Thecus N5200 RouStor review

£599
Price when reviewed

Thecus has delivered some unusual NAS appliances of late. Its new N5200 RouStor takes the honours as the first desktop unit with room for five SATA hard disks and support for RAID6. The new features don’t end there either, as it employs a low-voltage Intel Celeron M and offers three USB, an eSATA and five Gigabit Ethernet ports.

Thecus N5200 RouStor review

The network ports have been split up, with one providing WAN duties and the other four grouped into a separate switch where the appliance performs routing between them – hence the model name. If you want, you can also stop systems on the LAN ports from accessing the WAN port.

The N5200 is well built and looks good with its smart black chassis and blue backlit LCD and operator panel. As the Linux-based OS is implemented on a separate IDE CompactFlash card, you can purchase the N5200 unpopulated and add your own hard disks. The drives are mounted in solid hot-swap carriers, which can all be individually locked.

The web management interface is the same as that presented by Thecus’ N4100, which we reviewed as Evesham’s SilverSTOR XS. It’s rather basic, but does provide easy access to all the functions. And functions there are aplenty, as it supports Windows, Linux, Unix and Mac clients, runs an FTP server, and can use NT domain and AD authentication along with its local user database. The Nsync option also allows selected folders to be backed up regularly to another N5200 appliance. Snapshots can be run manually or scheduled, and Thecus bundles its own client backup software. The latter is extremely basic, although it does allow you to secure selected folders to a destination of your choice, and schedule full and incremental backups.

We’re not convinced that many will want to use RAID6. It’s costly in terms of lost storage, as it uses dual independent parity and needs at least four drives to function. It requires the capacity of two for redundancy and can survive the loss of two drives. For testing, we configured four 250GB Western Digital SATA/300 drives as a RAID6 array and were left with less than 0.5TB of available space. Furthermore, the array took nearly five hours to build and the volume won’t be made available until it’s finished. RAID0 and 1 arrays can also be migrated to RAID5. Again, patience is required, as it took over three hours to migrate a two-disk mirror to a four-disk RAID5 array, and during this phase the shared folders were offline.

Add a USB storage device and it’s automatically presented as shared storage. If you press and hold the down arrow button, the appliance will copy its contents to a local folder that’s also shared ready for use.

Performance over Gigabit Ethernet is good, with the Iometer utility reporting 53MB/sec raw read throughput with a share mapped to a Supermicro 3.2GHz Pentium D workstation. Copying a 691MB video file to the appliance delivered good real-world write speeds of 25MB/sec, while reading it from the array returned 26MB/sec.

The web interface could benefit from a smarter design, but otherwise there’s little to fault the Thecus N5200 RouStor. It’s competitively priced and offers some of the best features we’ve yet seen from a desktop NAS appliance.

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