Thecus N7710-G 7-Bay NAS with 10 GbE

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Undoubtedly, the Thecus N7710-G's backbone is robust hardware. Though the Pentium G850 is a couple of generations old, it is faster than most of the processors driving competing NAS devices and the 4GB of RAM is a big bonus as well. And if even this is insufficient, it's easy enough to upgrade. The inclusion of 10 GbE network card is nice but the cost of outfitting a network to take full advantage of 10 GbE is still probably not worth it for most small businesses. (Editor's Note: Off the top of my head, it would be apropos for small video editing/production shops and other operations that require similar fast remote processing and storage of large files.) Performance with the standard gigabit controller is solid, slightly better than the QNAP TS-469L when running in RAID-5. The only thing we can knock about the hardware is the lack of eSATA, though USB 3.0 does give it some reasonably fast external expansion potential.

The biggest defects are environmental. Power consumption is twice that of the TS-469L, understandable considering the hardware involved: The CPU is a 65W desktop chip rather than a 10W Atom, the SATA controller can handle more devices, and the unit has an add-on 10 GbE NIC and additional fans. Like many NAS devices, the fans are overly aggressive and no fan control options are offered. Fortunately, the system fans can be replaced with lower speed models but the tiny fan inside the power supply is ultimately the limiting factor. (This single factor is the primary reason keeping the Thecus N7710-G from a Recommended by SPCR award.) Hard drive vibration is also an issue due to the loose side panels but this can be dealt with rather easily.

On the software side, it supports all the features you would expect in a NAS including VMware support, different backup options, encryption, link aggregation, just about every type of RAID, and the ability to have multiple arrays with different file systems running concurrently. The third party app ecosystem isn't extensive but there are enough big titles to keep most users satisfied, especially those looking for a machine that can double as a media center. XBMC works flawlessly and there are usenet and torrent clients in the app center to feed it content. There is also an app for Plex, but it only allows the N7710-G to act as a Plex server, not as a player.

Aside from the physical side, the overall user interface feels dated compared to what QNAP is doing with QTS. Nowhere is this more noticeable than the app center, which resides on the Thecus website rather than being accessible directly through the NAS. Having to manually download, install, and enable each individual app is tedious. The NAS interface is easy to navigate but the UI has a bland, utilitarian look that lacks polish and this carries over to their mobile apps as well, especially T-Dashboard. The Thecus UI feels behind the times, and while this is unlikely to drive users away, it isn't going to attract them either.

The Thecus N7710-G is a compelling solution for small businesses looking for a high performance NAS system, especially if their current storage needs max out a smaller 4-bay unit. Not only are there additional drive bays but some of the system's hardware can be upgraded over time, and one potential upgrade, 10 GbE, is ready to go. It also provides good value at its current price of US$1000~$1100. The 7-bay NAS category is tiny but competing 8-bay NAS servers in the same price range almost all have lesser hardware and lack 10 GbE.

If you feel 10 GbE isn't worth the premium, consider the N7710, which is identical except with an empty PCI-E slot. It costs about US$200 less, putting it in the same price level as underpowered 6-bay devices.

Our thanks to Thecus for the N7710-G sample.

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Articles of Related Interest

WD Red 6TB and 1TB (2.5-inch) Hard Drives
Seagate Enterprise Class v4 6TB Hard Drive
QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L 4-Bay NAS Server
SilverStone DS380 8-Bay Server/NAS Chassis
Supermicro SuperServer 5018A-FTN4 Rackmount Server
HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8

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