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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  • emacjohnson - Sunday, December 29, 2013 - link

    before I looked at the paycheck of $8548, I accept that my friend was like realey bringing home money part time on their apple labtop.. there best friend has been doing this for only about twenty one months and recently cleard the mortgage on there place and bourt a great new Alfa Romeo. look at this site,,,,,,,,, Reply
  • OzzieGT - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Cloud backup...I use cloud backup, I don't need 6 drives. That's just insanity. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Data caps. I can't back up 5+TB of data via the internet, and even if I could, it would take well over a month. Reply
  • Morawka - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    the idea behind a good cloud backup system is file revisioning. You upload the bulk of your data one time, and only the files that have been changed or added, are uploaded each day. Reply
  • ace240 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Err, money?

    A 2-bay NAS with 2 drives is almost exactly half the cost of a 4-bay NAS with 4 drives. If money is no object, get as much storage as you like. I love my 2-bay NAS -- spending $1000 was out of my budget to move to get 4 bays w/ 4 drives.
    Reply
  • swizeus - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Actually there is footprint thing though. For everyone who wants a lower profile NAS it will go with the 2 bays. Just want a centralize storage, not too much data going on anyway Reply
  • SetiroN - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    This.
    Home NAS devices are a joke and it's ridiculous to spend money on them.
    To someone with any actual storage needs, anything less than RAID 6 is a joke and devices with 6+ slots actually cost more than 3x 2-slot, which doesn't make any sense.

    Unless you want to spend a silly amount of money, you're much better off with something self built, although it does require a little expertise.
    Reply
  • hero4hire - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Zfs then? Reply
  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    It actually makes a lot of sense to me. You mention it yourself: RAID 6.

    A 2 drive NAS is only going to support JBOD, striping and RAID 1. Fairly easy to implement as far as hardware goes. Once you get to 4-bay and plus units, you start getting real redundancy with RAID 5 and 6, with hot swap spares and data error correction. This stuff doesn't come cheap.

    If you want to see the difference between them, take apart a 2 port NAS. It's a single circuit board with a few low level IO chips. Take apart a Synology DS1511 or something similar and it's a full blown micro server on the inside with a real RAID controller card.

    Even building your own unit isn't a cheap affair, especially if you factor in your own time. Up to a 4 or 5 bay unit, you may actually save some money building your own. Try building your own 8 or 12 bay unit and watch your build cost skyrocket.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Not everyone is using their NAS to store thousands of DVD/BlueRay rips or tens of thousands of high megapixel raw images from their SLR. If you're just using one because you want your backups on something a bit more fault tolerant than a USB drive sitting on your desk and with a faster restore capability than pulling an entire system image down from the cloud, a 2 bay option is more than plenty.

    I built my current NAS with a 4 bay mITX enclosure; but after a year I'd give even money odds that the system will be old enough I'll decide on a precautionary replacement before needing to add a 3rd data drive. The 4th bay is almost certainly going to remain empty unless I undergo a lifestyle change and greatly accelerate my rate of data retention.

    In particular I suspect that 2 bay NASes sold with drives preinstalled are primarily marketed to people who want an appliance; not something they can tinker with. For them smaller is almost universally better since it takes up less room on the shelf in the corner where their modem and router are. If it fills up in a few years they wouldn't know how to add more disks to it, and the price the local computer shop would gouge them for labor to work on is high enough to make just getting a new one seem really appealing.
    Reply

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