Hardware Platform and Setup Impressions

The industrial design of the QNAP TS-451 is quite utilitarian. Despite the metal chassis, the drive caddies are themselves made of plastic and feel a bit more flimsy that what we would like. At the price point that QNAP wants to place the product, consumers would be looking for a premium product with proper metal caddies (like the ones that come along with the TS-x70 and the rackmount units). Apart from the main unit, the package consists of the following:

  • 2M Cat 5E Ethernet cable
  • 90 W external power supply with US power cord
  • Getting started guide / warranty card
  • Screws for hard drive installation

In terms of chassis I/O, we have a USB 3.0 port in front (beneath the power and backup buttons). On the rear side, we have the power inlet, a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, two GbE ports and a HDMI port. Since we are in the middle of a long-term evaluation (for the virtualization and multimedia capabilities), a teardown hasn't been performed yet, but Legion Hardware disassembled the unit and found two ASMedia ASM1061 SATA to PCIe bridges as well as an Etron EJ168A USB 3.0 host controller (two-port hub chip).

Platform Analysis

The various components of a Bay Trail-D part (the family to which the Celeron J1800 belongs) are provided in the diagram below.

Obviously, two cores are cut, as are a number of miscellaneous ports, in the Celeron part we are looking at.

As we already discussed in the launch coverage, the USB 3.0 port is connected the upstream port of the Etron EJ168A, while two PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes are connected to the two ASMedia ASM1061 ports. From Legion Hardware's disassembly, the other two PCIe 2.0 x1 lanes are connected to two Intel i210 Ethernet controllers.

Setup and Usage

QNAP's QTS is one of the more full-features NAS operating systems that we have seen from off-the-shelf NAS vendors. A diskless unit can be set up in three ways - the first one is to use QNAP's cloud service (at start.qnap.com) and enter the Cloud ID that comes in the getting started guide. The second one is to use QNAP's QFinder utility and set up the unit through that. The third one is to somehow determine the DHCP IP received by the unit and access the unit directly over the web browser. We chose the second option to get things up and running.

In terms of usage, the web interface allows multi-tasking and provides a desktop environment within the browser. It is a cross between a mobile OS-type app layout and a traditional desktop environment. From our experience, even though the features are awesome, we did find the UI responsiveness to be a bit on the slower side compared to, say, Asustor or Synology. Some of the relevant features are exposed in the gallery below.

We have not dealt with higher-level applications and the mobile app ecosystem in the above gallery. A discussion of those will be made in the upcoming coverage of the virtualization and multimedia capabilities.

The NAS's primary purpose is, of course, the handling of the storage aspects - RAID setup, migration and expansion. Our full test process of starting with one drive, migrating to RAID-1, adding another drive to migrate to RAID-5 and yet another one to expand the RAID-5 volume using a total of 4x 4 TB WD Re drives successfully completed with no issues whatsoever.

We simulated drive failure by yanking out one of the drives during data transfer. The operations from the client didn't face any hiccups, but the NAS UI immediately reported the trouble (alerts can be configured). Inserting a new drive allowed for rebuild. There was a bit of an issue with the NAS not allowing for the hot-swap because of some pre-existing partitions on the hard drive that was inserted as new, but the issue couldn't be reliably reproduced. QNAP suggested the use of drives free of partitions for the empty bays / replacements for reliable expansions / rebuilds.

Introduction and Testbed Setup Single Client Performance - CIFS on Windows
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  • lorribot - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    How badly is performance affected when running VMs or CIFS with a fialed drive? How badly is drive rebuild impacted when running a VM? I guess a test load for a 24 hour period replayed against the NAS box whislt a rebuild was under taken to see how far it had got would be a good test also testing response times during a rebuild and with a failed disk running of of parity. Reply
  • zodiacsoulmate - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    why not build a SFF computer? it seems to me a NAS is very overpriced? can anyone explain a little? Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    I wouldn't be surprised if the bulk of their engineering expenses come down to the firmware R&D. They're out to make a profit, not give away their software for free, so comparing a home brew SFF system probably needs to include a commercial OS for a fair comparison in costs. If you're happier with OSS and supporting it yourself, by all means do DIY. Reply
  • zodiacsoulmate - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    Thank you! Reply
  • Beany2013 - Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - link

    You're also paying for the convenience. It'd take the better part of a day to build a SFF system with the software capabilities of this (multi-raid, iSCSI, NFS, SMB, FTP, SSH, browser based video playback, metadata tagging, remote file browser, airplay/chromecast support etc) and whether that's worth it is entirely down to yourself. Or whether you need all those features, natch.

    If you just want a simple SMB server then an HP Microserver with an OS of choice and simple file sharing might be a better answer.

    As someone who deals with servers, networks, break/fix, etc all day, I'd rather just take something out of the box, fire it up, and be transferring my data to it within minutes of it first spinning the fans, these days.

    Steven R
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    1) Size (mITX cases approaching a 2/4 base NAS in compactness are few and far between) - a smaller box is a plus when you're living with non-geeks who don't think every surface covered in computers/computer parts is an attractive aesthetic.

    2) Turnkey It Just Works integration - A major plus for people who aren't alpha-geeks, who are but have things that are more fun to do than fiddling with hardware for a box that should be stick in the closet and ignore once setup, or for people who just want to be able to tell their mom/brother in law/etc "call vendor support, not me" when something breaks.

    3) Related to the last point if you want more than just a network fileshare, non-bottom of the barrel boxed NASes have a large amount of extra useful software preconfigured so you can use the easy button to install and configure it automatically.

    4) For people who can be served by a basic NAS: 2-4 bays and an ARM based SoC - the cost of buying a boxed NAS isn't much higher than a DIY setup using new hardware. $150-250 for a case, PSU, mobo, cpu, ram. vs $300/400 for entry level 2/4 bay NASes from Synology.

    The corollary to 4 is that if you need higher end specs: 6+ drives, a full power CPU, more advanced file systems (ZFS or Btrfs), etc; the price of entry ratchets up significantly and building your own looks a lot more attractive if you're capable of doing so.
    Reply
  • jabber - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    However as I have found most small businesses and even some larger ones often don't have much more than 8-10 GB of data.

    Word docs, PDFs and excel spreadsheets dont actually take up a lot of space. Unless you are creating visual or audio media then massive complicated storage systems are just not worth it.

    Most just need simple filesharing and a place to back up the laptops/desktops to without needing a IT guy on hand 24 hours a day to look after it. A NAS does that perfectly
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    Agreed; and small businesses without a full time IT person are a perfect example of cases where spending a bit extra up front for vendor support is highly attractive investment. Reply
  • zodiacsoulmate - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    Thanks guys! Reply
  • BMNify - Monday, July 28, 2014 - link

    that's what the commercial FreeNAS for business is for, they call it trueNAS based on axactly the same FLOSS code with extra options and OC SMB vendor support etc
    http://www.freenas.org/for-business/
    Reply

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