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Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server E-mail
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Written by Bruce Normann   
Monday, 24 September 2012
Table of Contents: Page Index
Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server
Closer Look: Thecus N5550
Insider Details: Thecus N5550
Technology Details: Thecus N5550
Thecus N5550 Features
Hardware Specifications
Software Specifications
NAS Setup and Usage
NAS Testing Methodology
Basic-Disk Test Results
RAID 5 Test Results
Intel NASPT Test Results
Non-Traditional NAS Results
NAS Server Final Thoughts
Thecus N5550 Conclusion

Thecus N5550 Conclusion

Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. As Albert Einstein said, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusions, as they represent our product rating for the sample received which may differ from retail versions.

The performance of the Thecus N5550 is really outstanding, no question about it. It sits either at the top, or very close to it, within its target market. During timed transfers of 1GB and 10GB files the N5550 recorded Read speeds of 111 MB/s and Write speeds above 118 MB/s. These are the RAID 5 results, and the only ones that really matter, since I suspect 90%+ of all users will choose that operating mode. The Intel Atom D2550 processor inside was never maxed out during these tests, but the 2GB of SDRAM often was. It never seemed to have an impact on transfer speed though, as I was watching the performance in real-time for many of the test runs. The balancing act of capacity, speed and cost has to land somewhere, and Thecus put together a well-balanced package that definitely delivered the goods. The USB 3.0 performance is a much needed shot in the arm for interfacing with portable devices. The dual GbE network interfaces are perfectly suitable here, and the Intel chips support all the typical standards in use throughout the data center, if needed.

The five-bay form factor of the Thecus N5550 allows for the use of a display on the front of the unit, which was handy for system monitoring and for out-of-the-box setup. The status LEDs for each HDD are easy to see when the front door is open, and much less so when it's closed. The door hiding the drive trays has a number of stylish and functional features, and blends well with the remainder of the unit. It makes a big difference in the appearance, compared to models that have exposed drive bays. Thecus kept some of the controls on the inside, including the USB connector, plus the power and reset buttons. I'm OK with the power/Reset buttons but not with having to leave the door open just to access the USB jack that's behind it. It's the only USB 3.0 interface on the unit, so it's the one I want to use the most, too. The side and top panels are well finished, with a speckled powder-coat finish that doesn't show every fingerprint that comes near it.

Thecus_N5550_NAS_Server_Front_Lights_On_03.jpg

The construction quality of the Thecus N5550 was just right, I thought. The drive trays are very nicely built, and slide in and out smoothly. The outer shell and the inner framework were modern, sturdy designs that fit together well and came apart easily when needed. I appreciate good mechanical design, especially when cost is a factor. When you take away everything that doesn't add value, you can sometimes come up with a very pleasing form. The design of the backplane with the steel backing plate bonded to the circuit board is an enhancement I haven't seen anywhere else. The front door was the only thing that felt a little fragile, as it flexes a bit when latching and unlatching. You tend not to notice the feet on networking components, but these got a little sloppy when the adhesive slipped and they moved sideways a bit. Thecus provides a 2 Year warranty, which is reasonable.

The Thecus N5550 is targeted to a growing class of NAS users, I think. The expansion of cloud-based services has really opened the public's eyes to the advantages of centralized storage, that's universally accessible. Thecus has all the basics covered in their add-on software modules, from cloud-based services to mobile access with both iOS and Android. Two additions to the N5550 bundle that stand out are the free McAfee Anti-Virus software that runs in the background on the NAS. This is not a subscription-based module, it's free for as long as you want. Secondly, Acronis True Image is included, which is a top-tier backup application. Once you get used to the feature set of a premium product like this, you'll be hooked for life - at least that's the idea. The local display module is a new addition that extends the capabilities of this NAS for both setup/configuration and media streaming. The fifth drive bay may seem like an odd addition, but users who want a RAID 10 configuration with a global hot spare won't think so. RAID 6 users are always looking for an extra drive bay as well, so don't be put off by the fact that four and six bays are much more common arrangements.

As of September 2012 the Thecus N5550 model was listed for $599.99 at Newegg. Given the number of drive bays you get, the Intel Atom CPU that's inside, the transfer speeds it achieves, the construction quality, and the features it offers, I think that's a very attractive price. For me, the NAS concept is still a good value proposition, and the Thecus N5550 offers very good value within that paradigm.

Benchmark Reviews has enjoyed testing a variety of network storage solutions, and with the wide range of products on offer from a number of vendors, anyone in need of a NAS server can find one to fit their current and future needs. The biggest problem is choosing one; that's why we go into so much detail in our reviews, to help you figure out what level of performance and features is right for you. If you need a staggering array of features and 10GbE-class performance, then you need to look elsewhere to meet those needs. If you just need the storage capacity, the high throughput and continuity of service that five bays of RAID 5, 6, or 10 provides, in a small tower package, then the Thecus N5550 is an excellent candidate for you.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Very high transfer speeds
+ Local Display capability on VGA + HDMI
+ Excellent value
+ High quality construction
+ 2GB SDRAM is standard
+ USB 3.0 port on front panel
+ McAfee Anti-Virus S/W included
+ Acronis Backup S/W included
+ Quiet operation
+ Integrated 200W power supply
+ All the usual support apps available
+ Active Company and Community support

Cons:

- Can't migrate from single disk to RAID volume
- USB 3.0 port is hidden behind front door
- Must be on same sub-net as workstation, or use static IPs
- Adhesive on feet came loose
- Drive trays and bays not labeled 1,2,3,4,5

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.25
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 9.25
  • Functionality: 9.25
  • Value: 9.25

Final Score: 9.20 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

Benchmark Reviews encourages you to leave comments (below), or ask questions and join the discussion in our Forum.

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Comments 

 
# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerMoogle Stiltzkin 2012-09-25 04:16
honestly... when will these NAS brands ever release a product which has ZFS in it. I am sick and tired of these crappy spec NAS, that can't offer the greatness that ZFS offers such as....

1. deduplication
2. end-to-end check sum error correction (CERN has stated officially, ZFS is the only reliable solution to protect data from bit rot)
3. and other ZFS features

also whats with 2gb minimum ram. they act as if ram is expensive, it's not. these days ram is sickeningly cheap because the companies producing them were not long ago fined for price fixing. Makes me wonder whether NAS companies are purposely price fixing to over charge for devices with little ram to squeeze as much more profit margin ....

People are starting to get fed up and moving onto DIY NAS solutions and which is cheaper, and has ZFS.
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# We Just Did....Bruce 2012-12-07 11:03
We just reviewed that NAS I was talking about. Check out the EonNAS 1100 review on the front page.
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# ZFSBruce 2012-09-25 09:02
I know at least one manufacturer who has brought ZFS into their mainstream product line, and I've reached out to them, to get a unit for review.
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# SynologyFAbio 2012-09-25 09:44
You should review Synology NAS products, too. They are awesome!
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# RE: SynologyOlin Coles 2012-09-25 09:47
We have reviewed several Synology products, but when one product did not receive an award they no longer offered samples to us for testing. Maybe that's why you think they're so awesome?
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# RE: RE: SynologyFAbio 2012-09-25 10:01
They had problems with some products in the past. But recently I bought the model 1812+ and I am glad with his features and behavior. It has basicly the same features that thecus.
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# RE: RE: RE: SynologyOlin Coles 2012-09-25 10:05
I was very disappointed when they decided to stop supporting us with reviews samples a few years back just because one product didn't receive an award. Hopefully they'll change their minds and want to show off their new hardware. QNAP is one particular brand I've seen good things from, and they continue to impress.
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# N5550 Graphic and Memory MALFUNCTION - BE AWAREYaron 2012-09-27 23:46
One thing you should know before even considering this NAS.
#forum.thecus.com/viewtopic.php?f=65&t=4440
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# Only affects memory "Upgrade"....Bruce 2012-09-30 21:04
The manufacturer did not, and does not offer an authorized upgrade of the memory from the standard 2GB. If you change the memory configuration on your own, it might work, and it might not. Don't worry, someone will figure out a way to make it work, and share it on the forum.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2012-09-30 22:07
I own few Thecus units of different modules.
None of them ever had a problem after upgrading the memory.
This one DOES & for a very specific problem that Thecus CAN'T SOLVE & MIGHT NEVER BE SOLVED.
See the forum for more details...
FOR NOW JUST KEEP AWAY FROM THIS UNIT.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerCarlie Coats 2012-10-02 09:03
I'd like to see ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE), in addition
to SMB, NFS -- much better latency, better security
since it's a UDP (not IP) protocol (confined to the
local network).
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# Thecus one day - Thecus no way!Souldream 2012-10-11 21:31
Forget about buying Thecus NAS.

They have the lowest level of support i have ever seen.

If you plan to buy NAS to put non important files = you can go.

If you plan to buy it for your company to store file, i will not let go ... as you could loose your job LoL

They do the same for 4100 model , low memory = unstable , web manager slow , and Raid destruction ( no hardware raid controller LoL ).

Look over my post in the official forum, and you will understand why Thecus is good on paper , in real use this is nightmare !

You are warned !
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# RUN!!!Tracey 2012-11-08 08:32
As the above post states.. stay far away from this device. Unless you want an Enterprise device that can't copy files to and from without crashing or falsely reporting drive failures. I definitely regret this purchase!

You have been warned... again!
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# 111MB/s is IMPOSSIBLEscavenger 2012-11-28 14:10
I'm using 5x2GB dreives in RAID5.
With ATTO i can have the same results as you have, BUT :
in real life, everybody is using samba shares under windows.

what about the only 55-65MB/s file transfers I get this way ?
Did you do this test ?
How can you show 111MB of read/write as it's impossible to achieve ?
I cannot get 111MB/s with any of the protocols available : smb, ftp, sftp, ssh, nfs, afp.
Please, tell me the truth about your tests ?
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# Yes, it's possibleBruce 2012-11-28 18:22
I assume you just read the Conclusions page, where I stated:
"During timed transfers of 1GB and 10GB files the N5550 recorded Read speeds of 111 MB/s and Write speeds above 118 MB/s. These are the RAID 5 results..."

Go back and read the NAS Testing Methodology page, where I explain how each test is run. The timed file transfers are done in Windows Explorer, of all things. Imagine that...Windows is faster than some dedicated file transfer protocols!

If you can get 120+ MB/s using ATTO, just like I did, then you already know that your unit is capable of that level of performance. So, look at all the extra elements that might be holding transfer rates back in your application(s). Also look at the host computers doing your transfers. I'm using a 10GB RAMDisk to eliminate any potential slowdowns due to the impact of storage devices on my test bed system. Transfer rates from a laptop HDD are going to be MUCH slower, for instance.
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# Oh really :-)scavenger 2012-11-29 14:54
Well I didn't understood you were transferring files on Windows Explorer with mounted SMB shares, exactly the same way I do my tests...
I got the same n5550 with 5x2TB HDD RAID5, and the same RAM disk drive, the difference is my Windows XP 64, and the fact I test with 802.3ad and 2xCAT5 cables on both sides.

I unfortunately am unable to reproduce your tests :
- which switch are you using ?
- which MTU is set on the PC ? on the NAS ? on the switch ?
- which strip size is set on your ext4 FS ?
- can you provide the result of "hdparm -tT /dev/md0" on the NAS ?
- did you "sync" the PC and the NAS after a transfer to eliminate the disk cache smoothing ? (I'm using a ported GNU version of sync.exe)
- did you monitor the RAM usage on the NAS during transfers ? I can get a 2GB peak during heavy load...

None of the time I did achieved a 110MB/s transfer with a single file, the max I get is 82MB/s with 2 files at a time from PC to NAS.
On normal conditions, I get 50-65MB/s max, mostly the same as on the n5500.
Thanks anyway for your time :-)
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# Use Win7Bruce 2012-11-29 17:56
Well that explains it. You will never get the results I get if you continue to use Windows XP. In the "Testing Methodology" section, I reference the comparison I did two years ago between XP and Win7.

"...We are continuing our NAS testing with the exclusive use of Windows 7 as the testing platform for the host system. The performance differences between Win7 and XP are huge, as we documented in our QNAP TS-259 Pro review. The adoption rate for Win 7 has been very high, and Benchmark Reviews has been using Win 7 in all of our other testing for some time now. It was definitely time to make the jump for NAS products. ..." Here's the link:

benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=517&Itemid=70&limit=1&limitstart=10

Win7 beats XP by a mile in these scenarios, you should try it. None of the other factors you mention will make as big a difference as using Win7 on the PC side.
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# LACP BenefitBruce 2012-11-29 19:55
BTW, what improvement in transfer speed are you seeing with IEEE 802.3ad (LACP)?
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# LACP Benefitscavenger 2012-11-30 11:50
Absolutely none, now that I finally understood it's not a load balancing protocol but just a failover one.
But since I invested in a L2 switch + 2 x cables between PC NAS I'm not throwing them away :-)
For the real load balancing one, one have to select balance-SLB + round robin, but it's charging the network for nothing since the packets are not ordered and the final bandwidth is not what I expected :-(
Well with this network configuration, I can have at best 90MB/s but only with 3 file transfers at a time, which is not I wanted.
I want as you have, a 110MB/s bandwidth with a single file transfer.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Serveraceggroll 2013-02-13 18:06
The features I'd like to see are:
  • a USB 3 device (not host) connection (5GBit/Sec max), and
  • SATA III.


Surely this would be a cost effective way of increasing data transfer between computer and dedicated external storage. (And yes, I know this is not a NAS at this point, but I need a solution to replace a single external Harddrive for a laptop, and USB is a far simpler & cheaper setup than a network connection.)

Are there any vendors that are offering this in the SOHO market?
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# USB, Yes. SATA III, No.Bruce 2013-02-13 18:34
Thecus has upgraded the front USB port to 3.0 specs on the N5550, and many other products. But it's not a "Device" connection, like you are looking for. Does your laptop have an eSATA port? There are several "boxes" available that have 1-4 drive bays and will run pretty well off eSATA, in Port Multiplier mode.

SATA III has a very minor impact on HDD performance, in my experience. It's only when you get to the third generation of SSDs, that SATA III was really needed.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Serveraceggroll 2013-02-13 21:22
Bruce, thanks for tip.

Laptop does have eSATA (1 x eSATA/USB 2.0 combo), but manufacturer doesn't give away how fast the eSATA is going to run :-(

I'm not sure if I'm interpreting the N5550 spec correctly, but the eSATA spec seems to be imply that I would use if for adding an external disk to the device. I want to be able to use the NAS as eSATA storage for a computer/laptop.

If anyone has tried this with other NAS devices, I'd be very interested to know how transfer rates compare between eSATA and GB LAN (as the LAN connection should no longer be the bottleneck.)

Also, if vendors are monitoring this thread... Would be great if you are not then could publish your noise spec. Pretty important if the device isn't sitting in a rack, and next to or on somebody's desk.
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# Not a NAS, per se.....Bruce 2013-02-14 10:01
Yes, all the other interfaces, besides Ethernet, are going to be host connections. It's very rare that any NAS unit would have the capability of multiple "device" interfaces. One that DOES, is the IOCELL NetDISK 351UNE Network Storage Device, which I reviewed here: benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=849&Itemid=70
It only supports one drive, though.

The drive enclosures that have just USB 3.0 and eSATA interfaces tend to be a whole lot cheaper than a full-blown NAS solution. There are dozens of them at Newegg, like this one:
newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1DS0CD0624

eSATA itself is a pretty quick interface.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-02-13 22:15
Bruce,
The N5550 can't be a USB target - it can be used only as USB host.
Thecus has the N5200 family which is a bit "older" and I remember one of it's products can do it.
Take a look at their site.
Yaron.
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# Product EvolutionBruce 2013-02-14 10:25
Yes, the N5200 had it: USB ports 2 x USB A type (Host mode); 1 x USB B type (Client mode) .

As others have mentioned, Thecus did a major architecture update on their product line a few years ago. I can't find any instances of Client mode USB in their current offerings.
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-02-14 20:24
Right - it doesn't exist anymore.
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# 8 gig ram installed on N5550Bruce MacDonald 2013-03-26 22:36
I just bought this unit last week and have it running on 8 gig of ram I took out of a 2011 MacBook Pro. I edited the menu.lst file via SSH to remove the 4 Gig Ram limitation soft coded. Surprising because Intel lists this processor as only supporting 4 Gig too.

To edit the menu.lst file to remove the MEM=4G parameter

Via telnet/ssh (or console) :

# mount /dev/sdaaa1 /boot
# vi /boot/boot/grub/menu.lst
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# RE: Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage ServerYaron 2013-09-03 13:25
Bruce,
R U using 1x8g or 2x4g ?
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