Thecus Brings SATA to External Storage

You can begin to forget about USB or Firewire: there is no substitute for SATA as a fast, reliable and relatively-inexpensive external storage solution. Thecus' N2050 storage box, which uses eSATA to hook up two SATA drives externally, makes it happen.
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  1. What on earth did you mean by the following:

    Quote:
    If the device will one day become an NAS system , all Thecus has to do is exchange the controller board with the NAS version, which carries a network port instead of the eSATA connector.


    I mean... you make it sound like they don't have an NAS version with the whole "one day" thing. They do, it is the N2100. More or less the same housing, raid for data protection in a tiny network-attachable enclosure that can be had for $290, depending on where you look. I don't think ANYONE makes another 2 HD enclosure that is so small for anything that is anywhere NEAR that price. I would LOVE to see it reviewed. In fact, desperately love to see it reviewed.

    I have one on the way that I will be hooking up at a friends, along with a pair of Diamondmax 250GBs, and while I am sure that it will serve his purposes, I would still love a full review of it.
  2. eSATA looks promising. Too bad Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 weren't included in the comparison. Firewire 400 would still be slower, but Firewire 800 might make things interesting.
  3. I'm curious what Promise controller you used to show the bundled PCI controller was slower. Was it pci-e?
  4. anyone know where these things are for sale? or are they still awaiting release in the US. price is another thing that was not covered in the toms article.
  5. Yes... the article seemed to be quite curious in what wasn't mentioned. Anyway, thecus doesn't seem to be the biggest company and, as a result, seems to be one whose products are harder to find. That said, good old trusty newegg has it:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822102001

    $160 or so isn't bad, though if you pricewatch it you can probably find it for less. That said, I am still more interested in the NAS one:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16833201005

    Also, for all of the writer's mentioning of JBOD, the N2100 does support that. Oh well...

    I mean, the benefit of the N2050 is that you can put the SATA card in your computer and transfer files to and from it fast but, then when you want to take your files around, you know that you can connect to someone else's computer via USB, if they don't have SATA.

    But with the N2100, the gigabit ethernet would be fast enough to compete reasonably with the SATA port, but is more common for people to have, and as a result you could take advantage of the speed when out and about. Sure it isn't quite there, but still. And then you can share it out with an entire network if you want to. It just seems so very much more useful.
  6. I agree, firewire 800 should have been included in the comparison, considering that it has been around for a while now and is widely used on macs.

    As a heavy and long-time laptop user, I constantly keep encountering issues for both storage, performance and system backup. I know it is not difficult to replace a laptop drive with a bigger or faster one, but trying to back up 100GB+ to DVD+RW is no fun when the discs fail to work with your burner. Likewise, trying to keep up with regular backups can be a real pain when the above process can take 3+ hours to run, and that's without the "verify".

    I purchased an external USB/firewire enclosure about two years ago, only to see my 300GB HDD and all its data fail after a year because the box couldn't power down properly. It didn't come with a power switch, so to turn it off I always had to pull the power out. Well that didn't work too well.

    I have been looking into other more speedy solutions, but the choices right now are so miserable. I have looked into eSata, but the current crop of pcmcia eSata cards are full of bugs and compatibility issues. External USB tape drives are too expensive and lack the capacity to back up 100GB+. Those that can back up that much to a single tape need a scsi connection and are very slow (20MB/s). Even with a scsi card in my laptop, the bottleneck with pcmcia interface (133MB/s) would not allow anything faster to be connected.

    Firewire 800 would be a more attractive option (for laptops), the hardware choices are wider and seem more reliable, but the fundamental problem still exists of drive power and data integrity, even more so when using two drives in raid 0.

    I would really like to see an enclosure with intelligent power management, such as the Buffalo LinkStation, something that can power on and off the box with my computer, or just let me power it off when I don't need it without risking data loss.

    It is so difficult trying to find a solution for laptops that works without problems, is easy to implement, doesn't cost $1000, performs fast and offers reliability.
  7. Nah, just need to read the
    Quote:
    whole
    thing :) Thanks!
  8. Hi!

    What I woul like to know is how hot the hdd-s get in this thing, and how loud the fan is.

    Is it possibble to use it with two hdd-s but not in raid mode?
  9. I'm in Australia and happen to own one of these things. Let me say I am bitterly disappointed with this device.

    If you are going to buy one - please take this into consideration:

    1) Limited supported hard drives - Not any SATA HDD will work with this device. I've tried 4 different models / makes. Thecus have a very LIMITED supported HDD list which is almost 6months old. It's very hard to find the drives listed on it. Not sure if Thecus provided the drives, but they are not on the list.

    Of course if you have pairs of multiple HDD's lying around then this isn't an issue.

    Which leads me to point #2

    2) Thecus support is appualing. :evil: They do not reply to emails and dont offer constructive advice appart from "Please read the web". I had to email them 6 times over 2 months before I even got a reply . I was hoping for a firmware upgrade or something but no.

    It's a nice enough unit but useless.

    If someone wants to buy mine - I'll gladly part with it.
  10. I got a Thecus 2100 last week and it is not all I expected.

    I put 2x 250mb Western Digital SE16 Caviar WD2500KS with 16mb caches in mine in a RAID 1 configuration.

    The Thecus has gigabit eithernet ports but I have never got more than
    11Mbytes a second off the disks.

    If you look at the status page of the 2100 as you do a transfer you see
    that the processor is running at 97%, the drives should be (according to
    WD ) reading data at 73Mbytes each. But the Intel chip in the Thecus is maxed out.

    I installed Cat6 cables (short as possible), a Gigabit router, A G5 and
    a PC with an intel 955XBK board. I can get about 30Mbytes a second from the Mac direct to the PC and vice versa.

    I was hoping for a multiplatform hi-speed device to deliver uncompressed video (27-30Mbytes/sec) but I am now back to looking at FW800 devices
    for each machine.

    PS:
    Firewire Depot - www.fwdepot.com are selling FW800 RAID enclosures for
    $120
  11. What about LaCie's external drives? They have 4 different SATA models, ranging from 74 GB to 2.5 TB, of which some have been available for at least a year.

    I've been using a fan-free, 500 GB (RAID 0) LaCie BigDisk Extreme with FW800/400 interface for about a year now and I've been perfectly happy with it. Fast (I got a transfer rate of about 71 MB/sec) and quiet. Powers down when my notebook goes into standby.

    Here's an interesting new SATA model from LaCie: Two Big (500GB/1TB) (unfortunately it's not fan-free):
    http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?pid=10490

    For notebooks with 6-pin FW400 or 9-pin FW800 here's another interesting alternative (FireWire bus-powered, double 2.5-inch drives with RAID 0, 160-320GB):
    http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?pid=10731
  12. Looks like your solution is what I need to look at. The 500GB model is priced pretty good too.

    How does the power down feature work? Do you need to install anything for that?
  13. Quote:
    How does the power down feature work? Do you need to install anything for that?

    The BigDisk Extreme powers down when the power from the FW400/800 port disappears (I have a PC-card with 9-pin FW800-ports in my notebook). No software needs to be installed, at least not with windows xp.

    If the computer doesn't cut the power to the ports when it goes into standby, the harddisk won't power down automatically (for some reason this happens when I "shut down" my notebook) and you have to use the powerbutton.
  14. Why need cat5e? I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that cat6 was better?
  15. Quote:
    The Thecus has gigabit eithernet ports but I have never got more than 11Mbytes a second off the disks.


    What speed are you expecting from a 600 MHz XScale?
    If you read other reviews on NAS with gigabit port, such as the one on Review: Buffalo Technology Gigabit LinkStation. The performances on these NAS with embedded Linux are always slower than what you can get out of a cheap 2GHz Celeron system running Linux.
  16. Quote:
    Why need cat5e? I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that cat6 was better?


    im pretty sure you are right. at least that what i always thought. i was told that the only surefire way to run gigabit lan was with cat6 cable which would make it better than cat5... but im no networking guru.
  17. I was hoping for more, 35+Mbytes/sec.

    With gigabit eithernet I thought they would add a processor that colud use more than 11% of the available bandwith.

    Still it is now a usefull iTunes server and DV file store.
  18. Cat5 will run gig with no prob, even at length. I would suggest you have a poor gig switch, use iperf to see what two machines with gig ports can push, then you'll know if the network is limiting it.
  19. Quote:
    Why need cat5e? I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that cat6 was better?


    im pretty sure you are right. at least that what i always thought. i was told that the only surefire way to run gigabit lan was with cat6 cable which would make it better than cat5... but im no networking guru.

    Oh, I know for a matter of fact that I am right, I was merely trying to politely correct wusy. <shrugs>

    I find that speed curious though, and am not sure that I would blame it on the processor. My current solution is a linux server that is acting as the domain controller on my home network and it is running an old 400MHz P2, but I get better speed than they mention, and it is doing a lot more than just handling files, which is why I would think that you would be able to expect better from the XScale. Besides, the point of this is to have a small devce where heat and the like are not an issue.
  20. Quote:
    Cat5 will run gig with no prob, even at length. I would suggest you have a poor gig switch, use iperf to see what two machines with gig ports can push, then you'll know if the network is limiting it.


    I have tried a direct cable from the G5 to the Thecus and from a P4
    both give the same 10-11MBytes/sec. The thecus is running at 97%

    A direct cable from the G5 to the P4 give me around 25MBytes/sec
  21. For the poor performance, this is what i have found, maybe the performace killer??

    -- quote--
    Oh, and yes. While I appreciate their love for the netfilter project and it's software: There's absolutely no place in a NAS box for having ip_conntrack linked statically into the kernel - unless you voluntarily want to loose performance. At least to my knowledge, performance of NAS devices counts. So, Thecus, in your own interest: disable ip_conntrack in the kernels you ship.
    -- quote--

    see: http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/
  22. Quote:
    For the poor performance, this is what i have found, maybe the performace killer??

    -- quote--
    Oh, and yes. While I appreciate their love for the netfilter project and it's software: There's absolutely no place in a NAS box for having ip_conntrack linked statically into the kernel - unless you voluntarily want to loose performance. At least to my knowledge, performance of NAS devices counts. So, Thecus, in your own interest: disable ip_conntrack in the kernels you ship.
    -- quote--

    see: http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/


    That is very interesting, Harald Welte really seems to know his stuff
    but hacking Linux Kernels is way beyond me. Maybe Thecus's next firmware update will address this, i'm on V2.0.00 at the moment.
  23. I can relate :x to this.

    Just got the N2050 based on Tom's review. It's fast - when it works.

    Rather expensive ~$150 for an alpha product. First, the product manual documents installation instructions and functionality that does not exist in the product - no doubt it was intended for a later release of the firmware. Total waste of mucho time troubleshooting phantom features. Second, controller driver that comes with product crashes XP Media Center (basically XP Pro) everytime during install. Have to download latest driver from Silicon Image to make it work. Thecus online support is a joke. Third, compatible drives are limited - found out the hard way. Even using compatible drives (Maxtor 250G) per Thecus' list it's still flaky initially. Fourth, drive cage is designed so that drives are mounted upside down. It shouldn't matter but I wonder... Lastly, drives run hot in unit. Box is pretty but could use some more ventilation for airflow. Unit is well built except for the top cover which is flimpsy at places.

    Conclusion - I'll wait for a few more beta iteration before I look at this again.
  24. Quote:


    Just got the N2050 based on Tom's review. It's fast - when it works.

    Rather expensive ~$150 for an alpha product.


    Does anyone know of any similar devices but in production stable version?
    And, if possible, available in Europe. The only place I can buy the thecus seems to be Ebay.

    I did like the usb possibility of the n2050. You never know when that comes in handy.
    Ideally the device would be capable of raid 1 on 2 (or more) disks, be direct attached and be affordable.
    Another option could be a incorporated tape streamer.

    A NAS solution won't do as my LAN is 100Mbps, so 10MBps on good day seems a waste of fasts disks

    regards
  25. I got my Thecus from Ajump. Newegg also carries them.

    My application requires high bandwidth so there's no substitute for direct connect with internal controller. I'd have used internal RAID but my case
    does not have room for it. Plus eSATA can be moved from system to system with additional controllers. I am not aware of any other eSATA offerings at this time.

    Acom makes an external SATA drive but it's SATA, not eSATA. It's also a
    single drive - I needed striping for bandwidth and if need be RAID 1 for redundancy. There are also other external SATA cases but they all take just one drive.

    Even though USB 2.0 wire speed is 480m and firewire is 400m (800m) I never remotely approached wire speed with any of them. The low-end usb NAS I played with (Linksys, D-Link) is even slower - but convenient. But then, they do not provide RAID capability. The Netgear SC101 is not bad but not fast either. And the implementation is really pseudo RAID 1. Managing the multiple SC101s on a bad day could be a bear because of poor management tools and then of course it only supports Windows.

    The Promise Connectstor II and the Iomega NAS are not bad - you get RAID 0/1 and RAID 0/1/5 respectively but it gets expensive. Bandwidth isn't there though since you're limited to 100BaseT. I can't afford the high-end NAS, SAN nor iSCSI so there's another limiting factor.

    Just a thought - D-Link has an integrated Gbit unit (single drive only) that's reasonably priced. Poor implementation - can't use the WiFi and the Gbit at the same time and security is lousy. But forget about the switch, just drop a 64-bit Gbit card like Zyxel (real affordable) and hook up the D-Link unit directly to the system. I wonder if the performance would be better than Firewire 2?

    jf
  26. I will check the newegg site,thanks.

    But reading the two negative comments here about the thecus being a "alpha" version and its relative secretive existance, I'm not sure I'd buy one.
    What's your experience?

    Like I said, NAS is not for me, the highend certainly not.
    I have a linksys nslu, which is fine for low data transfer, but does not cut it when coping with larger transfers. Yesterday I decided I needed a complete backup of one of its discs. copying 80Gb takes a hell of a long time (upwards of 8 hours)

    I find it strange, direct attached storage is so hard to find (on a budget)
    It seems I'll have to make my own.
  27. As I indicated in my previous post I consider the Thecus an alpha product. That said, it is fast, very fast, so I'll keep using it (I bought it, I own it :wink: ). Haven't had it long enough to draw any conclusion on the performance under actual day-to-day field use, yet.

    A brief reflection... is the Thecus really part of NAS - Network Attached Storage? Hmm. But I digress.

    I have the same experience with the Linksys. But as I said, it's affordable, it's fun, it's convenient. And for those adventureous type you can change the way it works with all the wonderful hacks people have done with the kernel.

    As to [high-performance] direct attached storage on a budget I believe cheap high-performance is an oxymoron :wink:

    I think I'll try the Zyxel with the D-Link this weekend. I also have a Gbit PCI-e card but I'll start with the 64-bit Zyxel first and see what it can do with a direct connect. Even though it does not go thru the switch may be it's still pNAS (private NAS)?
  28. As to [high-performance] direct attached storage on a budget I believe cheap high-performance is an oxymoron :wink:
    [/qoute]
    Hey, don't you call me an airheaded moron :P

    I don't need anything high-performance: as there's no place in my pc case for extra disks, they have to go in an external box. But I would like the same normal performance as the internal disks.
    In my view: a simple solution consists of an external case, a cable to a internal controller and some disks.
    Not here that is really expensive
    I'd like raid 1 and disk trays system, and they will push the cost up.
    I'll have to make myself, and knowing me, it'll be ugly :)

    But finding a drive enclosure and disk tray system locally (belgium, europe) is proofing to be difficult and involves a great deal of luck.
    the computer/component shops here tend to consider an external usb single disk to be enough.
  29. I'd never dream of insulting our friends across the pond by calling you an airhead. But that did rank on my favorite list of oxymorons like, truth in advertising, happily married, express lane@ Sam's Club...

    Couple more suggestions to chew on. Just keep in mind opinions are always freely given, no warranty expressed nor implied; or, your mileage may vary...

    Before buying the Thecus I was contemplating doing a SATA RAID thus - most motherboard with SATA onboard supports RAID 0/1. Or just get a SATA RAID controller if you have a older system like I do. I love to have either 3Ware or Adaptec but I'll settle for Promise or Rocketport. Leave one drive in the system and use an external SATA enclosure for the other (or just buy Acom or similiar). SATA cable can go 1m so there should be plenty of distance to go. I have mixed feeling about this setup because everytime I change the internal drive I'd have to open up the case. Although of course I could use a removable tray. Hmmm. Wait a minute, I don't have room in my system :roll: or I would have gone internal.

    I also thought about going back to the good old SCSI external enclosure with 15K U320 drives. But since I only have 2 arms and 2 legs left I chose door number 3 - el cheapo.

    Just an FYI. Thecus does make external SATA RAID enclosures with Gbit interface but it's over $600.

    Regards.
  30. I hope that more manufacturers will bring this kind of product on the market, external housing with raid capabilities for a much cheaper price.
    350 euro is to much.... you better buy a seccond hand system with raid.
  31. I hope that more manufacturers will bring this kind of product on the market, external housing with raid capabilities for a much cheaper price.
    350 euro is to much.... you better buy a seccond hand system with raid.
  32. I agree the Thecus could be more affordable - US$160 for a eSATA case that does RAID 0/1 - and other manufacturers should enter the market because they will find a lot of other people like us who have a lot of use for them. It'd be interesting to have iSuppli do some numbers on their unit and estimate how much it really costs them to make it.
  33. To estimate how much costs a company to manufacture certain product is always difficult -- IMHO
    Different manufacturers have different bargaining power. So when you ask how much an IC costs, the IC vendor will ask you how much do you want, what's your forecast, then based on these factors they give different quotation to the product manufacturer. So a smaller company always have to spend more money on the same item.
  34. True. Not only that, for smaller companies the distributors/suppliers sometimes demand larger than needed volume purchase, especially if the IC is on allocation. Been there, done that :( There are also other hidden costs and/or overhead that is different for different company. That said, there are also some general rules of thumb for estimating reasonable margin. I am just wondering (belatedly) if the Decus 2050 is within the ball park since it is against my religion to pay more than certain reasonable profit :wink: .

    Case in point, the Gigabyte i-RAM. When it first hit the press the estimated street price was supposed to be around $80. But after all the hype and responses by the time it reached retail it was priced around $160. So, did someone got bad info, or it's just a case of what the market would bear :? ? I don't think Gigabyte is that small.
  35. What about drive temperatures?
    How can this be ignored?????????
  36. ok i got one of these. it's better than you would assume from the preceding. drives run a bit hot, but not substantially hotter than they'd run inside your main box. the enclosure is plasticy, but well designed.

    compatibility with HD's - i've got two (different size) wd disks on a raid0 (obviously against thecus recommendation, but those are the ones i had lying around). they're NOT on the thecus supported list. no problemos. i get ~ 80mb/s sustained reads/writes, which is way enough for uncompressed SD video, probably good enough for two simultaneous streams.

    yes, i would also much like it to power down with the computer it's attached to, and it does NOT. but the individual drives DO spin down if your (xp) box is set to switch off drives in the power settings after an idle period.

    here's my gripe that i just emailed thecus about - the usb ports at the rear are NOT the ones that are normally at the rear of an external drive, but ones with the OTHER end of the cable, usually seen on your main box. so i don't know whether they work at all - at least they'd need a special cable with computer-end jacks at both ends.

    i had just walked with the thecus to use it on someone else's computer... no such luck.

    anyway, even with this reservation i think this is a great storage box. like someone else here, i need speedy DAS that i can plug into my laptop when i need to. i never tried firewire800 but i suspect it'll NOT be up to these speeds - specially if you don't have a pci-x bus to attach it to, like will be the case on a laptop.

    anyway - has ANYONE here had any luck with the USB ports on this baby?
  37. Yes. I did very cursory testing when I first got the unit. It worked. I didn't have a choice because as I wrote before the Silicon Image driver which came with the unit crashed Media Center XP everytime during install. I had to use the USB to make sure the unit is at least working. After I downloaded the new driver and got the unit working with eSATA I never went back to the USB.

    I agree most peripherals typically use AB cable. Thecus does not. But I recall they did include an usb cable that works. Are you missing yours?
  38. thanks terracotta. i guess i just haven't looked at the box' contents that carefully - was happy with the eSata until i needed to use the drive elsewhere.

    will take a 2nd look and likely find what i'd been missing. still, stupid of them, the OTHER cable would be ubiquitous & available everywhere.
  39. i have two of these (read: masochist). notes:

    . neither came with the PCI eSATA card
    . once is attached to an osX machine via usb and has been working fine (with two WD3200SD)
    . the other is attached to a XPC shuttle running XP via a SIIG PCI estata card (with two WD2500JS jumpered to operate in SATA I)
    . the card usually refuses to see the device on boot (it has seen it once - the first time)
    . the N2050 attached to the XPC lost its HD1 blue led after two days
    . average speed across the eSATA in copying multi gigabyte files is about 55 megabytes / second
    . the quality of the case is flimsy, as stated before
    . the quality of technical support is AWFUL - advice is unhelpful; non-responsive about 1/3 of the time.
    . it's a true shame that no one more dependable is in this market space
  40. Well, finnaly i bought a Thecus N2100.
    The first thing i did is upgrading the device to the lastest firmware, v2.1.00. After the upgrade i build RAID-1 with 2x Maxtor DiamondMax 10 320Gb. To place the drive in the housing is very straight foreward, the drivce just falls into the connector of the chassis, that's very nice done!
    Ofcourse you have to open the houding and pull-out the chassis, from the motherboard, after unscrewing some screws :)

    I can't remember how long it took when the RAID1 buildup was finnished, i guess it took aprox 45 minutes. I was not in a hurry and you do this process only for one time :) (for a long time, i hope).

    Then i started to do some short performance test's, i have to say, it exeecd my expectation!! IT IS FAST!! When you are transfering files with SMB. I transfered 10GB (yes, 10GBYTE) in less then 10 minutes or faster (I didn't used a stopwatch) with 100Mbit Ethernet. I always read that this device wasn't fast... I guess i was reading wrong :) :) :) So the performance is great, I have no problem for streaming DVD's :)

    One strange thing, this device perfoms faster with SMB than with FTP.
    Don't know why... But hey, i don't FTP for my small network in my house :)

    My benefits it that my wife is happy, the data is stored more reliable then before. Before she kept her photo's and her email (outlook pst file) on the HD of her laptop. She was always afraid of a failing HD.Another benefit is that all our data is stored centrall, that's nice when you are working with 3 laptops and 1 MCE.

    The cons,
    - I wish i could connect my N2100 directly with a USB cable to a PC (nice when you bring your N2100 to a friend)
    - The price... it's really heavy... But the price for loosing pictures or email too...
    and relation ship :)
  41. I wondered if any of the Thecus 2100 users could answer the following questions as I am considering buying one:

    1. Can two PCs access the unit at the same time if connected to the two gigabit ethernet ports, or is a seperate gigabit switch needed?
    2. Can other PCs also access the unit using the wireless if a PC is connected via the ethernet?
    3.What kind of data transfer rats (rad and write) can be expected when using the gigabit ethernet ports?

    Thanksfor any help eople can give.


    Ian
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