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Performance

I used IOzone to check out the file system performance on the 3200 (the full testing setup and methodology are described on this page). Thecus supplied the 3200 with a mix of 7200 RPM SATA drives: one each of Western Digital WD1600JS-75N and WD800JD-23JN and a Seagate ST3160827AS. My test unit had the latest 1.00.01 firmware and I used default RAID settings, which included a 64 KB stripe size.

I usually test dual-drive RAID NASes in JBOD and RAID 1 modes and quad-drive NASes in JBOD and RAID 5. But given the 3200's odd (ha!) drive configuration, I tested it in JBOD, RAID 1 and RAID 5 modes with 100 Mbps, 1000 Mbps and 1000 Mbps w/ 4k jumbo frame LAN connections.

Figures 14 shows a summary of the Pro's large filesize write test results with 1000 Mbps and 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo frame LAN connections. As expected, RAID 5 came in slowest. But it's interesting that the JBOD and RAID 1 speeds tracked so closely.

N3200 write benchmark comparison - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 14: N3200 write benchmark comparison - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 15 gathers together the read test results for the same test configurations. The test with and without jumbo frames seem to cluster together up to 128 MB file size, then break into different groupings.

N3200 read benchmark comparison - 1000 Mbps LAN

Figure 15: N3200 read benchmark comparison - 1000 Mbps LAN

Competitive Comparison

The 3200's odd drive configuration put me in a bit of a pickle when it came time to choose comparison products. The 3200 actually comes in at #2 in the RAID 1 Write and Read Average performance charts, bested only by the four-drive Intel SS4200-E [reviewed]. I normally would not have tested a quad-drive RAID NAS in RAID 1, but the SS4200-E supports only RAID 0+1 and 5.

But since Thecus positions the 3200 as "RAID 5 for the Home", I chose comparison products from quad-drive NASes that were ranked similarly in the RAID 5 average throughput charts w/ 1000 Mbps LAN connection, i.e. the Qnap TS-409 Pro [reviewed], Synology CS-407 [reviewed] and a recent entry into the RAID 5 NAS wars, D-Link's DNS-343 [previewed]. (If you want to see the N3200 compared with the N5200 PRO, check the slideshow.)

Figure 16 is a comparison of RAID 5 write performance with a 4k jumbo frame gigabit LAN connection. The 3200 tracks the Synology CS407 most closely. But it's tough to call a winner between the Qnap and D-Link, since the Qnap's performance falls off with larger filesizes.

Competitive comparison - RAID 5 write, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Figure 16: Competitive comparison - RAID 5 write, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

So Figure 17 is a shot of the average write performance rankings, where you can see that the four products are very similar in performance.

Average large filesize throughput - RAID 5 write, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Figure 17: Average large filesize throughput - RAID 5 write, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Switching to read performance under the same conditions for the same set of products, Figure 18 shows that it's even tougher to call a clear winner.

Competitive comparison - RAID 5 read, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Figure 18: Competitive comparison - RAID 5 read, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

So Figure 19 shows the average read performance rankings. Once again, the numbers are similar, with the N3200 and Qnap TS-409 virtually the same.

Average large filesize throughput - RAID 5 read, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Figure 19: Average large filesize throughput - RAID 5 read, 1000 Mbps 4k jumbo LAN

Closing Thoughts

Thecus has taken a bold step with a three-drive RAID 5 NAS, since RAID 5 is so closely associated with four drives. The smaller number of drives also limits maximum capacity, which is one of the reasons that people choose RAID 5 over RAID 1 products.

But while the 3200's manufacturing cost probably isn't much lower than its quad-drive competition, Thecus has priced the 3200 aggressively as shown in Table 1.

Product Price Range Avg. Price
Qnap TS-409 Pro $599.00 $599.00
Synology CS407 $469.99 - $687.19 $579
D-Link DNS-343 $383.88 - $497.00 $440
Thecus N3200 $385.40 $385
Table 1: Pricing summary (Source: Pricegrabber 7/29/08)

The downside is that Thecus still doesn't have wide U.S. distribution and may be harder to find.

Thecus tends to be primarily focused on performance and the N3200 reflects that focus. If you don't mind an unsophisticated user interface and don't need a lot of hand-holding, then the N3200 could be the RAID 5 NAS for you.

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