Memory & Storage Space, Networking Reviews, Reviews, Storage Reviews

Thecus Can Do Better: N2560 NAS Review

N2560 NAS: Design and Aesthetics

The Thecus N2560 is designed to look the part in your living room or wherever you tend to watch your media. I don’t have any issue with the device being almost completely white, but there is an argument to be made that most of the gear we have in and around our media center tends to be black. I have a black media center PC and a black flat-screen TV and black speakers, so having to integrate a white NAS unit into the equation was always going present a slight issue.

Having said that, the N2560 looks attractive enough. The chassis is constructed almost entirely of durable plastic which can easily get scuffed if not handled with a degree of care. The Thecus logo on the left side panel can be illuminated with an internal LED light can be turned on or off in device settings according to your taste. I’m not a huge fan of fancy lights, but opted in the end to keep the light on. The geek in me found the blue/white LED glow attractive enough to warrant its existence in my living room.

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To access the two drive bays that make up the majority of space within the device, you simply push the front door until you register a soft click that releases the door. The front of the N2560 is rounded to give the device a touch of elegance. There’s a vent on the top face near to the front that allows the drives some much needed ventilation and airflow, while the rear panel reveals a small 80mm cooling fan that pulls in air through the vent. The fan is audible, but not loud enough to warrant complaint.

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The front face of the N2560 has an array of LED lights that help you to be aware of drive, network and USB activity. Of the four LEDs we find the first two are for individual drive activity, followed LAN cable activity and a 4th LED for USB activity. As well as a power button there is also USB 3.0 port which supports automatic USB Copying via a small button located in the middle. Connect any USB thumb drive to this port, press the copy button and hey presto, the contents of the drive will be copied to the pre-configured ‘USB Copy’ folder on the NAS.

Mostly Easy Setup and Configuration

The N2560 does not require you to go and fetch a screwdriver, with easy and tool-less physical drive installation. Simply affix the white plastic strips to either side of each drive and they slot effortlessly into position with a solid click that lets you know they are secured. This might not be as robust as some more traditional storage devices that use actual screws, but I found there to be virtually no issues with the drive vibrating or feeling loose in any way.

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When it comes to setting up the RAID array the actual installation process was simple enough. Open up the quick installation guide and Thecus directs you to open your browser and visit www.install.thecus.com where you can select your NAS and download the ‘Intelligent NAS’ application (available for Windows, OS X and Linux). Thecus have provided you with an installation disk, but when many of us today don’t use DVD ROM drives as often as before, it makes total sense just to grab the app online.

Once installed the ‘Intelligent NAS’ app will then check the drives that you have installed and ask you what kind of RAID you prefer. Being a two drive NAS you get the option to setup RAID 0 (a striped array, where both drives are combined to make one drive for maximum capacity and performance), RAID 1 (with identical sets of data on both drives for redundancy) or JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks, i.e. neither of the above).

I chose RAID 1 as this for me is the whole point of having a NAS. Being able to sleep better at night knowing that if one disk dies, the data will still be safe on the other drive. The RAID 1 setup means that bar a major electrical catastrophe that kills all system drives, you’re protected against one or other of the drives failing. This will be a major relief to any and all of us who have ever felt the loss of important data through a hard drive simply dying on its feet one day.

The ‘Intelligent NAS’ software was sufficient when setting my basic RAID 1 configuration, but in truth I soon found it to be largely redundant when comes to getting into the deeper configuration aspects of the NAS itself . The first tab shows you the various types of data you have stored on the NAS; docs, music photos and video via pie chart. Further down the tabs on the left side you come to options to change how the UI looks and also tasks that are running or scheduled plus the chance to download torrents via the download tab and a basic file explorer for finding files.

The Intelligent NAS app isn’t all that bad, I just found that there were a few annoyances that pushed me in favor of the browser based ThecusOS. The Intelligent NAS app endeavors to give you a more refined software experience, but in fact it lacks any real functionality and has a few quirks that I didn’t enjoy – one example is the file explorer which is pretty unintuitive compared to simply using Windows explorer (how small is that back arrow??).

I preferred to use the browser-based ThecusOS which can be accessed by a) typing the IP address of the NAS in the browser or b) in Windows 8 go to My Computer > Network > and click the N2560 icon which automatically takes to the devices log-in page, kind of the same way as you would access your Router’s software.

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Once inside you are confronted with a largely empty screen. You can see two main icons; ‘Shared Folder’ and ‘RAID Management’. ‘Shared Folder’ will allow you to see the file structure of the NAS but once again the navigation leaves a little to be desired and doesn’t allow as many options for media playback as you would enjoy within Windows explorer. It also has a tendency to take a while to access larger folders and unfortunately crashed several times too. The RAID Management icon simply takes you to a screen where you can see your RAID array on a list (of one in this case) with virtually zero options you would term as ‘Management’. Once your RAID 1 setup is complete there is virtually nothing else to do here.