Thecus N8910 Review

Designed for businesses that want more storage power for their money, Thecus’ N8910 delivers a well-specified 8-bay rack NAS appliance with sharp focus on affordability. At the helm is a speedy 3.7GHz Intel Core i3-6100 CPU partnered by 4GB of fast DDR4 memory which can be boosted to a very usable 64GB.

The port count looks good too, as the appliance offers dual Gigabit, four USB 3, two USB 2, HDMI, DVI and VGA ports. Although of less value on a business NAS, the N8910 is also endowed with 5.1 audio plus SPDIF optical ports should you want some multimedia services.

There’s plenty of room to expand as the N8910 has four free PCI-Express slots and is certified for most industry-standard Intel and Emulex 10GbE adapter cards. Value looks even better as the appliance comes with dual 500W redundant PSUs.

Great build – shame about the noise

The N8910 is easy to configure and manage but apps are in very short supply

Thecus build quality is beyond reproach as the N8910 uses a reassuringly solid steel chassis and lid. An equally sturdy flip-down metal cover protects the eight lockable drive bays and opening it reveals a backlit LCD status display, menu control keypad, power button, status LEDs and the two USB 2 ports.

The lid is easily removed and good internal design affords easy access to all key components. The base 4GB of memory is supplied on a single stick with three spare DIMM slots available and we had no problems installing an Emulex dual-port 10GBase-T adapter card in the 16X PCI-Express slot.

The CPU is mounted by a large passive heatsink and cooling is handled by four 8cms diameter hot-swap fans behind the drive backplane. As we’ve found with numerous Thecus appliances, noise levels from their fans are uncomfortably high making the N8910 a candidate for a server room or sound-proofed cabinet.

On the appliance’s Auto setting, we measured very high noise levels of 71dB from one meter in front. Changing the fan setting to the Slow mode only reduced sound levels to 67.5dB.

Installation and storage features

The Thecus OS7 software provides local, remote and Amazon S3 cloud backup services

For testing, we installed a quartet of 12TB Seagate IronWolf SATA hard disks and allowed the Thecus Setup Wizard utility to discover the appliance on our network and furnish us with direct access to its web interface. The N8910 comes preinstalled with the latest Thecus OS 7 firmware which presents a well-designed web console with a customizable desktop space and quick access icons for your favourite apps.

We used the console’s Disk & Raid app to create a big 32TB RAID5 array with other options available including mirrors, stripes and dual-redundant RAID6. When creating your array, we recommend selecting the BTRFS option as this enables NAS share and IP SAN snapshots which can be run on-demand and scheduled at regular hourly, daily, weekly or monthly intervals.

The Disk Clone feature creates multiple copies of source drives and has a handy security wipe option. Appliance storage capacity can be expanded with Thecus’ D16000 16-bay disk shelf or you can use the Scale Out feature to create larger volumes by combining RAID arrays from multiple Thecus appliances.

10GbE performance

With a NAS share mapped over 10GbE to a Dell PowerEdge T640 Xeon Scalable Windows Server 2016 host, we saw Iometer report good sequential read rates of 9.2Gbits/sec but a significantly lower 5.4Gbits/sec write rate.

Real world performance is comparatively good with drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file returning average read and write speeds of 5.4Gbits/sec and 4.9Gbits/sec. Thecus also handled our backup test well with a 22.4GB folder containing 10,500 small files secured to a share at 2.1Gbits/sec.

IP SAN speeds were very similar to our NAS results with a 500GB target returning Iometer sequential read and write rates of 9.2Gbits/sec and 5.6Gbits/sec. With a dual 10GbE MPIO link to the target, we watched read speeds ramp up nicely to 18.1Gbits/sec but write speeds only improved slightly to 5.8Gbits/sec with CPU utilisation hovering around 40%.

Backup and apps

The bundled Acronis True Image app offers simple workstation backup services for securing data to NAS shares

The Disk & Raid app makes light work of storage configuration and provides easy access for creating NAS shares and IP SAN targets. Access security 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.

Snapshots are simple to create but recovery options are very basic. For NAS share recovery, all you can do is restore an entire snapshot as unlike Qnap, there isn’t an option to browse snapshot contents and select individual files and folders.

Workstation backup comes courtesy of the bundled 5-user version of Acronis True Image Personal 2015 but if you check out Thecus’ support pages, you’ll find a newer 2017 version available for download. Features are restricted as it can only backup entire PCs to NAS appliance shares and requires a paid-for upgrade to activate features such as selective backups, archiving and syncing.

On-appliance data can be easily protected as Thecus OS7 supports real-time and scheduled backups of NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs to local storage, external USB devices and remote NAS appliances via Rsync. You can also set the front USB ports to copy the contents of an inserted device to a selected folder when the button on the panel is pressed.

App choices have improved but still fall far short of those offered by Qnap and Synology. Apps are provided for file syncing to Dropbox, ElephantDrive and OneDrive and the main backup app can also run scheduled backups to Amazon S3 cloud buckets.

Conclusion

Businesses looking for an affordable, high capacity NAS appliance will find the N8910 is worthy of consideration. Drawbacks are its excessively noisy fans and the dearth of decent apps but the dual redundant PSUs add extra value and its speedy Core i3-6100 CPU delivers good real world performance over 10GbE.

7 Total Score

Businesses looking for an affordable, high capacity NAS appliance will find the N8910 is worthy of consideration. Drawbacks are its excessively noisy fans and the dearth of decent apps but the dual redundant PSUs add extra value and its speedy Core i3-6100 CPU delivers good real world performance over 10GbE.

Performance
7
Features
6
Build quality
7.5
Usability
6.5
Value
8
PROS
  • Good value
  • Well built
  • Dual 500W PSUs
  • Plenty of PCI-Express slots
  • Fast real-world 10GbE performance
CONS
  • Very high fan noise levels
  • Sparse app choices
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