The last Thecus NAS box we looked at, the N2200XXX proved to be extremely quick at dishing out large files, while its interface, while not quite as elegant as Synology's DSM operating system, was much better than previous models we'd seen a couple of years ago. With interfaces improving all the time, most of us with a little technical aptitude can get a modern NAS box up and running with few issues.
With transfer speeds approaching the Gigabit per second barrier (125MB/sec), there will soon be little more on offer in terms of performance, or ease of use and it will be features and price that are the main battlegrounds for NAS box manufacturers. This hypothesis is already starting to be proven too, with Synology taking huge strides into areas such as cloud storage and operating system-like interfaces.
The latter point is particularly poignant with Thecus' latest high-end, dual-bay NAS box, the N2800. As the cost for a NAS approaches £300 minus storage, you'd be right in considering heading to the usual auction site or low-end hardware section of your favourite etailer, to see if you can build an actual PC for the same amount or less. Thecus, though, has come up with probably the most compelling argument yet for you to invest in a NAS box rather than a PC. The N2800 has an HDMI port and supports a keyboard and mouse. Combined with a 2.13GHz Intel Atom D2700 dual-core CPU and 2GB of DDR3, the N2800 is as close to a PC as we've ever seen a NAS box get.
We'll get on to these points in more detail in a minute. The NAS itself looks very similar to the N2200 XXX, with a single USB port (USB 3 this time) at the front, along with an SD card reader, and one-touch copy button for for grabbing data off flash cards and sticks without having to fire up your PC. The rear sports two USB 2 ports, an eSATA port, dual Gigabit LAN ports and of course the intriguing video-out ports. The fan is a 60mm affair - which loses brownie points straight away compared to Thecus' rivals - it can't possibly hope to match the airflow to noise ratio of 92mm fans now included in all Synology's NAS boxes for example.
The rest of the enclosure is extremely solid, though - it weighs in excess of 2kg with no drives installed - with mainly steel construction, rubber feet and a push-click front door hiding the slide-out, lockable drive trays. These support the usual 3.5in as well as 2.5in hard disks and SSDs.
Removing the shell reveals a motherboard that's not unlike a mini-ITX embedded effort, but also a fair amount of wasted space in the roof and at the rear of the enclosure. Despite this, it's not noticeably bigger than any other NAS box we've encountered.
Local connections Front: SD card reader, 1 x USB 3 Rear: 2 x USB 2, Dual LAN, HDMI,, eSATA, D-Sub
Network connections 2 x Gigabit Ethernet
Storage Up to 2 x 4TB hard disk (not included)
Cables 2m Cat 5 Ethernet,
Features FTP server, webserver, photo server, music server, independent download (via HTTP, FTP and BitTorrent), iTunes and UPnP media sever, DLNA, print server, storage server for external USB hard disks, surveillance server