I hate starting out final thoughts to a review with pricing, but the Thecus N5550 is really strong in this area. The rest of the conclusion will build off the points I make about pricing. I put together a little chart (above) that shows all of the players in the 5-bay category and also included the Thecus N4800, the best and most feature rich 4/5-bay NAS on the market today. We really love the built-in UPS on the N4800, a feature Thecus didn't include on the N5550.
All of the prices are from Google Shopping at the time of writing and all taken within 10 minutes of each other. The Thecus N5550 shares the lowest price with the Thecus N5200xxx, an older model with Intel's previous generation Atom processor. Both of these units come in at $450. The N5500, the unit replaced by the new N5550 we're reviewing today is a little more expensive, but still has high availability according to Google.
Two models ship with 2GB of RAM, the N4800 and the review unit today, the N5550. The N5550 has five drive bays, the N4800 only has four, but the N4800 ships with a faster processor and that certainly plays into the higher price of the N4800 along with the dual display, one being OLED. The N5550 ships with the D2550 Atom processor, but as we saw today in the benchmark charts, the Intel D2550 is a very capable processor and handles network traffic very well. Most users will not notice the different in clock speed when going from 1.86GHz to 2.13GHz. The increase is about the same as the same clock speed on your desktop or notebook. If you're downloading Linux distros via Usenet the difference between these processors in the PAR check and RAR decompress action is around 10 seconds with the advantage going to the D2700 in the N4800. Since this action isn't taking place on your desktop you won't notice the small delay.
Now that we've established the Thecus N5550 as the best value on the market today let's take it a step further. For some the processor speed may still be an issue. In our benchmark charts today we compared the N5550 to the QNAP TS-869 Pro, a NAS that costs $1048 and runs eight drives. The Thecus N5550 ran with the TS-869 Pro and even outperformed that NAS in many tests. Thecus managed to do this with its programming / software and turning it into an efficient system. When you have efficiency you have more clock cycles free so your system runs faster, it's not much different than optimizing your desktop for performance by disabling all of the Windows features, services and such that suck up CPU cycles. If you are good with Linux I'm sure you could go in and do the same thing on any number of NAS units, but Thecus' software already has the magic configuration right out of the box.
I would love to finish this review without touching on the new A/V features, but I don't want to get that email from Thecus. The N5550, along with other new NAS products from Thecus and others have HDMI out, Line Level In/Out and Microphone In capabilities. While writing this Thecus announced its new remote app, a feature we knew was coming. I like the new A/V capability for what it is, but I'm not sold on putting my Must Never Lose data in the living room or in a common area in the office. If you have kids, you know exactly what I mean. Actually, if you have people over to your house that don't live there, you know what I mean, too. Let's even change that to, if you have anyone in your house other than you, bad things can happen to your NAS.
"Hey Chris, did you know you could slide these things out really fast and feel the gyro effect... that's cool!"
While the HDMI feature is a big leap for Thecus, they've made steady progress in all areas of the N5550. As mentioned in the review, almost every week we get email updates of its progress and that's possibly the most exciting thing about Thecus products. You buy one today for data storage and next week you're using it to do other tasks.