Thecus M3800

Review

posted 6/16/2009 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC
After my first NAS review for Thecus, I was really impressed by what it offered, how well it performed, and how solid it has been. When I saw that Thecus was making a media centric NAS, I was pretty excited. The ability to plug the device into any HD TV and just have a lightweight box to view video as well as the peace of mind of RAID support really makes for keeping your media on the device a great option. So with that, here's Thecus's m3800 NAS. Let's take it for a spin and see how it comes out.

The m3800 is a 3 bay NAS powered by an AMD Geode processor. The AMD Geode LX800 runs at 500Mhz and it's a low power processor with 256MB ram onboard. Such specs would procure it from running most OS other than Linux variations and as such this one does too like all the other Thecus NAS devices. The three bays on the front support up to 1TB each allowing you a maximum of 3TB worth of SATA hard drive space. Each bay has a screen on the front to allow air to flow through and cool the hard drives. The front also features an LCD display that will give you the status of the NAS as well as output some of the menus that you can traverse through. There's also one USB plug on the front for plugging in more storage, a Wifi dongle, or printer. Besides the power button, there are four buttons to help you navigate the onboard menu and adjust settings.

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On the back you can see the giant fan to help cooling in the middle. To the right of the fan are the audio and video connection options. There are HDMI and component options for video, composite for both audio and video, and SPDIF for audio. I'm a fan of using SPDIF with optical cables but am gradually going to the all inclusive HDMI connection to simplify things. I just wish HDMI had a locking mechanism to keep the cable secure. Below the fan and starting on the left are two gigabit connectors. Another USB connector and an eSATA connector gives you even more storage connection options should you need more than the 3TB that's capable or want another external box to back up to.  Finally, the DC in connector lets you plug in the electric cable.

Overall, the size of the box equates to many of the Shuttle boxes you see. It's small and compact giving you the ability to place it in many areas without being overbearing. The size also makes it pretty portable should you want to take it with you. The black finish should fit into most entertainment center themes.Thecus used heavy duty aluminum to construct the m3800 making it light and strong.

For a media centric device, Thecus has included most cables except for the one that high end media enthusiasts want to use. Component and composite cables are there as well as a nice long HDMI cable. Thecus also puts in a CAT-5e and a USB cable for you to use as well. One thing they did include which is nice is a remote to access the device. Since it's an IR remote, those with universal learning remotes can be happy to know they can use their controller to also control the m3800.

Access to the bays is pretty easy as you just push the top half of the front plate covering the bays up and it comes out. There are three rail systems that can easily be removed by the large finger screws. The rails attach to the hard drive using tension as there are some clips that go into the hard drive screw holes. Just stick one on each side of the hard drive and then slide them into one of the bays. They are screwed into the m3800 via thumb screws that are easily turned by hand. Each of the thumb screws are spring loaded so they do produce some tension when installed all the way into the bay.

One of the things that sets this apart from the other NAS that Thecus produces is the ability to plug it straight into a TV and access all your multimedia files via an on screen display or OSD. It's a nice option if you just want to stick the box next to a TV and watch something but it's not the most elegant OSD out there. Seeing as this is a Linux machine essentially, I would have liked to have seen Thecus use some sort of open source software such as MythTV or LinuxMCE. The m3800 OSD is a pretty standard affair as you can see from the pictures and it's really slow at times. Yes, traversing menus can be a chore because of how slow it is and when you turn on the OSD, the m3800 also loses performance when copying files to and from the NAS. It's definitely a very limited set of things you can do with the OSD. Now, if Thecus were to use something like MythTV or LinuxMCE, imagine being able to plug a USB TV tuner and turn the m3800 into a full fledge DVR complete with RAID support. Not only would you get the security and peace of mind of having files in a redundant solution, you'd get a really nice rich menu system as well. Perhaps Thecus can offer upgrades or someone can program in a plugin to implement this but as far as the base OSD goes, it does need some work.

The m3800 comes with a very small lightweight remote to let you traverse the menu system and it works via infrared so you can program this into a learning remote to control the NAS.

Compatibility among file types are pretty basic. Supported file types include:

Video

Format

WMV9(no DRM), WMVHD(no DRM), AVI, VOB, TS

Codec

XVID, H.264, VC-1

Resolution

Up to 1920 x 1080i, 1920 x 1080P

Audio

Format

WMA, AAC, PCM, M4A(no DRM)

Codec

AC3, WMA, WMAPRO, PCM, LPCM, BDLPCM(Blueray LPCM)

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