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NAS Server
At a glance
ProductThecus NAS Server (N5200XXX)   [Website]
SummaryD525 Atom-based five-drive BYOD NAS supporting multiple volumes, EXT3, EXT4, ZFS or XFS filesystems and iSCSI initiator / target.
Pros• List of optional modules has increased
• Good performance for less money
Cons• Very noisy
• USB / eSATA drive can't be shared

Thecus' latest to entice you is its line of "XXX" Intel Atom-powered NASes. There are five members in the family, from a dual-bay desktop to eight-bay rackmount. The five-bay N5200XXX is the model we're looking at.

Once you open its plastic front cover, the N5200XXX bears a strong family resemblance to the N5200 Pro that we reviewed three years ago. The 5200 Pro was quite the NAS Chart-topper of its time, powered by a Low Voltage Intel Celeron M clocked at 1.5 GHz mated with 512 MB of RAM.

The 5200XXX, on the other hand, joins the parade of higher-end NASes based on Intel's Atom, using a D525 clocked at 1.8 GHz with 1 GB of DDR3 SODIMM RAM.

You can see the strong resemblance to the N5200 Pro in the front panel view with callouts below. In fact, if you took off the front plastic cover that's only there to try to jazz up the XXX' look, you could easily mistake it for the N5200 Pro.

Thecus N5200XXX front panel

The rear panel looks pretty familiar and holds the dual Gigabit Ethernet ports that support Load Balance / Fail-over / Balance-XOR / 802.3ad / Balance-TLB / Balance-ALB modes, four USB 2.0 ports and one eSATA port. For some reason, Thecus likes to include a serial port for USB shutdown sync instead of supporting it only via USB like everyone else. But if your UPS syncs via USB, the XXX will handle it too.

Thecus N5200XXX rear panel

Entry into the XXX innards is easy-peasy: remove three rear thumbscrews; remove the back panel (after disconnecting the single fan cable; and slide off the cover. The photo below shows that after that, everything is laid bare.

Thecus N5200XXX w/ cover off

The photo below gets in a little closer to the board. The D525 Atom is under one of those heatsinks and I'm guessing there is an NM10 Companion under the other. Two Intel WG82574L Gigabit Ethernet Controller provide the Gigabit Ethernet ports and the dual-stacked 512 MB IDE DOMs can be seen at the upper right.

I don't know if those four SATA connectors at the top of the photo are live, because the drive bay connects via the big connector whose pin footprint you can see left of the RAM SODIMM. But there are two Silicon Image Sil3132 SATALink PCI Express to 2-Port Serial ATA II Host Controllers right above the drive bay connector. I don't know whether the NM10 or those is supplying the drive SATA interface.

Thecus N5200XXX board

The 1 GB of memory comes on an SODIMM, which you could replace at your own risk. Last time I asked Thecus about its policy I was told they "don't support" RAM upgrade. But they didn't say doing so voids the warranty.

The XXX sent for review had a mishmash of drives installed:
- Seagate ST380815AS 80 GB
- Seagate ST3500820AS 500 GB
- Hitachi HDP72505 500 GB (2X)
- Seagate ST3500630AS 500 GB

These produced a 63 W power draw with the drives spun up and relatively high 39 W with them spun down. I kept hoping the high fan noise would quiet down shortly after boot. But nay, nay, the fan noise stayed at a level that made me want to banish the XXX to my back room.

The N5200XXX ran firmware, but its feature set is very similar to what I found in the N4200 reviewed last fall, which ran (I don't know why the firmware has a 5.XX.XX.X. It appears to be running the V3 GUI.) You can check the N4200 review for the list, or test drive the online demo.

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