Thecus N5810 Pro NAS Review

Thecus' N5810 Pro is the only NAS in its price class with a built-in battery backup that allows the system to save your data even after the power goes out.

Introduction

Thecus' N5810 Pro is the successor to the N4800, and the company's sole SMB NAS with a built-in mini-UPS battery backup system. For years, Thecus offered a single product with this capability for the small business and SOHO market. Every once in a while, it gets refreshed. The N5810 Pro is Thecus' best effort to date.

Power failures are harmful to storage products. I think it's safe to say that most of us have lost data due to a notebook running out of battery power or from a desktop shutting off unexpectedly during an electrical storm. Hard drives simply don't like losing power; it's not uncommon for them to come back online with a bad case of the click of death.

NAS products use several hard drives, so the chances of catastrophic failure multiply. If your drives do survive a power failure, then you have other issues to contend with. When power returns, the system scans the disks and attempts to repair any file system errors, bad blocks and so on. During that time, the transfer performance decreases and latency increases because the system is already performing background activities as fast as it can. With HDDs currently topping out at 10TB of capacity, it can take a long time to check the whole file system.

My family just went through a power fail event on a different NAS with twelve 6TB HDDs in RAID 6. The system is halfway full of data, so it took a long time to check everything. Since software RAID 6 consumes a lot of resources, the kids couldn't watch Blu-ray ISOs without the video skipping every few seconds. Even though the data was fairly safe thanks to redundancy, it wasn't truly available right away.

I've always wondered why Thecus is the only company with a battery backup-equipped product on the market. Most home users and small offices will not invest in a dedicated battery backup system. Building a UPS into the appliance is a step forward in the evolution of these products, and we would like to see the feature added to more products designed for home offices.

The N5810 Pro is also the first Thecus product we've tested with Btrfs (B-tree file system), a newer and more refined file system than Linux EXT4. Netgear rolled out Btrfs a year and a half ago with great success, and now Thecus offers it as an option alongside EXT3, EXT4 and XFS. Btrfs brings pooling, snapshots and checksums to the system.

Technical Specifications

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Thecus promotes the N5810 Pro as a zero-crash NAS due to its built-in mini-UPS that keeps it from succumbing to a power fail event. There is more to the story than that, though. The N5810 Pro also uses Intel's new low-power, quad-core Celeron J1900 SoC and pairs it with 4GB of DDR3.

The Intel SoC has a 2GHz base clock speed that can burst up to 2.42GHz. Its maximum TDP is just 10 watts. That thermal design power is amazing for a host processor, but the J1900 also incorporates a graphics engine that supports HDMI output and audio. Its only limiting factor is the small amount of DRAM the Celeron can address. Thecus pairs the processor with 4GB of DDR3, though the system can be upgraded to the J1900's 8GB ceiling. In a desktop system, 8GB sounds like a good starting point. But in a NAS, it's more than acceptable.

The N5810 Pro uses five hot-swappable drive bays. Thecus publishes an extensive list of supported drives that it updates as new models are introduced. Users can run more than one array in RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 or in JBOD (just a bunch of disks). 

Additional connectivity comes from five USB ports, three of which are USB 3.0 and the other two limited to USB 2.0 rates. The system doesn't expose any eSATA ports for further expansion or give us access to the four PCIe 2.0 lanes coming off of the SoC.

Moving data in and out of the N5810 Pro can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. The system has five gigabit Ethernet ports. One port supports Wake on LAN (WOL). Users can run the NAS on up to five separate networks or team two or more. The teaming options are 802.3ad, load balance, failover, balance-XOR, balance-TLB, Balance-ALB and broadcast.

A small but growing group of users have used newer NAS systems with HDMI and supporting software to turn these products into media center systems connected to home theaters. The N5810 Pro supports this feature as well.

Software Features

If NAS products were all about hardware, then we would use old computers to hold our data. The fact is, the software side is just as important. Modern NAS appliances are Swiss Army storage devices that can play many roles in an office. Some of the features can be offloaded from your desktop and others are unique to the Linux-based environment, or cost money in Windows but run free under Linux. 

Below is a list of features, though it's far from exhaustive. Thecus has a software package called QIG, and it adds a large number of roles that users can install with just a few clicks. Your NAS can become a database server, a powerful central point for a video surveillance system, a Dropbox repository or even a DHCP server. The list is impressive; no stone is left unturned. 

Snapshot Backup - With Btrfs support, Thecus NAS users can enjoy the simplicity of snapshot backups. Through Btrfs subvolumes, snapshots of data at various time points can be manually or automatically made and just as easily restored to rollback files or folders to previous states.

Mini-UPS - With a built-in mini-UPS, not even a power outage can slow you down. The mini-UPS provides power to allow the N5810 Pro to write unwritten data to the hard disks and safely shut down, ensuring the integrity of your information and preserving your memories.

Disk Clone and Wipe - Disk Clone allows users to copy the entire contents of a disk to one or many other disks, while Disk Wipe allows for permanent volume data destruction.

VPN Server - A VPN server allows users to remotely access a secure network. With VPNs, businesses will be able to utilize a cost-effective, scalable and secure network infrastructure.

Data Guard - Data Guard backup solution is the ultimate software, as it provides both local and remote parts. Currently, data is backed up across RAID volumes and external USB drives. In addition, Data Guard uses innovative technology to sync data across the network to other NAS appliances.

Data Burn - NAS data can now be burned directly to CD, DVD and Blu-ray discs with Data Burn. In addition, burning ISO image files is also supported. Whether you’re managing audio, media or essential files, Data Burn copies information fast while significantly reducing waiting time.

Link Aggregation - Link aggregation can sustain multiple network connections and provide redundancy in case one of the links fails. Thecus NAS supports seven modes, which provide load balance, failover, 802.3ad, balance-XOR, balance-TLB, balance-ALB and broadcast.

Anti-virus - Adding an anti-virus to the software bundle provides necessary protection by scanning the files on your NAS and defending it against possible threats. McAfee is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company and shares Thecus’ spirit of dedication and quality. By establishing a strong partnership with them, Thecus allows users the benefit of McAfee’s powerful software on their NAS entirely for free.

Cloud Backup - The private and public clouds meet with Thecus’ new DropBox, Amazon S3 and ElephantDrive cloud backup functionality. Guard your data with RAID at home and an additional level of protection in the cloud. Just drag and drop files into the folder on your NAS and access them on any computer or mobile device.

HDMI Output - Make your NAS into the ultimate multimedia hub. The N5810 Pro's HDMI output allows you to connect your NAS directly to your TV for device management, web browsing with Flash support and HD video playback.

USB 3.0 Connectivity - The next generation of connectivity is here with speeds 10x faster than USB 2.0. Whether connecting digital cameras and smart phones, backing up large external hard drives or extending the capacity of your NAS, USB 3.0 will make sure it's done in no time. Backwards compatibility adds the connectivity of a world full of USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices to get the best combination of speed and universal access.

Acronis True Image - Thecus brings the best to the table with Acronis’ advanced backup software. Back up all your data with one-click protection, or pick and choose only your most important files. Acronis sports a slick interface, user-friendly design and comprehensive features to keep your data safe.

Multiple RAID - When it comes to data management, Thecus NAS truly let you have it your way. Create multiple RAID volumes, each supporting different modes, including RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 and JBOD for your own balance of performance and data protection. Should a hard drive malfunction occur, changing one disk is simple thanks to online RAID migration and expansion, hot spare and auto rebuild.

Multiple File Systems - Support for multiple file systems including EXT3, EXT4, Btrfs and XFS gives Thecus' NAS the flexibility to handle many different types of environments. Users can simultaneously use different file systems across multiple RAID volumes to get the best of each one.

iSCSI Thin-Provisioning - Get the most out of your storage space with the extreme speed of iSCSI and the efficiency of iSCSI thin provisioning. Connect through iSCSI for the fastest data transfer speeds available and make wasted disk space a thing of the past with thin provisioning's flexible storage functionality.

iOS/Android Connectivity - In the modern world, nothing is as important as reaching your data from anywhere. With T-OnTheGo and the T-Dashboard, you can manage your NAS, and upload to and download/stream from your NAS using an iOS or Android device.

Rsync - Thecus’ Rsync functionality gives users great flexibility with remote backup capability, a flexible scheduler, and the stability of Linux-based transfer.

User Quotas - Divide the massive storage of a Thecus NAS among multiple users. Whether there are two users or 100, user quotas make it easy to divvy up and manage disk space.

Thecus also supplies a nice list of utilities. The first is a wizard that simplifies the setup process. Twonky Media is also included with your system as well as Acronis backup software.

Pricing, Warranty, and Accessories

We found the Thecus N5810 Pro online from just one seller at the time of writing. SimplyNAS has the diskless platform available for $699. SimplyNAS is also a specificity shop that sells the system in several configurations with disks. Newegg and Amazon were both out of stock.

Thecus backs the N5810 Pro with a two-year warranty. The company offers phone and online support, and also has a dedicated forum with several thousand members.

The system ships with nearly everything you need to get up and running, sans disk drives. Users get a power cord, a single Ethernet cable, manuals, software on optical disks, screws for mounting both 3.5" and 2.5" drives, and four hot-swap drive bay keys.

A Closer Look

The Thecus N5810 Pro ships in a retail package that lists many of the hardware and software features on its exterior.

Thecus couldn't find a font small enough that would allow its retail package to cover all of this NAS appliance's features.

The NAS is packaged well, sporting closed cell foam surrounding the system with extra density at the corners. The accessories are all isolated in a separate box inside the main package.

The N5810 Pro ships with a handful of manuals including a warranty statement, quick-start guide and support contact information. Users also receive screws for mounting drives, four keys for locking the drive bay sleds and a single Ethernet cable.

The N5810 Pro is an open-face pedestal NAS with a small footprint. It can be configured without a PC or Mac, but both are supported. The front-panel display and four buttons provide access to early setup parameters.

After the initial setup and hardware configuration, the front is the only part of the system you'll routinely see. Just above the power button is a USB 3.0 port that lets you back-up external storage devices or charge attached peripherals. Five status LEDs on the front-left edge of the chassis show disk, USB and network activity.

I rarely use the front display and don't give it a second thought...until I need it. Some NAS products ship without a front LCD display. Suddenly, that feature becomes useful when you need some bit of information from it. Thecus' display can convey vital statistics and then turn off.

The hot-swappable drive sleds each have vents that allow air to pass over the disks inside. The system monitors the drive temperature and regulates it with a fan on the back.

The side panels are ventilated as well. Under the panel on the left is where most of the electrical components are found. The right panel perforation is mainly for show.

Thecus uses a large 120mm fan to cool its platform, positioning it so that air can pass over the hard drives. Intel's 10-watt J1900 SoC requires very little cooling beyond the heat sink. This system employs an internal power supply, so you won't have to worry about positioning a large adapter next to the NAS.

While not unheard of, it's rare for a SOHO-oriented NAS to ship with more than two gigabit Ethernet ports. You can use this unit's extra ports a number of ways. One configuration would leave you with more than 500 MB/s of transfer performance to and from the NAS with NIC teaming. Others may want to run the system in between two separate networks to provide shared storage for both. The NAS can also act as a DHCP server, so it's even possible to use the NAS as a switch.

However, the standout feature is this long skinny battery that should keep your system running during a power fail event (a fancy term for when you lose power). Otherwise, you hear the crack from lightening close by and then everything turns off in a dramatic way. If you had data in-flight, heading the NAS' direction, you just lost it.

The mini-UPS slides into the back of the NAS and becomes invisible until you need it to keep the power on. We reached out to Thecus to find out how long the battery is expected to last before needing replacement and were told that "this really depends on how often a power outage is experienced; generally speaking, these should be replaced every one to three years."

This is consistent with dedicated battery backup systems, which are usually large and heavy, with fairly expensive batteries. We failed to find a Thecus replacement battery listed for sale online.

Software Interface

Unlike the iXsystem's FreeNAS Mini we tested a while ago, Thecus uses a simple layout that will click with Windows users. It's still Linux-based, but the graphical interface feels familiar and intuitive.

You need to log into the NAS to manage it. The system administrator can build accounts for both access to the inner NAS software and for folder permissions. An easy-to-navigate tab system on the left side of the management windows gets you to the section you want for quick configuration.

The main window on the right is where you manipulate the various options.

Unlike many competing NAS products, Thecus lets you tune for workloads through the RAID array management portion of the software. Users can also select from a number of file systems and even the number of bytes per node. If you don't understand these settings, the automatic options work just fine for balancing performance.


Software features can be enabled or disabled depending on your needs. To reduce processing overhead, we suggest turning off capabilities that are not used. This will keep the system performance at high levels.

Every aspect of the NAS is logged and can be monitored. If you experience an issue, you can even go in and watch the system at work in performance monitor.


The network management pane is one of the best available. Users can quickly and easily configure the NAS for dynamic or static IP addresses, or team network ports together.

After the initial setup, users can dive into the advanced settings and configure the system for more specific tasks. Thecus uses intelligent settings to start with, so this step isn't required.

Sequential Data Transfer by Size

We'll run through a few synthetic tests to get a better understanding of how the Thecus NAS performs in relation to other products on the market, some priced higher and others less expensive.

First, we look at sequential reads with a number of block sizes. All of the network-attached storage systems perform well in this test, but there is some variation. The N5810 Pro drops a bit of performance with the very large blocks. It's something we'll also see later in the review when we test with real data.

Next, we use the same type of data but instead write to the NAS products. The first thing you see is how much different the results are. NAS appliances can cache writes depending on how you configure them. We enable EXT4 write caching, as well as other caching features, whenever possible. This can trick some long write tests when the buffer fills and then flushes, depending on when the test occurs. We suspect that is why this metric deviates so much. 

Random Data Transfer by Size

We expect random reads to slow down as file size increases, since we're measuring IOPS. Thecus' N5810 Pro starts out with the highest 4KB random read IOPS, but drops below the other systems at 8KB, where it rides the low end of the group before merging back with other products at 32KB blocks.

The random write tests with increasing block sizes also shows cache affecting performance. The N5810 Pro fares well, even if it doesn't always outperform the other products.

Sequential Performance

Now we're testing sequential performance in two blocks sizes and with increasing queue depths. The NIC in the local system is an Intel 40GbE Fortville chipset that tends to exhibit better performance at high queue depths due to its built-in buffers. 

Most of the NAS products deliver full gigabit Ethernet performance at a queue depth of two, but that shouldn't come as a surprise since all of these devices deliver high throughput in basic four-corner tasks.

We're starting to get away from the buffers and cache manipulating write performance, at least until we hit the higher queue depths. The N5810 Pro delivers steady sequential write performance through the queue depth range.

Random Performance

Reading and writing sequential data is easy for NAS products. Random tasks (or any small file transfer) work the system harder, though. Two products really stand out in this test. One uses a Core i7 and the other uses a higher-end Atom processor. Both deliver better performance than the Intel J1900 used in Thecus' N5810 Pro.

The N5810 Pro falls behind Asustor's AS7004T in the random write test. That's the only NAS in our comparison equipped with a Core i7 CPU. It's very difficult for the other systems to keep up in benchmarks where raw CPU performance is a limiting factor. The Brtfs file system on the N5810 Pro does a good job of keeping Thecus competitive, though. 

Sequential Mixed Data Sweep

Our last sequential synthetic tests use what is called a sweep - a benchmark that starts out with 100% reads and then mixes in writes until transitioning completely. A workload of 70% reads mixed with 30% writes represents a typical workstation environment. In both tests, the N5810 Pro finishes in the middle of the pack.

Random Mixed Data Sweep

Our final synthetic test with random data is another sweep, where we start with 100% reads and increase the writes until we switch over completely. Again, the N5810 Pro falls in the middle of the pack.

Single-Client SMB Performance

We're moving away from synthetic measurements and towards trace-based tests that show real-world performance. After all, you access your NAS over SMB/CIFS when you navigate to folders on the system, mostly through File Explorer in My Network.

Thecus' N5810 Pro running the Brtfs (file system) doesn't fare too well in these tests. Btrfs is a technology improvement with new features, but it appears to perform a little slower than EXT4 and XFS. In my experience, XFS is the fastest file system on Thecus NAS products. Users will need to balance features like snapshots with performance and choose a file system that delivers the capabilities needed for each installation.

Multi-Client SMB Performance

The multi-client test is straightforward, even though it's complicated to configure and run. We use 120 real gigabit Ethernet ports from hosts that run custom software. Each system runs a trace-based test recorded from Microsoft Office. This mimics a real office environment where no single machine pushes the performance limits of the NAS. But as the number of clients increases, so does the load. Consequently, this benchmark is a real challenge for all NAS products. Many of the operations are random in nature, and even the sequential portions become random as the number of clients increases. Systems needs to be efficient with multiple streams to do well.

The first chart shows total throughput performance, while the second shows latency. We feel that the latency test carries more weight since it has a direct relationship with the user experience in this large office environment. Thecus' N5810 Pro performs particularly well thanks to its host processor and file system.

System administrators can optimize the stripe level of the array to deliver a better experience. Not all NAS products allow users to adjust this, so its availability is notable on the N5810 Pro. We used the default 64KB setting to get balanced performance with random and sequential data.

Single Client iSCSI Workloads

Starting with this set of tests we move over to iSCSI for performance measurements. iSCSI is simple to set up, although most NAS users are not familiar with the process. Accessing your NAS over iSCSI gives you a drive letter and the storage appears installed locally. It's a great way to add large volumes of capacity to systems with small SSD boot drives. 

Just like many of the other real-world tests in this review, the N5810 Pro falls into the middle of our chart. The outcome is consistent with processor performance, so we expected it. We still achieved good performance for a system running 5200 RPM hard drives.

Database Server Workload

The next series of tests uses traditional server workloads. The first charts in each group show scaling performance by queue depth, while the second chart (what we call a snake chart) shows IOPS under latency. This is the amount of IOPS you can achieve before latency increases. System administrators will want to tune the workload to the highest IOPS before latency increases. 

Thecus' N5810 Pro doesn't scale well as the database workload increases. The IOPS remain steady, but latency increases as the task gets more demanding.

File Server Workload

The low-power SoC in the N5810 Pro delivers similar performance as the other SoCs. Also like the others, it's difficult to squeeze additional performance from the system using more taxing tasks. These tests pull their workloads from a single source, so it's a different scenario than the multi-client benchmark where the NAS can scale. Still, they're able to saturate the appliance's bandwidth and processing power at low queue depths.

Web Server Workload

Even in the Web server test, where most of the traffic is read-centric, Thecus' N5810 Pro fails to scale as its load increases. This really shows us that the system is designed more for home users and small offices rather than normal application server environments.

Email Server Workload

For a small number of users, the N5810 Pro's email server feature would work well. This type of workload is not characterized by a consistent flow of data.

Workstation Workload

The workstation test is our best example of getting what you pay for when it comes to NAS processing power. In the snake chart, we see the three SoC-based systems delivering steady performance that doesn't really increase as the load becomes more demanding. The processors in Asustor's AS7004T and Synology's DS415+ have more headroom to scale with workload.

Some users need a light application NAS, while others are looking for a system that can hold files and remain stable. The N5810 falls in that latter category where storage takes priority over performance. 

Conclusion

If you need a NAS for yourself or to share with your family, the N5810 Pro is a responsible choice. At $699, it costs more than many five-bay appliances. However, its main feature will save you money on building a shared storage system the right way. NAS products used in homes to deliver multimedia content and to store important files like pictures and music really should have some sort of power loss protection in place. A number of companies sell battery backup systems. However, the small, home-focused units are around the same size as a NAS and cost more than $100 in most cases. Pulling battery backup into the NAS itself is a better way to manage power failures, while reducing the footprint of the components.

The same is true for small office environments without dedicated system administrators. The Thecus N5810 Pro can be set up quickly and easily. Its on-board battery helps simplify configuration and is a feature simply not offered by any other product in this class. SMBs can also make better use of the five built-in network ports that bring Ethernet redundancy or performance improvements if set-up properly. The expanded network capabilities are features that most home users will not take advantage of. But businesses can use them to improve performance in the office.  

Moving beyond simple storage tasks, the N5810 Pro can run applications on the appliance, though most users should stick to the basics like BitTorrent, Usenet management or cloud access functions. The Intel SoC just isn't powerful enough to run databases, even if a dedicated application server uses the NAS to store its data. Users could run a few virtual machines with the N5810 Pro acting as the storage if the workload is fairly light. In short, don't expect the processor to scale well under heavy workloads like a system with a more powerful processor might.

At $699, Thecus' N5810 Pro is an excellent choice for the roles it is designed to serve. The software is easy to manage, its performance is more than acceptable and users will discover a large number of useful features right out of the box. This model's main selling point is its mini-UPS, and that's a fairly unique capability in the NAS space.

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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  • Karsten75
    You don't mention if it does data scrubbing to protect against bit-rot?
  • Lulzon
    Typically battery backups are SLA (sealed lead acid) which is most likely why they don't get packaged with NAS systems - they're heavy, they're a dangerous good by transportation and shipping rules, they expand and can release gasses when under load and charged. The upside? They have way more capacity than that of a lithium-ion as shown in this little unit, they (probably) cost much less, and they last longer (5+ years vs 2-3). In terms of a NAS though, the capacity isn't really an issue if the only thing the NAS is doing is shutting down to avoid data loss/corruption.
  • ldun
    What's the idle and load power draw for one of these?
  • Aris_Mp
    55.3W under heavy throughput and 35.1W at idle with 5x Seagate ST500DM005 HDDs and RAID 6 configuration.
  • TontNZ
    I'm not sure if I've just missed it - but: How many drives of what brand and capacity, in what raid mode were used for the testing?

    It would be good to single this information out into one of the section headings. It may be redundant as you presumably standardise this across NAS of a given bay capacity - but it would still be useful.
  • Anonymous
    This is an impressive device. I'd definitively give it a try for home office solutions. The only downside I can see to it is that if the internal memory were to die (flash, ram), the backups are probably gone unless they keep using the same system/setting organization and it is forward compatible with other similar systems.

    5 years is a long time and unless they intend to have the same product line around for a long time, it will either be EOL or replaced with an updated version.