|Thecus N5550 NAS Network Storage Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Monday, 24 September 2012|
Page 15 of 15
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.
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.
+ Very high transfer speeds
- Can't migrate from single disk to RAID volume
Final Score: 9.20 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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