|At a Glance|
|Product||Thecus "Ultimate" NAS (N7700)|
|Summary||High-performance seven-drive BYOD NAS supporting multiple volumes and EXT3, ZFS or XFS filesystems.|
|Pros||• Multiple volume support
• Smooth RAID fail recovery
• Simultaneous iSCSI and SMB/NFS/AFP access
• High performance
|Cons||• Unsophisticated, outdated user interface
• Poor documentation (errors, incomplete)
• No backup to attached drives
In the battle of the small-biz NASes, six bays seems to be the new four bay. But Thecus has apparently decided to up the ante with it its top-of-line desktop seven-bay N7700.
Thecus is positioning the N7700 in its "Enterprise" product group along with the new N8800 rackmount and older N5200PRO desktop and 1U4500 rackmount NASes. It has equipped it with some unique features such as the ability to choose among EXT3, XFS and ZFS formats when creating your RAID volumes. Unfortunately, Thecus has not equipped the 7700 with a new, more user-friendly administration interface as competitor Synology has had for some time and that QNAP has just started to roll out.
The N7700 is taller than any of the other lots-o'-drives NASes I've seen lately. Figure 1 shows all drives in a single column, with a sizeable blank area at the top. This view has the front door opened, which is secured with a push-push latch and no lock. Each of the drives sits in a lockable tray that has light pipes that carry power and activity / error lights forward from the drive backplane. But since the drives are behind the door, you won't get a clear view of these lights when the door is closed, which is good or bad, depending on your preference.
Figure 1: N7700 Front Panel
The front panel LCD display has been carried over from the 4100 / 5200 Pros. Unfortunately, this means the return of the push-buttons-that-look-like-toggle switches, which are not my favorite. These buttons are not intuitive to use, with misleading and unhelpful function markings.
For example the "Down" button (called-out as 10 in Figure 1) does not let you scroll downward through the menu system, but instead initiates the USB Copy function. And I found that pushing the "Up" (11) button didn't really step me through all the status displays.
The rear panel photo in Figure 2 shows four thumbscrews that allow quick and easy removal of the panel for quick fan replacement. The card slot at the top of the panel looks like it lines up with two PCIe x1 connectors arranged in-line (more later).
Figure 2: N7700 Rear Panel
The port complement is somewhat disappointing, compared to what I found on the QNAP TS-639 Pro. The four USB 2.0 ports (two front, two rear) are probably enough. But there is only one eSATA port vs. two on the TS-639 Pro. UPS shutdown synchronization is via serial instead of USB, which is somewhat dated. And there is no VGA port to support console attachment. Finally, Thecus should drop the WAN/LAN Ethernet port labeling, especially considering that the IP Sharing feature behind it isn't even in the product.