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Thread: Thecus N2200 and WD RE4 2TB hard drives




  1. #1
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    Default Thecus N2200 and WD RE4 2TB hard drives

    I recently won the Thecus N2200 and WD RE4 2TB hard drives (right here on these forums). Thank you so much to TweakTown, Thecus, and Western Digitial. I want to share my experience with folks here, and will do that over a few posts.

    In my first post, I want to talk about first impressions, and I will include some photos.



    I'll mention the WD drives first. There isn't much to say about first impressions with hard drives these days. I guess the most remarkable thing is how much each 2TB drive weighs (1.66 lbs each). Once installed in the N2200, the combined weight was impressive.

    The N2200 was well packaged, and shipped with power cord, ethernet cable, software, and the usual collection of quick setup guide, warranty cards, and whatnot. There are two push-to-open doors covering the hard drive trays. The hard drive trays themselves lock into place and support both 2.5" and 3.5" drives. The enclosure has a well-constructed feel to it.







    I screwed the drives into the trays, slid the trays into the enclosure, connected the cables, and started up the N2200. There are LED's on the front of the unit which indicate network and drive activity, and drive failures. Unfortunately, the LED's are behind a plastic cover that allows a considerable amount of light to bleed through, so even when all the activity/notification lights are off, the light from the power LED gives the impression that the lights are on.

    Next up was reviewing the setup procedure. This part of the process I did find frustrating. You must install the included software to configure the N2200 the first time. I say "the first time" because once it's running, you can just go to the assigned IP address of the unit to change the configuration. I ran into issues with the software on my primary computer not being able to discover the N2200. I could see from the router that an IP address had been assigned (it automatically configures itself for DHCP and gives itself the name N2200 on the network), and I could ping the address, but the included software just couldn't see it to configure it, nor could I use a web browser to connect to that address.

    I installed the software on a secondary computer and it successfully detected the device, and I was able to proceed with the setup. The setup procedure involves detecting the N2200, detecting the drives, and choosing the configuration (single drive, RAID0, RAID1, JBOD). I chose RAID1 and continued.

    The setup process also tries to automatically create a bunch of network shares on the computer. I wasn't able to modify the shares at all, but thankfully I was able to simply exit out of the setup utility at that point. From there, I was able to access the N2200 by its assigned IP address and use my web browser to modify various settings.

    The web interface is Flash based. That came as a bit of a surprise. I do find it somewhat amusing that Thecus goes to great lengths to create software (both the setup software and the Flash-based web configuration software) easy enough to be used by people that likely have no idea what FTP is, let alone DLNA, SMB/CIFS, NFS, and uPnP. In my opinion, if the user understands what those protocols/technologies are, then the user should be at least experienced enough to navigate to an IP address to configure the N2200 from the start and map their own drives once done.

    It was pretty late by the time I got everything configured, so I haven't had a chance to really play around with many of the configuration options just yet. The final thing I want to comment on here is that the web interface is very slow. I can tell that I had better get used to seeing the words "Please wait". I believe that a non-Flash based interface would have been a much better idea, and cost Thecus a lot less in development as well.

    To sum up the first impressions, the N2200 seems like a good, solid piece of hardware with some great features that is the victim of a software developer with too much time on his or her hands.
    Last edited by terminal addict; 11-20-2010 at 04:32 AM. Reason: Added photos

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Thecus N2200 and WD RE4 2TB hard drives

    So, I've had a chance to play around a little more with the N2200.

    I need to update some of the information I gave in the first impressions.

    First, the web interface is only Flash-based for the first login/splash screen. Once logged in, it is in fact an AJAX-based interface for administering the N2200. It doesn't change my comment about getting used to "Please wait".

    Second, it seems as though the N2200 has a very small amount of built-in storage, and in fact stores most of the configuration information, web server software and content on whatever drive(s) is/are installed. That is why it relies on the setup software. It's difficult to understand why a very small amount of flash could not have been built into the unit. 512MB of flash would have been more than enough, and I can't imagine it would have added much to the overall cost of the unit. While testing various configurations, I had to repeatedly use the setup software, and every time I had to recreate users and reset the admin password. The only configuration option that seemed to be retained with each setup was the network settings.

    The first configuration I tried was RAID 1, and used the N2200 connected directly to one of my motherboard's gigabit connections. I mapped a drive and copied over a 12GB file. I was surprised that the transfer rate only managed to top out around 15MB/s. After copying the file to the N2200, I copied it back and saw similar rates. That's slightly better than you would see on a 100Mb connection, but no where near what you'd see on a gigabit connection. I double-checked both the N2200 admin page and the local connection, and both were reporting gigabit connections.

    I decided to try out RAID 0. This is when I discovered that I had to completely re-run the setup utility software and re-set most of the configuration options. Once everything was ready, I tried the copy again. Still topped out around 15MB/s. I did some searching and discovered that others were reporting the same thing. It seems the N2200 uses a processor that simply cannot keep up with the rest of the hardware. That likely also explains the constant "Please wait" messages using the web admin interface.

    I confirmed that I was using the latest version of the setup software, and downloaded the latest firmware update, but after updating the firmware and once again going through the setup, the transfer rates remained the same.

    The Thecus N2200 therefore has a fairly limited use. It's iTunes, DLNA, and uPnP capabilities should not be terribly restricted by the slow network performance, but I wouldn't exactly recommend that anyone use it to backup large amounts of data. It does have a very handy USB backup feature. This feature lets you plug your USB key into the front of the enclosure, press a button, and it will automatically backup the key to a folder. That worked well, but once again felt like it should have been faster.

    Unfortunately the poor network performance means that I can't really comment on the WD RE4 drives (yet). There's just no way the N2200 can keep up.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thecus N2200 and WD RE4 2TB hard drives

    Alright, I have a quick update with some new hardware.

    The Thecus N2200 is an OK piece of hardware that has some interesting features, but unfortunately just can't perform well enough for a pair of Western Digital RE4 hard drives.

    So, in receiving free goods, I have "had to" ( ) buy something that just might be a good match for a pair of fast drives. I decided to try out the Mediasonic HUR1-SU3S2 USB 3.0 / eSATA RAID enclosure. Now I haven't been able to run a full suite of benchmarks on this setup, but I believe the quick set of benchmarks from CrystalDiskMark below should paint a fairly decent picture.

    Before I get to the CDM numbers, I will mention that I copied a 40GB file from my Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB drive to the HUR1-SU3S2 (in both RAID 0 and RAID 1) and topped out around 80MB/s. That is probably the 7200.11, as you'll see from the CDM numbers.

    Code:
    USB 3 - RAID 0
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
                               Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]
    
               Sequential Read :   180.121 MB/s
              Sequential Write :   125.308 MB/s
             Random Read 512KB :    52.315 MB/s
            Random Write 512KB :    87.553 MB/s
        Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     0.601 MB/s [   146.6 IOPS]
       Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     1.869 MB/s [   456.4 IOPS]
       Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     0.663 MB/s [   161.8 IOPS]
      Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     1.957 MB/s [   477.8 IOPS]
    
      Test : 1000 MB [M: 2.2% (80.2/3725.8 GB)] (x5)
      Date : 2010/11/24 17:10:45
        OS : Windows 7 Home Premium Edition [6.1 Build 7600] (x64)
      
    
    SATA II - RAID 0
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
                               Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]
    
               Sequential Read :   238.747 MB/s
              Sequential Write :   200.684 MB/s
             Random Read 512KB :    59.429 MB/s
            Random Write 512KB :   106.821 MB/s
        Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     0.620 MB/s [   151.3 IOPS]
       Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     1.789 MB/s [   436.7 IOPS]
       Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     0.673 MB/s [   164.3 IOPS]
      Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     1.866 MB/s [   455.6 IOPS]
    
      Test : 1000 MB [M: 2.2% (80.2/3725.8 GB)] (x5)
      Date : 2010/11/24 17:24:04
        OS : Windows 7 Home Premium Edition [6.1 Build 7600] (x64)
      
    USB 3 - RAID 1
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
                               Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]
    
               Sequential Read :   153.863 MB/s
              Sequential Write :   119.961 MB/s
             Random Read 512KB :    56.550 MB/s
            Random Write 512KB :    70.990 MB/s
        Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     0.755 MB/s [   184.4 IOPS]
       Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     1.406 MB/s [   343.3 IOPS]
       Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     0.757 MB/s [   184.9 IOPS]
      Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     1.435 MB/s [   350.3 IOPS]
    
      Test : 1000 MB [M: 0.0% (0.1/1863.0 GB)] (x5)
      Date : 2010/11/24 21:47:49
        OS : Windows 7 Home Premium Edition [6.1 Build 7600] (x64)
      
    SATA II - RAID 1
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    CrystalDiskMark 3.0 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
                               Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    * MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]
    
               Sequential Read :   155.853 MB/s
              Sequential Write :   151.244 MB/s
             Random Read 512KB :    57.394 MB/s
            Random Write 512KB :    78.840 MB/s
        Random Read 4KB (QD=1) :     0.744 MB/s [   181.7 IOPS]
       Random Write 4KB (QD=1) :     1.437 MB/s [   350.9 IOPS]
       Random Read 4KB (QD=32) :     0.804 MB/s [   196.3 IOPS]
      Random Write 4KB (QD=32) :     1.447 MB/s [   353.3 IOPS]
    
      Test : 1000 MB [M: 0.0% (0.2/1863.0 GB)] (x5)
      Date : 2010/11/24 21:56:57
        OS : Windows 7 Home Premium Edition [6.1 Build 7600] (x64)
    Wow! Check out the eSATA numbers for RAID 0!

    The RAID 0 sequential and 512K numbers for eSATA put the USB 3.0 numbers to shame. That is particularly interesting given that USB 3.0 offers 5Gb/s while the eSATA connection is barely over half at 3Gb/s.

    In RAID 1, the USB 3.0 / eSATA read numbers are very close, but eSATA comes out much further ahead when writing in the sequential and 512K tests.

    My USB 3.0 connection is being offered through the Asus U3S6 which is a x4 PCIe card plugged into a x8 (electrical) PCIe Gen 1 slot. x4 PCIe Gen 1 should provide a theoretical 1GB/s (8Gb/s) throughput, so some further investigation is required. I will double-check my NEC USB 3.0 drivers later.

    As for the Mediasonic HUR1-SU3S2, it provides flexible connectivity and RAID configurations (single drive, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1). It has a polished look and performs admirably, but there were a couple of things about it that weren't ideal.

    Opening the enclosure and removing the drive carriage isn't exactly intuitive. After removing the screws on the bottom, you need to put the (included) screwdriver into the holes and push the side panels out to remove them. You only need to remove one panel, but you can't tell which one by simply looking at the enclosure. Once open, remove a couple of screws holding the carriage in place and slide it back to unplug it from the enclosure.

    The other issue is actually a collection of issues related to configuring the enclosure. First, the RAID setup instructions in the included manual are wrong. Updated instructions are available here. Second, even with the correct instructions, I initially thought my enclosure was a dud. There are a couple of DIP switches on the back of the unit, one of which syncs the enclosure's power with the system. I didn't have it connected to the system, so the unit would never power on. Finally, to configure, you must have the enclosure open and push a small button on the PCB while pushing the power button on the back, and watch for the corresponding LED to light up showing that your selected disk configuration is ready.

    I want to once again thank TweakTown, Thecus, and Western Digital.

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