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Thecus N2560 Dual-Bay NAS Server Review: Budget HTPC Option

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction

The Thecus N2560 is a dual-bay NAS Server powered by an Intel Atom SoC. With the addition of HDMI output could this be the answer for some basic HTPC needs as well?

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The Thecus N2560 at work in the living room

The N2560 is similar in some ways to the Thecus N2310 NAS we looked at a couple of months ago, but it builds on both the functionality and power of that unit. Both are 2-bay designs with support for up to 8TB of storage via dual 4TB hard drives, and they run the same OS (ThecusOS 6). There are some very big differences, too. The N2560 boasts an Intel Atom SoC which provides dual 1.60 GHz cores, compared to the N2310’s single 800 MHz PowerPC core. The N2560 also features a full-size HDMI output as well as SPDIF digital audio output, making it a potential alternative for some HTPC tasks.

The Thecus N2560 is an attractive-looking device, with the smooth lines and finish of a more expensive product. But beyond the N2560's appearance and basic function as a NAS, this is really a server. Digital audio and video output is certainly an impressive addition for a device that retails for around $180, making it a compelling budget HTPC option if the OS and media software work well. Since the basics of the Thecus OS and NAS usage were covered with the N2310, the media output potential of the N2560 is the area of focus for this review.

Continue reading our look at the Thecus N2560 NAS Server!


Our thanks to Thecus for providing the N2560 NAS for this review!

Hardware Specifications from Thecus:

Processor:  Intel® Atom™ SoC CE5335 (1.6GHz Dual Core)
System Memory:  2GB DDR3
LAN Interface (PCI-e):  RJ-45x1: 10/100/1000 BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X, WOL supported
USB Interface:  USB 2.0 host port x2 (rear), USB 3.0 host port (front)
HDMI Output:  HDMI port
Audio Output:  SPDIF
Disk Interface:  2 x SATA for internal
Power Supply:  40W external power adaptor
Power Management:  Auto power on after shutdown due to power loss
Dimensions (HxWxD):  166 x 114 x 210 (mm)


Packaging and Contents

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The Thecus N2560 is nicely boxed with some of the many features and specs listed. Inside the unit is well protected, and the accessories are contained in their own carton to keep things organized.

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Once unpacked we see that the unit includes everything you need to get started (except hard drives), with a CAT5e patch cable and software disc (though I would highly recommend downloading the software from Thecus’ site for the latest version). One quick note on the power supply; far from generic it's a high-quality unit from Seasonic.

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The unit itself is mostly plastic, but has a high level of fit/finish and looks very good. The N2560 also has a larger fan than the previously reviewed N2310, and this is a dual ball-bearing 80mm model from ADDA rated with a noise output of 15dBA, and this allows the N2560 to remain fairly quiet during full-time operation.

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Taking a closer look at the rear I/O, we see the all-important HDMI along with optical audio output and a pair USB ports.

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Looking at the side we see the Thecus logo, which actually lights up when the unit is powered on. (This light can also be disabled if desired.)

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The base of the N2560 has rubber feet, which in addition to providing a stable foundation also aid in reducing vibration.

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Finally, installing the drives was extremely simple with the N2560. The included drive rails simply snap into place, and the drives just slide in and lock. I installed a total of 8TB of storage, which is the maximum under the current firmware. Why? Because 8 TB. (Enough said!)

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Our thanks to Western Digital for providing the 4TB Red drives for this review!

Next we'll see how the N2560 performs!

August 4, 2014 | 07:26 PM - Posted by FixitFrank (not verified)

Isn't that a SAS connector on the 2 drive riser? Does it accept SAS drives as well as SATA?

August 5, 2014 | 08:52 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

It does look like a SAS drive connector, but the Atom platform board has no SAS support.

August 5, 2014 | 12:03 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Shame it doesn't use SODIMMS, you could theoretically set up a RAM Cache and have more Media usable ram space with a single 8Gb SODIMM.

August 5, 2014 | 08:29 AM - Posted by razor512

Can you test it with some 1080p h.264 10 bit files in the MKV container. This is one of the standards for anime, and thus support is needed, especially since roughly 90% of the worlds population, watches anime.

August 5, 2014 | 09:03 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I didn't include that since it's not recommended for this product - at least not through a direct connection.  The Atom (specifically this previous generation core) even with dual cores wasn't able to provide a smooth responsive direct output with 1080p MKV. However, as a media server on a fast network this would be fine with such content. 

I wanted to focus on the special functionality of HDMI/SPDIF since it allows the device to be used without a computer, and in that capacity it is a really useful product for people who are already consuming much of their content over highly compressed sources like cable and sattelite. I wouldn't expect this Atom SoC (with PowerVR graphics from 2010) to do 1080p MKV files, and it doesn't - at least over HDMI.

August 8, 2014 | 11:32 PM - Posted by Kingofkats

Great review that really gets into the advantages of what amounts to a breakthrough, if the price holds up.

Need another server like a third arm, but was tempted by the versatility and smooth setup of this charmer -- until I saw it up for pre-order on Amazon for something like $379. Maybe that includes the drives? The Amazon listing didn't specify this, but I'm actually kind of relieved to be free of tending another digital servant. Comments?

August 9, 2014 | 07:31 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Hmm. The U.S. Amazon product page is still showing a sub-$180 price, and it's in stock. This is without any drives.

I agree that it's nice to have control of your own content - and though Netflix is incredibly convenient, for me the storage capability for large uncompressed music files is key. XBMC is simply icing on the cake for one of these NAS servers for my needs, and it's a faster performer than the N2310 for only about $40 more...

Interested to see where this market goes.

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