The N8850 is part of a new range alongside the N6850 and N10850 where the first digit or two denotes the amount of drive bays, i.e. six, eight and 10. These models will come with a wide range of CPU choices ranging from a Pentium G620 to a Core i3 all the way to a quad core Xeon E3. We're not quite sure what market Thecus is aiming for with these products, although they seem to including everything you'd need and then some.
The model we saw had a Core i3 processor in it and if you thought the previous models were PC like, the N8850 is even more like a PC. Around the back it has two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, three audio jacks, an HDMI port, a serial port and two Gigabit Ethernet ports and this wasn't even the most advanced model that will be on offer. The front is home to an additional two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports, as well as an OLED display.
Sadly we weren't able to snap a decent picture of the innards of the N8850, but it has a custom made motherboard with one x16 PCI Express slot and one open-ended x8 PCI Express slot, although we're not sure how many lanes of bandwidth are connected to the slot. These expansion slots allow for a 10Gbps Ethernet card to be added or a 450Mbps Wi-Fi cards for those that prefer that. Thecus is using a SATA DOM – Disk On Module – for the N8850's OS, but we're not sure how much RAM it will come with as standard.
The N8850 was playing back HD video flawlessly, but what made this demo particularly interesting, especially for the N2800 and N4800 models as well as some potentially more affordable products down the line is that these systems run the XBMC media center. This gives you an easy to use intuitive UI, but that's not all that you get.
Remember that tablet we mentioned? Well, it turns out that XBMC has an Android remote which allows you to control the media playback of your NAS over the network, so as long as you can run a long enough HDMI cable, you don't need a PC or a media player to watch content from the internet on your TV any more. This will of course work with any Android device, but Thecus is promoting it as a selling point for its tablet.
The tablet itself is well built with a soft-touch rubber back, but the 7-inch 1024×600 resolution display isn't going to blow anyone's mind. The tablet runs Android 3.2 and sports a dual core 1GHz Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of DDR2 memory. It comes with 8GB of eMMC memory for storage and has a microSD card for additional memory. It also has a 5Megapixel rear camera and a 2Megapixel front camera, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, a micro USB 2.0 port, a micro HDMI port and a headphone jack.
It's pretty clear that Thecus is trying to offer something more than just a NAS judging by its new products, although the UI is still not quite as refined in some ways as some of its competitors, but it's at least a vast improvement compared to only a handful of years ago. There is some app development for Thecus NAS products, although there aren't as many options available here as say for Synlogy, but this is still a fairly new territory for the NAS manufacturers so we can't really be too hard on Thecus for this. We're not sure how many users will want to connect their NAS to their TV as a media player, but it's at least a fairly novel feature for the time being, even though we spotted a product from QNAP that also had an HDMI port at the show, so it's possible that this will be a more common feature on NAS boxes this year.