Best Value

Thecus N12910SAS Review

High-performing SAS3 NAS appliances usually come with an equally high price tag but Thecus bucks the trend with its latest N12910SAS. This 2U rack appliance delivers SAS3 support across the board, teams this up with a powerful hardware package and delivers it all for under $4K.

Choice is another bonus as the twelve hot-swap bays across the front can handle SAS3 and lower-cost SATA drives. There’s room to expand outside the box too, as its LSI SAS3008 PCI-Express card supports four Thecus 16-bay D16000 disk shelves for a total of 76 drive bays.

Under the hood beats a speedy 3.5GHz E3-1245 v5 Xeon partnered by 16GB of DDR4 ECC memory which can be expanded to 64GB. Power redundancy is present and correct as the price includes a pair of hot-plug 500W PSUs.

Value gets a slight knock thanks to a modest port count as the motherboard has four USB 3 but only dual embedded Gigabit. However, there are three spare PCI-Express slots and the N12910SAS is certified for a good range of industry standard 10-Gigabit (10GbE) adapters.

Build quality and design

One feature that always sets Thecus apart from the competition is its industrial-strength build quality. The N12910SAS is no exception as it employs a weighty steel chassis, thick aluminium rack-mount ears and solid metal drive carriers that are lockable for extra security.

The drive bays are covered by an equally sturdy flip-down panel which incorporates a backlit LCD status display. A group of menu buttons below are for scrolling through the display options while alongside are a couple of USB 2 ports that link up with the menu’s removable device copy feature.

Internal cooling is handled by four hot-plug fans but to access them, you’ll need to remove nine screws before the lid can be released. We also spotted a small tray inside that’s cabled up for two SFF drives but this is only used in the Windows-powered W12910SAS model that has its OS loaded on mirrored boot disks.

The LSI SAS3 card services all twelve drive bays and has an external expansion port ready for action. You’ll need an SFF-8644 to SFF-8088 cable to link the first D16000 disk shelf to the appliance and then you can daisy-chain up to three more for a total of 76 drive bays.

The new ThecusOS7 firmware presents a freshly designed web interface and more features

ThecusOS 7

The N12910SAS also showcases the latest ThecusOS 7 firmware which has only recently been made available on its enterprise appliances. The revamped web interface is easier to use than its predecessor with quick access icons in its customisable desktop space, a top menu strip and a more informative resource monitor.

The Control Panel app provides links to all key features and there are desktop icons for disk and RAID operations, file services and local user accounts. It introduces SSD caching for improved performance while the new File Center app makes it easier to manage files, folders and access rights.

The new App Center provides faster access to an improved range of utilities although they still aren’t as copious or as sophisticated as those offered by Qnap and Synology. Cloud features are also sparse with syncing apps for

Dropbox, ElephantDrive, OneDrive and Google Drive plus an Amazon S3 cloud backup app.

Backup and data protection

The firmware now offers an SSD caching feature which we found improved performance

All backup services are now accessed from the Settings panel and provide real-time and scheduled backups of NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs to local storage, external USB devices and remote NAS appliances via Rsync. Choose the BTRFS option during RAID creation and can also avail yourself of on-demand and scheduled NAS and IP SAN snapshots.

High availability is present on all Thecus enterprise appliances and the low price of the N12910SAS makes it a great choice for this duty. Link two N12910SAS appliances together over dedicated network ports for heartbeat functions and if one goes down, the other takes over.

Thecus includes on-appliance virus scanning with the free Intel AntiVirus app. This only took us a few seconds to install from the App Center after which we created manual and scheduled scans of selected shares, folders and files.

Apps are easier to access although there are far fewer than those offered by Qnap and Synology

Speedy performer

For performance testing, we installed an Emulex dual-port fibre 10GbE card and created a RAID5 array from four 15K SAS SFF drives. NAS performance is excellent with a share mapped to an HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 Windows server returning Iometer sequential read and write speeds of 9.2Gbits/sec and 9Gbits/sec.

Real world copies of a 25GB test file were fast with these delivering read and write speeds 6.8Gbits/sec and 4.5Gbits/sec. Backup performance is also good as our 22.4GB folder and its 10,500 small files was secured to the share at 2.3Gbits/sec.

NAS I/O throughput is equally impressive as Iometer configured with 4KB blocks recorded sequential read and write rates of 158,000 IOPS and 100,000 IOPS. Changing the load to random operations saw speeds of 158,000 IOPS and 78,000 IOPS.

We tested SSD caching by assigning two SSDs to the RAID5 array and saw sequential throughput increase to 166,000 IOPS and 112,000 IOPS. Random operations also received a boost with these ramping up to 166,000 IOPS and 81,000 IOPS.

Conclusion

The N12910SAS isn’t as well-featured or as versatile as competing 12-bay SAS3 rack appliances from Qnap and Synology but it is much more affordable. Furthermore, the latest ThecusOS 7 firmware delivers plenty of new and welcome features presented in a radically redesigned web interface.

Performance is another strong point of this appliance and its high expansion potential will allow it to keep ahead of demand. The N12910SAS is perfectly poised for SMBs that want basic, hard-performing network storage services and with a starting price of under $4K, it’s impossible to beat for value.

8.1 Total Score
High-Performing N12910SAS

The N12910SAS isn’t as well-featured or as versatile as competing 12-bay SAS3 rack appliances from Qnap and Synology but it is much more affordable. Furthermore, the latest ThecusOS 7 firmware delivers plenty of new and welcome features presented in a radically redesigned web interface. Performance is another strong point of this appliance and its high expansion potential will allow it to keep ahead of demand. The N12910SAS is perfectly poised for SMBs that want basic, hard-performing network storage services and with a starting price of under $4K, it’s impossible to beat for value.

Performance
9
Features
6.5
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
7.5
Value
9
PROS
  • Great value
  • SAS3 and SATA support
  • Big expansion potential
  • Good SAS3 performance
  • Robust build quality
  • Greatly improved OS
CONS
  • No 10GbE ports included
  • Basic storage features
  • Low quality apps
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