Thecus doesn't mince its words with its latest N0204 miniNAS as it claims it is the world's smallest NAS appliance. We certainly won't disagree as its compact dimensions of only 132 x 88 x 63mm means it'll fit in your palm, your bag and even your pocket.
The N0204 takes advantage of the latest 2.5in SFF (small form factor) SATA hard disks and can handle a pair of them where they are fitted in removable carriers that slot in at the rear. The appliance supports JBODs, stripes and mirrors and for the latter you can hot-swap out a failed drive.
There are mixed views on the use of SFF drives as when we reviewed Synology's miniscule four bay DS409slim comments were posted on the forum where one reader thought they were 'stupid and expensive'. True, there is always a price to pay for miniaturisation but SFF drives do have distinct advantages over 3.5in drives.
For starters, they run a lot cooler allowing the N0204 to be fanless and virtually silent. They also consume a lot less power. With a pair of 250GB WD Scorpio Black drives installed we measured the N0204 sucking up no more than 11W. So, if you have no desire to wave your storage capacity around in public and only buy what you reasonably need then SFF drives have a lot to offer.
The chassis has vents all round to aid cooling and during testing we found that although it became warm to the touch, the appliance never got hot. We checked the web interface regularly over a one-day period and it showed the drive temperatures never going above 43 degrees celcius. Power management is also available so you can spin the drives down after periods of between 30 minutes and two hours and with this in action we saw consumption drop to 6W.
Considering its size, the N0204 offers a reasonable specification with an Oxford 810 DSE SoC (system on chip) in the driving seat, accompanied by 128MB of memory. A Gigabit network port sits at the rear and you have USB ports fore and aft. The front one ties in with the backup button above and pressing it copies the contents of the attached device to a predefined folder on the appliance.
Thecus has installation down to a fine art as the bundled Setup Wizard offers a one-click setup. For the test system, it created a mirrored array, automatically installed the operating system and created a bunch of predefined service folders ready for use.