Review: Thecus N4200PRO
The back of the N4200PRO is choc full of features. Normally, we don’t talk about the backside of a NAS, but when it has 4 USB ports, 2 eSATA ports, 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports, an expansion slot, and a mini UPS, you can’t help but talk about it. The Mini UPS has to be one of the key differentiators for the N4200PRO, especially because it is priced so aggressively.
The Lithium Ion battery (15.2V, 1000mAh) allows your N4200PRO to power down properly should your power go out unexpectedly. Don’t look for this battery to power your NAS for extended periods; instead it gives you just enough time for an automatic shutdown. In the thick of Hurricane Irene here in NJ, I can tell you that the battery did its job and did it well. With the proper shutdown I didn’t have to worry about data loss. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my in house server or my QNAP TS-419P+.
The expansion slot is a nice touch, but it makes you wonder. This NAS uses a customized Linux OS and because the N4200PRO can’t have a monitor or keyboard/mouse connected it leaves the question, why is it there? It’s there for an add-on NIC and is limited to Intel Gigabit ET, ET2, and EF Multi-Port Server Adapters. Even though this is a PCI Express x4 slot, it only has the bandwidth of PCI Express x1. The inclusion of the expansion slot is somewhat confusing for an intermediate NAS, even more so because the N4200PRO already comes with 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports. But don’t get me wrong, I would rather have the option of another NIC than not have the option at all.
Software & Administration
The software behind the N4200PRO doesn’t disappoint. Thecus packs the N4200 with an iTunes Server, Photo Web Server, Media Server, FTP Server, Print Server, Download Manager, and more right out of the box. You start adding in the additional software that you can load and you have a very robust Network Attached Server. Among some of the additional software packages you can install are:
- IP CAM
- Mail Server
- RAID Volume Replication
- Rsync Backup
- BT Client
- Twonky Media Server
- USB & eSATA Schedule Backup
- Web Server
- Web Disk
The web administration will welcome you in one of two ways. For those that prefer a little more “Flash” there is a… you guessed it… Flash version of the welcome screen that features some moving bubbles for administration, certain modules, and a web file manager. Personally, the non Flash version seems a little more appealing.
The web administration is broken down into 9 different sections with each containing sub menus. Everything is where it should be and the search box provides a quick way of finding what you need without having to dig through all the menus. The home screen of the N4200PRO doesn’t show anything of any value though. It offers up the same type of shortcuts that QNAP does. My feeling is that the home screen should display some valuable information about your NAS such as capacity used, bandwidth utilization, log synopses, online users, power and restart functions, and items of that nature. Instead, you have to click through menus like Status to find out which services are running or go the Storage Menu to find out how much space you have available. Once configured, you shouldn’t have to visit these menus unless you want to make some changes. The welcome screen should be your one stop shop for NAS status.
As far as storage goes, Thecus maintains a list of supported disks that you can use with the N4200PRo and they can be up to 3TB in size. When populated, you have the ability to create RAID 0/1/5/5+ spare / 6/10 (1+0) arrays and can use EXT3, EXT4, ZFS, and XFS file systems. When creating an array, you have to do some soul searching first and figure out how much disk space you want to allocate to RAID and how much you want to allocate to iSCSI up front. Once you make your decision, based on percentage of disk, for RAID and for Other (iSCSI), you are stuck with it unless you want to destroy your RAID array and start from scratch again.