QNAP again revised the range of its products and introduced two powerful models in the line of TS-x51A – high-performance storage for home users based on the high-speed processor Intel Celeron N3060. Thanks to the HDMI output and remote control, the TS-x51A storage, which is available with 2 and 4 compartments, can function as a media center. Of the new features, you can note “USB QuickAccess”, which allows you to access the NAS content directly through USB 3.0. Our test lab received QNAP TS-451A storage for 4 compartments.
Two models QNAP TS-451A and TS-251A manufacturer QNAP focused on high-end home segment, they replaced the old 2-core models TS-451 and TS-251. As a more powerful alternative to the same QNAP QNAP TS-451A, QNAP does not offer the newest TS-451 + storage or the more recent TS-453A, which is already positioned for small and medium-sized businesses.
QNAP in the QNAP TS-451A chose a dual-core CPU from Intel. Celeron N3060, which belongs to the current generation of Braswell, operates at a base frequency of 1.6 GHz, in Turbo mode it can increase to 2.48 GHz. Thanks to the 14-nm process technology, “the system on the chip” works quite economically, TDP is only 6 watts. Depending on the model, the storage is equipped with 2 or 4 GB of RAM. As a result, we get a very powerful set, especially since the CPU supports advanced functions, including AES NI instruction set for faster encryption, and an integrated graphics core that allows to display the HDMI interface.
NAS supports all standard RAID modes up to four drives, there are two Gigabit LAN ports with support for aggregation channels and an SD card slot on the front panel. For connecting drives and peripherals, three USB 3.0 ports are provided, one of which is placed on the front panel. For multimedia functions, the QNAP TS-451A offers an HDMI 1.4b output with 4K support, as well as a 3.5mm audio output jack and microphone input.
Two models TS-251A and QNAP TS-451A technically differ only in the number of drive bays and, accordingly, the available RAID modes. The remaining configuration is identical.
QNAP TS-451A is a classic 4-bay NAS model with a relatively compact design. The case is white with the exception of the turquoise strip on the front panel, which QNAP allocates products for home users. In general, the white case fits well into the design of the living room.
The front panel, like the rest of the case, is made of durable plastic. Is that the inner frame, which is visible from behind, and to which the PCB and the drive bays are attached, is made of steel. Therefore, the weight of the QNAP TS-451A can be called quite moderate.
Four drive bays occupy most of the front panel, they are not closed with a door, but are made so as not to disrupt the overall design of the NAS. To the left is added a dark turquoise strip, in which the control elements, LED and some interfaces are brought together.
A rather large 120-mm fan is installed behind it, which outputs the heat of the drives and the CPU with passive cooling. The yellow sticker informs the user that it is not worthwhile to stick fingers into the ventilation holes, that is, the model meets the requirements of the American market. In addition to the fan behind, there are other NAS interfaces and a power connection socket.
The TSS-451A comes in a relatively compact cardboard box, which contains NAS specifications, lists interfaces and capabilities.
In addition to the NAS, the package includes two patch cords, an external power supply with a power cable, a remote control, mounting screws and a quick setup guide with a warranty card. It’s a pity that QNAP did not attach a USB 3.0 cable with a Micro-B plug for QuickAccess, but this is reported on the product page.
The interfaces, LED and control buttons on the QNAP TS-451A are located on the left turquoise strip of the front panel. At the bottom of the strip is a Micro USB 3.0 socket for the QuickAccess function, providing direct access to NAS content.
To use QuickAccess, the function must be activated in the QTS operating system, and QFinder Pro from QNAP must be installed on the computer. The connection is not made as a regular USB drive, QNAP chose another solution, and for the USB 3.0 standard, the maximum bandwidth is rather low – 110 MB / s. In the case of QuickAccess, a USB cable is accessed by the Ethernet controller in the NAS. On the host computer via USB, a network controller is added, after which it is possible to work with folders through the network environment of the computer, as in the case of the usual connection to the NAS via the network.
For connection, the NAS assigns IP addresses from a separate private range. As a result, despite the USB 3.0 interface, we get the Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth of about 114 MB / s. Perhaps this solution via the USB-Ethernet bridge was easier to implement, although a connection as a USB drive would provide more flexibility and possibly higher bandwidth.
The QNAP TS-451A storage is also equipped with a USB 3.0 port and an SD memory card slot on the front panel, and a copy button is also added. Through the QTS Backup Manager, you can configure the events that will be performed when the button is pressed in the case of a connected USB drive. For example, you can copy all the data from USB to the NAS.
Present and LED status of the system (STATUS), access to all four hard drives or interfaces. The brightness of the LED can be adjusted in QTS, you can also turn on the night mode according to the schedule.
The rear panel has an HDMI output with a resolution of up to 4K (2160p). It corresponds to the version of HDMI 1.4b, so in 4K mode the refresh rate can not exceed 30 Hz. You can also see 3.5 mm audio out and microphone jacks, thanks to the OceanKTV package, the QNAP TS-451A storage can also be used for karaoke function.
For data transmission, two Gigabit Ethernet ports are available, supporting the usual channel aggregation functions from Active Backup to Adaptive Load Balancing and IEEE 802.3ad. Added two USB 3.0 ports for external storage. There was also a hole in the Kensington lock.
The drives are installed in four separate trays. To remove them, just pull the tray by the lever, poddev it through a small hole. Unfortunately, there are no chances to lock trays, but this is not required for a home NAS.
Hard drives are screwed to the retractable trays with screws, there is no fixed installation. You can also fasten and 2.5 “drives, using other openings from the bottom of the trays.
After unscrewing the screws, you can remove the U-shaped white casing and look at the internal structure. The main board is mounted vertically on the left panel of the NAS, it just contains indicators and ports. To get to the main board, you need to remove the storage hardware with a riser card that provides SATA interfaces.
The main board has a “heart” NAS under the passive radiator – Intel Celeron N3060 processor. This SoC, manufactured on a 14-nm process technology, contains two CPU cores and operates at a base frequency of 1.6 GHz, although in Turbo mode the frequency can increase to 2.48 GHz. The integrated SATA chip controller is complemented by ASMedia ASM1182, which increases the number of SATA ports. In addition, there are three network controllers from Realtek, one of which is responsible for connecting QuickAccess through the USB port on the front panel.
The memory is installed in two SO-DIMM slots with support for DDR3L-1600 RAM, and you can install up to 8 GB in a 2 x 4 GB configuration. The QNAP website provides a guide to installing memory.
Of course, NAS functionality depends on software support. Many users collect networked storage for themselves, which use versions of Windows Server or specially adapted Linux distributions, like FreeNAS. The functionality of such solutions is excellent, but not everyone wants to build and configure this solution, many users prefer to buy a ready-made “box”. Of course, from them the buyer also expects a wide range of functions and simple work, especially since at prices “self-assembly” solutions will cost significantly less than NAS – especially for 4 HDD bays or more. Market leaders Synology and QNAP offer a convenient and simple user interface reminiscent of a desktop operating system. By functionality, you get the usual set of features, here “self-assembled” repositories can give advantages only if you need some specific tasks.
The first configuration of QNAP NAS can be performed in three ways. You can connect the NAS via the HDMI connector to the TV, then follow the instructions on the screen. The second option is to use the QFinder Pro program, which you can download from the QNAP website. It will find the NAS on the network, after which you can use the web interface to perform a “smart installation” for the storage configuration. If you store the QNAP TS-451A with an IP address from a DHCP server, you can see it in the administrative interface of the router, and then access the IP address directly through the browser. The QFinder program is not required in this case, but it offers additional convenient functions: it will help to configure the administrative account, the time, the IP configuration and, finally, the storage configuration.
The QNAP TS-451A repository has the QNAP QTS operating system in the latest version 4.2.2 (we updated it to 4.2.3), which gives a user-friendly interface similar to desktop PCs. The interface does not even notice that the system is based on Linux. In the QTS interface, after installation, the usual system setup options are present. Namely, “Control Panel”, user settings and security. There are also standard applications, for example, “File Station” for managing files. In addition to standard pre-installed applications, you can install various programs in the form of packages through the “App Center”. The range is quite wide, from multimedia applications to data backup programs or developer tools.
The QTS interface is divided into a desktop with sortable and relocatable icons, as well as a task bar on top. In it you can see the currently running applications. The notification panel is located on the right side of the task bar; here, an information panel is launched, which lists the most important operating parameters of the system.
In the item “Hardware settings” of the Control Panel, you can activate the HDD standby mode after a certain time of inactivity (from 5 minutes to 1 hour) – hard disks will stop the spindle. The QNAP TS-451A supports Wake-on-Lan. In the menu, you can change (including the schedule) the brightness of the LED, turn off the very loud audio notification and adjust the fan control. By default, the fan runs automatically, but you can configure two user temperatures for semi-automatic control, as well as set fan speeds in three modes. In general, the interface of the system is intuitive, no worse than the same competitor Synology DiskStation Manager.
The basic function of the QNAP TS-451A network storage is to store data and provide access to it. Up to four internal QNAP TS-451A drives can be used in different RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 or JBOD modes. But you have to decide what type of volume you plan to create. The first option is a single (static) volume on one or more physical drives. You will get maximum performance, but then the volume will not change. That is, you will only have to delete and re-create volumes later if necessary. Also, similar volumes occupy the entire space of physical storage, several volumes on one drive are not possible.
In addition to the static volume, you can create a storage pool in which one or more volumes can be added. And you can choose between “thick” and “thin” volumes. In the first case, the space is set for the volume when it is created, you can increase it only if the storage pool has unallocated space. In thin volumes, the space for each volume is allocated dynamically by the pool, as needed. Thus, you can use several volumes in parallel, the physical storage space will be dynamically distributed between thin volumes. Of course, at the same time some of the performance (usually small) will be spent on additional management of thin volumes, as well as the issue of freeing memory after deleting data, which is not always easy. In any case, it all depends on how much flexible volumes you need.
Most users will probably be content with one static volume to which they will add the corresponding shared folders. A QNAP approach with multiple volumes in a storage pool is of interest, for example, when a piece of data needs to be stored in an encrypted form. Of course, with the version of QTS 4.2 QNAP also added encryption at the folder level, that is, you can only encrypt a specific network folder. Encryption at the volume level was maintained much earlier, it also has its advantages, such as support for long file names. Through the storage pool and several volumes, you can create an encrypted volume in parallel with an unencrypted volume, without distributing volumes on your own physical storage.
Encryption QNAP is supported only on the basis of AES 256-bit, here just in time is the hardware support of instructions AES-NI processor Celeron N3060. Another relatively new feature of QTS is the creation of snapshots, but instead of a static single volume, a storage pool should be used, and part of the capacity is reserved for this function. The topic of snapshots is very popular today, although in the consumer segment the btrfs file system is more often used for it (for example, in Netgear and Synology storage). QNAP remained committed to the ext4 file system, to which the snapshot function was added.
Snapshots are created on the basis of volumes, manually or automatically, and you can also set the retention period. Using the “Snapshot Replica” function, you can save NAS QTS snapshots to another NAS QTS storage. To restore data snapshots can be “cloned” to a new volume, or access to them can be provided through the structure of subdirectories. Of course, the original volume can be returned on the date of the snapshot creation, but all subsequent changes will be lost.
On the created logical volumes, you can create folders that can be assigned different access rights for users or groups. Access to external drives connected via USB can also be organized through folders. For network access, the QNAP TS-451A supports Telnet / SSH, FTP and all popular file protocols on Windows and Mac systems. In addition to SMB or Microsoft file services, including those with domain support, we note the presence of AppleTalk and the universal NFS protocol (v2 / v3).
The QNAP TS-451A has two gigabit network interfaces that support a number of functions. All the basic modes of collaboration of interfaces are available, from channel reservation to load balancing via 802.3ad or Adaptive Load Balancing. Also, QNAP offers a “Virtual Switch” switching function that allows you to connect two different LANs, or to provide access to NAS to client computers separated from the rest of the network.
A new feature that distinguishes the TS-251A and QNAP TS-451A from other QNAP NAS systems is the so-called “USB QuickAccess”. It hides the possibility of accessing the QNAP TS-451A drives directly through the USB 3.0 interface, without a network connection to the NAS. This function is very useful, for example, to connect a new NAS storage to the computer and copy the data as an external hard drive. To do this, the TS-x51A has a micro-USB 3.0 port on the front panel, to which the appropriate cable is connected (not included in the package).
However, QNAP realized access differently than in the case of conventional USB-drives. The USB interface on the front panel serves to connect an Ethernet adapter integrated in the NAS via USB. This adapter inside the NAS connects the storage resources to the computer network, that is, we get the analogy of connecting to the NAS through the Ethernet interfaces on the rear panel. To do this, you must first install QFinder Pro on the computer, the program will install the appropriate driver for the USB-LAN adapter and establish a network connection. Then the folders on the NAS will be available on the computer as in the case of a normal network connection.
Probably, this implementation is best suited for the current storage infrastructure or components. The USB 3.0 drive mode would certainly provide higher data throughput, because the QNAP USB QuickAccess solution rests on an internal gigabit NAS interface with a bandwidth of about 110 MB / s. But even if the hardware allowed such a mode, do not forget about the additional access control adaptations and hierarchy of the system that would be required. In the current implementation of the USB connection via USB 3.0, only the usual Gigabit speed is available, but this method is still useful for fast NAS connection to the computer.
The NAS supports the VPN function, both for the client and for the server. In the basic configuration, PPTP and OpenVPN are supported, and the OpenVPN server is configured quite easily. It’s enough to download the zip-file with configuration and certificate, which should be copied to the client, having pre-configured the IP parameters in the configuration file. Through the App Center, you can add support for L2TP / IPsec.
To back up data, various options are supported. Among the backup protocols are supported Rsync, RTRR and Time Machine, as well as cloud backup services. In addition to QSync Central Station, QNAP TS-451A has an interesting RRTR (Real-time Remote Replication) function that provides real-time synchronization via ftp or proprietary protocol, including between internal folders and disks. On performance, it is a very interesting alternative to rsync. Through the “Backup” you can create backup tasks via rsync or other protocols.
The QNAP QSync Central Station 2.0 feature is also interesting, which makes it possible to create a private cloud on the basis of NAS for the respective clients. Using Qsync Central Station, you can add a service to the NAS that will be fully responsible for managing the cloud and clients. On clients it is enough to install the program (there are versions under Windows or Mac), after which to configure the synchronization folder – and it will be constantly synchronized with the NAS. Access to this folder is possible from several clients.
So if you work on several computers, then on each of you you will always get the most current data – without the need to manually transfer them to the server each time. Qsync Central Station provides storage for multiple versions of files. Public folders are also interesting for different users who can easily access shared data.
As we mentioned above, the QNAP TS-451A is equipped with an HDMI output, so it can be used as a media player. After installing the HD-station, you get through HDMI interface your own desktop, which contains the applications installed in the QTS interface. You can work with this interface both through the complete remote control and use the mouse / keyboard connected to the NAS. Or you can install the “QREMOTE” application on your iOS / Android device. Some applications perfectly support the control from the console, for others it is better to use the mouse and keyboard – especially if the application is designed as a classic desktop, QREMOTE here still can not be called a complete alternative.
Interesting applications for the HD-station is the universal media player Plex Home Theater or multimedia programs QNAP. Also available are Chrome or Firefox browsers, there is an opportunity to access the web-interface via “QTS”, even services such as Skype, Spotify or Facebook are supported. The Kodi player is no longer available for direct installation via HybridDesk Station, as QNAP removed this package from copyright considerations. But it can be downloaded from third-party sources and installed.
In addition to direct multimedia playback, the QNAP TS-451A also supports other familiar options. There are own development platforms for Music Station and Video Station, but there are also DLNA and iTunes servers. Note that the QNAP TS-451A supports playback of 4K content in resolution up to 2160p with a frame rate of up to 30 fps. Unlike many NAS, the TS-451A allows you to output audio directly through an analog 3.5mm audio jack. Concerning transcoding, the QNAP TS-451A supports “on the fly” video up to 1080p. To use hardware acceleration, you need to use the proprietary Video Station platform. However, in practice, due to encoding with NAS means, high results should not be expected, the quality is usually below the average.
Let’s turn to the performance of QNAP TS-451A.
We tested the QNAP TS-451A with a dual-core processor and 4 GB of memory, a very powerful platform that, thanks to hardware support for AES-NI instructions, can easily cope with encrypted data. We checked the data transfer speed on the gigabit network interface in different scenarios, with and without encryption. We used four Western Digital Red 2TB drives, as in the case of other NAS tests, on each one we created one static volume. We ran RAID 0 and RAID 1 tests with two hard disks. Since the “minor version” of the TS-451A called the TS-251A differs from the “older” version only by the number of disks, our QNAP TS-451A test results for RAID 0 and RAID 1 can easily be transferred to the TS-251A.
Access via SMB, for example, in the case of Windows network drives, is for many users the primary means of using NAS disk space. Here the QNAP TS-451A storage provided full gigabit – more than 110 MB / s for reading. And it does not matter which RAID array was used, whether encryption was active or not. When the data was recorded, performance was always at the full gigabit level, except that in some RAID modes with encryption it was reduced to still decent 80 MB / s. With Link Aggregation, we were able to get significantly more 114 MB / s from one Gigabit connection with parallel SMB access from several clients. But the values are very “floating”, so these tests should be conducted with SSD, and not with hard disks, which act as a limiting factor.
Access via FTP is also our standard test scenario. In new NAS stores, SMB performance is often higher than other protocols, which is probably due to deeper support for this protocol in the system. By reading via the FTP repository, the QNAP TS-451A typically showed a level of more than 100 MB / s and often almost full gigabit. However, there are scenarios similar to RAID5, when the performance hardly exceeded 100 MB / s. As for recording via FTP, there is a significant difference between encrypted and unencrypted volumes. Without encryption in all RAID modes, we got full gigabit speed. With encryption – between 102 MB / s (JBOD) and almost 30 MB / s (RAID 6), depending on the RAID mode.
When initializing different RAID arrays, the QNAP TS-451A repository showed good performance. It took several minutes to create the volume, for subsequent optimization and verification – several hours, depending on the configuration, but the system could already be used.
On power consumption, the QNAP TS-451A repository proved to be good, the values were even slightly smaller than the Asustor AS6104T with comparable hardware. In idle mode with four hard drives, we got a 24-watt level, which makes the QNAP TS-451A one of the most efficient 4-bay NASs. As for access operations, the power consumption is slightly increased, we got between 27 watts (read) and 29 watts (write). With the active HDD Hibernation function, when the spindles are stopped, the QNAP TS-451A consumes about 13 W from the outlet.
The noise level of the TS-451A also showed itself perfectly.
When the NAS is started, the fan runs at high speed for a short time, but then reduces the rotation speed to a quiet level. In the normal mode, thanks to an intelligent control system, the fan operated at a speed of about 400 rpm. In our tests, we were never able to significantly increase the fan speed when working with drives, so the noise level always remained pleasantly quiet. Access to the hard drives of the QNAP TS-451A was also barely audible, so that the noise and vibration of QNAP is kept within reasonable limits.
With the new TS-451A repository, QNAP was able to present a very decent mid-range NAS model that provides high performance with the Intel Celeron N3060 processor and two or four (depending on the configuration) gigabytes of RAM. The functionality of the QNAP TS-451A far exceeds the standard storage and file access due to the built-in HDMI video output and the abundance of applications. A special feature of the TS-451A was “USB QuickAccess”, which allows you to connect the NAS directly via USB 3.0 to the computer. The technical implementation of the QNAP TS-451A proved convincing both in software and hardware, so the market for the QNAP TS-451A NAS has very good prospects.
The TS-451A network storage is designed for use with multiple hard drives (up to four), thanks to the dual-core CPU, we get very decent performance for a home NAS. And the white case perfectly fits into the living room environment. Via the HDMI interface, the TS-451A storage can be directly connected to the TV, and then used as a media center for playing movies, music or photos. The remote control comes with a remote control, but you can also control it with a mouse / keyboard by connecting it via USB.
To store data, all the main RAID arrays are available, and the user can not only create static volumes, but also gets the ability to work with thin and thick dynamic volumes. Regarding the transmission speed over the network, thanks to a powerful CPU, we usually received full gigabit bandwidth, except that encryption reduced the write speed in some RAID modes.
The innovation of the QNAP TS-451A compared to the previous model TS-451 was the “USB QuickAccess” function, which allows using the USB interface to access data stored on the NAS. However, the NAS is not connected as a USB drive. Through USB, a network controller integrated into the NAS is connected, after which it is possible to access the folders stored on the NAS through the network environment. In practice, the function worked fine, although the Qfinder Pro utility is required to activate USB QuickAccess.
In general, QNAP with the new QNAP TS-451A model introduced a very good medium-level network storage, performance can be called excellent compared to competitors. The price from 38.3 thousand rubles for the TS-451A-2G is slightly higher than the same Synology DS416play storage, but QNAP provides more memory, an HDMI output and a USB QuickAccess function.