What’s under the Hood: A Look inside the W2000
Inside the W2000
Thecus offers the W2000 as a compelling server appliance with a very aggressive price-point, but I have a hard time leaving it at that. We are after all a hardware review site, and in that spirit I performed a full teardown of the W2000 to see exactly what’s going on under the hood. Please bear in mind that doing this would in all likelyhood void your warranty (and it's a little tricky to teardown and reassemble properly).
The heart of the W2000 is an Intel Atom CPU, specifically the D2701. This is a dual 2.13 GHz processor with Hyper-Threading providing four logical cores, and is built on the 32nm process with a TDP of 10W. While this is the predecessor to the lower-wattage 22nm SoC parts found in a current mini-PC like the ECS LIVA, the NAS form-factor allows for higher power consumption and active cooling so this is not an issue. Essentially the W2000 has the processing power of a nettop or mini desktop, but I had to wonder if the solution that didn’t provide a great Windows 8.1 experience with a mini-PC would fare much better with an instance of Server 2012 R2. The answer quickly became obvious as I used the W2000, which performed far better than I might have suspected from the modest specs.
With the cover removed you can see that this is a very dense build, and right on top we see a 2.5" Kingston SSD (no eMMC here!). So the W2000 as a small server provides not only the storage capacity of a dual-bay NAS, but a desktop-class SSD is imbedded as the primary OS drive. I first noticed this when setting up my 3.5" drives in the Disk Management console, where the OS drive model appeared to be a standard SSD (which at that point I assumed must be mSATA given the size of this unit).
The specific model is the Kingston SSDNow V300, 60GB capacity. This is an inexpensive drive powered by a SandForce SF-2281 controller, but even with a current price of just $50 its inclusion here appreciably adds to the value of the W2000. Of interest is the fact this is boot drive is partitioned from the factory for only about half of its actual capacity. Such over-provisioning of the drive would theoretically improve long-term performance by keeping a large flash reserve, though this could of course be changed in Disk Management if desired. I left it partitioned as-is.
System Board and RAM
The motherboard in use here gives you an idea of the capabilities of this system. Far beyond a simple appliance, a close look at the system board reveals a custom design with some desktop-class features. The first thing I'll mention is RAM, as this is actually using SoDIMM memory which provides a possible upgrade path to the full 4GB supported by this platform (the W2000 ships with a single 2GB module installed).
It must be noted, however, that any attempts to upgrade the memory yourself will void your warranty (like everything I'm doing here, really). Thecus offers a qualified memory list for this model and upgrades can be performed by an authorized technician. Still, the 2GB stock configuration didn't feel like a problem during use in my small home network setup (your needs will obviously vary).
There are 2 SATA ports on the board itself (one is used to connect that SSD), and for expansion there are both PCIe x4 and x1 slots. The x4 connection is used in this implementation for the SATA riser card that connects the 3.5" storage.
The Atom processor is limited to 4 PCIe lanes so the addition of a x1 slot seems odd, perhaps intended as some sort of expansion option given the external half-height slot opening at the rear of the enclosure.
The space for a x1 card would be very hard to work with without removing the SSD mount, if not impossible. Still, it exists.
Having taken a look at the hardware within the W2000 it's time to put it all back together and set up this server!