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Thecus N5550 5-bay SMB/SOHO NAS Server Review
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by Rob Williams on September 26, 2012 in Network-Attached Storage

In an environment where uptime and data security is of paramount importance, a 5-bay NAS is an interesting proposition with its allure of huge storage and the ability implement a hot spare. Thecus’ N5550 only adds to the intrigue with its huge feature-set including a USB 3.0 port and 2GB of RAM. Let’s see if the other features can seal the deal.

Performance & Final Thoughts

Thecus’ N5550 boasts a lot, but does it deliver a lot? Features-wise, I think we’ve concluded that it does. Aside from a lacking of WebDAV support, I can’t think of much else Thecus lobs off and keeps for the bigger, more expensive NAS offerings. While features matter, performance might even more so – especially in a business environment. How does the N5550 stack up there?

With the help of a couple real-world tests and also Intel’s NAS Performance Toolkit, we’re going to find out. This benchmarking suite, called Intel NASPT for short, has become as synonymous with NAS testing as Futuremark’s 3DMark has become for GPU testing. It’s thorough, grueling, and gives us simple-to-understand results.

For our testing, we used a Core i7-3770K-equipped PC using a GIGABYTE Z77X-UD5H motherboard and an Intel 82579V Gigabit LAN connected to a NETGEAR WNDR3700 router. Hard drives are WD’s Red, which we reviewed here. Cat5 cables were used, with both the PC and NAS connected to the same router. Because having lots of RAM can skew the results of tests that use less than the amount of gigabytes installed, our test PC remains equipped with only 2GB of RAM during testing.

And… the results:

Intel NASPT 1-Disk 4-Disk RAID 0 5-Disk RAID 0
HD Video Playback 96.6 MB/s 94.8 MB/s 94.7 MB/s
2x HD Playback 88.2 MB/s 100.5 MB/s 101.0 MB/s
4x HD Playback 83.8 MB/s 104.4 MB/s 103.7 MB/s
HD Video Record 120.1 MB/s 123.4 MB/s 122.9 MB/s
HD Playback and Record 100.6 MB/s 98.3 MB/s 96.8 MB/s
Content Creation 10.9 MB/s 11.8 MB/s 11.0 MB/s
Office Productivity 55.5 MB/s 58.1 MB/s 58.0 MB/s
File copy to NAS 118.8 MB/s 126.8 MB/s 126.4 MB/s
File copy from NAS 82.1 MB/s 80.2 MB/s 80.4 MB/s
Dir copy to NAS 17.6 MB/s 16.8 MB/s 17.5 MB/s
Dir copy from NAS 24.9 MB/s 25.1 MB/s 24.4 MB/s
Photo Album 13.7 MB/s 13.2 MB/s 13.5 MB/s

These are some great performance results, with some actually topping out the theoretical limit of our gigabit network (125MB/s). The tests where the performance hurts are those that involve lots of files, but this isn’t unique to the NAS, but mechanical drives in general.

Real-World 1-Disk 4-Disk RAID 5 5-Disk RAID 5 Broken RAID 5
10GB Solid File 110.14 MB/s 103.46 MB/s 107.82 MB/s 67.83 MB/s
10GB Files (5,739) 59.96 MB/s 49.53 MB/s 55.12 MB/s 51.52 MB/s
25GB Files (9) 109.92 MB/s 104.97 MB/s 106.72 MB/s 69.41 MB/s

Note: The broken RAID 5 result represents a 4-Disk array with one disk removed.

Our real-world testing backs-up what Intel’s NASPT told us, although we didn’t manage to top out our Gigabit network like that did – even with our solid 10GB file being copied from a SATA 6Gbit/s SSD. Nonetheless, with large files, the NAS retained a consistent 100MB/s+ speed, and 50MB/s when dealing with lots of files. If only these hard drives were SSDs – then we’d see some consistency across the board.

Final Thoughts

At its price-point of about ~$600, Thecus N5550’s brings a lot to the table. It has most features people are going to want from a NAS, and if it doesn’t, there are sure to be third-party add-ons found on Thecus’ own website that should do the trick. Simply put, this NAS is packed.

Thecus N5550 5-bay NAS

The N5550 is hardly a slouch performance-wise either. Although it might seem like a minor improvement, the doubling of the RAM from 1GB to 2GB is huge, and can make a massive difference not only when the NAS is under a good stress, but when building or rebuilding your array. On the 4-bay N4200 equipped with 1GB of RAM, using the same WD Red drives to create a RAID 5 array took about 22 hours. The N5550? 10 hours.

10 hours might still seem like a lot, but imagine a situation where a drive in your RAID dies and you shove another in to start the rebuilding process. Wouldn’t you prefer waiting 10 hours over 22? Your assumed answer would only be amplified if dealing with a business environment.

As much as I love this NAS, there are a couple of things that strike me, but they’re minor in the grand scheme. I’m still not sure why Thecus opted for the blue LCD at the front here when the OLED screen seen on the N4200 series is far more attractive. The N4200 has a door covering only the drives, and maybe the N5550 should have copied that. Is there actually a specific reason that a door covering the entire front is opted for?

Though never before seen on the N5xxx series, I can’t help but wish this NAS also featured the battery backup of the N4200. Of course, features do have to be swapped around given this is a 5-bay offering, so maybe in time we’ll see something similar to the N4200 but in a 5-bay variant. I’d have to imagine it’d sell well, given an all-in-one business solution like that is attractive.

All-in-all, if you’re looking for a reliable, feature-rich and fast 5-bay NAS, Thecus’ N5550 proves to be a fantastic choice either for the home, office or small business.

Pros

  • High-performing, thanks in part to the fast Intel Atom CPU and 2GB of RAM.
  • Admin system isn’t the best-looking on the planet, but it’s rich with features.
  • Well-built, solid construction.
  • Quiet-running, nothing compared to a standard desktop PC.
  • USB 3.0 support, and 4x USB 2.0 ports at the back.
  • iSCSI support.
  • Includes HDMI-out to use the NAS as a light PC or media center (both require modules to be installed).
  • Included copy of Acronis True Image (which we highly recommend for backup).
  • Supports up to 20TB of storage.

Cons

  • No WebDAV support.
  • Two USB 3.0 ports would have been nice.
  • Front LCD screen is difficult to control.
  • Can’t create two RAIDs in a queue; must wait for first to finish before creating the second.

Thecus N5550 5-bay NAS
Thecus N5550 5-bay NAS

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