Thecus N2310 NAS Server Review

Wesstron - 2014-01-05 17:59:32 in Storage / Hard Drives
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
Reviewed by: Wesstron   
Reviewed on: February 27, 2014
Price: $159

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Introduction:

The consumer's needs are changing at a fast rate and what seemed to be a wild dream in the past, is nowadays a reality taken for granted. In terms of storage, it seems that our expectations go beyond the amount of space available for our digital possessions and transcends into: we want it all, we want it now, and we want it pretty much everywhere. The available out-of-the-box technology such as cloud based services, fills that need to a certain extent; but some users still want more performance, control, and customization, which can be provided by a NAS server with the right features. It goes without saying that the price tag usually associated with a good NAS server can be quite daunting for the average user.

Today I will be looking at the new entry level NAS server from Thecus, code name N2310. This disk-less unit is built around an Advanced Micro Circuits Corporation (AMCC), SoC clocked at 800MHz, and 512MB of DDR3 RAM. The N2310 has two bays that can accommodate 3.5" and 2.5" hard drives for up to 8 TB of storage. Retailing for an MSRP of $159, it brings an impressive feature set for great value. Powered by the new ThecusOS 6, the Thecus N2310 NAS Server promises unbeatable performance and extensive functionality.

Thecus, founded in 2004, is a Taiwan-based company with a presence in the USA, Netherlands, Germany, France, and China. Specialized in digital storage solution, Thecus is focused on quality, innovation, integration, and reliability. Let's check out the N2310 and see if it stands to the company's values.

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Closer Look:

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server comes in a relatively large and sturdy box, which has a minimal design. I personally like a clean looking packaging without much clutter and detail-overload. The front and the back panels are identical; the company name is located in the top left corner, with the "Creator in Storage" value proposition. The N2310 product name is proudly displayed on the left side with another value proposition, "Best-in-Class Value", which makes a clear statement about what market segment Thecus is targeting. Some key features are listed to highlight the N2310 five-minute complete installation, its unbeatable performance, the quick NAS access with the T-onTheGo app from Thecus, and the easy connection through DDNS. The rest of the panel is taken by a picture of the unit and another value proposition "intelligent NAS", which is faded to match the packaging art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One side panel lists some of the hardware specifications of the N2310, the expected read/write performance, some of the applications supported, the package contents, and the supported languages. The other side panel has another value proposition "Protect Your Source Secure Your Data", and several icons illustrating some of the N2310 features such as mobile access, photo server, media streaming, cloud service backup, download server, and personal cloud.

 

 

Opening the box reveals the accessories bundle, which hides the actual unit beneath it. The Thecus N2310 NAS Server was packaged very well and protected with two thick foam inserts.

 

 

The accessories bundle consists of a power adapter, a power cord, an Ethernet cable, two bags of screws, an installation disk, and a warranty card. Also included, is a quick installation guide covering three basic steps leading to the online install process.

 

 

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server comes with a plastic enclosure, combining matte and glossy finishes. The unit has a pretty discrete look and does not look cheap or flimsy. The HDD trays are exposed and serve as extra ventilation for the unit. Along the right edge of the front panel are six activity lights for different functions and two buttons. From top to bottom we find a power LED, system status LED, HDD1 LED, HDD2 LED, LAN LED, USB LED, USB copy button, and power button. The lights are very bright and look cheap due to color bleeding. The back of the unit houses the exhaust fan, a USB 3 port, a USB 2 port, an Ethernet port, a DC in, a recessed reset button, and a Kensington lock. The bottom of the unit is equipped with rubber feet for stability and an air intake slot.

 

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Hardware Installation:

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server comes with two HDD trays that slide vertically in the unit. The trays are not numbered and neither are the slots, so you might need to be creative on how to mark the trays to the drives and corresponding slots. I'm no stranger to ghetto-rigging stuff, so this doesn't bother me one bit. The trays lock in place via the same tool-less design found in some computer chassis. These trays do not have any anti-vibration materials and cannot be locked to the unit, which makes me question the utility of the Kensington lock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trays of the Thecus N2310 NAS Server will accommodate 3.5" and 2.5" drives that have to be secured with the supplied screws. The hard plastic seems sturdy enough, but the lack of rubber grommets caused the unit to generate annoying levels of vibration and noise. 

 

 

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is a dual-bay unit reinforced with a metal frame on the inside. The metal plate protects the main board and secures the PCIe expansion card in place. In the picture below, part of the PCIe card is visible where the SATA connectors are located.

 

 

With both trays populated, the Thecus N2310 NAS Server gets a good heft to it, while its rubber feet provide more than enough support. At this level, all that is needed is to connect the Ethernet cable to the N2310 and to a router, then power up the unit. Next we will take a look at the software setup.

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Installation & Configuration:

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server comes bundled with an installation disc containing a Getting started and a User's Manual in PDF format, the Intelligent NAS software, the Thecus Backup Utility, and a link to the Online Resource section on the Thecus website. I highly recommend using the disc as a last resort and following the quick installation guide instead, which will ensure that the software and manuals are up to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first step is to go to install.thecus.com and download the executable file of the Intelligent NAS software for the appropriate device and OS. The installer will walk you through the usual steps, and upon completion, you will see a prompt to close the install wizard and start the program. An icon will be created on the desktop for the Thecus Intelligent NAS.

 

 

 

The Thecus Intelligent NAS will automatically scan the network and identify the connected N2310 NAS. The scan result will also show some details about the unit, such as Host Name, IP, MAC address, model number, firmware version, and status. By selecting the device and pressing the next button, you will be redirected to the Install Mode screen with two options for RAID creation, automated or manual. I went with the Self-RAID Creation and the RAID1 option since I will be testing the Thecus N2310 NAS Server with two HDDs. The initialization process is supposed to last about five minutes, but in my case, it took almost nine minutes. When all is done, you will have the option to either create a Thecus ID or log in with an existing one.

  

 

 

Creating a Thecus ID is a simple process that requires a valid email and agreeing on the TOC. This will also create a DDNS address, which will be used to access the NAS remotely.

 

 

Next step is to click on the Start browser button to finally access the browser-based login screen. Logging in for the first time requires using the default admin/admin credentials. Needless to say that changing the password is mandatory for security reasons.

 

 

The interface of the ThecusOS 6 might seem pretty bare at first glance with only two available shortcuts for the Shared Folders and RAID Management. Other visible elements are the drop down menu on the top right corner where the admin password and language can be changed. This menu also lists the current ThecusOS build and a logout option. On the bottom right corner is the Message Bar showing three notifications: the RAID Information, Disks Information, and Network status. In the bottom left corner is a power menu to either shut down or reboot the N2310 unit.

 

Thecus opted to keep the interface clean by having only the Shared Folder and the RAID Management shortcuts available by default. The rest of the options are accessible via the Control Panel located in the top left corner. The Control Panel is divided in seven categories: System Management, Storage, File Sharing/Privilege, Network Service, Application Server, Backup, and External Devices. Each category includes several features and settings. By right clicking on any of the icons, it is possible to add it as a shortcut in the main screen for easy access.

 

 

 

By default, the following shared folders are created: NAS Public, USBCopy, USBHDD, NAS Media, and P2P Download. Also, these folders are defaulted to "Public" and are accessible by any device connected to the local network. More folders can be created through the Add option in the Shared Folder menu. 

 

The ThecusOS 6 is packed with options and can be overwhelming for beginners, although the fast and automated initial setup alleviates some of the work involved in setting up the Thecus N2310 NAS Server. Thecus also provides a great online demo of the ThecusOS 6, even if it's read-only. The demo is accessible via this link, with admin/Thecus serving as username/password. Overall, the ThecusOS 6 was quite responsive and easy to navigate, with the occasional slowdown while applying settings and the approximate 100 seconds required for a reboot!

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Hardware Specifications:

Processor
AMCC APM 86491 800MHz
System Memory
512MB DDR3
LAN Interface (PCI-e)
RJ-45x1: 10/100/1000 BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X
USB Interface
USB 2.0 host port x1 (back x1) 
USB 3.0 host port x1 (back x1)
Disk Interface
2 x SATA for internal
Power Supply
40W external power adaptor
Buttons
Power button
USB copy button 
Reset button
Environment
Temperature: 5 °C to 40 °C
Humidity: 0 ~ 80 % R.H. (Non-condensing)
Chassis
2-bay Tower
Dimensions (HxWxD)
135 x 97 x 207 (mm)
Weight
0.79Kgs
Certificates
CE/FCC/C-Tick/VCCI/BSMI
RoHS
WEEE

 

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Features:

 

All information courtesy of Thecus @ http://www.thecus.com/product.php?PROD_ID=97

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Testing:

For the purpose of this review, I will translate my user experience after integrating the N2310 into my home network for the last few weeks. The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is built around an AMCC APM 86491 single-core processor clocked at 800 MHz, which is running in tandem with 512 MB of DDR3 memory. For an entry-level NAS, the usability was excellent considering the price point. The Thecus N2310 NAS Server has something for everyone and I will go through some of the highlights and features of this budget oriented unit.

Testing Setup:

 

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Results:

Build quality:

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is built of plastic with matte and glossy tones. The unit looks good for a NAS server; I personally find it gorgeous compared to some older models in the networking world. It has a relatively slim frame and blends very well with the rest of the components that I have around. The HDD trays are also made of hard plastic, which seems durable, although the absence of rubber insulators caused the Thecus N2310 NAS Server to generate quite the vibrations and noise. I admit that the small exhaust fan and mechanical hard drives are to blame in this situation. However, some noise dampening material would go a long way in this situation. In terms of security, the Thecus N2310 NAS Server is not meant to hold irreplaceable data or critical files. This is due to the design and not the functionality of the device. The trays are exposed on the front of the unit, are easily removable, and even installing a Kensington lock will only secure the unit itself and not the drives.

Installation & configuration:

The initial setup of the Thecus N2310 NAS Server was as painless of a process as it can be. The steps were clear and easy to follow and the automated RAID creation worked as intended. In less than nine minutes I was looking at a fully accessible entry called "N2310" under "Network" in my testbed before even logging into the Thecus N2310 NAS Server browser-based dashboard. 

The interface of the ThecusOS 6 is pretty intuitive and relies heavily on icons instead of menus, which gives the user a high level of customization and puts the most used features and settings at the forefront for easy access. Mastering the advanced features however, will require that the user undergoes a learning curve of the ThecusOS 6 and enough basic knowledge to decipher the documentation available on the Thecus website. The ThecusOS 6 offers an extensive set of features with the option to add even more "apps" through the NAS App Center for extra functionality. On top of the essential features, such as RAID management, backup utilities, user configuration, and shared folders creation; the N2310 offers a plethora of network services including Bonjour, FTP, WebDAV, and DDNS. The functionality of the Thecus N2310 NAS Server can be expanded even more by installing modules via the "NAS Application" feature, such as Plex media server, Transmission BitTorrent client, iTunes Server, and Piczza photo album service. 

Being a complete stranger to Thecus products, I was grateful for the help section accessible on the browser dashboard and the online resources center available on the manufacturer website. However, some of the guides were quite confusing and the support PDF files could use an update. Another feature that seemed lacking in regards to the N2310 model is the number of compatible applications listed in the NAS App Center section of the Thecus website; sixteen to be exact when I filtered by model number.

Usability and performance:

After the hassle-free initial setup and quite a bit of homework going through the advanced settings, I was able to access the NAS from my testbed, which is wired to the router, and wirelessly from both the HTPC and the laptop without any issues. I always try to use whatever item I'm reviewing in real life applications, which provides a better feel of how useful it really is. I actually stored all the text files and pictures related to this review in the Thecus N2310 NAS Server from the get-go; since you are reading this, you can guess that I did not encounter any issues when accessing, editing, and saving the documents.

Copying files to and from the N2310 went smoothly and I witnessed speeds of up to 78 MB/s over Ethernet and 7 MB/s over wireless when moving a 900MB MKV video file from the N2310 to the test system internal hard drive. Using a generic USB 2.0 flash drive with 1.7 GB worth of mixed files in it to test the one-press copy function, the write speed to the NAS was 12MB/s, although your mileage may vary depending on the external drive used. 

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server proved to be a great companion to my HTPC. I copied a few media files including some high bit-rate 1080p MKV anime videos to the N2310 and then played them on the HTPC, which is connected wirelessly; and I have to say, I was really impressed by the viewing experience and the flawless streaming. There was absolutely no lag, the video quality was not affected, and all video file formats that I tried worked without a hitch. 

Mobile & tablet access:

Thecus offers companion mobile apps for iOS and Android devices to enhance the user experience and make the contents of the NAS available on the go. The objective is basically to give users their own private cloud with full read/write access to the files, sync options, and streaming capabilities. The apps available are Thecus's proprietary software, such as T-OnTheGo and T-Dashboard, although some third party apps like ES File Explorer File Manager, will also work to a certain extent. For the purpose of this review, I will be taking a look at the T-OnTheGo app since it's free and considered to be the official companion app.

I started by installing the T-OnTheGo app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which is available in the Google Play Store and free to download. The T-OnTheGo is a cloud management solution that allows users to upload and download files, view pictures, read documents, and stream media files on the go. For the app to work, the WebDAV service and DDNS need to be enabled by default on the Thecus N2310 NAS Server, then it’s just a matter of configuring the connection on the app. By default, only the local storage of the device will be displayed on the app; adding the NAS location requires selecting the icon on the bottom right corner and filling the necessary fields. The interface of the T-OnTheGo app is very basic and could use refinement, the responsiveness was not quite on par with more robust android apps, and I experienced random force closing when connecting to the N2310 over WiFi and wireless data. The app performed the advertised tasks properly and I only noticed streaming issues with high bit-rate video files at 720p or higher.

 

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Conclusion:

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is a budget oriented solution; just looking at the plastic construction will give it away - no fancy aluminium enclosure here. The build quality is however, pretty good, great value doesn't necessarily mean a cheap product, and Thecus somehow found a middle ground between cutting costs and delivering a good looking device. The two HDD trays are also made of hard plastic and seem to do a great job of securing the disks in place. The LEDs at the front are very bright and might become a distraction in a dark room.

In terms of connectivity, the Thecus N2310 NAS Server is equipped with a USB 3 port, a USB 2 port, and a gigabit Ethernet port. I was very pleased to see the USB 3 integration that will allow users to take advantage of better performing peripherals. Having at least one of the USB ports on the front of the device would've pleased me even more; but we can't have everything in life, can we?

Under the hood, we continue to see the budget oriented philosophy behind the N2310. The unit is equipped with an AMCC APM 86491 single-core processor clocked at 800 MHz coupled with 512 MB of DDR3 memory. Not much of a beast specs wise, but the Thecus N2310 NAS Server delivers what was promised and gets the job done very well. The unit's performance was excellent as far as a home/small office server is concerned. Copying files and other general computing operations were perfectly executed, the unit was very responsive, and I did not notice any lag or slowness. Media file streaming performance was outstanding across the board; be it over Ethernet or WiFi, I enjoyed watching some of my favorite high bitrate 1080p MKV videos without a hint of a problem when using the laptop or the HTPC.

The N2310 is running the latest operating system from Thecus, namely ThecusOS 6. The software is ambitious and offers an extensive list of features, although I felt that the whole experience wasn't as smooth as it could be. I like the clean interface and the icon-based navigation, but the software seems not fully mature overall. Some of the links available in the help section still refer to outdated guides and I was left to my own web-search skills to find the right document, if it existed at all.

The standard functions are obviously present, such as RAID management, backup utilities, user configuration, and shared folders creation. The N2310 offers several network services including Bonjour, FTP, WebDAV, and DDNS. The functionality of the Thecus N2310 NAS Server can be expanded even more by installing modules via the "NAS Application" feature, such as Plex media server, Transmission BitTorrent client, iTunes Server, and Piczza photo album service. Small portable devices were not neglected and companion apps can be installed on Android and iOS devices to take advantage of the Thecus N2310 NAS Server on the go, such as the Thecus proprietary T-OnTheGo and T-Dashboard apps, and other third party apps like Plex and ES File Manager.

Bottom line, Thecus brings to the table a great value, feature rich device geared towards the home and small office users. With an MSRP of $159, the N2310 is a gem that shines beyond its price bracket.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: