This article first appeared in HWM June 2012.
A Storage Box For The Download Junkies.
The Thecus N4100PRO is one of the more popular SMB-class NAS boxes around and it the N4100EVO is its successor. According to Thecus, the N4100EVO is unique because it sports dedicated hardware for the business of building (or rebuilding) RAID arrays. That makes sense, because while using RAID for protecting your data is all fine and dandy, when disk failure occurs, rebuilding the array takes up quite a fair bit of CPU power, rendering your NAS all but useless until the rebuild process completes.
Otherwise, the N4100EVO is pretty much a run-of-the-mill NAS box, with specifications that are neither the best nor the worst we’ve seen, but thankfully at a price point that’s quite impressive given the feature set.To start, you get four drive bays to install hard drives of your choice. With drive support topping out at 3TB, four bays would mean that you can build a 9TB array in RAID 5, with a total usable disk space allocation of about 8.38TB. That should be more than enough storage for all the photos, music and videos for your home or small office setup for quite a while. Thecus builds in a pair of USB 2.0 ports (one at the front and one at the rear), though we’d like to see features like USB 3.0 make an appearance. The power supply is built in to the NAS itself, saving users from the hassle of having to hide an unwieldy power brick. There’s also a handy LCD up front, which lets users quickly access bits of information like the NAS status, IP address and more. Like most modern NAS boxes, the N4100EVO also features a DLNA media server, FTP and web server functionality.
If anything, the biggest gripe we have about the N4100EVO is the Ajax-based web interface that Thecus uses to manage the box. It’s slow, it’s unwieldy and not at all designed with user-friendliness in mind. Of course, if you can get past all that (and if you’re experienced in setting up NAS boxes), you should be able to find the settings you want after some digging.
We tested the N4100EVO with a quartet of 2TB Seagate hard drives and the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit, HD Video playback and record scored 36.2MB/s and 25.8MB/s respectively. The content creation and office productivity portions scored 2.6MB/s and 16.8MB/s each. File copies to and from the box averaged 26.5MB/s and 43.7MB/s respectively, while directory copies to and from averaged 4.3MB/s and 7.3MB/s respectively.
In terms of overall performance, this is hardly the fastest NAS we’ve seen out there, mostly due to the low-powered CPU, as compared to Atom-powered boxes which get you much faster transfer speeds, yet can cost easily twice as much. And that is, more or less, the main draw of the N4100EVO. For a reasonable sum of money, S$550 to be exact, you can get a four-bay NAS which lets you put together quite a decent chunk of centralized storage for the home or small office. You get transfer speeds that are reasonable, without having to shell out too much. Nevertheless, the less-than-optimal web-based user interface that Thecus chooses to use remains a significant issue.