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Synology DS412+ And Thecus N4800: Two NAS Devices With Atom D2700

Intel's Atom D2700 Could Boost Speed, But Thecus Needs An Optimized Firmware

The jump from Intel's Atom D510 to the Atom D525 was really just a minor update that didn’t generate any large (or even noticeable) improvements in storage server performance. Refreshed models serving up extra throughput could have certainly come in handy for adding additional services to existing appliances. However, the new processor simply did not make much of a difference.

Transitioning from the Atom D525 to Intel's Atom D2700 gives us a very similar, and equally disappointing, evolutionary experience. The difference in clock rate of 330 MHz between the Atom D2700 and its predecessor had us hoping we'd see more significant improvements this time, particularly since the Atom D525 was only 133 MHz faster than the D510 it replaced. It turns out, however, that when it comes to data transfer rates, the latest NAS devices are just as fast (or slow) as the old ones.

We do think the faster processor impacts the responsiveness of each machine's Web-based UI, though. Navigation feels snappier, and pages load faster.

For anyone without a NAS device currently, a new system with Intel's Atom D2700 is a good way to not only centralize storage, but also run other services like a MySQL database or Web server. Synology and Thecus both include several interesting features, such as TwonkyMedia server support and virus scanning. Both stand to benefit from additional processing power. Would we be inclined to upgrade an older NAS appliance with one of these new ones, though? Probably not, unless one of the software features really stands out to you. Otherwise, expect comparable performance and comparable looks.

Thecus' N4800: Neither Here Nor There

You should think twice before actually using the Thecus N4800 as a media player in your living room, hooked up directly to a TV via HDMI. It might be quiet, but, at the end of the day, it’s still actively-cooled. So, quiet shouldn't be confused with inaudible. Its noise would likely get old really fast during quiet scenes in movies. In addition, the firmware to make this possible wasn't even available in time for our review.

It’s not that we think using a NAS server as a media player is a bad idea. It’s an interesting design that has some potential. This is just the wrong product for it. Four-bay NAS server models like Thecus' N4800 are designed for the small and medium business (SMB) sector. This user group is usually much more interested in factors like performance and dependability than running a media player.

The integrated battery backup shows that Thecus does have its SMB customers' best interests in mind, though. Built-in UPS functionality worked well throughout our review, and it's something we'd encourage other vendors to start thinking about.

Synology DiskStation DS412+: Great Speed, Mature Firmware, No Integrated UPS

Our benchmarks show that Thecus' N4800 often performs worse than its predecessor. But this isn’t the processor’s fault. Synology shows us how to get more performance from a NAS with its DiskStation DS412+, beating the Atom D252-equipped DiskStation DS411+II in our benchmarks. We think the problem stems from Thecus' firmware, then. Not only does it need to be optimized for better performance, but the Web-based GUI could also use an overhaul, especially compared to Synology’s user interface.

Synology's DiskStation DS412+ offers good data transfer speeds and easy usability. It's easy to configure and use. Synology uses its DSM firmware, now version 4.0, across the company's product line. It’s well thought out, intuitive, and even looks good.

If data safety and uninterrupted operation are your main considerations, Thecus' N4800 might still be the better choice, especially if you can live without a pretty GUI. Just because we don't like it as a media player doesn't mean it's not a capable NAS server. And its UPS is a great feature to have.

  • tokfan
    Could be interesting to compare what the CPU load for the DS411+II was when i.e copying large files reaching the NIC's maximum speed compared to the DS412+ doing the same but with both it's NIC's connected and with LAG activated.

    Ofc there will not be much of an improvement adding more MHz when the old CPU already is capable of pushing one NIC to the max :)
    Reply
  • blackmagnum
    Is AMD competing in this market?
    Reply
  • cknobman
    IDK but this thing is over $600 with no HDD's and has a limited set of functionality.

    I find it hard to shell out that much money when I went and built my own Server with a Athlon II 3.2 Ghz processor, 8gb RAM, 4TB of HD space with RAID, and a Windows Ultimate 7 for less than $600.

    I know my server is less specialized than a dedicated NAS like the one reviewed here but it performs all the NAS functionality I need plus can serve as a all purpose computer, a HTPC, etc.. etc... Sure my server sucks more juice than these NAS devices but it is not a huge concern for me.

    Is there a big positive I am not seeing to spending more on a little NAS like this compared to just building my own server?
    Reply
  • torque79
    I wish there was some competition for mediasonic in affordable basic 4 bay enclosures. These raid NAS devices are so insanely overpriced just because they have some media sharing service and a basic raid function. give me a simple backup enclosure without FTP and media sharing functions that handles 4 drives and that I don't have to replace in 2-3 years because it only supports up to 3tb or 4tb hard drives. that would make me so happy!
    Reply
  • The "big positive" about these is time spent to get one up and running. If your time doesn't cost anything - sure, build your own and you probably get a better deal.
    I have DS411+. Time spent:
    1. 4 hours for research on the net
    2. 30 min to find where to order
    3. About 1,5 hours for unpacking and setting everything up
    Total: 6hours
    To build my own - I would probably spend more than a day for just researching hardware. Building, installing, setting up all the services - this takes time. Time I rather spend with my family.
    Reply
  • torque79
    Plus if being used as a backup, copying via 1gbit takes insanely long to transfer multi TB of data. Even though this is bulky and heavy with 8 drives, id still carry it to my htpc to back up all the media I have on there via esata. I don't know what I would do with a stationary PC just for hard drive storage, copying the data would just take too long. After initial copying of the data regular synching would not be so bad I guess, but moving over a few TB of data would probably take a week copying with 100mbit network file transfer.
    Reply
  • cknobman
    torque79 on a 1 gigabit network copy large amounts of data does not take as long as you might think.

    Heck I copy ripped movies from my server to my pc's over the network and it takes less than 30 seconds to copy 3 gigabytes. My network easily sustains 85-100 megabyte per second transfer rates.
    Reply
  • billj214
    Would it be possible to run SSD (or hybrid SSD) drives instead? That is if throughput is the primary concern and the increased processor speed might be relevant! Aside from cost this would be interesting to see if the processor becomes a bottleneck.
    Reply
  • tpi2007
    I have to wonder how relevant this review is when the Atom D2700 has been discontinued. You say it's being phased out, but according to the roadmap, it has effectively been discontinued.

    You said it yourselves in May:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/intel-cedarview-atom-d2700-processor,15516.html

    The rather expensive netbook processor ($52) was introduced in September 2011 and apparently does not pull enough demand anymore to justify carrying the CPU.

    According to Intel, final orders will be taken June 29 and final shipments will take place on September 28 of this year.

    So, it wasn't popular enough to keep making, but after all it is popular with "network storage vendors", like you say ? Or is this just a move to sell the remaining NAS devices with the Atom D2700 ? I mean, there aren't more being made, the final orders took place more than three months ago and the final shipments already took place. So, whatever stock of Atom D2700s they have to make NAS, won't be replenished.
    Reply
  • SirGCal
    DS411+ ownerThe "big positive" about these is time spent to get one up and running. If your time doesn't cost anything - sure, build your own and you probably get a better deal. I have DS411+. Time spent:1. 4 hours for research on the net2. 30 min to find where to order3. About 1,5 hours for unpacking and setting everything up Total: 6hoursTo build my own - I would probably spend more than a day for just researching hardware. Building, installing, setting up all the services - this takes time. Time I rather spend with my family.
    Actually, that's just YOUR plus. I've honestly woundered why they cost so much myself too and I agree with the others. It just doesn't make much sense.

    I have a 12TB Raid 6 server in my house with 8 2TB drives. I'm getting ready to build a new one actually. (out of room). But when I do it's literally 30 seconds for all of the parts accept the hard drives which you'd have to research for either one. Do I try new 4TB drives, or the new 3TB units or just build a known reliable 2nd 2TB setup... etc. But the rest, from board/ram/cpu/even case (case is already here actually)/ power supply/ RAID controller, etc are already known what will be purchased. Might tweak itself depending on when purchase happens but anyone who's on these websites is all too familiar with the tweaking of that part of the industry.

    Simply said, after the HDD research is done, the parts will be purchased within 15 minutes. When they arrive, it takes me less then an hour, even from my wheelchair, to assemble a computer from raw parts. 10 minutes to install Linux or 30 minutes to install/update Windows and that's it. Add the shares, and start populating it for whatever purpose it needs. Plus, far more potential power, should I need it to do other things (often it does actually. I use the one now to play videos in my office. An extra HTPC.).

    Now if this box cost say $250 or less, then I would be more attracted to it. But for what it is, I just can't see spending $600 on the empty box. The core of my setup would be a lot less. I can do the core for $200 for top-shelf components. $250 for raid 5 instead of 10. (raid 6 would be totally pointless with 4 drives). But that's $400 cheaper then then DS412+ from the same vendor. I just don't get it. I'd rather take my family out to dinner for a week. Plus, simply a lot less worry about them getting their 'firmware' right to run everything and just the good old and proven OSs that work as we expect them too.
    Reply