Thecus N4100PRO NAS Server ReviewNemo - July 19, 2010
Category: Storage / Hard Drives
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Storage is no longer a matter of throwing another disk drive into the computer and calling it a day. There are many more issues to take into account besides a few more gigabytes of room. Today it's a matter of not only what you store, but how that data is going to be accessed and used. At work, data is king and the lifeblood of the enterprise. At home, our lives are becoming media-centric with a growing need for not only storage space, but ways to serve and share the media as well.
Network attached storage (NAS) servers are not just for businesses any more. The same benefits they offer in the work place, namely secure, sharable storage, can be used in the home/small office environment as well. Today's crop of NAS devices offer more than just storage though, as they can also be used as media servers to share photos and videos across the network and make files available via the Internet as well. Many units offer iTunes support and can even function as a web server, and any multi-bay unit will offer some form of redundancy through the use of RAID volumes.
Today we'll be looking at the Thecus N4100PRO, a 4-bay NAS server designed for the small business or enterprise work group. The N4100PRO is the big brother to the Thecus N3200PRO we reviewed previously here at OCC. Thecus offers a full line of storage products ranging from 8-bay enterprise class NAS servers to single- and dual-bay units for home use. The N4100PRO has been part of the lineup since Thecus introduced it over 15 months ago, however the version we'll be examining is based on the just-released AJAX-based user interface that offers a cleaner look and more features including iSCSI support.
As we saw with the N3200PRO, Thecus sent us the N4100PRO in a heavy-duty corrugated shipping box with plenty of packing peanuts to keep everything secure and undamaged. The carton containing the actual unit comes with the usual marketing images with the front and rear of the box containing identical images of the NAS unit itself. On one end of the box is a description of the unit's features and capabilities. On the opposite end of the box is a schematic showing some of the possible connections for the unit. All in all, it is a rather minimalistic and uncluttered approach, although I have yet to figure out why the recumbent woman on the face of the box seems to be so happy - maybe she really did want a NAS server for her birthday after all.
The N4100 is securely cushioned inside the box by a pair of open-cell foam inserts that position the unit in the center of the box with enough dead space around it to protect it from any bumps and rough handling. The enclosure is further protected against scratches by a plastic bag. Accessories included with the N4100PRO include a power cord, a Cat5E network cable and a bag containing hard drive mounting screws and a set of key for the disk trays. Also included are a quick start guide, the installation CD and a second disc containing the backup software.
The server is enclosed in plastic which ads another layer of protection against scratches during shipping. The front of the case is mostly taken up by the ventilated front cover with the LCD panel and its controls located just below that. Down the left side you can see the status LEDs with a front USB port located at the bottom just above the power switch. The back panel of the N4100PRO features a 120mm cooling fan in the center of the case with a pair of USB ports located along the right side. Below that, also on the right side, are the two network connections with the WAN port located on top of the LAN port. Along the bottom of the panel you have the power connector and 40mm cooling fan for the built-in power supply. The bottom of the case has four rubber feet to keep the unit from scratching other devices in case you want to stack it and they also serve to keep the unit from sliding around.
Popping the cover off the unit offers a look at the motherboard with the AMD Geode LX 800 processor hidden beneath a passively cooled aluminum heatsink. Butting up next to the heatsink on the right is the 256 MB DDR400 SODIMM module. If you look down at the bottom edge of the motherboard you'll see the 128MB flash module containing the firmware for the N4100PRO. The motherboard assembly pulls out, exposing the SATA backplane. The front looks a bit different now with the LCD panel fully exposed; you can also see the status LEDs along the left side of the drive trays.
Now that we've seen what the N4100PRO looks like, let's see what it takes to install the drives and get the NAS unit online.