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.