QNAP's exterior design hasn't changed much over the years. Its TS-470 looks a lot like the TS-439 Pro from 2010, for example. Not that we consider this a bad thing.
The device is compact, yet robust. Its chassis is made of metal, and the front bezel is adorned by an informative LCD, which turns off automatically when there is no new information to display. At that point, only the status LEDs show that the appliance is operational. A toggle switch to the right of the LCD can be used to configure the NAS device, though the process is cumbersome. There are easier ways to administer the TS-470. You'll also find a single USB 2.0 port up front.
Four hard drive bays latch into place, and can be locked with a bundled key. Perhaps more important hot-swapping is supported.
The sticker on top, which explains how the drive bays are numbered, looks like an afterthought. A NAS device in this price range should have a more elegant solution for this.
Each of the drive drays is made of metal. Disks are screwed in, rather than snapped on. For a piece of hardware you won't be working in often, we'd call that a favorable means of securing the storage.
Except for the one USB 2.0 port up front, all of the TS-470's connectivity is around back. Up top is the expansion slot with its two GbE ports. A sticker spells out their MAC addresses, which could come in handy.
A Slick and Polished User Interface
In mid-2013, QNAP released version 4.0 of its operating system, giving the company's NAS devices a more modern and professional user interface.
The control panel is well-organized, and its icons are arranged logically to simplify setup and day-to-day administration.
We like the user interface’s broad functionality and professional presentation. QTS 4.0 appeals to both casual and technical users, which can't be said for every NAS system's software.
Unfortunately, we couldn't find the file system information screen in QTS 4.0, suggesting it might have been removed. In a few cases, we've seen storage vendors get rid of technical details as they try to clean up their UIs. Hopefully, the quest to present information more concisely doesn't lead to companies like QNAP hiding settings important to power users.
The TS-470 can also be configured through a dedicated client program. This could be easiest for some folks, since access to the appliance's Web-based page isn't as straightforward as it could be. You'd need to read the manual to know that you have to explicitly specify port 8080 to get there.
HD Station for Video Buffs
If you want to use the TS-470's HDMI output to serve video content straight to a TV, QNAP makes that possible through its HD Station. The portal hosts XBMC, Chrome, a YouTube app, and a utility called My NAS, which lets you configure the appliance.
We were even able to plug in a mouse (Logitech V550 Nano Laser) and keyboard (Logitech K800) to the TS-470's USB 2.0 ports, which became operational almost instantly.
As you may have noticed, the open source XBMC media center software is gaining popularity among NAS manufacturers. It is easy to use, supports a large variety of media formats and, via add-on apps, allows access to additional content like the archives of public broadcasting stations (partly even in HD quality).
QNAP's solution streams high-bitrate video without a glitch. That's something we've seen competing units struggle with in the past. Clearly, the combination of a powerful processor, plenty of memory, and lots of network bandwidth come together effectively.
Just don't try to install HD Station from the QTS 4.0 app center; it doesn’t work. To get the platform installed, with all of its components, use the Applications menu on the left side of the screen.