Best value

Thecus N4350 Review

Thecus has a fine reputation for value as its burgeoning NAS appliance family is one of the most affordable on the market. It goes even further with its latest N4350 as this compact desktop NAS offers four hot-swap SATA drive bays, a reasonable set of storage features and yet has a giveaway price of only $199.

The competition will have a hard time matching this. Synology’s entry-level DS418j has four cold-swap drive bays and yet costs $100 more while Qnap’s pretty TS-431P will cost you an extra $79.

There are a few compromises in the search for value as the N4350 is powered by a simple dual-core Marvell Armada 388 CPU. It runs at 1.6GHz but is capable of burst speeds up to 1.8GHz in times of great need.

You only get 1GB of DDR4 memory which can’t be upgraded further while one Gigabit and dual USB 3 ports lurk at the rear. Capacity won’t be problem though, as the N4350 is already certified for the latest monster 12TB NAS drives from Seagate, HGST, Toshiba and Western Digital.

Design and deployment

We’ve always been impressed with Thecus’ build quality and the N4350 is no exception. The chassis and cover are solid steel while the drive carriers are all metal and even have key locks on their release levers.

Small offices with limited desk space will like its modest dimensions as it measures a mere 140 x 170 x 220mm (HWD). They’ll approve of its low noise levels too, as we recorded its single cooling fan emitting a zephyr-like 37.5dB at one meter in front.

Deployment is easy enough as Thecus’ Setup Wizard spotted the appliance on our network and provided direct access to its web interface. For testing, we installed a pair of 10TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives and used the Disk & Raid app to create a mirrored array leaving two bays free for further expansion.

Adding new drives to an existing array to increase capacity is a simple process. We edited the array, selected a spare drive, chose the Grow command and were presented with a list of available array types which included RAID5 and 6.

ThecusOS 7

The N4350 supports all the main RAID types and volumes can be migrated for storage expansion

The N4350 comes preinstalled with Thecus’ latest OS7 firmware. Its freshly designed web interface is more intuitive that its predecessor while its desktop space can display custom backgrounds along with quick access icons for your favourite apps.

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. Access security for NAS shares is good as the appliance can apply a local user database or integrate with external Active Directory or LDAP authentication and apply per-user quotas to control storage usage.

Note that the N4350 doesn’t support BTRFS RAID volumes so NAS share and IP SAN snapshots are not available. The App Center makes it easier to install apps but they are in short supply for the N4350 as only thirteen are available.

The Dropbox and Google Drive file syncing apps aren’t present and there’s no integral anti-virus scanner either. The N4350 can run Thecus’ Surveillance Center app and while it has been improved significantly, it still isn’t as good as the versions from Synology and Qnap.

Gigabit performance

The N4350 is no slouch in the performance stakes as it returned respectable speeds in our Gigabit tests. With a NAS share mapped to a Dell PowerEdge R640 Xeon Scalable Windows rack server, Iometer reported raw sequential read and write rates of 111MB/sec and 112MB/sec.

Real world speeds were in the same ballpark with our 25GB drag and drop file copy returning average read and write rates of 109MB/sec and 111MB/sec. The N4350 also handled our backup test well with a 22.4GB folder containing 10,500 small files secured to a share at an average of 79MB/sec.

We also tested IP SAN performance by creating a 500GB target on the appliance. Speeds are variable as Iometer reported a 79MB/sec raw read speed which jumped to 112MB/sec for 100% write operations.

Backup and mobile apps

App support for the N4350 is very limited with a total of thirteen available

Mobile app development is slow as the new Thecus Connect app is only currently available for Android devices and we found the older Thecus Dashboard app doesn’t support iOS 10 and will freeze when loaded. The oddly named T-OnTheGo iOS app will connect to the N4350 over WevDAV where we could upload photos from our iPad to selected folders on the appliance but it refused to authenticate with our Google Drive cloud account.

General data backup features in OS7 are reasonable as the N4350 supports real-time and scheduled backups of NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs to local storage, external USB devices and remote NAS appliances via Rsync. Thecus doesn’t include any workstation backup software but the N4350 should work with any utility can that use network shares as backup destinations.

You can set both rear USB ports to copy the entire contents of an inserted device to a selected folder when the USB Copy button on the front panel is pressed. User defined jobs can also be created that copy data in either direction and are also linked to the button.

Cloud backup is limited to Amazon S3 cloud accounts. We had no problems using it as after entering our access and secret keys, we chose a bucket as a destination and selected the files we wanted backed up to the cloud.

Conclusion

Home users and SOHOs that want a basic, easy to use NAS appliance for file sharing and data protection won’t find a cheaper alternative than the N4350. It is very limited in the features department but Gigabit performance is good, it has hot-swap drive bays plus a good set of backup tools and won’t be faulted for build quality.

7.2 Total Score

Home users and SOHOs that want a basic, easy to use NAS appliance for file sharing and data protection won’t find a cheaper alternative than the N4350. It is very limited in the features department but Gigabit performance is good, it has hot-swap drive bays plus a good set of backup tools and won’t be faulted for build quality.

Performance
7
Features
5
Build Quality
8
Usability
7
Value
9
PROS
  • Small, quiet and very solid
  • Great value
  • ThecusOS7 firmware
  • Good Gigabit performance
CONS
  • Minimal app availability
  • Single Gigabit port
  • BTRFS and snapshots not supported
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