Storage Wars NAS Roundup: Thecus, QNAP, Netgear

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Thecus N4800 Design and Build Quality

The Thecus N4800 is another NAS box aimed at SMBs, but with a feature-set that will appeal to home users as well, like HDMI output. It's a smidgen shorter than Netgear's ReadyNAS Pro 4, though not quite as compact with a lengthier and wider frame measuring 6.77 inches (W) by 7.55 inches (H) by 9.84 inches (D). Some vitals:
  • 2.13GHz Intel Atom Dual Core processor
  • 2GB DDR3 memory
  • 2 x 10/100/1000 LAN ports
  • RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD support
  • 2 x USB 3.0 (front); 2 x USB 2.0 (back); 1 x eSATA
  • HDMI and VGA output
  • 4 x drive bays
  • Built-in UPS backup

   

Four drive bays are hidden behind a plastic door that swings open to the right and clicks shut. It feels a tad flimsy compared to Netgear's ReadyNAS box, which uses magnets to hold the bay door in place without any vertical play. Attached to the backside of the door is a slab of metal mesh to allow cool air to seep through. According to Thecus, the inclusion of a third generation Intel Atom processor means that active cooling isn't necessary, a decision that pays off with a near-silent design.

There are two displays on the front, including an OLED display on top with button controls underneath, and an LCD strip on the left side that provides status information on HDD, LAN, and USB Copy activity. Four physical buttons sit underneath the OLED panel to cycle through the different settings and configuration options (as well as to enter a numerical password), though it's not clear at a glance what each one is does. For example, the down button brings up the USB copy command, though there's nothing on the OLED display beforehand to alert you to that.

Along the left edge are a pair of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, a welcome sight considering Netgear's unit is limited to USB 2.0. The power button sits on the bottom left corner.

One of the strengths of the N4800 is its assortment of ports. In addition to a pair of USB 3.0 ports on front, there are two USB 2.0 ports on back, two LAN ports, eSATA, Line out, and both HDMI and VGA outputs. The inclusion of an HDMI port means you can connect the N4800 to your HDTV and manage its functions from the couch, as well as stream HD playback, provided you install the "Local Display Module" Thecus recently made available. This is a slick feature and one that encourages plopping the compact N4800 somewhere in your home theater. The only downside is that the displays are always lit.

On the top right you'll notice a non-standard power connector, which is a bummer if you ever need to replace the power cord. Much more exciting is the removable battery that slides into a slit in the back, providing the N4800 with mini-UPS backup chores in case of a power outage. For some, this is reason enough to choose the N4800 over other NAS boxes

Thecus provides a bit of added security to its hard drive bays by way of a lock on each of the four drive trays. The drives are hot swappable and easy to install, though like Netgear's appliance, it's not a completely tool-less affair (drives need to be screwed into the trays).


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