Out of the box, apart from layers of power and firmware failsafe redundancies, the N4200 has all of the basic features one would expect in a high-end NAS server, including FTP, UPnP Media Server, iSCSI, and the ability to host additional storage.
Unlike the DS410, the N4200 doesn't come complete with all features, such as support for an IP camera for a surveillance system, the ability to download files by themselves, or the ability to play music via the USB port. However, according to Thecus, users can add more features or enhancements to the server via add-in "modules" that can be downloaded for free . As a matter of policy, we review NAS servers only with the features that they come with.
The N4200 can handle both USB and eSATA external hard drives. Once plugged in, the external hard drives will immediately be shared as public share folders. The hard drive needs to be formatted in FAT32 (Windows) or Ext (Linux) to offer read and write access; NTFS drives can only be read. The N4200 can also copy the entire contents of a USB thumb drive into its internal hard drive. Just plug the drive into one of the front USB ports and initiate the command using the navigation buttons and the little LCD or just press on the Quick Copy button. The NAS worked very well with all external hard drives we tried it with.
The most interesting and unusual feature that the N4200 offers is ISO Mount, where you can mount ISO 9660-standard files. Once mounted, the contents of the ISO file are available to network users in the form of a read-only folder within the share folder where the ISO file resides. This is a very convenient feature if you want to access the contents of ISO files without having to burn them into CDs. Keeping data in ISO format is also a good way to compress it to save storage space.
We were rather disappointed with the N4200's user and share folder management. It's not very intuitive in regards to mapping folder privileges to users. The easiest way is to make the share folder "public," giving anyone access to it. In the case of the DS410, however, each time you create a new share folder or a new user you are presented with a clear way to assign access privileges. To make up for this, the N4200 supports Microsoft's Active Directory Service (ADS), available in Windows Server 2000 and later. This means the access privileges can be managed via ADS, instead of manually via the N4200's user management.
The Thecus N4200 comes with a backup software application called Windows Backup Utility that's primitive both in design and functionality. The software's interface looks like that of program written by an amateur programmer, or for a quick mockup. You can't choose more than one folder for each backup job, and although you can set a schedule, the backup job may not automatically run at the preset time. It seemed that every action taken with the software, the results would be unpredictable. We definitely recommend using third-party backup software if you want to take backup seriously.
Performance is where the N4200 excels. The server is one of the fastest NAS servers we've reviewed. We tested the server in both RAID 5 and RAID 0 configurations, as these are the most popular setups.
In RAID 0, the configuration optimized for performance at the expense of data integrity, the device topped our charts on the write test with 757.1Mbps; this is almost as fast as a USB 3.0 external hard drive and significantly faster than the Synology DS410's score. On the read test, however, the N4200 scored only 615.5Mbps, compared with the DS410's score of 867Mbps.
In RAID 5, the recommended configuration, the N4200 scored 549.7Mbps for its write speed and 569.1Mbps for the read speed.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Thecus N4200 worked very quietly during our testing process, emitting almost no noise in a regular working environment.
Service and support
Thecus backs the N4200 with a two-year warranty. Its tech support is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. On the company's Web site you will find a lot of useful information, including firmware updates, downloadable modules, a device compatibly list, and instructions.