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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  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    You nailed it with the appliance reference. There's a lot of people out there who know enough, or have been screwed by a lack of backups when disaster struck before, that want a simple redundant backup solution. They don't have 20TB of blu-ray rips, they just want to keep their documents/family photos/etc. safe from hardware failures. I bought a cheap 2 bay Iomega ix2 for my parents when Newegg had them on sale for $80 and it's already saved me from a data related headache. For myself I built a much more capable home server, but our needs are completely different. Reply
  • JeffS - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I have been using a 2-bay Synology NAS for years now. It draws very little power, takes up minimal space in my networking closet, and was ridiculously easy to configure. Even this older NAS supports 2 TB drives, and I'm running them in RAID 1. Just the other day, one died on me, and I was alerted by an alarm and yellow LEDs. I popped in a new drive, the RAID rebuilt, and I was good to go. When I've got 10,000 images from my cameras on a system, I do not want to tinker with it- I just want it to work. This little 2-bay box let me remove the local storage from all of the PCs in the house and put it in a place where I can easily back it up and where there's redundancy. Access is slower than on a local drive, but it's not bad over gigabit wired Ethernet.

    In short, I have enough other things to tinker with that I don't want to fuss with my NAS. The software is polished & convenient, and all I really need is redundancy in a small footprint, so a 2-bay unit is perfect for me.
    Reply
  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    Might want to check your data for corruption after a drive goes south. RAID 1 doesn't offer data correction. Reply
  • Duodecim - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    I'm very technical, and I want a 2-bay NAS or enclosure. Two reasons:

    I don't trust cheap non-battery backed RAID controllers, nor their rebuild procedures; RAID adds complexity with dubious benefits in a lot of end-consumer situations. You'd be better off manually sync'ing disks or creating snapshots (by means of hardlinks like rsync or Time Machine, or by means of filesystems like btrfs and zfs) and having the benefit that you can retrieve files that you accidentally deleted. Even if the RAID itself works fine, if you knock over the NAS, lightning strikes, you burn down your house or somebody runs off with all your gadgets, you better have backups somewhere else – you'd be better off with 2-bay non-RAID enclosures in different places than putting all your eggs in one basket.

    The other reason is the added heat, noise, power consumption and space when running a loaded 4, 5 or even 8-bay enclosure. That's assuming your data fits in a 2-bay enclosure, of course.
    Reply
  • Oscarcharliezulu - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    You are exactly right about snapshots vs raid. When you share data with the family and especially kids, being able to restore previous versions or accidentally deleted files is the biggest benefit. Then having 2 nas boxes means if one dies due to its power supply or some other hardware (non disk) problem, you have a redundant backup. Do people really need raid 6 for their torrent files? For photos yes but really for your ripped off media? No. Reply
  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    Depends on what you're torrenting...For any archival purpose, RAID 6 is recommended. It really sucks when that snapshot you took turns out to be unreadable because 1 of your mirrored drives was going and spread the corruption to the other drives. Reply
  • easp - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    1. Two bay devices are significantly cheaper, and accommodates enough storage for me now.
    2. Buying excess capacity now is foolish, because it will generally be cheaper when I actually need it. Moreover, I'd rather age out older drives and replace them, rather than keep them around and add to them.
    3. Having two two-bay devices provides me with more redundancy than one four bay device. I generally duplicated data between devices, rather than between drives in the same device.
    4. I'm not convinced that the upsides of RAID5/6 make up for the downsides, especially since I don't need 4-5 drives worth of raw storage.
    Reply
  • CSMR - Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - link

    For a lot of people 1 bay is sufficient. Most people's family data will fit on 4TB. Having a NAS is just as advantageous in this situation.

    Just because you are technically savvy does not mean you have more than 4TB of data you need to put on your network.
    Reply
  • puremind - Saturday, November 30, 2013 - link

    Against 4+ bays:
    -Bulkiness
    -Cost of upgrading hard drives
    Increased cooling need

    With 2 bay:
    You ALREADY get access to all of the features that NAS has to offeI, i.e. DNS, Home Media Streaming Server, Android Apps to access media and files from your smartphone, detached storage that your laptop can access wirelessly from you sleeping room to stream HD content to your home cinema.

    That's why 2bay is so popular. Consumers don't buy NAS systems for redundancy but for the features and convenienceof accessing all bulky media wirelessly. It is a kind of storage extension for laptops that can't afford that kind of space and bulkiness.
    Reply
  • Silma - Sunday, December 01, 2013 - link

    I agree absolutely it is an enigma for me.
    A non-tech person would be better buying a LaCie (or whatever) 2-mirrored drive solution which he would plug in directly.

    Tech people would be better off with much more hard drive.
    I did study the market 3 years ago and came to the conclusion that I would have to build it myself to stay within budget.
    So I bought 6 1.5 TB hard drives (best GB/$ at the time) plus an LSI raid controller, and configured the drives in RAID 6 for maximum availability. This setup was less expensive than an enclosure with 0 drive and a much less powerful much slower raid system.

    Today I don't think anything has changed. What's more I don't see any enclosure specialized in 2.5 (e.g. SSD) but I didn't research much.
    Reply

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