The line between NAS and server is blurred with the Thecus W4000+, a 4-bay unit running Storage Server 2012. 4GB of RAM and a 60GB SSD are included to help bear the load of Windows but an older Atom processor holds it back.
August 20, 2015 by Lawrence Lee
Typically a 4-bay NAS at the US$500 price-point will ship with a simplified version of Linux tailored for networking and storage such as Thecus’ ThecusOS or QNAP’s QTS. It makes sense as many users consider a NAS to be more of an appliance than a proper server PC, though obviously there is a great deal of overlap. The Thecus W4000+ is interesting in that it blurs or perhaps erases this line, shipping with a pre-loaded licensed copy of Windows Storage Server 2012 Essentials, which is basically an OEM version of Server 2012 R2 Essentials provided only to manufacturers and optimized for network attached storage. Some of its benefits are outlined on the Thecus website.
The W4000+ looks more or less like a typical NAS for this price-point but the display at the front and its control panel are nonfunctioning vestigial components as the chassis has been recycled from an older product line in Thecus’ catalog. It has four hotswap drive bays, USB 3.0, eSATA, dual gigabit ethernet controllers, and an older Atom processor, the dual core 2.13 GHz D2701. Windows is a bit of a memory hog, so 4GB of RAM is included (the W4000, an identical model with 2GB of RAM is also available). The O/S needs a fair bit of storage space as well, so it ships with a 60GB SSD as well.
The W4000+ ships with documentation, screws for mounting drives, keys for securing the drive door, and an ethernet cable. Instead of a small internal power supply, it gets power from a bulky external adapter. It’s a Seasonic 19V brick with an output of 120W and a class V efficiency rating.
Thecus W4000/4000+: Specifications
(from the product
|Intel® Atom™ Processor (2.13GHz Dual Core)
|2GB DDR3(W4000)/ 4GB DDR3(W4000+)
|RJ-45×2: 10/100/1000 BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X
|USB 2.0 host port x2 (back x2)
USB 3.0 host port x2 (front x2)
|HDMI port (back x1)
|VGA port (back x1)
|Line output (back)
|4 x SATA for internal
1 x eSATA for external
|External power adapter
|PCI-e x1 Slot
|1 (1 lane)
|Thermal sensor on processor temperature
System FAN speed controlled by temperature
|Battery-backed up system clock
|Auto power on after shutdown due to power loss
|Adjustable frequency alarm
|Temperature: 5°C to 40°C
Humidity: 0 ~ 80 % R.H. (Non-condensing)
|Tower Metal Chassis
|192 x 172 x 250 (mm)/ 7.56 x6.77 x 9.84 (in)
|Native NTFS support, FAT32, EFS, ReFS
1.Create pools of storage using industry standard hard disk drives
2.Enables data redundancy with mirroring or parity
NTFS Online Scan and Repair (CHKDSK) intelligently repairs unexpected corrupted data.
|Protocols : IPV6 / Multiple NICs / DNS / DHCP & WINS
Support for multiple subnets / Multiple IP addresses
|File and Block Storage Protocol Support
|File : SMB 1.0, 2.0, 2.1, 3.0 / NFSv2, NFSv3, NFSv4.1
Block : iSCSI Target Server, iSCSI , SATA, and USB
|Directory Services / User Management
|Seamless Active Directory integration with any existing Active Directory Domain
Active Directory for authentication and authorization
Active Directory (Domain Controller, Certificate Services, Federation Services, Rights Management)
|Windows Client integration via Launch Pad
|Agent deployed on client, one click connection to NAS appliance.
|NIC Teaming – aggregates bandwidth of multiple NICs
SMB Multi-channel- multiple transport sessions in a single NIC
|Secure Remote Access
|Secure Remote Desktop Services with Encryption and Authentication
Remote file access via FTP/FTPS
Remote Web Access via HTTPS
|Client support for up to 50 users or devices
No Windows Server Client Access Licenses ( CALs) required
Single processor socket / Up to 4 GB of memory
|Printer Server Support / FAX and Scan
|Full Windows print services support – Local printer connection
Print Server & Document Services (Distributed Scan Server)
|Health Reporting / Notifications
|Full Windows print services support – Local printer connection
Integrated health monitoring and reporting
Send health report to chosen email address on a customizable schedule
|Media Pack for Streaming
|Stream music, videos, and pictures with the included Windows Server Essentials Media Pack.
The Thecus W4000+ has a plastic panel in front of a heavy duty steel chassis and 4.4 kg or 9.7 lb. It measures 19.2 x 17.2 x 25.0 cm or 7.6 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches (H x W x D), giving it a total volume of 8.3 Liters. Its size isn’t atypical for a 4-bay server or NAS.
- Intel Atom D2701 processor
– dual core, Hyper-threading, 2.13 GHz, 32nm, 10W
- Transcend memory – 2x2GB, DDR3L-1333, CL9, non-ECC, SO-DIMM
- Kingston SSDNow 300
solid state drive – 60GB, SATA 6 Gbps, 2.5-inch
- Seagate NAS HDD
hard drives – 4 x 4TB in RAID-5, 5900 RPM, 64MB cache
Windows Storage Server 2012 Essentials operating system
- Seasonic SSA-1201-19 external power adapter – 19V, 120W, Class V
Connecting System Configuration:
- Intel Core i5-2400 processor – 3.1 GHz, 45nm, 95W TDP
- Intel DP67BG motherboard – P67 chipset, ATX form factor, Intel 82579V gigabit ethernet controller
- OCZ Platinum Extreme Low Voltage DDR3 memory – 2 x 2 GB, DDR3-1333 in dual channel
EAH3450 Silent graphics card
- Intel X25-V G2 solid-state drive – 40GB (for operating system)
- ADATA XPG SX910
solid state drive – 128GB (for network performance tests)
- Seasonic X-400 SS-400FL
ATX power supply – 400W, passively cooled
Windows 7 Ultimate operating system – 64-bit
Measurement and Analysis Tools
to monitor system temperatures and fan speeds.
processor stress software.
Photoshop as an image manipulation benchmark.
- WinRAR as an
an audio encoding benchmark.
Xpress as a video encoding benchmark.
- LAN Speed Test file transfer benchmarking utility, used to test network performance
AC Power Analyzer 380803 AC power meter, used to measure system power consumption
- PC-based spectrum analyzer:
SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces
- Anechoic chamber
with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower
The first portion of our testing procedures consists of traditional CPU based performance testing using our standard test suite (a couple of our tests cannot be run in Windows Storage Server 2012 and are thus omitted). This isn’t a typical usage model for a server but it does provide a good baseline for comparison. These benchmarks are conducted with only the drive housing the operating system.
Secondly, network performance tests (using a RAID-5 array) are conducted from a designated machine connected to the same unmanaged D-Link gigabit switch network switch in our lab (nothing special about our network — all our hardware is consumer grade). LAN Speed Test is used as a benchmarking tool, configured to transfer 10 successive packets of 1MB, 10MB, and 100MB, back and forth between the two machines. A timed manual file transfer of a batch of 99 files of various sizes totaling 1738MB is also performed. These tests were conducted three times each way with the results averaged.
Lastly, we come to environmental testing. The system is put through various load states while system temperatures, power consumption, and noise are recorded.
Setup & Initial Impressions
After entering in the necessary information to complete the Server 2012 Essentials setup, I found more than 2GB of Windows updates awaiting, which took about half a day to complete. Sadly, the maximum screen resolution was limited to 1280×1024 using the VGA port. The integrated GMA 3650 graphics was using the generic Microsoft display driver as it’s not officially supported by 64-bit versions of Windows. I found a beta driver online that some users were able to use with success, but couldn’t get it working. This is a shame as the IGP has some HD decoding capabilities and the server has audio output which should allow it to function as a competent media player. Video playback instead relies on CPU-intensive software decoding which is incredibly limiting. The unit was unable to render any 1080p or 720p content smoothly.
Managing the server from a client PC can be tedious as it creates a new domain on the network. Microsoft’s Connect software has to be installed to interface with the server, and by default, this necessitates creating a new login on the client machine. Thankfully there is a simple registry edit that can be entered before setup that will bypass this requirement. Once you do this, proceed with the Connect installation normally and it will provide a shortcut to run the LaunchPad application. Click on the Dashboard, enter in your credentials, and you’re in.
Initially, testing was wrought with difficulty. The server would sometimes lock up and stop responding to the keyboard and mouse for long stretches of time. Once the screen locked, a few minutes wait was virtually guaranteed before the unit would start responding again. Sometimes keystrokes would appear but only after a significant delay. I managed to perform the first batch of tests but it was a frustrating experience. I had to watch the CPU performance tests in their entirety to make sure it didn’t freeze up. CPU usage during network file transfers sometimes eclipsed 90%, and if it lasted longer than a minute, it would simply stop, or pause and resume only at a much slower speed.
Adding 4 x 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs to the server and creating a RAID-5 array was surprisingly completed without a hitch, though it took approximately 54 hours in total. After this, the server became noticeably more stable. The unresponsiveness became far less frequent. A few days after that, all the problems disappeared completely, and the W4000+ was working as expected. The system never locked up and CPU usage decreased. While the machine got bogged down when working on anything intensive, it never failed to respond to my inputs. Network file transfers completed without difficulty.
I can only conclude that the original problems were caused by some background/setup processes happening under the hood, and because the CPU is a bit of a dinosaur, it took an unusually long period of time to finish. After these processes were done, the server worked perfectly, at least from an operational standpoint. Unfortunately a lot of test data had to tossed, but I didn’t mind now that my urge to hurl the machine had waned.
The processing power of the Atom D2701 is lacking compared to current chip offerings. The D2701 is four years old, and newer Atoms like the Celeron N2815 and J1900 deliver much improved performance. However, having a speedy CPU is not necessarily vital for a home server unless video transcoding is a requirement. As Windows Storage Server 2012 comes pre-installed, the W4000+ is being pushed more as a SOHO solution, which will demand more computing prowess. An outdated dual core Atom does not seem to be a great fit for this purpose.
According to LAN Speed Test, the W4000+ is unusually slow, especially with higher packet sizes. In the 100MB packet test, the transfer rate was about half that of the last few servers we’ve tested. Interestingly, the W4000+ uses the same Intel NIC as the Thecus N7710-G and QNAP TS-469L, but can’t keep up with either. The TS-469L also features a similar processor, so it may be an issue with Storage Server 2012 requiring more overhead to run RAID than QNAP’s Linux-based QTS.
More favorable results were obtained with simple timed file transfers. Read speed lagged behind noticeably, but write speed was very close to the QNAP TS-469L
During large file transfers to the RAID array, the system was taxed a great deal with memory usage increasing by about 0.5 GB and CPU usage averaging around 70%, which may be part of the problem. It’s disheartening that such a simple task takes up so much of the server’s resources. I can’t imagine it can perform well in a busy network environment with multiple users accessing its files and services simultaneously. The same activity on the server with only the SSD installed used about half as many CPU cycles.
System Measurement Comparison (4 x Seagate NAS HDD 4TB)
Network File Transfer
Avg. CPU Core Temp
Avg. HDD Temp
System Power (AC)
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle top/front
Noise level without hard drives: 14 dBA@1m.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.
Ambient temperature: 24°C.
The W4000+ gets surprisingly toasty inside with higher than normal internal temperatures. It doesn’t get hot enough to be of great concern (Tj Max for the D2701 is 103°C) but the fan control system on most servers usually play it safe. The W4000+ parked its fan at a steady ~760 RPM no matter the load level. On its own, the fan at this speed generates only a faintly audible 14 dBA@1m noise level, but the addition of our four test hard drives brings the system up to the 23 dBA@1m mark, slightly higher when the array is tasked with a large file transfer over the network, which causes seek activity. The low fan speed makes the W4000+ easily the quietest 4-drive server we’ve reviewed in the last few years. The last NAS/servers we tested with this same drive setup measured between 28 and 30 dBA@1m at idle.
With the fan running at such a low speed, the noise emitted by the W4000+ will depend on the drives inside. The Seagate NAS drives are fairly quiet, though vibration is always a concern with multiple drives configurations; like most 4-bay NAS/servers, the W4000+ handles this nicely. The bays and trays hug the drives snugly and the cage is rigid, so I could barely hear or feel any tremors.
If you put your ear up to the stock fan, it has a terrible sound with clear tonal elements. It hums and clicks and is just generally unpleasant, mostly generating noise in the 250~400 Hz range. However, as the fan stays at a relatively low speed, it’s difficult to make out at distance once you add hard drives, so there’s no need to replace the fan or slow it down. It is possible to do both, but it just won’t make any audible difference.
Unlike most servers, the fan is easily controlled. SpeedFan works on the W4000+ just as well as it does on most older desktop motherboards, displaying all the temperature and fan speed data. To enable fan control, one only needs to enter the advanced menu and change the “PWM 3 mode” setting to “software controlled.” At full speed the fan spins at ~1600 RPM and produces 28~29 dBA@1m, while the minimum speed is a barely audible ~300 RPM. It can also be turned off completely.
Power Consumption Comparison: O/S Drive Only
Though the W4000+ is powered by an older Atom D2701 processor, its TDP is a modest 10W, and the system runs off an efficient external power adapter. As a result, with just the stock SSD, the machine pulls only 17W from the wall at idle. The server barely cracks 20W when placed on heavy load so it’s more like a NAS than a full-blown server in this regard.
MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS
These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.
These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!
The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan/device
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change the volume
- Thecus W4000+ w/4 x Seagate NAS HDD 4TB
— idle/load (23 dBA@1m)
As a basic NAS/server, the Thecus W4000+ offers everything you need (except for hard drives) to get the job done. Given the amount of capacity being offered by current desktop hard drives, the system’s four bay setup is certainly sufficient for most SOHO operations. A fifth SATA drive to load the O/S is not only supported but conveniently included in the form of a budget 60GB SSD. The machine also comes with a Windows Storage Server 2012 Essentials license pre-loaded. Drawing 20W from the wall or less in its stock configuration, it’s quite energy efficient, thanks in part to its external power adapter. The power supply makes no noise either, and this combined with a relaxed fan control algorithm makes it incredibly quiet. The noise of the NAS depends entirely on the drives used.
For office/business use, Storage Server 2012 Essentials is an appropriate choice as it can accommodate up to 50 users and offers flexibility with regards to services and applications. However, the W4000+’s hardware seems underpowered for the software. The operating system is demanding enough that the antiquated Atom D2701 processor struggles at times. Running RAID-5, a large file transfer is enough to bring CPU usage up to 70%, so it’s easy to bog down depending on how many people are accessing the server simulataenously. There’s just too much overhead using software RAID on Server 2012 and this may be the reason for the poor network speeds. Microsoft offers an alternative to RAID in the form of their Storage Spaces feature which has a parity option. It’s probably the way to go with slower systems as it’s less taxing on system resources, though you may take a hit on performance.
It’s not being marketed as a home server, and it’s easy to understand why. In this capacity, it offers adequate performance for most users but its overly complicated as Server 2012’s interface is not as intuitive for users unfamiliar with Windows servers. For this usage case, a custom tailored version of Linux like ThecusOS is preferable as it streamlines the sever interface so it feels more like an appliance than a PC. The machine’s inherent video playback capabilities are also crippled by the lack of a working graphics drivers for Server 2012, so it can only serve HD multimedia as a back-end. This is a big drawback compared to something like the QNAP TS-469L, which has a similar processor but can play 1080p directly with XBMC/Kodi.
The Thecus W4000+ is currently selling for about US$500, which makes it a reasonably good value on paper, considering a Server 2012 license and 60GB SSD is included in the package. The cheaper W4000 will save you about US$70 but its 2GB of RAM is woefully insufficient, so it should be avoided unless a memory upgrade is part of the plan. It can function competently in a small office as long as RAID is not used and it’s not hammered simultaneously by too many users — it doesn’t have enough horsepower to handle much more than that. Thankfully, according to our contact at Thecus, an updated version with a Bay Trail chip under the hood will be arriving in the near future.
Our thanks to Thecus
for the W4000+ sample.
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