Thecus Brings SATA to External Storage

pschmid

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You can begin to forget about USB or Firewire: there is no substitute for SATA as a fast, reliable and relatively-inexpensive external storage solution. Thecus' N2050 storage box, which uses eSATA to hook up two SATA drives externally, makes it happen.
 

Windaria

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What on earth did you mean by the following:

If the device will one day become an NAS system , all Thecus has to do is exchange the controller board with the NAS version, which carries a network port instead of the eSATA connector.

I mean... you make it sound like they don't have an NAS version with the whole "one day" thing. They do, it is the N2100. More or less the same housing, raid for data protection in a tiny network-attachable enclosure that can be had for $290, depending on where you look. I don't think ANYONE makes another 2 HD enclosure that is so small for anything that is anywhere NEAR that price. I would LOVE to see it reviewed. In fact, desperately love to see it reviewed.

I have one on the way that I will be hooking up at a friends, along with a pair of Diamondmax 250GBs, and while I am sure that it will serve his purposes, I would still love a full review of it.
 

ltcommander_data

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eSATA looks promising. Too bad Firewire 400 and Firewire 800 weren't included in the comparison. Firewire 400 would still be slower, but Firewire 800 might make things interesting.
 

frost_fenix

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anyone know where these things are for sale? or are they still awaiting release in the US. price is another thing that was not covered in the toms article.
 

Windaria

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Yes... the article seemed to be quite curious in what wasn't mentioned. Anyway, thecus doesn't seem to be the biggest company and, as a result, seems to be one whose products are harder to find. That said, good old trusty newegg has it:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16822102001

$160 or so isn't bad, though if you pricewatch it you can probably find it for less. That said, I am still more interested in the NAS one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16833201005

Also, for all of the writer's mentioning of JBOD, the N2100 does support that. Oh well...

I mean, the benefit of the N2050 is that you can put the SATA card in your computer and transfer files to and from it fast but, then when you want to take your files around, you know that you can connect to someone else's computer via USB, if they don't have SATA.

But with the N2100, the gigabit ethernet would be fast enough to compete reasonably with the SATA port, but is more common for people to have, and as a result you could take advantage of the speed when out and about. Sure it isn't quite there, but still. And then you can share it out with an entire network if you want to. It just seems so very much more useful.
 

Luscious

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I agree, firewire 800 should have been included in the comparison, considering that it has been around for a while now and is widely used on macs.

As a heavy and long-time laptop user, I constantly keep encountering issues for both storage, performance and system backup. I know it is not difficult to replace a laptop drive with a bigger or faster one, but trying to back up 100GB+ to DVD+RW is no fun when the discs fail to work with your burner. Likewise, trying to keep up with regular backups can be a real pain when the above process can take 3+ hours to run, and that's without the "verify".

I purchased an external USB/firewire enclosure about two years ago, only to see my 300GB HDD and all its data fail after a year because the box couldn't power down properly. It didn't come with a power switch, so to turn it off I always had to pull the power out. Well that didn't work too well.

I have been looking into other more speedy solutions, but the choices right now are so miserable. I have looked into eSata, but the current crop of pcmcia eSata cards are full of bugs and compatibility issues. External USB tape drives are too expensive and lack the capacity to back up 100GB+. Those that can back up that much to a single tape need a scsi connection and are very slow (20MB/s). Even with a scsi card in my laptop, the bottleneck with pcmcia interface (133MB/s) would not allow anything faster to be connected.

Firewire 800 would be a more attractive option (for laptops), the hardware choices are wider and seem more reliable, but the fundamental problem still exists of drive power and data integrity, even more so when using two drives in raid 0.

I would really like to see an enclosure with intelligent power management, such as the Buffalo LinkStation, something that can power on and off the box with my computer, or just let me power it off when I don't need it without risking data loss.

It is so difficult trying to find a solution for laptops that works without problems, is easy to implement, doesn't cost $1000, performs fast and offers reliability.
 

stadi

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Hi!

What I woul like to know is how hot the hdd-s get in this thing, and how loud the fan is.

Is it possibble to use it with two hdd-s but not in raid mode?
 

vfast

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I'm in Australia and happen to own one of these things. Let me say I am bitterly disappointed with this device.

If you are going to buy one - please take this into consideration:

1) Limited supported hard drives - Not any SATA HDD will work with this device. I've tried 4 different models / makes. Thecus have a very LIMITED supported HDD list which is almost 6months old. It's very hard to find the drives listed on it. Not sure if Thecus provided the drives, but they are not on the list.

Of course if you have pairs of multiple HDD's lying around then this isn't an issue.

Which leads me to point #2

2) Thecus support is appualing. :evil: They do not reply to emails and dont offer constructive advice appart from "Please read the web". I had to email them 6 times over 2 months before I even got a reply . I was hoping for a firmware upgrade or something but no.

It's a nice enough unit but useless.

If someone wants to buy mine - I'll gladly part with it.
 

almook

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I got a Thecus 2100 last week and it is not all I expected.

I put 2x 250mb Western Digital SE16 Caviar WD2500KS with 16mb caches in mine in a RAID 1 configuration.

The Thecus has gigabit eithernet ports but I have never got more than
11Mbytes a second off the disks.

If you look at the status page of the 2100 as you do a transfer you see
that the processor is running at 97%, the drives should be (according to
WD ) reading data at 73Mbytes each. But the Intel chip in the Thecus is maxed out.

I installed Cat6 cables (short as possible), a Gigabit router, A G5 and
a PC with an intel 955XBK board. I can get about 30Mbytes a second from the Mac direct to the PC and vice versa.

I was hoping for a multiplatform hi-speed device to deliver uncompressed video (27-30Mbytes/sec) but I am now back to looking at FW800 devices
for each machine.

PS:
Firewire Depot - www.fwdepot.com are selling FW800 RAID enclosures for
$120
 

esundius

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What about LaCie's external drives? They have 4 different SATA models, ranging from 74 GB to 2.5 TB, of which some have been available for at least a year.

I've been using a fan-free, 500 GB (RAID 0) LaCie BigDisk Extreme with FW800/400 interface for about a year now and I've been perfectly happy with it. Fast (I got a transfer rate of about 71 MB/sec) and quiet. Powers down when my notebook goes into standby.

Here's an interesting new SATA model from LaCie: Two Big (500GB/1TB) (unfortunately it's not fan-free):
http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?pid=10490

For notebooks with 6-pin FW400 or 9-pin FW800 here's another interesting alternative (FireWire bus-powered, double 2.5-inch drives with RAID 0, 160-320GB):
http://www.lacie.com/products/product.htm?pid=10731
 

Luscious

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Looks like your solution is what I need to look at. The 500GB model is priced pretty good too.

How does the power down feature work? Do you need to install anything for that?
 

esundius

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How does the power down feature work? Do you need to install anything for that?
The BigDisk Extreme powers down when the power from the FW400/800 port disappears (I have a PC-card with 9-pin FW800-ports in my notebook). No software needs to be installed, at least not with windows xp.

If the computer doesn't cut the power to the ports when it goes into standby, the harddisk won't power down automatically (for some reason this happens when I "shut down" my notebook) and you have to use the powerbutton.
 

mwk

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The Thecus has gigabit eithernet ports but I have never got more than 11Mbytes a second off the disks.

What speed are you expecting from a 600 MHz XScale?
If you read other reviews on NAS with gigabit port, such as the one on Review: Buffalo Technology Gigabit LinkStation. The performances on these NAS with embedded Linux are always slower than what you can get out of a cheap 2GHz Celeron system running Linux.
 

frost_fenix

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Why need cat5e? I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that cat6 was better?

im pretty sure you are right. at least that what i always thought. i was told that the only surefire way to run gigabit lan was with cat6 cable which would make it better than cat5... but im no networking guru.
 

almook

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I was hoping for more, 35+Mbytes/sec.

With gigabit eithernet I thought they would add a processor that colud use more than 11% of the available bandwith.

Still it is now a usefull iTunes server and DV file store.
 

michaelahess

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Cat5 will run gig with no prob, even at length. I would suggest you have a poor gig switch, use iperf to see what two machines with gig ports can push, then you'll know if the network is limiting it.
 

Windaria

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Why need cat5e? I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that cat6 was better?

im pretty sure you are right. at least that what i always thought. i was told that the only surefire way to run gigabit lan was with cat6 cable which would make it better than cat5... but im no networking guru.

Oh, I know for a matter of fact that I am right, I was merely trying to politely correct wusy. <shrugs>

I find that speed curious though, and am not sure that I would blame it on the processor. My current solution is a linux server that is acting as the domain controller on my home network and it is running an old 400MHz P2, but I get better speed than they mention, and it is doing a lot more than just handling files, which is why I would think that you would be able to expect better from the XScale. Besides, the point of this is to have a small devce where heat and the like are not an issue.
 

almook

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Cat5 will run gig with no prob, even at length. I would suggest you have a poor gig switch, use iperf to see what two machines with gig ports can push, then you'll know if the network is limiting it.

I have tried a direct cable from the G5 to the Thecus and from a P4
both give the same 10-11MBytes/sec. The thecus is running at 97%

A direct cable from the G5 to the P4 give me around 25MBytes/sec
 

Sokolum

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For the poor performance, this is what i have found, maybe the performace killer??

-- quote--
Oh, and yes. While I appreciate their love for the netfilter project and it's software: There's absolutely no place in a NAS box for having ip_conntrack linked statically into the kernel - unless you voluntarily want to loose performance. At least to my knowledge, performance of NAS devices counts. So, Thecus, in your own interest: disable ip_conntrack in the kernels you ship.
-- quote--

see: http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/
 

almook

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For the poor performance, this is what i have found, maybe the performace killer??

-- quote--
Oh, and yes. While I appreciate their love for the netfilter project and it's software: There's absolutely no place in a NAS box for having ip_conntrack linked statically into the kernel - unless you voluntarily want to loose performance. At least to my knowledge, performance of NAS devices counts. So, Thecus, in your own interest: disable ip_conntrack in the kernels you ship.
-- quote--

see: http://gnumonks.org/~laforge/weblog/

That is very interesting, Harald Welte really seems to know his stuff
but hacking Linux Kernels is way beyond me. Maybe Thecus's next firmware update will address this, i'm on V2.0.00 at the moment.
 

Terracotta

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I can relate :x to this.

Just got the N2050 based on Tom's review. It's fast - when it works.

Rather expensive ~$150 for an alpha product. First, the product manual documents installation instructions and functionality that does not exist in the product - no doubt it was intended for a later release of the firmware. Total waste of mucho time troubleshooting phantom features. Second, controller driver that comes with product crashes XP Media Center (basically XP Pro) everytime during install. Have to download latest driver from Silicon Image to make it work. Thecus online support is a joke. Third, compatible drives are limited - found out the hard way. Even using compatible drives (Maxtor 250G) per Thecus' list it's still flaky initially. Fourth, drive cage is designed so that drives are mounted upside down. It shouldn't matter but I wonder... Lastly, drives run hot in unit. Box is pretty but could use some more ventilation for airflow. Unit is well built except for the top cover which is flimpsy at places.

Conclusion - I'll wait for a few more beta iteration before I look at this again.
 

Turbolach

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Just got the N2050 based on Tom's review. It's fast - when it works.

Rather expensive ~$150 for an alpha product.

Does anyone know of any similar devices but in production stable version?
And, if possible, available in Europe. The only place I can buy the thecus seems to be Ebay.

I did like the usb possibility of the n2050. You never know when that comes in handy.
Ideally the device would be capable of raid 1 on 2 (or more) disks, be direct attached and be affordable.
Another option could be a incorporated tape streamer.

A NAS solution won't do as my LAN is 100Mbps, so 10MBps on good day seems a waste of fasts disks

regards
 

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