QNAP TS-253B ......................................................
AS POWERFUL AS IT IS VERSATILE
F or a twin bay NAS, this is one severely expensive device. We’re accustomed to four bays at this price point, so to charge $800 for a twin bay drive, QNAP has to have done something rather special with its latest home consumer NAS. The good news is that it has.
Most twin-bay NAS devices don’t come with a lot of grunt under the hood, but that can’t be said of this powerful little box. Before we delve inside, let’s take a look at the sleek new look that QNAP has gone for. An all-black finish is highlighted by a metallic blue plate on the front right face which houses several inputs. There’s an OLED display at the top that shows you the basic info, while two capacitive buttons allow you to scroll through the details. To access the drive bays, the front panel slides to the left, and each drive bay can be removed without any tools. Each bay can handle 3.5in and 2.5in drives.
On the front there’s also an SD slot for uploading camera or video footage, as well as a USB 3.0 Type-A and USB 3.0 Type-C connector, making file transfers from your PC super-fast. There’s also a small button underneath the USB connector; simply plug in your USB disk, hit the button, and everything is automatically copied o the USB drive to the NAS.
Heading to the rear reveals that this is basically a mini-PC. There are twin Gigabit Ethernet ports, which both support Link Aggregation for 2Gbit/sec speeds. It has twin HDMI 1.4 outputs, four USB 3.0 Type A ports, two microphone in and one headphone out. We’re not quite sure why they went with twin mic inputs, but we’re sure somebody will find a way to use the extra one. A tiny speaker is also included, and the unit uses voice prompts to let you know when certain actions are taking place, such as powering up or down. A Realtek sound codec is also included so you can connect it directly to your TV, though it’s rather low-end; we’d much rather plug it into a quality AV receiver instead.
There’s even a PCIe expansion slot, which can be used to house QNAP’s twin 10GbE card, or a twin M.2 card. The SSDs can be used for caching, similar to Intel’s Optane technology. If you’d only like to use one M.2 SSD, there’s a card for that too, which includes a 10GbE connection. There’s also a USB 3.1 10Gbps card for even faster transfer speeds. Finally, there’s a Wi-Fi card that can be used as a wireless access point.
When it comes to the hardware that powers all of this, QNAP has really gone to town. At its heart is Intel’s Celeron J3455 quad-core CPU, which has a default speed of 1.5 GHz, but can boost up to 2.3 GHz. The default memory option is 4GB, but this can be upgraded to 8GB, but even with the minimum, this NAS has the performance to power Plex live transcoding thanks to that speedy little CPU. This is one of the few NAS devices at this price point that can do so, going a long way to justifying the rather high price. There’s even a remote so you can sit back on the couch and scroll through your movies without having to get up.
As expected, the interface is immaculate, albeit almost identical to Synology’s. We love the support for additional plug-ins that enable far more functionality. There are now dozens of apps available in the app store, and they’re all free. A few key examples are DJ2 streaming software, Virtualisation Station to operate several VMs on the NAS and QmailAgent, which allows you to centralise all of your various email accounts (G-mail, outlook, etc) into one central account.
While the price might be high, so too is the feature set. It’s really aimed at the home media NAS market, but it also has the grunt to be a nice little NAS for a small home o£ce. If only it had four bays instead of two, it’d be perfect – but that’s the next in the range, which costs considerably more. Overall: It’s not cheap, but it sure is versatile and powerful.
“QNAP has really gone to town with the hardware that powers all of this”