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Thecus N7700PRO

At a Glance
Product Thecus 10GbE Ready, 7-Bay Power Storage Server (N7700PRO)
Summary High-performance seven-drive BYOD NAS with optional 10 GbE fiber interface, supporting multiple volumes, EXT3, ZFS or XFS filesystems and iSCSI initiator / target.
Pros • Multiple volume support
• Simultaneous iSCSI and SMB/NFS/AFP access
• Very high file copy performance
• Only NAS at its price level w/ 10 GbE network I/F
Cons • Admin interface is better, but still not as good as its competition
• Can't back up to rsync targets

I'm going to take a quick look at Thecus' upgrade of its N7700 seven bay NAS that I reviewed just about a year ago. The N7700PRO is for all intents and purposes the same as its older sibling but with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU instead of a 1.86 GHz Celeron M and 4 GB vs. 2 GB of DDR2 RAM.

The PRO's focus is speed, pure and simple, as is underscored by its ability to have an optional 10 GbE fiber interface installed into a PCIe x8 slot in its motherboard. Thecus most recently added a third member to the 7700 line, the N7700+. The Plus sure looks like it's intended to replace the original 7700 since it has the ability to accept the 10 GbE board, but has 2 GB of RAM and a Celeron M.

Internal Details

The guts of the PRO are essentially the same as the 7700's except for a new main board. The rear panel with fans comes off with four thumbscrews and the side panels are held on with only two screws each. The left side-panel still has an interlock switch, which prevents system power-up when the panel is removed.

The power supply looks like it is easily removable and Thecus has solved my quandry about how to separate the drive backplane and main board. The backplane now is held in place by two thumbscrews and a third screw, which, once removed, make it easy to separate the backplane and slide out the main board.

Figure 1 shows most of the board. The Core 2 Duo CPU is sitting under one of the heatsinks and most likely North and Southbridges under the others. I don't know what the clock speed is of the CPU and Thecus isn't saying. Since they also don't allow root access, I couldn't look at the Linux boot records and find out either.

N7700PRO main board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: N7700PRO main board

The OS boots from one of two, redundant, 128 MB IDE DOMs. Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports are provided by two Intel WG82574L PCIe Gigabit Ethernet controllers that can be configured in load balance, failover, 802.3ad aggregation modes and support up to 9K jumbo frames.

The seven SATA drives are handled by four Silicon Image Sil3132CNU PCI Express to 2-Port Serial ATA II Host Controllers. There is also a Winbond W83627EHG multipurpose I/O controller and two DIMM slots holding two 2 GB sticks of RAM.

The drive bay supports seven hot-swappable 3.5" SATA drives (drive compatibility list) and Thecus supplied Seagate Barracuda XT 2 TB drives (ST32000641AS) in the review unit, which yielded total power consumption of 97 W with all drives spun up.

Fan noise is high, meaning the NAS is very audible in a quiet room with multiple computers running. However, drives can be scheduled to spin down after 30 to 300 minutes of inactivity (30 minute increments), which reduced power consumption to 41 W. You can also schedule different power on/off times for each day of the week.

Improved GUI

Thecus has continued to improve its new AJAX-based admin interface, both with additional features and a little fresher look. But some things like the cutesy animated login screen (Figure 2) feel out of place in a product clearly aimed at business users.

Animated N7700Pro login screen

Figure 2: Animated N7700Pro login screen

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