Introduction

NAS units targeting home consumers have traditionally been underpowered in terms of hardware as well as firmware features. Low power, reduced cost and media-centric features are primary requirements in this area. Intel has traditionally been loath to participate in this market segment, probably due to the obvious lack of high margins. However, the explosive growth potential in the consumer / SOHO NAS market has made Intel rethink its strategy.

The Atom CE5300 series was initially introduced as the Berryville set-top-box platform in March 2012. Almost a year later, the CE5300 series was re-launched in its EvanSport avatar as a storage solution targeting home consumers (in particular, as a media server platform). Asustor, Thecus and Synology were touted as partners building NAS units based on this platform, but only the Thecus units seem to be available in the market right now.

Thecus has four NAS models based on the Intel EvanSport platform. The following table summarizes the features of the four models. The review unit configuration (N2560) is highlighted.

Thecus EvanSport NAS Models
  N2520 N2560 N4520 N4560
Processor Intel CE5315 (2C @ 1.2 GHz) Intel CE 5335 (2C @ 1.6 GHz) Intel CE5315 (2C @ 1.2 GHz) Intel CE5335 (2C @ 1.6 GHz)
RAM 1 GB DDR3 2 GB DDR3 2 GB DDR3 2 GB DDR3
Drive Bays 2x 3.5" (Hot-swappable) 2x 3.5" (Hot-swappable) 4x 3.5" (Hot-swappable) 4x 3.5" (Hot-swappable)
Network Links 1x 1 GbE (WOL supported) 1x 1 GbE (WOL supported) 1x 1 GbE (WOL supported) 1x 1 GbE (WOL supported)
USB Slots 1x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 1x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 1x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 1x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0
eSATA Slots None None None None
Expansion Slots None None None None
VGA / Display Out HDMI / SPDIF HDMI / SPDIF HDMI / SPDIF HDMI / SPDIF
Full Specifications Link Thecus N2520 Thecus N2560 Thecus N4520 Thecus N4560

The N2560 is not the first model from Thecus to have been put under the scanner in our labs. The N4800 was also evaluated last year. Performance wise, the N4800 fared very well. However, we never got around to publishing a dedicated review due to severe usability issues with the firmware. Therefore, it was with mixed feelings that we decided to evaluate the N2560. The main attraction, undoubtedly, was the new NAS platform from Intel.

Intel launched the new NAS platform to provide a solution for the NVR, media server and network storage segments. In their message to manufacturers, multiple applications were played up.

In the course of the review, we will see how Thecus has managed to utilize the above platform. We will talk about the specifics of the EvanSport NAS platform before going into the setup and usage impressions. Single client performance is presented followed by our standard multi-client performance benchmark results. Even though it doesn't make full sense to evaluate how the NAS performs when there are 25 concurrent users, it is only natural to expect the unit to be used by three or four users simultaneously as a media server. In the concluding section, we talk about power consumption, the mobile apps and the media-centric features. Prior to proceeding with these aspects, let us take a look at our testbed infrastructure.

Since the Thecus N2560 happense to be a 2-bay NAS, we used two Western Digital WD4000FYYZ RE drives as the test disks. These disks were configured in RAID-1.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ RevoDrive Hybrid (1TB HDD + 100GB NAND)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

 

Intel's EvanSport NAS Platform
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  • chizow - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    It's not just the extra "physical" bays, it's the extra support for the extra features as well as the additional CPU grunt and RAM you generally get with these upgraded units. These add up to additional premium that you undoubtedly see in review results whne jumping up from entry level 2-bay to 4-6-8 bay SOHO NAS units. Reply
  • otherwise - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For the two NAS' ace240; the software; CPU; and Memory is the same. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    What they charge and how much it costs them to make are separate things. Reply
  • Solandri - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    But addressing the GP's original question, the cost to make these things does not matter. People keep buying the 2-bay NASes because the manufacturers keep pricing them 4-bay NASes substantially higher.

    The price premium was big enough for me to build my own 4-drive homebrew NAS. For non-techy people (e.g. my parents) I just get them a 2-bay off-the-shelf NAS.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    I'm sure you're right on actual cost. But the 4 bay ones start $200 higher than the 2 bay NAS's. So it makes a lot more sense to buy a 2 bay NAS in RAID 0 and if you want your data backed up beyond that to just use the cloud or external hdd's. Reply
  • easp - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Why do people continue to think that products are or should be priced on marginal cost? The up-front engineering and product development costs are often a significant consideration.

    These engineering efforts are generally focused on an entire product family, and the overall economics of the product family are often predicated on the fact that some of the members of the product line will have larger margins, and others will have smaller margins. Moreover, it is the lower-end items that tend to have the smallest margins, so taking the low-end products as the baseline further distorts the conclusions.
    Reply
  • brucek2 - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    This website caters to many hardware enthusiasts who frequently build their own systems, including servers and/or storage systems. If a manufacturer is going to arbitrarily add phantom costs to build(s) with certain configurations, it means that enthusiasts who want those configurations will be more likely to build vs buy in those cases (or switch to the more cost effective configurations.)

    I have no problem with manufacturers recovering their R&D and making profits. It just sounds in this case like both the hardware BOM and the R&D are very similar for the two models, leading to what I feel is a legitimate question why one would be priced at double the cost of the other.
    Reply
  • easp - Thursday, December 05, 2013 - link

    Enthusiasts often make the mistake of thinking that they are the target market for every product they see. They aren't, particularly when they don't value their time very highly. I'm guilty of the latter (I buy cheap Xyzel NASs when they are on sale for the purpose of running debian), but I try hard to avoid the former.

    As to your sense that both hardware BOM and R&D are very similar for the two models, my original point is that reaching that conclusion suggests deeply flawed assumptions. R&D (and marketing costs) costs aren't distributed equally across all members of product families. Some models will have lower prices, lower cost of goods sold and lower margins, while others have higher cost of goods, and disproportionately higher margins and final selling price.

    If it helps, look at it this way, if every tier in a product family bore an equal share of R&D and marketing costs, with consistent margins, then the higher-tier models would be somewhat cheaper, but the lower-tier models would be more expensive.
    Reply
  • ShieTar - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    Difficult to say. With four drives instead of two, you get more heat, more vibrations, more mass. You might hit some design threshold, where all of a sudden you need to have a wider base, use different screws for fixation or add another cooling component.

    I also think that there are actually plenty of customers who are happy with even a single drive in one of those. Just something to put movies and music on for all family members, and if the drive fails, so what. Its not like anybody made backups of his videotapes in the last century. So for the mass market, it probably makes sense to have a inexpensive 2-Bay unit, plenty of people will check for the cheapest unit which supports what they plan to do.
    Reply
  • puremind - Saturday, November 30, 2013 - link

    Why would you want an extra Bay if you are not prepared to purchase extra drives anyways? Reply

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