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Thecus N10850 Top Tower Reviewed

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NAS Server
At a glance
ProductThecus N10850 NAS Server   [Website]
SummaryIntel Xeon-based ten-drive high-performance BYOD NAS with USB 3.0, HDMI & audio I/O ports.
Pros• Multiple volume support
• Four USB 3.0 ports
• Optional 10 GbE
• HDMI & VGA ports
• Audio I/O ports
Cons• Very basic IPv6 support

Typical Price: $1757  Check NewEgg  Check Amazon

Introduction

Eight-bay NASes seem to be the object of some NAS vendors' attention lately. QNAP, Synology and Thecus have all asked for reviews of their latest products, so I'm leading off with Thecus' "Top Tower" N10850, which actually has ten bays.

The N10850 is part of Thecus' "Large Business Tower" NAS family that also includes the N6850 and N8850. Each member has a different Intel CPU as summarized in Table 1.

N10850 Intel Xeon E3-1225 @ 3.1GHz
N8850 Intel Core i3 2120 @ 3.3GHz
N6850 Intel Pentium G620 @ 2.6 GHz
Table 1: Thecus Top Tower Family CPUs

The N10850's chassis design has more in common with the N6850 we reviewed last July than the N7510 we looked at in December. But all are cut from similar cloth physically. The N10850 stands taller than all other desktop NASes that I have tested so far. It has to, since it has space for ten 3.5" or 2.5" SATA hard or SSD drives.

The front door is secured with a push-push latch and no lock while each of the drives sits in a lockable tray that has light pipes to carry power and activity / error lights forward from the drive backplane. Because the drives are behind the door, you still don't get a clear view of these lights when the door is closed.

N10850 Front panel callouts

N10850 Front panel callouts

The front and rear panel callout diagrams above summarize the ports and indicators. I'm happy to see USB 3.0 ports on both front and rear panels, something the N7510 lacks.

Inside

Like the other "Top Towers", Thecus has thoughtfully designed the N10850 for easy servicing. Loosen four captive thumbscrews and unplug two cables (power and SATA) and a module containing the main board and two case fans slides right out. Like on the N6850, Thecus includes a foldable handle on this panel and the power supply assembly.

Replacing the non-redundant internal power supply is a bit trickier. You need to reach in and unplug two mainboard-style power connectors, which aren't easy to access.

Thecus N10850 board sliding out of chassis

Thecus N10850 board sliding out of chassis

The photo above shows the SATA cable freed from the drive backplane, but the lower GPIO connector cable still plugged in. The photo below is the rear view with the motherboard assembly removed. After comparing photos of the N6850 and N10850 innards, I've concluded that they are essentially the same design, with the N10850 just four drive bays taller.

Thecus N10850 rear view w/ module removed

Thecus N10850 rear view w/ module removed

The black connectors on the right appear to be PCIe X4 and X8 and conduct power and control between the main board and front-side backplane. This backplane has an NEC D720200AF1 at the upper right that drives the two front panel USB 3.0 connectors. The other one is on the main board near the rear panel connectors.

The lower horizontal edge connector brings power from the power supply to the main board via a "Top6810 Riser" board that you can see at the lower right of the board module photo below.

Thecus N10850 board module

Thecus N10850 board module

On the photo above of the N10850's main board, we can see two 2 GB DDR3 DIMMs and two empty slots. Thecus' spec doesn't say anything about memory expansion. But I'm going to assume that Thecus' statement about testing expansion to 16 GB on the N6850 holds true for the N10850. After all, they do link to a memory compatibility list.

The board has one PCIe x4 slot and one x8 slot at the top of the photo. Either of these slots can be used to add a 10GbE adapter from Thecus' "Extra NIC" compatibility list that includes Intel, Emulex and Thecus (Tehuti) adapters.

I also concluded that the N6850 and N10850 use the same main board, populated with different memory and CPU. So see the commentary in the N6850 review for more construction details.

Table 2 summarizes the N10850's key components and includes comparison information for the N6850 and N7510.

Component N10850 N6850 N7510
CPU Intel Xeon E3-1225 @ 3.1GHz Intel Pentium G620 @ 2.6 GHz Intel Atom D2700 @ 2.13 GHz
RAM 4 GB DDR3 DIMM (expandable to 16 GB total w/ 4 GB DIMMs) 2 GB DDR3 DIMM (expandable to 16 GB total w/ 4 GB DIMMs) 2 GB DDR3 DIMM (expandable to 4 GB)
Flash 1 GB DOM 1 GB DOM 1 GB DOM
Ethernet Intel WG82574L (x2) Intel WG82574L (x2) Intel WG82574L (x2)
Companion Intel Q67, B65 or H61 [guess] Intel Q67, B65 or H61 [guess] Intel NM10 [guess]
USB 3.0 NEC D720200AF1 (x2) NEC D720200AF1 (x2) NEC D720200AF
PCIe PLX Tech PEX 8604 4 Lane, 4 Port PCI Express Gen 2 (x2) PLX Tech PEX 8604 4 Lane, 4 Port PCI Express Gen 2 (x2) None
Audio Realtek ALC262 2+2 HD Audio Codec Realtek ALC262 2+2 HD Audio Codec Realtek ALC262 2+2 HD Audio Codec
SATA Silicon Image SiI3132 SATALink PCI Express to 2-Port Serial ATA II Host Controller (x2) Silicon Image SiI3132 SATALink PCI Express to 2-Port Serial ATA II Host Controller (x2) Silicon Image SiI3132 SATALink PCI Express to 2-Port Serial ATA II Host Controller (x2)
I/O - Winbond W33795G hardware monitor
- Fintek F71889 Super Hardware monitor & I/O
- Winbond W33795G hardware monitor
- Fintek F71889 Super Hardware monitor & I/O
ITE8728F Super I/O
Video Pericom PI3VDP411LSZBE Digital Video Level shifter Pericom PI3VDP411LSZBE Digital Video Level shifter Chrontel CH7318 HDMI level shifter
Table 2: Key component summary and comparison

Thecus arranged for four 3 TB WD RE (WD3000FYYZ) drives for testing. But to see if drives could make a difference in such a high-performance NAS, I also ran some tests with four WD Red drives. Power consumption measured 95W with the four RE drives and 75W with the four Reds.

I could not get the drives to go into power-save spindown, even when I removed the network cable. This could be due to the continuous drive access at one-second intervals, which Thecus said was due to parity checking. With the noisier (and hotter) RE drives, this produced a continuous clackety-clack that could be annoying (or soothing, if you're a fan of train travel). The quieter Red drives didn't produce much noise, but the drive access lights let me know that the same access was happening.

I rated noise as high, mostly due to fans. But if you use "enterprise" drives like the RE's you'll get plenty of drive noise too. The N10850 isn't as noisy as a rackmount NAS with its smaller, screaming fans. But it's not something you would want to keep in your office, either.




Related Items:

Thecus Top Tower N8850 Reviewed
Thecus Rolls Out Three Top-End Tower NASes
Thecus N7510 NAS Server Reviewed
Thecus TopTower N6850 NAS Reviewed
Thecus N5550 NAS Server Reviewed

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