Running ThecusOS 5.0 NAS operating system out of the box, the N4800eco comes with standards features commonly found in an advanced NAS server, including FTP, iSCSI, user account, support for Time Machine, Active Director service, and so on. All of these features and server settings can be accessed via a granular menu on the left.
While these menus are organized and responsive, I feel the items can be consolidated to be more intuitive. For example, the System Information, System Management, System Network, and Network Service items can be grouped into just one or two items.
Primitive add-on support
Generally, NAS servers support add-on applications that add more features and functions to them. In the case of Thecus NAS servers, these applications are called Modules. Out of the box, the N4800Eco comes with just an iTunes Server built in, but you can add some 20 other downloadable modules to the server. These modules add more features to the NAS, such as McAfee Antivirus, Web Server, IP Camera support, BitTorrent download, and so on.
Unlike Synology NAS servers, which allow you to easily add, remove, and update one or more add-ons at a time via a well organized Package Center; with the N4800Eco, you'll need to download each module separately, decompress it from a .zip format, then manually install each one at a time. This process is not just time-consuming, but also very tedious because during the installation, which can takes from a few seconds to 10 minutes, you can't manage other settings or features of the server.
I tried out a few add-on modules, and while they work as intended, none of them was designed to work with the server's Web interface. In fact, each of them needs to open another browser window or tab, making it a rather cumbersome experience if you want to manage several add-ons at a time.
HDMI output gimmick
As mentioned above, the N4800Eco comes with an HDMI port and a VGA connector on its back. You can use these to connect the NAS server to a monitor or an HDTV and manage it locally with a USB keyboard and mouse, without having to use a connected computer's browser for the server's Web interface.
I tried this out and found it to be a complete gimmick that's close to useless.
First, you need to download and install the Local Display module for this features to work. Once installed and connected to an HDTV, the screen will display the Linux X-Window environment with two icons, one for Firefox and one for Linux Terminal. The latter is quite useless unless you understand Linux commands, and the former is not exactly what you'd expect. As it turned out, the Firefox browser is used only to open the server's Web interface and can't even access the Internet.
Basically, the N4800Eco's new HDMI port means that you can connect it to a HDTV, then get an extra USB keyboard and mouse just so that you can do the same thing that can already be done via a connected computer.
Other miscellaneous features
The N4800Eco can handle both USB and eSATA external hard drives. Once connected, the external hard drives will immediately be shared as public share folders. A feature unique of the Thecus NAS server is ISO Mount, and it's available with the N4800Eco. This allows you to mount ISO 9660-standard files that the server stores. 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 to CDs. Keeping data in ISO format is also a good way to compress it to save storage space.
The Thecus N4800Eco comes with a copy of Acronis True Image 2010 included, which is one of the best backup utilities on the market. You can use this software to back up all or part of an entire Windows computer to the NAS server.
Powered by an Intel Atom processor and 2GB of DDR3 RAM, the N4800Eco excelled in my testing, both with RAID 0 and RAID 5. I tested the server with a gigabit connection, using just one of its network ports. This is because CNET Labs' switch doesn't support Link Aggregation, which is required for the server's two network ports to work together for increased throughput.
In RAID 0, the configuration optimized for performance at the expense of data integrity, the server scored 109MBps for writing, the second fastest on the chart, behind the 110MBps of the Synology DS412+. In reading, it scored 98MBps, also among the fastest.
In the recommended RAID 5 configuration, which balances speed, capacity and data safety, the N4800Eco registered 102MBps, again the second fastest, just a tad behind the 105MBps of the QNAP TS-469 Pro. In reading, it scored 96MBps.
The Thecus N4800Eco worked quietly during our testing process despite the large fan on its back side, and emitted almost no audible noise in a regular working environment. According to Thecus, the N4800Eco is designed to use some 20 percent less energy than other servers of similar configuration.
The Thecus N4800Eco's great performance almost makes up for its relatively lackluster Web-based management interface and add-on features. This is a very fast server that offers plenty of storage space and would make a great investment for a small business or home office that needs speed and capacity for data sharing and backup purposes. If you're looking for more than that, you're likely in for disappointment.