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NAS Reviews

Introduction

Thecus N5200

At a Glance
Product Thecus High Performance NAS Server (N5200)
Summary Five bay multi Terabyte-capacity BYOD NAS with RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD support
Pros • Very high performance
• Hot-swappable drives
• NFS, AFP support
Cons • Noisy
• Firmware still a work in progress
• Documentation lacking in key areas
• Poorly organized web interface

If the email and discussion forum postings asking when this review would be posted are any indication, the N5200 has a lot of people excited. Thecus has pushed the envelope—at least for the "prosumer" NAS market—and upped the ante by producing a five bay BYOD RAID NAS that throws in two more RAID modes (6 and 10) to boot.

Unfortunately, while the performance of the 5200 established a number of new highs on our NAS charts, its feature set and firmware maturity may disappoint Thecus fans who have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on one. But I get ahead of myself...

The 5200's chassis attempts to strike a balance between something your wife would immediately banish from the living room media center and the utilitarian look that only a data center manager could love. The front panel is a glossy black, accented by the blue glow from the LCD status panel that you can see in the product shot above and less clearly in the annotated front panel photo in Figure 1 below.

At around 9.25"H x 7.5"W x 9.75"D, this NAS is on the largish side. And with two fans (the large "System Fan" and the smaller one next to the power connector) and five 7200 RPM hard drives, the 5200 definitely needs to be in a server room or closet unless you like the constant drone that it produces. Neither fan appears to be variable speed, either.

Front panel

Figure 1: Front Panel

Rather than take up space describing each of the controls, you can use Figures 1 and 2 to conduct your own inventory and I'll just provide some commentary. I have mixed impressions of the LCD status panel. The good news is that it provides a changing display of time / date, WAN and LAN IP addresses and RAID and System Fan status. The bad news is that the display doesn't scroll sideways so that you can see entries longer than the 20 character display. You also can't manually scroll from entry to entry using any of the four buttons below the display.

I found that the display stops its status rotation at some point (at least an hour) and the buttons don't help you get it started again either. And speaking of the buttons, their longish shape somehow made me think they were up / down toggles instead of in-out pushbuttons. I got that one sorted out quickly, however.

Front Panel feature description
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Front Panel feature description

Thecus supplied my 5200 complete with five Western Digital WD3200KS-00PFB0 320GB 7200RPM SATA hard drives, so I didn't have the pleasure of mounting the drives to the trays. But with only four screws and clear instructions with photos in the user manual if you need them, you shouldn't have any problem with installation.

I didn't like the tray design as much as that on the Infrant ReadyNAS NV, however. The 5200's tray lever is plastic, feels flimsy and has two mechanisms that provide lever-opening resistance. One is a plastic catch that holds the lever closed that is not obvious and the other is the key lock that is. The key lock turns a tab that engages a slot in the disk tray plastic top and just prevents you from opening the lever vs. securing the tray to the enclosure. But the plastic catch also provides resistance against opening the lever, with the result that it took me a few tries until I figured out what was going on.

The NV's latch is much more obvious, popping the lever up when you insert a paper clip into a hole in the lever. You also can't get a grip on anything to pull on it until you pop the lever and the lever itself locks the disk tray to the enclosure, providing a much more robust and intuitive locking system.

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