The Network Attached Storage market has never been hotter and when you look at the latest crop of NAS products you can see that all of the vendors are really upping their games. I’ve recently been testing an excellent example from this competitive market: The QNAP TVS-463 Golden Cloud Turbo NAS and I’m really, really impressed.
The TVS-463 Golden Cloud Turbo NAS (which I’ll henceforth refer to just as the “TVS-463”) comes in a gilded housing that looks pretty spiffy next to all of the other black or nacreous white cases used by most other vendors.
The TVS-463 has four hot swappable drive bays while its sister models, the TVS-663 and TVS-863, which are otherwise identical to the TVS-463, have 6- and 8-bays respectively.
Measuring 6.97(H) x 7.09(W) x 9.25(D) inches, the TVS-463 is powered by an AMD 2.4GHz quad-core x86 processor with Radeon graphics and its two memory slots provide 4GB of DDR3L-1600 RAM as standard which can be user upgraded for a maximum total RAM of 16GB.
The system is shipped without drives and you can use any of the compatible 3.5”or 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s drives, or SSDs giving you up to 32TB of JBOD storage using “enterprise” level drives such as the HGST HUH728080ALE604 (these are 8TB helium-filled drives and at $550 each are kind of spendy). You can also expand the storage capacity up to a total of 160TB with QNAP’s UX-800P RAID Expansion Enclosure.
On the front of the TVS-463 there’s the power button and a one-touch button for backing up data from any storage device you connect to the USB 3.0 port below the button. You might, for example, set this up to archive the contents of a flash drive from a camera. Alternatively, you can configure the one-touch button to automatically export the contents of a folder to a connected storage device. The front face also has a hidden IR receiver that's compatible with RM-IR002 and MCE-compatible remotes.
On the back face of the TVS-463 there are two Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet ports which can be increased to four Gigabit ports using a two-port PCIe NIC card. There's also four more USB 3.0 ports, two mirrored HDMI 1.4a ports, the PCIe expansion slot, the reset button, and a serial “Console port” that is apparently undocumented.
The QNAP NAS uses a modified version Ubuntu 4.1.2 the company calls QTS and the result is a fast and well organized system albeit with a few small issues that need addressing. You can perform basic configuration of the TVS-463 via the front panel LCD display using the enter and select buttons but all serious configuration is done through the device’s web interface which is an excellent piece of engineering.
Storage management features include:
- QNAP flexible Volume/LUN with thin provisioning and space reclaim
- RAID 0,1, 5, 6, 10, 5/6/10 + hot spares
- Supports storage pool
- Online volume and storage pool expansion
- Online RAID capacity expansion and online RAID level migration
- SMART data migration
- Bad block scan and recovery and hard drive S.M.A.R.T.
- RAID recovery
- Bitmap support
Setting up a QNAP NAS can be done using the QNAP Qfinder utility for Windows, OS X, and Linux which discovers all QNAP NASs on your network then lets you manage them individually. Alternatively, you can access your NAS directly via a Web browser by going to port 8080 on the NAS’s IP address. System management is done using the Control Panel to setup storage, users, power management, etc.
My first issue concerns some of the optional free applications that can be installed under QTS using the App Station. The problem for these apps lies in how well they are, or rather, are not, integrated with the system. For example, installing the QTS version of WordPress is anything but straightforward involving as it does running phpMyAdmin to create a database and then logging in via SSH to create the WordPress configuration file, wp-config.php.
For the technically competent this is an irritation considering how easily WordPress can be installed on many other systems but for the average user this will be a major hurdle. That said, it could be argued the average user shouldn’t be messing around as an administrator with something as sophisticated as a QNAP NAS (it would like handing your teenage son the keys to a Bugatti Veyron and saying “have a good time”).
Another issue is that supporting documentation for the system as well as the installable apps isn't directly available through QTS; you have to go hunt it down in QNAP resources and community forum on the web. Also, the builtin search function (available via the toolbar at the top of the screen) isn't all that helpful; for example, searching for “WordPress” leads you to generic application installation advice and the App Center interface where you can install WordPress. If you're in the WordPress installation process, this isn't helpful.
Back to the good stuff: QNAP has a new app, HybridDesk Station, that’s available on the TVS-463. HybridDesk Station is an app that presents a user interface via the HDMI port so you can run apps on a TV screen. You can select which apps will be available in HybridDesk Station including:
- Multimedia players: XBMC, Kodi (XBMC v14), HD Player
- Music players; Clementine, Spotify, and DeaDBeeF
- Streaming Radio; TuneInRadio
- Browsers; Chrome and Firefox
- Games; OpenTTD, Wesnoth, and SuperTux
- My NAS, for administering the system
- QNAP’s Surveillance Station, which records video from IP cameras (a license for four cameras is included with the TVS-463 and up to 40 cameras can be supported; licenses for additional cameras are available starting at $60 for a single camera while a 15 camera license will set you back a spendy $899.95)
HybridDesk Station works well with apps such as Kodi and XBMC because they were designed for large screen displays but others, such as Chrome and Firefox, are hard to use as the default font size is microscopic on the average TV. I also found that some of the games were difficult to use through the interface. All in all HybridDesk Station is a good idea but it needs a little polishing before it is truly compelling.
These issues aside, there’s one app that’s available on the TVS-463 and some other QNAP NAS models that I think is sensational: Virtualization Station, which I covered in this blog when it was first released at the end of 2014. This is a killer feature that allows you to extend your NAS services in all sorts of interesting ways so rather than wrestle with QNAP's WordPress app you can download a preconfigured VM to run under virtualization station.
QNAP also offers cloud services with a free system called myQNAPcloud which provides file sharing, file and system management, and full access to NAS-based apps (including Virtualization Station) securely from wherever you might be on the Internet via a Web browser or through QNAP’s mobile apps for iOS, Windows, and Android.
In this review I’ve covered a lot of ground but QNAP’s NAS products are way more richly featured than I’ve got the space to cover or you’ve got the patience to read.
The bottom line is that the TVS-463 is an excellent, flexible, hugely useful NAS system. Priced, without drives, as low as $650, the TVS-463 gets a Gearhead rating of 5 out of 5. Outstanding (I may need to test this product for an extended period).
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