QNAP TS-251A

£249 inc VAT • qnap.com/en

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

QNAP is one of the ma­jor brands when it comes to net­work at­tached stor­age disks for the home and the TS-251A is another strong propo­si­tion. It of­fers a high-end spec­i­fi­ca­tion for a home NAS, pow­ered by an Intel Celeron N3060 dual-core pro­ces­sor run­ning at 1.6GHz, with boost speeds up to 2.48GHz. That per­for­mance is there for a rea­son – it claims to of­fer 4K play­back and de­cod­ing on the fly, so you can watch high-qual­ity files on your TV smoothly.

That power doesn’t come cheaply, though. This model can be picked up on­line for around £250 but that doesn’t in­clude any hard disks, so you’ll have to pur­chase those separately. It comes in 2GB or 4G vari­ants – our sup­plied model was 2GB.

De­sign

At the back are two USB 3.0 ports and two Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net sock­ets. There’s also an HDMI port, so you can even hook the QNAP up di­rectly to a TV and watch con­tent di­rect from the drive on it. And if your net­work is down for any rea­son you can also plug in a mouse and key­board and op­er­ate the NAS di­rectly, like you would with a con­ven­tional com­puter. A re­mote con­trol is sup­plied, suit­able for ba­sic op­er­a­tions.

There are two USB 3.0 ports on the front but one of these is an un­usual Mi­cro-B con­nec­tion. This is for hook­ing up to an ex­ter­nal drive, so you can back up or copy con­tent from or to the drive. This seems an un­usual op­tion to have, but has been de­signed so that you can back up your files with­out hav­ing to worry about the net­work. Bizarrely though, the nec­es­sary ca­ble isn’t in­cluded in the box, though you can pick one up for a fiver, so it’s not the end of the world. An SD card slot is also avail­able, so you can trans­fer the pho­tos from your DSLR straight onto the NAS.

The drive bays slide out eas­ily, but in­stal­la­tion is not tool-less – get­ting the disks in will re­quire the use of a screw­driver. When you turn on the drive and it’s hooked up via Eth­er­net, you should, in the­ory, be able to set it up via a ‘Cloud In­stal­la­tion’ – whereby you scan a QR code with a reader app on your mo­bile and the drive will be iden­ti­fied and set it­self up. This didn’t work smoothly for us as it didn’t de­tect the drive, so we went with a more tra­di­tional ap­proach. We down­loaded and in­stalled the QFin­der Pro util­ity to our com­puter and us­ing this the drive was duly de­tected and the lat­est firmware in­stalled. In fact, you’ll need this util­ity in­stalled to be able to make use of the USB 3.0 Mi­cro-B port on the front for hook­ing up an ex­ter­nal drive.

Soft­ware

Once set up, and you’ve logged in to your NAS via a browser, you’ll dis­cover the TS-251A to be pow­ered by one of the most com­pre­hen­sive NAS op­er­at­ing sys­tems on the mar­ket. The sim­ple icon and win­dow based in­ter­face is speedy and easy to use. QTS of­fers a huge range of apps avail­able to in­stall. There are sta­ples such as a Photo Sta­tion, Mu­sic Sta­tion, and a Down­load Sta­tion, from which you can search for P2P files with­out hav­ing to use a PC. There’s also a wealth of choice in the App Cen­ter with a wide range of cat­e­gories, from sur­veil­lance apps to soft­ware that en­ables you to run a Word­Press site to an email server.

There’s also a Video Sta­tion app, though this has no sup­port for MKVs, which means it won’t be much use to many. Of all the apps avail­able, the one that in­ter­ested us most was Plex, the me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion soft­ware. In­ter­est­ingly, you can run both the Plex Me­dia Server and the Plex client on the same box. It works very well and with the QNAP at­tached to the TV we were able to browse and play con­tent us­ing the sup­plied re­mote con­trol. You can also ac­cess it via a Plex client on an Xbox One or PS4.

One is­sue we found was the noise level. Our drive was filled by two Sea­gate ST8000VN00­02 8TB drives set up in RAID one. This proved to be nois­ier in op­er­a­tion than we would have liked. This could be cor­rected if we slightly moved the unit.

To test per­for­mance, we used Crys­talDiskMar­k and with a 1GB se­quen­tial test with saw read per­for­mance of 111MB/s and write per­for­mance of 118.5MB/s – very im­pres­sive in­deed. You won’t be want­ing for per­for­mance from this drive.

To test the port on the front we hooked up to a MacBook Pro laptop and us­ing Black­Magic Disk Test we saw speeds of 106MB/s write and 107MB/s read – very good in­deed.

Ver­dict

The QNAP is an un­doubt­edly im­pres­sive NAS drive. There’s plenty of power for vir­tu­ally all tasks, and H.265 aside it will han­dle any­thing you throw at it. The range of apps is very com­pre­hen­sive and the in­ter­face is ex­cel­lent. The down­side is the lack of sup­port for MKV from its na­tive app, which will mean hav­ing to pay for Plex to play files on mo­bile de­vices. The unit was also nois­ier than we would have liked in op­er­a­tion and while it’s good value, it’s not cheap. If you’re will­ing to stretch to pay­ing this much for a disk­less sys­tem, the QNAP TS-251A is the best fea­tured NAS drive at the price.

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