Router Charts

Router Charts

Router Ranker

Router Ranker

Router Chooser

Router Chooser

NAS Charts

NAS Charts

NAS Ranker

NAS Ranker

More Tools

More Tools

Multimedia & VoIP Features

Thecus Local Display


Many modern NASes have HDMI ports. But up until this point, they have provided only console access. Earlier this year, Thecus released its Local Display module. This add-in enables HDMI-equipped Thecus NASes, which include the N2800, N4800 and N5550, to output video to a connected display. The Local Display module is meant to open the door to using a Thecus NAS as an HTPC, possibly consolidating two machines into one.

The Local Display Module itself simply provides access to a (Linux) Firefox browser and a console terminal session. Third party (unsupported by Thecus) modules can also be installed to add more features to Local Display.

The goal of this article is to answer the question, "Can a Thecus NAS replace an HTPC?" Come along and see if you reach the same conclusion as I did.


I used a Thecus N5550 [reviewed] for this project. The N5550 is a relatively new NAS, positioned near the bottom of Thecus' top-end Enterprise-Tower line. It is pretty powerful as current NASes go, with a dual-core Intel D2550 Atom CPU and 2 GB of DDR3 RAM. While it's certainly not as powerful as an i3 or i5 PC, it's not a Marvell-based low-end NAS either.

The Local Display video tutorial shows basic steps of plugging in an HDMI cable, USB mouse and keyboard and booting up into the Local Display module screen that includes an XBMC icon. But it's not that easy. To get to the screen in the tutorial, you need first to ensure you are at firmware v2.03.02 or higher (I was on firmware 2.03.06.atom). Then you need to install the Local Display module from the Thecus download page (here's the link for the version for the N5550). Note that the Local Display module link was not listed under the NAS admin's Application Server menu.

To emulate exactly what Thecus' video shows, you then need to download and install the third party XBMC module (version[11.0.0]_atom) from the Thecus forum. XBMC comes in two options in the forum. One is a standalone XBMC install that is loaded in addition to the Local Display module. The other is a package that includes both.

There are subtle differences between the two versions, including some python paths. For testing purposes, I used the standalone Thecus-official Local Display module and the standalone third-party unsupported XBMC module from the forum.

Installation was pretty easy once I actually figured out what files were needed and where they were. I had to just download the files, upload them to the N5550 and enable the installed modules. Figure 1 below shows the modules installed and enabled.

Local Display and XBMC modules installed

Figure 1: Local Display and XBMC modules installed

Local Display

If you follow the instructions above, the initial display of the Local Display module will show icons for a Firefox browser, terminal session and the XBMC module as shown in Figure 2 below. The Firefox browser is a fully-functioning, Linux-based, Flash-enabled browser that allows you to browse the internet directly on your TV, as you would on your computer. Clicking on the terminal session icon opens a root-access SSH console window.

Local Display module home page

Figure 2: Local Display module home page

Being curious about a baseline performance of the browser in the Local Display module, I decided to run the SunSpider 0.91 JavaScript Benchmark against it. Since the N5550 uses a 1.86 GHz Intel Atom D2550 processor, my closest comparison was the low power 1.80 GHz D525 Atom server I built as a project for SmallNetBuilder.

Using Firefox on that low-power server, SunSpider completed in 829.7ms. On the Thecus N5550, SunSpider completed in 932.8ms. (Smaller numbers are better.) My simple test indicated the Thecus N5550 and home-brew server browsers' performance is about equal, with the Thecus a tad slower.

We often use our HTPC to watch YouTube and other videos, so I decided to test this with some common browsing options. Windowed YouTube worked very well. Fullscreen YouTube was acceptable for internet video, although there was occasional choppiness.

I then moved up to testing some HD content on Vudu and Vimeo. With HD Vimeo content, the browser seemed to struggle a bit. Framedrop seemed to happen often, making the video choppy. It was still watchable, but definitely not smooth.

When I tried Vudu I was presented with a message, "Video playback is not supported on this device. Playback is only supported on PCs / Macs and on VUDU-enabled devices". So no Vudu for me!

I cancelled my Netflix streaming account when Netflix split its DVD and streaming service, so I ran another test over at is a good place to test as it has several resolution options (1080p, 720p and 480p). With the first test at 1080p, video playback was consistent with my test on Vimeo, i.e. very slow and very choppy. 720p was a little better, but definitely still choppy. 480p was the best playback and experienced only occasional video tearing. Disappointing, to say the least.

I ran all of these same tests against our quad-core i7 HTPC to ensure the problems were not bandwidth related. The i7, as you would expect, handled the content much better, although even it had occasional problems playing fullscreen 1080p content perfectly smoothly.

So the Local Display module, in and of itself, is a great start. But if you have a more powerful HTPC, you won't be turning it in for a Thecus NAS just yet.

More Stuff

Top Performing Routers


Top Performing NASes

1 drive
2 drives
4 drives
6 drives
8 drives

Over In The Forums

  • key-chain photo frame and made a display for my router.

    Tested on RT-N14 (linux 3.4, Padavan's firmware) and RT-N66U...

    Small LCD for router" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">Small LCD for router
    I bought cheap 1.5" LCD key-chain photo frame and made a display for my router.

    Tested on RT-N14 (linux 3.4, Padavan's firmware) and RT-N66U...

    Small LCD for router
  • What's happening with my router?" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">What's happening with my router?
    I'm running an Asus RT-AC87R as my router, took the RT-AC66U setup as an AP off my network because of compatibility problems, but I looked in my syslog today and this is all I see:

    Mar 1 22:28:43 dnsmasq-dhcp[6762]: DHCPADVERTISE(br0) 00:03:00:01:fc:15:b4:72:56:48 no addresses available
    Mar 1 22:29:26 dnsmasq-dhcp[6762]: DHCPSOLICIT(br0) 00:03:00:01:00:1f:29:1a:d1:58
    Mar 1 22:29:26 dnsmasq-dhcp[6762]: DHCPADVERTISE(br0) 00:03:00:01:00:1f:29:1a:d1:58 no addresses available
    Mar 1...

    What's happening with my router?
  • Asuswrt-Merlin 378.50 is out" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">Asuswrt-Merlin 378.50 is out
    Howdy folks,

    Asuswrt-Merlin 378.50 is now available for download, for all supported models.

    This build introduces a pretty long list of changes. Due to some of these changes Asus did (and I took the opportunity to add a few more of my own in the same direction), a factory default reset is required, followed by a manual reconfiguration of your settings.

    This is not required if you were already running the 378.50 betas.

    Those who don't want to go through the trouble of doing so,...

    Asuswrt-Merlin 378.50 is out
  • on the N66U and have it run using Transmission's ""script-torrent-done".

    Install and run Subliminal (subtitle finder) on N66U" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">Install and run Subliminal (subtitle finder) on N66U
    Hello, I was wondering if it's possible to install subliminal ( on the N66U and have it run using Transmission's ""script-torrent-done".

    Install and run Subliminal (subtitle finder) on N66U
  • Asuswrt-Merlin 378.51 Beta 1 is out" class="lightTip" target="_self" rel="nofollow">Asuswrt-Merlin 378.51 Beta 1 is out
    Highlights of this release:

    • Official support for the RT-N16 is being dropped. This last model based on SDK5 requires too much efforts to maintain. New features such as the new wireless log would have to be re-written specifically for that model.
    • The RT-AC3200 is now supported.
    • Entware is now supported on ARM models, based on Zyxmon's Qnapware repository
    • Completely redesigned the Wireless Log page. With the addition of a third radio on the...

    Asuswrt-Merlin 378.51 Beta 1 is out