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NAS Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle= Introduction, Inside, Features}
Linux NAS | Soho/Home
At a glance
ProductThecus Linux NAS | Soho/Home (N4310)   [Website]
SummaryLow-cost four-bay RAID 5 NAS based on AMCC single core PowerPC based SoC
Pros• High performance for relatively little $
• Quiet
• USB 3.0 ports
Cons• Slow attached backup
• Slow admin GUI

Typical Price: $207  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

You might know Thecus as a maker of very fast and expensive NASes. But last year, Thecus broke out of that mold with its entry-level two-bay N2310. Based on an AMCC single core Power PC-based SoC, it offered excellent performance and remains as the least expensive dual-bay BYOD NAS in our NAS Charts.

This review will focus on Thecus' four-bay version of the N2310, the N4310. Like its sibling, the N4310 offers good value and is the least expensive four-bay NAS we have seen. There are some differences between the two models, however.

Other than the increased number of bays and the additional RAID levels supported, the N4310 supports iSCSI targets (up to 15) and initiator, Wake on LAN, TFTP server and ADS (Active Directory Service). The N4310 also has a faster processor and more RAM than the 2310, as you'll see shortly.

The image below shows the front and rear panel callouts. On the front panel, there's a Power LED (top), a System status LED (below the power LED), four disk activity/failure LEDS as well as an LED to indicate LAN link/activity and an LED to show USB file copy status. Below the status indicators is a USB copy button and the power switch.

Thecus N4310 Callouts

Thecus N4310 Callouts

On the rear panel, you'll find two USB 3.0 ports (the N2310 had one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0), Gigabit Ethernet port, reset button and two power supply jacks. It's interesting to find an entry-level NAS with support for power redundancy. However, the product page indicates that you can connect a second power supply to the second jack. If the primary power supply should fail, the NAS will stay up.

Inside

The N4310 uses an AMCC APM86491-RKB1000T SoC running at 1 GHz. The N2310 uses an 800 MHz version of the same SoC.

The image below shows the main PCB for the N4310. The processor is located just to the right of center. On the left side of the board you'll see the connectors for the rear panel along with the drive bay backplane connector.

Thecus N4310 main PCB

Thecus N4310 main PCB

The N4310's key components are summarized in Table 1 along with a comparison to the Thecus 2310 and the next two most expensive four-bay NASes in the NAS Charts. While there are a number of less expensive four-bay NASes than the ASUSTOR NASes shown, we filtered the search to show only products tested with the current process.

  Thecus N2310 Thecus N4310 ASUSTOR
AS-304T
ASUSTOR AS-204TE
Price $80 $261 $423 $430
CPU Applied Micro APM86491 @ 800Mhz AMCC APM86491-RKB1000T 1GHz SoC Intel Atom CE5335 @ 1.6 GHz Intel Atom CE5310 @ 1.2 GHz
RAM 512 MB DDR3 1 GB DDR3 Sk Hynix H5TQ4G43AFR (x2) 1 GB DDR3 on board 1 GB DDR3 on board
Flash ? 1 GB Spansion S34ML08G101TFI000 16 MB Spansion FL128SAIF00 16 MB Spansion FL128SAIF00
Ethernet in APM86491 Atheros AR8035-A Realtek RTL8211E Realtek RTL8211E
USB 3.0 in APM86491 in APM86491 Etron Tech EJ188H Etron Tech EJ188H
SATA None JMicron JMB320 SATA II 3.0 Gbps port multiplier Asmedia ASM1061 PCI Express to two ports of Serial ATA Asmedia ASM1061 PCI Express to two ports of Serial ATA
Table 1: Key component summary and comparison

We tested using our standard four WD Red 3 TB (WD30EFRX) drives loaned by WD. Power consumption was measured at 27 W in active mode and 11 W in power save mode. Fan and drive noise was rated low. This is a very quiet NAS, especially considering it's a four-bay.

Features

The 4310 runs ThecusOS 6. I wrote an in-depth review of OS6 when it was released a year ago, so won't repeat feature details here. To give you a feel for the user interface, the image below shows the first page of the control panel. The other two screens in the control panel show the identical icons as shown in the N2310 review. If you'd like to explore the user interface on your own, Thecus has a Live Demo.

Thecus N4310 Control Panel (first screen)

Thecus N4310 Control Panel (first screen)

Like virtually all of the NASes on the market with modern NAS operating systems, you can add features to the N4310 by installing additional applications. The control panel has an icon for "Official NAS Application". The screenshot below shows the Official NAS Applications for the N4310. The System Files entry is how you upgrade the OS firmware.

Thecus N4310 Official NAS Applications

Thecus N4310 Official NAS Applications

In addition, there are about 65 third-party apps that will run on the N4310, detailed in the gallery below.


Performance

Performance tests were run using our Revision 5 NAS test process on four-drive unencrypted RAID 0, 5 and 10 volumes using four WD Red 3 TB (WD30EFRX) drives with a 1 Gbps LAN connection. The firmware installed was OS6.build_809.

A glance at the Benchmark Summary below shows a good deal of variation in large file copy performance for depending on RAID level, data direction (write / read) and benchmark. Slowest performance of 50 MB/s was measured for NASPT RAID 5 write, while 100+ MB/s results were obtained with RAID 10 Windows File Copy read, RAID 10 NASPT File Copy To NAS (write) and RAID 0 NASPT File Copy to NAS.

Once you start copying directories of mixed-size files, throughput drops to the 5 MB/s range, no matter which RAID level used. The main take-away from the results is that the N4310 struggles to keep up with the CPU load of RAID 5 parity calculations. So you'd be better off running RAID10 if you're looking for best performance from a four-drive array.

Thecus N4310 Benchmark Summary

ASUSTOR AS7004T Benchmark Summary

Attached backup tests yielded disappointing results. With performance ranging from 13 MB/s (FAT) to 19 MB/s (EXT3), the N4310 ended up at or near the bottom of the charts for four-bay attached storage backup results. In fact, those results are actually slower than many four-bay NASes turned in for USB 2.0 attached backup.

At 43 MB/s, the N4310 network (rsync) backup is right in the middle of the pack. Network backup speeds range from 36 MB/s to 83MB/s for four-bay NASes tested using the same methodology. Similarly, iSCSI performance was disappointing. The 44 MB/s iSCSI write and the 72 MB/s read results landed the N4310 in ninth out of tenth place for both tests. But at least you get iSCSI, which is not supported in the N2310.

Comparative Performance - Four Bay

To compare four bay NASes, I used the NAS Ranker and filtered for four drives and current ("black bar") testing methodology. The filtered results yielded 10 products with the N4310 holding down the #10 spot for Total NAS ranking. That's not too surprising, since the N4310 is the cheapest four bay NAS. If you further tighten the filter for SoC-1 class (single core SoC) products, the list drops to two products. The other product is the Seagate NAS that was in ninth place on the results shown below.

Four-bay Total NAS rankings using "Black Bar" testing filter

Four-bay Total NAS rankings using "Black Bar" testing filter

If you sort the results by price, you'll see the N4310 is the cheapest, followed by the two ASUSTOR NASes included in the key component summary. If you remove the test version filter, there are six NASes that fall between the N4310 and the ASUSTOR AS-304T. Note that those six products were tested with a previous testing method, so results can't be directly compared.

For detailed performance comparisons, I included the three least expensive four-bay NASes filtered by the latest test method. The chart below shows individual test results and category rankings for these three products. The performance summaries show rankings for all products tested (88 products), not just filtered results.

As you can see, the N4310 trailed in category rankings for all categories. While the N4310 trailed in all categories, there are some individual benchmarks where it surpassed both of the ASUSTOR NASes. If you dig into the details, you'll see that on individual write and read benchmarks, the N4310 performed quite well - especially on some of the RAID 10 file copy operations. And, it's important to note that the speeds measured are directly comparable since the same testing methodology was used for all three.

NAS ranker performance summary for the least expensive 4-bay NASes filtered by test method

NAS ranker performance summary for the top three Total NAS 4-bay products

Closing Thoughts

As with the Thecus N2310, the APM86491 SoC appears to provide the N4310 with decent performance at a low cost. The N2310, as noted, is the least expensive two-bay NAS and the N4310 wears the same crown for four-bay NASes we have reviewed. Yet on some benchmarks, both units turned in throughput in excess of 100 MB/s!

The bottom line for the Thecus N4310 is the same as for the N2310. It provides a lot of bang for the buck and deserves a look if your budget is tight and capacity needs are larger than can be met with a two-bay NAS.