Thecus N2310 Review
Entry-level NAS devices tend to do the basics well but compromise on performance and overall ease of use. At just £100 for a two-bay NAS enclosure, the Thecus N2310 demonstrates this. For starters, its all-plastic chassis is the first hint at this budget price. There's an island of black glossy plastic surrounded by a sea of matt black plastic and while it certainly isn't ugly, it definitely isn't close to being stylish either.
On the rear of the unit you get a single USB3 port and another USB2 port, as well as Gigabit Ethernet. Sadly, there are no USB ports on the front of the NAS, although it does have a one-touch USB copy button for when you need to make a quick backup. You'll need to reach around to the rear of the NAS in order to get to plug in your USB storage.
Fitting 3.5in hard disks into the N2310 is a somewhat confusing affair, not least because of the lack of detailed instructions. Disks have to be inserted into the caddies, each of which has a pair of plastic bumpers around the edge. These bumpers have holes for screws so you can secure your disks, but the screws provided in the box aren't long enough to pass through the bumper and into the drive. Instead, we had to use a couple of the screw holes on the bottom of the caddy, which wasn't ideal.
Once set up, the NAS can be accessed via its ThecusOS web interface. ThecusOS is one of the more cluttered and confusing interfaces we've used. Perhaps the worst part of the OS is that it embraces the concept of a windowed UI and then proceeds to ignore it; each icon you click on will replace the current window, meaning you can only ever have one set of options available to you at a time, all but eliminating multi-tasking. There aren't any tooltips either, but there is at least a help menu which you can have permanently open on the right of the screen, which displays explanations for each setting in every one of the device's menus.
^ The selection of apps on Thecus' website is confusing and littered with duplicates
You can set up conventional file shares that can work with Windows, OS X and Linux, and schedule backups, as you'd expect from a NAS. For setting up more advanced features, such as download managers, remote access and media servers, you'll need to locate the "Official NAS Application" icon.
From there, ThecusOS will present a list of applications that are developed by Thecus to extend the capabilities of your NAS. These tools are not easy to use and usually take the form of a config menu with dropdown boxes and text fields.
For example, if you want to schedule downloads using the Transmission download manager, instead of entering the time, you'll have to calculate the number of minutes before midnight you want the task to begin and enter that into a text box. While not all of the configuration menus are quite that obtuse, they're certainly geared towards the more advanced user. That's where the real problem with this NAS lies: its price suggests a consumer-level device, but its hard-to-use menus are enough to put off everyone bar the most technically minded.
There's a greater selection of third-party applications available, but these have to be located in the Thecus NAS App Center, which is an external website. Getting an app onto your NAS is a laborious process; each app has multiple versions developed either by Thecus or a third party, and each edition is designed for different devices with different operating system versions.
^ Configuring apps within ThecusOS is a fiddly process
If, for example, you wanted to use the popular Plex media centre application on your NAS, you have eight different versions to choose from, some for ThecusOS 5, some for version 6, some for 32-bit systems, 64-bit systems and those running PowerPC hardware. You can filter apps based on the device on which you'll be running it, but we would have preferred an app store that was built into the NAS itself, which could detect the hardware and software our device was running. Once you've picked your application, you then have to download it to your PC and re-upload it to your NAS in order to install it.
When we downloaded the Plex app that was reported as compatible with our device, the install process failed, and we couldn't rectify the problem. We tried to seek help using the provided documentation, but the help files were for an older version of ThecusOS and didn't apply to what we were doing. We eventually had success with a different application, the CouchPotato download manager, but having apps available that don't work properly is a pretty serious crime in our eyes.
The one area of the N2310 we couldn't fault was performance. The speeds it recorded while configured in RAID 1 weren't by any means spectacular, but beat our expectations for a NAS costing less than £100. It was able to write large files at 67.6MB/s and read them at 54.6MB/s. Writing small files was a little slower than we'd have liked, at 9MB/s, and it achieved a speed of 15.4MB/s in the small file read test.
Overall, though, even decent speeds can't make up for the unpleasant experience on offer with the Thecus N2310. It's far too complicated to set up anything beyond a simple file share, and even that isn't particularly simple. If you have more money to spend, we'd strongly recommend plumping for another device; you can get the very good Asustor AS-202TE for around £90 more and while the up-front cost is higher, your long-term experience is likely to be much better.
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