A Closer Look
The system should arrive with an outer box that contains the Thecus W5000 package (shown above) inside.
The packaging gives you useful information to help guide your purchasing decision in a retail environment. While we'd love to see even more detail conveyed on the box, Thecus' products are mainly available online. B&H does carry Thecus products in its retail stores, though.
Thecus includes an installation guide, Ethernet cable, power cable, screws for mounting drives and four drive sled keys.
Thecus has used this same chassis for several years on a number of models, including the current N5550 with its Linux OS. This is the company's go-to five-bay enclosure for lower-cost NAS products, but it does leave a little to be desired in the security department. The front door opens without a key lock. Anyone walking by can just press the middle-right edge, open the door and turn the system off. Though the drive sleds are lockable, we'd like to see a lock on that front door as well to keep unauthorized fingers out.
The front panel is straightforward and clutter-free. Power and reset buttons on the bottom are separated from the display control buttons. A single USB 3.0 port on the front of the system lets you charge a phone or back-up data from an external storage device. Status LEDs show power, network and disk activity.
Vents on the side of the chassis keep the internals cool through convection. The low-power Intel Atom processor is passively cooled, as is the chipset.
A large, 120mm fan blows air across the installed drives. Its size means the fan can spin slower than a smaller one to move the same amount of air. As a result, the configuration is extremely quiet, unlike some NAS systems that almost need to live in a closet.
The HDMI and VGA outputs give you the option to plug in a monitor for configuration purposes. The four USB ports support keyboards and mice, so it's possible to use the system as a desktop. We wouldn't recommend it though, on account of the machine's 2GB of system RAM.
Seagate's speedy SSHD does help with performance somewhat. If you're not already familiar with SSHDs, they're essentially a marriage of traditional hard disks and tiny SSDs used for caching. Small SSDs are slow and hard drives are slow. When the two are paired, they are still fairly slow. But the benefit of an SSHD is that it utilizes specialized algorithms to keep commonly-used information in the NAND cache, improving performance beyond what a mechanical disk could achieve on its own.
Thecus' system offers two other notable I/O features. The first is eSATA. We normally don't care too much about whether that interface is present. Recently, however, I needed to add more storage to a NAS system that didn't have eSATA, and went mad after finding the system lacked eSATA support. Sometimes, features are not always used right away, but over time, they become indispensable.
Hopefully, that's also the case with the analog audio I/O on the back of Thecus' W5000. You get connections for a microphone, line in and audio out. But you'll have to fiddle with Windows Server 2012 R2 to get the audio functions working, since DirectX isn't enabled.
Thecus gives you access to a vacant memory slot for a performance upgrade. It also gives you the option to swap out the SSHD for an SSD if you'd like. Simply remove three thumbscrews on the back of the chassis to pop off the top cover.
Inside, there's an mSATA slot for solid-state storage. This option goes unused by default, but it's possible to convert the system over to a SATA 6Gb/s SSD, which could be useful for adding SSD cache to Windows Storage Spaces, if only Microsoft allowed SSD cache to work in RAID 5. Sadly, the feature only works with RAID 10 in Storage Spaces.