Best Value

Thecus N12850L Review

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Click for a closer look

Thecus has a reputation for delivering cost-effective NAS solutions and its latest N12850L takes this to the next level. It’s one of a pair of new 12-bay rack mount appliances launched by the company and a key focus of these is value, customization and expansion.

The N12850L is equipped with a fast 3.7GHz Intel Core i3-4170 partnered by 4GB of DDR3 memory which is expandable to 32GB. The N12850RU model has a 3.2GHz E3-1225 v3 CPU and 4GB of DDR3 and doesn’t come with the Intel Security services or Acronis True Image workstation backup software.

Costs have been reduced as both models only support SATA drives – if you want SAS3 check out the standard N12850. However, storage capacity for the N12850L can be expanded massively by fitting an optional Avago dual-port SAS HBA and daisy-chaining up to four Thecus D16000 16-bay expansion shelves.

Quad Gigabit data ports come as standard and 10-Gigabit (10GbE) is also on the table. The N12850L has two 8X PCI-E slots that support standard single and dual-port 10GbE adapters from Intel and Emulex.

web interface

The web interface is rather basic but it does make the N12850L easy to manage

Build quality and deployment

The appliance exudes the tough built quality we’ve come to expect from Thecus with the solid steel chassis looking very reassuring. Up front is an equally sturdy flip-down aluminum panel which incorporates an LCD status display and set of menu control buttons.

It’s the same story inside with the CPU topped off with an active heatsink while general chassis cooling is handled by a bank of four hot-plug fans. One drawback is noise as the SPLnFTT iOS app recorded 64dB at one metre making the N12850L a candidate for a sound-proofed cabinet or server room.

Deployment is swift as the Thecus Setup Wizard discovered the appliance on the lab network and took us over to its web interface. For testing, we loaded up a quartet of Seagate’s 10TB IronWolf NAS drives and let the wizard create a massive 27TB RAID5 array.

Makes sure you choose BTRFS during this phase as it brings in support for NAS share and iSCSI LUN snapshots. These are easy to use as you select your shares and LUNs and run manual or scheduled snapshots.

 Acronis True Image Personal

Workstation backup gets a boost with the 2015 version of Acronis True Image Personal

Data protection

A welcome change for workstation backup is Thecus has finally ditched the museum-quality Acronis True Image Personal 2010 and replaced it with the 2015 version. We had no problems using it to secure our Windows 10 desktops to NAS shares but to get advanced features such as encryption, syncing, incremental backups and job scheduling, you must upgrade to the full version.

On-appliance data protection features are good as the Data Guard app supports real-time and scheduled backups to local storage, external USB devices and remote NAS appliances. It supports iSCSI backups to remote targets and can also run scheduled backup jobs to Amazon S3 cloud storage accounts.

Cloud file syncing apps are in short supply as Thecus only supports Dropbox and ElephantDrive. We had no problems linking the Dropbox app to our cloud account but if you want services such as Google Drive or OneDrive then check out Qnap and Synology.

High availability (HA) is present on all Thecus enterprise appliances and the low price of the N12850L makes it a great choice for this duty. Link two N12850L appliances together over dedicated network ports for heartbeat functions and if one goes down, the other takes over.

App lethargy

Thecus needs to get its act together for mobile apps as although the T-OnTheGo iOS app allowed us to remotely access folders and files from our iPad, the T-Dashboard remote monitoring app still doesn’t even support iOS8. If it wants to get serious about surveillance, Thecus also needs to revamp its IP Cam app as this pales into insignificance when stacked up against Synology’s Surveillance Station.

Thecus is still developing its latest OS7 software which is expected to deliver a wealth of new features and a revitalized web interface. This hasn’t been released for the N12850L yet and we don’t recommend testing the beta version on a production unit.

On a brighter note, the N12850L provides on-appliance virus scanning with the free Intel McAfee Antivirus app. This only took us a few seconds to install from the cloud after which we created manual and scheduled scans of selected shares, folders and files.

Scans can be run at specific times on each day or on selected days of the week and the signature file updated as required. You can set the scanner to delete or quarantine infected files and the app interface provides a link to the appliance’s quarantine store.

ntel McAfee

The appliance includes the free Intel McAfee on-appliance virus scanner

Good 10GbE performance

For 10GbE performance testing, we fitted an Emulex OCE11102-NT dual-port 10GBase-T card in the N12850L which was accepted without any problems. With a share mapped to a Lenovo x3650 M5 rack server running Windows Server 2012 R2, we saw Iometer report excellent raw read and write speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 5.9Gbits/sec.

Real world speeds were also good with our 25GB file copy delivering sustained read and write speeds of 5.1Gbits/sec and 4.7Gbits/sec. It handled our backup test well with a 22.4GB folder and 10,500 small files secured to a share over 10GbE at an average of 2.4Gbits/sec.

IP SAN performance was very similar to NAS speeds. With a 500GB target mapped to the Lenovo server, Iometer recorded good raw read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 5.6Gbits/sec.

Summary

The low price and decent performance makes the N12850L a good choice for businesses that want affordable, uncomplicated NAS and IP SAN storage. Thecus still lags way behind Qnap and Synology for app and OS development but all the key storage features are present and correct and its high expansion potential makes it a good long-term investment.

7.9 Total Score
Fast and Reliable

The low price and decent performance makes the N12850L a good choice for businesses that want affordable, uncomplicated NAS and IP SAN storage. Thecus still lags way behind Qnap and Synology for app and OS development but all the key storage features are present and correct and its high expansion potential makes it a good long-term investment.

Performance
8.5
Feautres
6.5
Build quality
8.5
Usability
7
Value
9
PROS
  • Very good value
  • Fast 10GbE performance
  • BTRFS and snapshots
  • Dual redundant PSUs
  • Good expansion capabilities
CONS
  • High noise levels
  • Limited apps
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