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NAS Reviews

Introduction

Updated 8/15/2009: Drive spindown works.

Thecus N5500

At a Glance
Product Thecus NAS Server w/ Dual DOM (N5500)
Summary High-performance five-drive BYOD NAS supporting multiple volumes, EXT3, ZFS or XFS filesystems and iSCSI initiator / target.
Pros • Multiple volume support
• Simultaneous iSCSI, SMB/NFS/AFP & attached USB access
• High performance
• Improved, AJAX-based GUI
Cons • Limited NAS backup flexibility
• No root access
• New GUI still feels old

Thecus' N5200 Pro was its top-performing NAS for quite some time and, at least in the beginning, outperformed other RAID 5 NASes. But time passed and the competition raised its game and the 5200 Pro moved out of the top place in our NAS Charts long ago.

Thecus has lately been beefing up its "Enterprise" lineup, pushing out seven and eight bay NASes, including seven and eight-bay SAS / SATA models. I looked at the N7700 a few months back and found that it delivered high performance at a relatively low price. But I warned that its crude user interface and lack of polish were not going to serve Thecus well against increasingly sharper competitors.

This time, I'm looking at the N5500, which will at some point replace both the N5200 and N5200 Pro (Thecus has no firm plans to EOL either model, saying it depends "on market demand"). This is the first Thecus I've seen that sports a new AJAX-based web admin GUI, so I'll be spending a bit of time on that, too.

Although the photo above shows a more sophisticated looking front panel than the N5200 Pro's, Figure 1 shows that once you swing open the plastic front foor, you're looking at the N5200 Pro's front panel.

N5500 w/ door open

Figure 1: N5500 w/ door open

While the door does improve the 5500's looks, I didn't like that it blocked access to the Power and Reset buttons and all the drive power and access / error LEDs. Aside from a slight increase in depth due to the front door, the 5500's height, width and depth are pretty much the same as the 5200 Pro.

Figure 2 shows the front panel with callouts for the switches and indicators, which are Thecus standard-issue. The LCD panel continuously rotates through a series of status displays, but you still can't use any of the buttons to move through them more quickly.

N5500 Front panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: N5500 Front panel

The rear panel photo in Figure 3 shows three thumbscrews that allow quick and easy removal of the panel for fan replacement. The 5500 provides a total of five USB 2.0 ports, but only one eSATA port.

The USB ports can also be used for attached drives and to share a printer, but the eSATA is only for storage expansion. Support for "Bi-directional USB Copy", which will also support eSATA is supposedly coming this month according to the 5500's Spec page. The module is already available for N4100PRO, N5200/N5200PRO, N7700 and N8000 series products.

N5500 Rear panel

Figure 3: N5500 Rear Panel

The dual 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports support load balance, failover and 802.3ad link aggregation and Thecus still supports an IP Sharing mode in case you want the 5500 to act as a crude router.

The serial port is still only for UPS synchronization and not for telnet / SSH console connection. The USB "B" style port allows the 5500 to be used as USB-attached storage (more later).

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