The Thecus N4200 is one of a few four-bay NAS server we've reviewed recently, and though it has decidedly fewer features and functions found in NAS servers like the Synology DS410, it has a few useful novelties of its own. The server is the first we've seen that includes a backup battery module, a dual disk-on-module (DOM) design, and the ability to host both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SATA hard drives. It also has plenty of USB and eSATA ports and a very well-thought-out hard-drive-bay design.
If you are looking for a high-performance RAID 5-capable, secure NAS server to use mostly as a storage space for file sharing, backups, and something that offers many redundancies, the N4200 is worth its rather hefty price tag of around $750 (no storage included). On the other hand, if you can deal with sudden downtime because of power outages and want to get the most out of a NAS server, we'd highly recommend the much more affordable Synology DS410.
Design and setup
We love the N4200's hard-drive-bay design. Unlike the Synology DS410, which requires you to take it apart to install or replace the hard drives, the N4200's drive bays are front accessible, meaning that its hard drives can be quickly replaced when the server is still running.
Above the drive bays, the device has a tiny LCD that displays the device's detailed information, including its IP address, hostname, temperature, etc. Four navigation buttons allow you to browse through the interface. You can also use the LCD to control certain functions such as USB Copy, where you can back up an entire thumb drive's content onto the NAS' internal storage. The LCD is a welcome design tweak, but it could be more useful if it were larger and easier to use. You need to press the buttons many times to see information you want, and it's not clear which button does what. Also on the front are a two USB ports and an array of green LED lights that show the status of the hard drives and the network connection.
The server doesn't come with included storage, but it can take both 3.5-inch (desktop) and 2.5-inch (laptop) SATA hard drives of up to 2TB each. These hard drives can be configured into RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 6, and RAID 5. Though most people won't see why there's the need to support 2.5-inch hard drives, this is actually a bonus if you want your server to use a minimum amount of power.
This makes more sense when you factor in the fact that the server comes with a removable battery module, which resembles that of a laptop. This module automatically kicks in when the main power is lost, giving the server enough time to save critical information or finish a backup task before it can be powered down properly.
On the back of the N4200, you will find another four USB ports, two eSATA ports, a LAN port, and a WAN port. The USB and eSATA ports can be used to host additional storage, and the USB ports can also be used for printers.
The server's LAN port is only used in situations where you have no network and want to use the N4200 in between your computer and the modem that connects to the Internet. For most situations, where you have a router and an existing LAN, you connect the N4200 to your network using the WAN port. These two LAN ports, unfortunately, can't be used together for load balancing or failsafe purposes.
The N4200's dual-DOM design means its firmware is preinstalled on not one, but two separate storage modules. This saves you the task of installing firmware during the setup process, like with typical NAS device. This also means that if one of the modules fails, the server will continue to function when the second one kicks in.
The Thecus N4200 comes with a simple yet confusing-looking quick setup guide with illustrations printed in five languages, all mixed together. Its setup software detects the server in the network, changes the default password, and helps launch the Web interface. Novice users will have trouble getting the server up and running by themselves.
However, it's fairly easy to set up for those experienced with NAS servers and networking in general, as the server's Web interface is well organized and pretty self explanatory. You can log into its Web interface to create user accounts, share folders, and manage the device's other features.