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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  • Namisecond - Friday, December 20, 2013 - link

    when your wifi software reports a connection at 54mb/s your actual throughput is not going to be or anywhere near 54mb/s. Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    What do you mean by "Full HD"? If you mean capable of handling the h.264 spec for higher quality settings, then no, there are almost no devices with cheap, fixed function decoders than can do that. You would be relying on software decoding only that would be pushing even high end quad-core portables to its limits (and sometimes, even that is not enough). Reply
  • npz - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Also, there is a problem with transcoding such files with these Atoms: the hw decoder may not be able to handle your format either, so you would end up using the weak cpu for decoding Reply
  • Jaybus - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    So you would have the even weaker smartphone do the transcode? Reply
  • jwcalla - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    By "Full HD" I simply mean 1080p. My three year old phone can handle that.

    What device doesn't have hw-accelerated video decoding? And who would own such a device for media display if it can't handle such a simple task?

    Asking a NAS to do it seems out of character.
    Reply
  • brucek2 - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Even if there's never a bandwidth problem inside your home, there's almost surely going to be one when you're traveling outside your home.

    I also think you are overestimating what 3 year old and older devices can do. I'm sure there are plenty of streams that have been labeled "1080p" that they can play, but I'm equally sure there are plenty of 10+gb bluray rips they can not.

    Finally, if your primary consumption is via a multi-format capable device like a HTPC, you may not know for sure or want to deal with making sure all your files are decodable in hardware by all your devices. That's why you have a transcoder in between for those cases when you are going out to less capable devices to make sure that the bandwidth used and the format sent is going to work for that application.
    Reply
  • robinthakur - Thursday, November 28, 2013 - link

    There are many many devices (such as PS3, 360 etc) which cannot access MKV containers where transcoding is the only option from a NAS or building an XBMC frontend box, which is still quite expensive and leads to one more power hungry device on the network. Being able to run XBMC with a media output from the NAS itself would actually be a much better solution for me as long as the CPU isn't getting hit constantly and the deive is near silent. Some people use Android based XBMC, but if you need lossless HD Audio, codec support and proper refresh rate support, your best, quietest, smallest option is actually a Mac mini running XBMC, but they do cost... Reply
  • YaBaBom - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Think users who have laptops/tablets/phones--if they have different devices with different capabilities, it's nice to be able to transcode the content from a high-bitrate original to something that best fits the mobile device. Plex does this automatically via software encoding on Windows boxes--i was really hoping to read that it could use the hardware encoder to do the same thing for multiple users (My old Core2Duo server struggles to do this for just one stream). Reply
  • Nephelai - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    Two pc's each with a data disk. /robocopy once per week. Job done. NAS /shrug Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    For the average household, 2 PCs at idle will probably consume upward of 40 W (minimum -- assuming they are Atom / Brazos based ones). This one, at load, consumes less than 35 W. You will still miss the mobile app data access functionality and lot of other perks provided by a NAS. Reply

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