dollars more, and do not necessarily offer anymore than this unit. The 5-bay N5200XXX NAS could be the most popular entry level NAS for those needing a high capacity shared redundant storage device with an absolutely tight budget. The N5200XXX will be your first port of call.

The current availability from Thecus is a diskless model and a few of its selected system integrators like eAegis continue to install drives and test to provide a value added service that would otherwise be difficult for users to deploy without having the necessary testing tools that many of the professional labs use for testing purposes.

Out of the Box

The packaging is well thought out and no prevalent shorts cuts were visible to us. The unit is contained within a retail box that would do Michelangelo proud,- the artistic flair is admirable. The standard combination of Ethernet and power cables are provided, with the system CD and the screws for the hard disk drives provided in a sealed plastic pouch. Packaging is impressive.

NOTE: eAegis also provides customers with a comprehensive QA checklist detailing all the product serial numbers for asset and warranty management. This is only for systems supplied with pre-installed drives.

The Outer Design

The resemblance between the Thecus N5500 and N5200XXX is uncanny. The outer case is totally identical albeit a couple of very minor improvements. The N5200XXX has hot-swap bays that allow any of the drives to be removed at will if so desired. We are not sure why anyone would want to do that, unless in an always on state when the device cannot be switched off. In which case, we would have thought there would be more than one unit deployed to ensure immediate roll over in cases of downtime. The trays use a key based locking mechanism for added security.

Horizontally mounted, the drive bays provide a clear and sensible air flow, thus allowing the drives to cool in a more than adequate manner. Having deployed 1; 2 and 3TB drives we have not had any issues relating to overheating.

The usual LCD panel (BLUE) provides monitoring for critical services which are typically, Status- System Busy/Fail, HDD1-5 Activity/Fail, WNA/LAN Activity and IP Address designation, USB and eSATA connectivity and progress status. The unit, like others, can be controlled from the front panel with menu based options allowing selection of appropriate features for overall management. The overall size of the unit is impressive, the N5200XXX measures in at (H x W x D): 230 x 190 x 240 mm (9 x 7.4 x 9.4 in), and with an overall weigh of 4.70 kg (10.35 lb), without hard disks, with the addition of 4 x 2TB drives this jumps to 19.85 lbs.

Connectivity Suite

The Thecus N5200xxx has Six (6) USB 2.0 Ports spread over the front and back. Support for a whole host of USB peripherals is provided and tested by us when we connected 4 differing USB external HDD units, a variety of printers for sharing.

Ethernet connectivity is via two RJ-45x2(10/100/1000) BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X WOL supported ports that facilitate Link Aggregation for 802.3ad, load balance and fail over. Load Balancing allows you to balance traffic across the two ports to maximize transfer rates, as well as Failover, which in turn, allows you to have the luxury of the second port taking over in case the first port fails.

Redundancy Options

The N5200XXX accommodates adding drives and increasing extra capacity on the fly without loss of data. This allows users to start with a single drive, if desired, although this would make buying a system with built in redundancy rather superfluous. You can start with maybe three (3x) drives with RAID 5 support and then add drives when the need arises. When that happens you merely insert one drive at a time and expand, once the all the required drives are inserted and the final expansion takes place, you are also presented with the opportunity to expand the RAID in this case from 5 to 6. NOTE: Whilst it is fine to expand up, it is not possible to expand down without reformatting the volume and hence lose all data if not backed up.

Supported RAID modes - RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD, that is a good start and the RAID features that it supports are Auto-rebuild, Hot-Swap, Hot-Spare, Global Hot-Spare, with further support for On-Line RAID Migration and Expansion and Capacity Migration and Expansion. The RAID volume can also have an added layer of security in the form of AES256bit encryption allowing ultimate data protection. Thecus has added EXT4 to its Multiple file system support in addition to supporting EXT3, ZFS, and XFS. Currently all popular 3TB drives both in desktop and enterprise versions are supported thereby increasing its capacity potential to a whopping 15TB raw capacity.

Wikipedia Definition of ZFS: In computing, ZFS is a file system designed by Sun Microsystems for the Solaris Operating System. The features of ZFS include support for high storage capacities, integration of the concepts of Filesystem and volume management, snapshots and copy-on-write clones, on-line integrity checking and repair, and RAID-Z. ZFS is implemented as open-source software, licensed under the Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL).

Wikipedia Definition of XFS:  XFS is a high-performance journaling file system created by Silicon Graphics, originally for their IRIXoperating system and later ported to Linux kernel. XFS is particularly proficient at handling large files and at offering smoothdata transfers.

Data Backup

The N5200XXX now comes bundled with Acronis True Image (OEM) version that depicts excellent features and upgrading to the next level is possible directly with Acronis.

Acronis does list a host of features on its website for this revision and we have taken a small subset of those to share with our readers.

Disk Imaging - Backup the entire system on the fly with our patented disk imaging technology. It ensures the recovery of your operating system and applications without reinstalling any software.

Incremental and differential backups - Acronis True Image gives you alternatives to performing full backups every time by offering incremental and differential backups. Both capture changes only and save disk space with,

Acronis® data compression - Copy your entire Hard Drive and replace it with a new one without reinstalling operating systems and applications, saving hours of effort.

One-Click Protection - Create a backup strategy of the system and implement it with just one click.

Image Encryption with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) - Protect your backup data by encrypting with industry standard.

Set & Forget - Configure just once and Acronis software performs the backups automatically from that point on.

These features are really just the icing on the cake; Acronis offers many features that will allow enterprise users an upgrade path that will allow server to NAS backups with ease and efficiency.

Performance

In all our previous Thecus 5-bay reviews the devices have performed above average and judging by the speed it was churning out data, we expect no less from the N5200XXX.

Test Environment

Thecus N5200XXX (5x1000GB – Enterprise Class)
Firmware Revision: June 24, 2011 – Version 5.01.04
RAID: X-RAID5 Configuration

Network

HP ProCurve 1810G-24 Managed Switch

Test Method

There are two tests that we used to measure performance on the Windows platform: Real-World testing utility that consist of workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications, traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation as well as a broad range of different applications, using 1024 KB sequential block reads and writes on a 2 GB test file, as well as Drag & Drop of a 2 GB file over CIFS, Windows default network protocol.

RWT results for N5200XXX

The Real World Test performances results are an average of twelve full test cycles. The N5200XXX does hold its own and evidently becomes the fastest 5-bay NAS we have ever tested, and will inevitably give larger devices a run for its money. Read and Write speeds are a credible 98.2MB/s and 97.5MB/s respectively.

NOTE: Drag and Drop is a methodology used by a majority of users to move data back and forth on a Windows workstation mapped to the array of the NAS device. We strongly believe this process should become a cornerstone of all our tests as it emulates what occurs in real life.

drag and drop results for N5200XXX

Drag and Drop is a methodology used by a majority of users to move data back and forth on their individual systems. As such, we feel this method should form an integral part of our testing of products and to ensure a return in results depicting a realistic process. Drag and Drop results are consistent with other market competitors in the six and seven bay categories. The Thecus N5200XXX fares well and clearly does not disappoint.

Overall Conclusion

The Thecus N5200XXX excels in performance, and its marketing slogan of Xtreme power, Xtreme function, and Xtreme value, does live up to its hyped reputation the performance was impressive and the value for money is excellent when compared with 4 and other 5-bay NAS systems that cost hundreds more and don’t offer anymore than the N5200XXX has two, in some instances more money for less. A diskless here at eAegis currently cost $626.00 and with a 2 year warranty this makes the N5200XXX a natural choice for home and SMB users.

This review is courtesy of eAegis.com Product Testing and Evaluation Division. Please email reviews@eaegis.com for any comments you may wish to share with us. We welcome customer feedback. July 7, 2011.

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