QNAP TS-451+ NAS Review

QNAP has two new NAS appliances designed for SOHO (small office/home office) customers: the TS-251+ and the TS-451+, and we have the latter in-house for testing. It's an updated model based loosely on the original TS-451, a dual-core Celeron-based system.

The TS-451+ adds a quad-core Intel Celeron J1900 at 2GHz and doubles the platform's RAM. The extra cores increase the NAS system's multimedia capabilities, while the memory upgrade allows more applications to run in the background. This is the new breed of network-attached devices that extends beyond storage. Many new home and small office QNAP systems fall into this category. Nobody has coined an official term for these systems, but someone really should. Continuing to call them NAS fails to capture everything they're capable of.

Many of the appliances we're seeing employ Intel's Celeron J1900 or a similar model from the Bay Trail family (with Silvermont-based cores). They're attractive processors because of their hardware-accelerated transcode engine and impressively low power consumption, which lowers cooling requirements.

QNAP recently introduced its QTS 4.2 operating system, which is backward-compatible with existing products. We installed the latest software package on a six-year-old TS-809 Pro during its beta phase and then when the release was finalized. We really like that QNAP steadily updates its OS, enabling new features. Not every capability works on the older systems since some are directly tied to hardware functionality, but that's inevitable. Fortunately, if a feature isn't supported, it doesn't show up in the software. In short, you can't do anything to get yourself in trouble.

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QNAP's TS-451+ ships in two configurations differentiated by memory capacity. We're testing the 8GB model. However, there's also a lower-priced 2GB version. Its Celeron J1900 SoC includes integrated HD Graphics and a hardware-accelerated transcoding engine. Some of the systems that cost less than the TS-451+ use AMD G-series and Marvell SoCs. Just above the Celeron J1900 are systems with Intel Core i3 processors based on the Haswell architecture. The TS-451+ falls in the upper-middle range, offering excellent single-user and moderate multi-client performance suitable for small offices.

There are four hot-swap drive bays, though you can expand to 12 with QNAP's UX-800P. While the system supports a typical assortment of RAID levels, most folks will opt for RAID 5 to balance user capacity and data redundancy. The TS-451+ also facilitates SSD caching. It's read-only with a single drive and read/write with a pair of them. The cache algorithm can be tuned for different workloads, but you'll probably go for storage and redundancy over better random-latency performance.

Moving data to and from the system takes place over gigabit Ethernet. A pair of ports allows access from two separate networks or just one in a teamed configuration. If your network can handle it, 802.11ad is supported. QNAP also enables a few specialty network functions that do not require specific hardware to increase performance or reliability.

There are five USB ports in total. The front USB 3.0 interface is enhanced by a feature called one-touch copy, and it works in conjunction with a button right above the port. Around back, one more USB 3.0 port sits just under two USB 2.0 connections that provide a number of additional features. You can quickly set up a print server or even connect a keyboard and mouse. With video output through HDMI 1.4a, you can use the TS-451+ like a virtualized computer running on top of the QTS operating system. That HDMI 1.4a output can also send video and audio signals to a home theater.

This system ships with a QNAP-branded remote control, and if you combine it with Kodi home theater software, you get a powerful combination. I have one friend who recently "cut the cord", but still enjoys live TV broadcasts from a number of Kodi plug-in packages over IP networks. Though that's not a QNAP-supported feature, you can still see how flexible the Kodi package and user-built plug-in system has become. To fully exploit the software's capabilities, you need a powerful processor. Intel's quad-core Celeron J1900 works nicely.

Pricing, Warranty & Accessories

The TS-451+ 8GB model has an MSRP of $649, while the 2GB TS-451 costs $529. Pricing is similar to competing products based on the same J1900 processor and system memory capacity.

QNAP's standard warranty lasts two years, but the company allows e-tailers to sell QNAP-backed warranties that extend coverage up to five years.

The system ships with two Ethernet cables, an external power brick, screws for mounting both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives, a paper manual and a remote control.

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  • RedJaron
    Quote:
    This is the new breed of network-attached devices that extends beyond storage. Many new home and small office QNAP systems fall into this category. Nobody has coined an official term for these systems, but someone really should. Continuing to call them NAS fails to capture everything they're capable of.

    Hmmm, well first, the problem is that NAS on its own was a bit of a misnomer in a lot of cases. The idea of "Network Attached Storage" is just talking about the storage itself, the drives, not the machine that actually hosts or manages them. It works fine for describing an external hard drive plugged into a router over USB, but any time you have a dedicated device for hosting and managing a storage array, the idea of NAS alone was no longer sufficient for it. Even if it didn't have the media abilities this one did, if it had its own OS, if you could remote into to and configure the storage system, if it was more or less autonomous, that's more a server than just NAS array.

    NAS Server, or NASS is probably too similar and would be confusing. Network Attached Managed Storage or Networked Attached Hosted Storage would be more accurate, though "hosted" has cloud storage connotations so that may not be great. You could call them NARCs for network attached RAID controllers/computers. But in reality these things are servers. A Celeron is far beyond a simple hard drive or RAID controller and QNAP's OS is far beyond a simple router firmware. These are network storage servers, or simple network storage servers if you want to differentiate them from from the big, expensive server clusters. If you want to keep it close to NAS, I'd call it a NARS ( network attached RAID server ).
  • blazorthon
    Quote:
    Hmmm, well first, the problem is that NAS on its own was a bit of a misnomer in a lot of cases. The idea of "Network Attached Storage" is just talking about the storage itself, the drives, not the machine that actually hosts or manages them. It works fine for describing an external hard drive plugged into a router over USB, but any time you have a dedicated device for hosting and managing a storage array, the idea of NAS alone was no longer sufficient for it. Even if it didn't have the media abilities this one did, if it had its own OS, if you could remote into to and configure the storage system, if it was more or less autonomous, that's more a server than just NAS array. NAS Server, or NASS is probably too similar and would be confusing. Network Attached Managed Storage or Networked Attached Hosted Storage would be more accurate, though "hosted" has cloud storage connotations so that may not be great. You could call them NARCs for network attached RAID controllers/computers. But in reality these things are servers. A Celeron is far beyond a simple hard drive or RAID controller and QNAP's OS is far beyond a simple router firmware. These are network storage servers, or simple network storage servers if you want to differentiate them from from the big, expensive server clusters. If you want to keep it close to NAS, I'd call it a NARS ( network attached RAID server ).


    NARC has my vote.
  • palladin9479
    Quote:
    This is the new breed of network-attached devices that extends beyond storage. Many new home and small office QNAP systems fall into this category. Nobody has coined an official term for these systems, but someone really should. Continuing to call them NAS fails to capture everything they're capable of.


    We do have a name for it. It's a very old name with a distinguished history, it's known as "File Server". This is no different then having Unix / Linux / NT installed on a server and then exporting storage to a local network in whatever language / protocol is necessary. Hiding the OS from the customer nor automating the maintenance of the File Server does not change it's designation or purpose. Further if we wanted to install additional services onto our File Server it now becomes an Application Server and since it's an All-In-One device we could just call it a Server. Congratulations on reinventing a 1980's concept.


    As for iSCSI in a home environment, just say no. There is a reason it's not used. Without jumbo frames, and a dedicated VLAN / QoS you are going to be shredding your network I/O. Each 4K I/O block gets broken into three separate Ethernet frames and blasted out across the switch where it competes with every other form of traffic for bandwidth and network I/O. It's heard by the distant end, reassembled in the network buffer, read and then another request is sent out, all without compression or any form of traffic shaping. It's perfectly fine for lab and experimental work but absolutely atrocious for real world work loads. If you have to store and execute data remotely then use SMB via a mounted drive letter or even a NTFS junction via mklink.

    mklink /d C:\FolderToInstallStuff \\NASServer\\SMBShareFolder

    Will create an entry in the NTFS file table that looks like a folder to everything, except the file storage subsystem, any file operations directed to that folder will instead be redirected to the remote SMB server. Applications will act exactly the same but without having to deal with the issues of having to abstract a block level device over a home network connection. Let the OS do it's job with optimizing network file I/O.

    Side note about performance. The real difference between file level and block level access is where the onus of file system management takes place. With file level the remote file server is responsible and must spend CPU cycles and memory for caching the data, on block level your local machine is responsible for doing it. Since local machines tend to have more CPU / memory iSCSI would win in a back-to-back configuration (Client <-> Server) with nothing else happening on the switch, in which case might as well use a cross-over cable. The moment you start placing additional traffic on the network that the iSCSI packets now need to compete with, this starts to change as iSCSI wasn't designed to fight with other traffic nor is the client computer even aware that it has to. Also once your iSCSI storage manager has enough CPU power and memory to effectively manage it's own file shares, that advantage of iSCSI melts away and the performance swings in the other direction, especially as file services are available to all incoming clients while iSCSI is only available to the initiator.

    Since these QNAP devices have decently powerful x86 CPU's with generous amounts of memory host side resource contention won't be a problem. It's having to shove 4K random I/O requests over a 1500MTU pipe on a general purpose VLAN with all the other traffic that's the problem. The real solution is local storage for data intensive programs and remote storage for shared media files. SATA storage is cheap, no need to reinvent the wheel in the home.
  • fraserw
    Stupid question: Can this box support local mount through usb3 while still allowing the drive to be network mounted to other machines?
  • VVV850
    You mention HDMI port but never test what you can do with it. How able is the NAS as a media player or as a VM Player. You only approach the same old statistics of a file server even though you mention that it is a lot more then that...
  • CRamseyer
    Quote:
    Stupid question: Can this box support local mount through usb3 while still allowing the drive to be network mounted to other machines?


    No, this system doesn't have any direct attach function outside of Ethernet.
  • heffeque
    Quote:
    You mention HDMI port but never test what you can do with it. How able is the NAS as a media player or as a VM Player. You only approach the same old statistics of a file server even though you mention that it is a lot more then that...

    My thoughts exactly!
    Also, QNAP has a very VERY good OS. Many Synology purists would be surprised with how good QNAP has gotten.
  • CRamseyer
    I think QNAP has the best on the market right now. Admittedly I haven't spent a lot of time with Thecus' new OS 7 but I plan to this weekend.

    I'll also have time to move the racks over to a dedicated server closet. On the way I can shoot some images for the upcoming How We Test NAS article.
  • ttocsmij
    Quote:
    Quote:
    This is the new breed of network-attached devices that extends beyond storage. Many new home and small office QNAP systems fall into this category. Nobody has coined an official term for these systems, but someone really should. Continuing to call them NAS fails to capture everything they're capable of.
    We do have a name for it. It's a very old name with a distinguished history, it's known as "File Server". This is no different then having Unix / Linux / NT installed on a server and then exporting storage to a local network in whatever language / protocol is necessary. Hiding the OS from the customer nor automating the maintenance of the File Server does not change it's designation or purpose. Further if we wanted to install additional services onto our File Server it now becomes an Application Server and since it's an All-In-One device we could just call it a Server. Congratulations on reinventing a 1980's concept. As for iSCSI in a home environment, just say no. There is a reason it's not used. ... ... especially as file services are available to all incoming clients while iSCSI is only available to the initiator. Since these QNAP devices have decently powerful x86 CPU's with generous amounts of memory host side resource contention won't be a problem. It's having to shove 4K random I/O requests over a 1500MTU pipe on a general purpose VLAN with all the other traffic that's the problem. The real solution is local storage for data intensive programs and remote storage for shared media files. SATA storage is cheap, no need to reinvent the wheel in the home.


    I'm not sure what palladin9479 is trying to say here. Is he against QNAP, NAS for home, or what, exactly?!

    I need a place to backup the three computers (wireless, wireless, wired) we use here at the house and this sounds like the ticket. Am I wrong? Should I be looking at something different? I was just thinking I could connect an NAS to an Ethernet port on the wireless router and start setting things up.
  • CRamseyer
    You will be fine with a QNAP system attached to your existing network. Palladin9479 was referring to iSCSI used in the home.

    iSCSI is just a way of adding storage one or more of your computers. It has some advantages over SMB shares. When attached (through software) to your computer the share shows up as a drive letter and the system sees the share as local storage.

    You can do the same thing with a network share by mapping a share as a drive letter but not all software sees the network mapped drive as local storage. If you plan to install programs on the NAS rather than your C: drive the network mapped drive can be a problem. With iSCSI the connection is always there. Mapped drives don't offer the same same reliability or security as iSCSI.
  • gnalley
    Don't try to use this device as a standalone windows domain controller. The SAMBA and DHCP implementations are missing two CRITICAL components for it to work.

    Samba is missing the ability to do DNS Forwarders...and DHCP does not allow you to input the OPTIONS command. Both of these functions are critical to having a working solution. If you want a standalone MS Domain Controller that works. Look elsewhere.
  • stemno
    I own a Qnap 853A (4gb ram, intel Celeron) with eight hard drives Seagate 4TB.
    Qnap continuous access the hard disks(from ~10 to 10 seconds), even if I uninstalled or disabled all applications and settings.
    This leads to premature (and fast) wear of hard disks.
    More than that, there is a risk that more hard disks to fail simultaneously, or when you restore the raid 6 (or what raid you have).
    This because all hard disks become extremely worn.
    Qnap Helpdesk say to me: "it is a known problem, wait for solving...".
    But if you search on the internet, the problem is for years old....