The QNAP TBS-453A Changes The NAS Game

This was a breakout year for QNAP. The company released several new products in multiple form factors, brought new exclusive software features and has yet to find the brake pedal. Case in point is the new TBS-453A, aka the NASbook.

The TBS-453A isn't QNAP's first slim desktop form factor NAS appliance, but it is the first to add network switching and four disk drive support. The NAS product segment has evolved over the last decade from a pure storage play to devices that sit in the middle of your digital life. The NASbook takes all of those elements and joins them in one small, easy to manage device.

The front of the system looks like a refined gaming console or exaggerated set-top box like your cable or satellite TV provider would supply. There are a few buttons, a pair of USB ports and a card reader. The button on the far left handles the one-touch copy function. When you plug in a device such as a cell phone, USB drive or possibly an SD card and press the button, the data is backed up to the NAS.

Things get a little more interesting and unique on the back. Dual HDMI ports and audio I/O connect to your monitor or TV. The system can run as an independent computer with QNAP's existing software package that supports Windows, Linux and other operating systems. Users can also use the ports in conjunction with KODI or other multimedia front end software that turns the system into a full-on media center. Audiophiles and users of high-end home theater products will appreciate the dual HDMI ports for connecting more than one device to the system.

There are five network switching ports that can be assigned via a new software module. This is essentially software-defined switching, a new carryover from the enterprise universe where software-defined everything has gained traction. Now your TV, DVR, gaming console and other theater equipment can link directly to your storage.

And oh, what great storage it is! To keep a slim profile, QNAP enabled four M.2 SATA storage ports (with the 2280 form factor). We suspect the system will be very fast, even when distributing several 4K videos through the network. The Intel Braswell quad-core processor enables the system to stream multimedia files to other network devices and even mobile drives like tablets at remote locations.

SanDisk's new X400 M.2 SSD that measures only 1.5 mm thin recently launched with the company's X3 NAND flash (TLC) in 1 TB capacity. The drive should offer great performance for a low-cost NAS SSD.

QNAP didn't have a firm release date for the new TBS-453A, but we suspect it will ship later in 2016. The hardware appears retail ready right now. Also, the major components in the system are standard parts used in other NAS products already shipping, like the TS-453A.

Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.