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NAS: Thecus N0503 Three-Bay/Five-Bay

Tom's Hardware's 2009 Gift Guide: Part 2, System Add-Ons
By

www.thecus.com
<$400
By: Ed Tittel

Thecus is well-known for its compact, capable storage arrays, and it’s fair to consider the N0503 as a member of that family. But this model ventures into home server territory as well with its support for iTunes, a built-in photo album, UPnP-based media streaming, backup and data storage, Web-based file access, FTP (including secure FTP), print server capabilities, and more.

With prices hovering just around $400, and room for up to three 3.5" or five 2.5" hard disks inside the enclosure, this unit offers a very interesting set of capabilities and up to 6TB of total storage capacity. And if internal bays aren’t enough, don’t forget the two USB 2.0 ports and the single eSATA port available to add more (non-RAID) storage. Add built-in support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and JBOD, and you’ve got all sorts of sophisticated disk management to draw on as well.

The internal drive bays offer an interesting design: a snap-in cage accommodates a quintet of 2.5" SATA hard disks, or you can remove that cage to install the aforementioned trio of 3.5" hard disks instead. Although this means you must choose to populate the box only with one drive form factor or the other, either approach provides easy installation. The smaller drives pop into latch-held slots, whereas you must pop detachable rails onto 3.5" drives to install them and then fasten them into place with thumbscrews at the end of each one.

The Atom N270 CPU (1.6 GHz, 533 MHz FSB, 512KB L2 cache), along with 1GB of system memory, puts the N0503's performance on par with a mid-range netbook, but it is perfectly acceptable for a home storage/media server device.

The N0503 also proffers dual gigabit Ethernet ports and supports either network failover or aggregation modes. This latter capability is quite interesting because it enables the unit to handle multiple access requests simultaneously, while delivering greater network throughput overall—an important characteristic for a NAS box, and not unhelpful for a home server/media streamer, either.

Under the hood, the N0503 runs a Linux OS and offers a slick, well-engineered AJAX-based Web GUI to control setup and configuration. It also supports Windows (2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, and 7), MacOS (9 or X), and UNIX/Linux clients as well.

Anybody with a home network is sure to appreciate a Thecus N0503, especially if you’re thoughtful enough to throw in some hard disks along with this enclosure (1TB 3.5" drives go for as little as $80 these days, and 320GB 2.5" drives sell for $50-80).

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