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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  • SeeManRun - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I do not understand why someone would buy a NAS with only 2 bays. They keep making these products, so obviously people are buying them, but if you are technically savvy enough to know you need a NAS, wouldn't you want one with more bays?
    I have been toying with building my own, and I could not bother for less than 6 drives in a RAID 5 solution.
    Reply
  • brucek2 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I was wondering this exact thing. Plus, what's the marginal cost for an extra bay or two anyway? I'd expect the hard manufacturing costs for a 2 drive unit would be 80-90% of the 4 drive unit? Reply
  • kelstertx - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    I agree too, but the thing that comes to mind in favor of a 2 bay over 4 bay is if you wanted separate arrays for redundancy. A 2 bay with Raid 0 for size, and a second 2 bay with the same config lets you do backups and upgrade arrays as drive sizes get more affordable -- without having to wipe out your only array of data. Nice NAS boxes should allow addition of more drives and automatic resize for you, but this one can't even rebuild its own array from a failed drive in Raid 1, so it probably can't be trusted to resize either. So if basic storage was reliable, a pair of 2 bay boxes gets around the issue of trusting advanced things like recovery and resizing. Just guessing tho... I'd still get a 4 bay myself. Reply
  • Integr8d - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Why not get a 4-bay and create two separate volumes for disks 0 and 1 and then 2 and 3? As far as I know, these are all software raid. I own an 8-bay Synology that uses no hardware for the storage math. And it's all resizable. So I'd think that RAID 0 on two volumes within the same box should be no problemo.

    The question on my mind is what RAID 0 even buys you in these systems. Unless you're running dual or quad Gig-E or 10Gig, what are you buying, besides a larger volume (and the added possibility of something going wanky)? I think that for the average user, four drives, with two each in RAID 1, makes more sense.
    Reply
  • Morawka - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    increased writes and read speeds on RAID 0 even with 2 drives..

    I myself would slap 2X 4GB drives in Raid 1. You wont get Double write but you would get double read speeds.
    Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - link

    You don't see read improvements in RAID1. Nothing tangible or useful anyhow. But that's what he's getting at; modern hard drives can saturate gigabit ethernet with sequential reads. There isn't really a need for RAID0. Reply
  • Doomtomb - Monday, December 02, 2013 - link

    You'd slap 2x 4GB hard drives together? My flash drive has more space than that. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, December 04, 2013 - link

    Pretty sure he meant TB, not GB, which is the norm with home-based NAS. Reply
  • ace240 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    You might expect that, but you'd be wrong. One example:
    DS213j (entry level Synology 2-bay NAS): $199
    DS413j (entry level Synology 4-bay NAS): $379
    Reply
  • brucek2 - Monday, November 25, 2013 - link

    Those are retail prices to consumers. My question ran to, how much did Synology have to pay to include those two extra bays? My guess is, unless they upgraded the cpu / networking / other chipsets to support more simultaneous clients (which would not be a necessity for me), a unit built on the same platform as the 2 drive unit but just offering space for 2 more drives should not cost much more. Reply

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