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NAS Reviews

Introduction

Thecus N4200

At a Glance
Product Thecus Zero-Crash with Dual Power NAS (N4200)
Summary Intel dual-core D510 Atom based four-bay NAS with internal battery backup and USB 3.0 port option
Pros • Multiple volume support
• Simultaneous iSCSI and SMB/NFS/AFP access
• Optional USB 3.0 ports
• Built-in battery backup
Cons • Admin interface still lags competition
• USB 3.0 port did not work
• Performance lags other D510 Atom NASes

Thecus has traditionally lagged behind QNAP and Synology among the three Taiwanese NAS powerhouses that have given U.S. manufacturers a firm kick in the butt. Hardware and performance have always come first with Thecus. But customers have had to suffer with a clunky and poorly translated admin interface if they wanted that performance.

The N4200 continues in the Thecus tradition of hardware innovation and less-than-user-friendly software. It's the first desktop NAS I've seen with an internal Li-ion backup battery that provides an orderly shutdown if AC power suddenly drops. It's also the first that can support an attached USB 3.0 drive via the installation of an optional USB 3.0 PCIe card.

The N4200 has a bit of a different look for Thecus. The cabinet looks a bit more sophisticated and sports an OLED panel for status display and limited configuration and a separate backlit panel containing drive, network and USB port activity indicators. Thecus' same key-lockable hard drive carriers are used, however, which tend to be buzzy from time to time. Figure 1 shows the front panel with feature callouts.

N4200 front panel

Figure 1: N4200 front panel

Figure 2 shows the rear view. The single PCIe slot is at the top, shown without the optional CU30N USB 3.0 adapter card installed. This card uses the NEC µPD720200 USB 3.0 controller that I've seen in every other USB adapter card that has come across the SNB test bench. Note that the power supply is external, perhaps to save room for the PCIe slot and backup battery.

N4200 rear panel - user manual

Figure 2: N4200 rear panel - user manual

The User Manual rear panel photo actually isn't accurate, because it doesn't show the backup battery slot. Figure 3 shows the rear of the actual product, with optional USB 3.0 card (which adds two USB 3.0 ports) and the Li-ion battery installed in the slot below it. You don't have to open the case to install the backup battery. But you do to install the USB 3.0 card.

N4200 rear panel - actual product

Figure 3: N4200 rear panel - actual product

Internal Details

Once you get the cover off, the backup battery and USB 3.0 card are easy to see (Figure 4). The main board looks pretty accessible. But you have to remove the rear panel (with fan) and unplug numerous cables to get a clear look at it. I decided not to hassle with removal, since I was able to see most of the components.

N4200 inside top
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: N4200 inside top

One component that's easy to get at without having to extricate the board is the SoDIMM in case you want to try your hand at upgrading the 1 GB of DDR2 800 MHz SoDIMM to something larger in the single slot (Figure 5).

N4200 SoDIMM access

Figure 5: N4200 SoDIMM access

The N4200's hardware design is similar to other D510 Atom NASes I've seen, except for the 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 D510 is paired with an Intel NM10 Express Chipset that handles SATA, USB, PCIe, audio and other duties. Fan speed control and other thermal monitoring duties are handled by an ITE IT8720F,

Fan and drive noise is moderate, meaning the NAS is very audible in a quiet room with multiple computers running. Case buzzing was heard from time to time, which was quieted when I pushed on the drive trays.

Drives can be scheduled to spin down after 30 to 300 minutes of inactivity (30 minute increments), which reduced power consumption from 41 W to 23 W. You can also schedule different power on/off times for each day of the week.

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