QNAP isn't a stranger to specialty NAS systems, but the new TS-453A introduces an entirely new feature that will have you singing with joy.
We've discussed QNAP's broad portfolio in previous reviews, but we should have saved that conversation for today. The company sells a lot of products with the same processors, memory and number of drive bays—and that confuses some shoppers. It isn't until you start looking at form factors and feature sets that the strategy becomes clear. QNAP has several products with 453 in their name (like the TS-453mini we tested, the TS-453 Pro and the TS-453U). Based on nomenclature alone, you'd never be able to distinguish one from another without a deeper understanding of how QNAP classifies its products. And even with that understanding, nothing could prepare you for the company's newest feature, which has us looking for a disco ball.
In Asia, it's popular to go out with your friends to a special club called KTV. Essentially, you are in a big room with a large-screen TV, a few microphones and a server who brings beverages by the bottle. These rooms are billed by the hour and heavily trafficked late at night after young people leave the clubs. It's not much different from karaoke in the United States, except that you get a private space (until someone posts your performance to Facebook, of course).
What does that have to do with a storage review? Well, karaoke files are larger than MP3s because they use a video format. High-quality karaoke includes audio encoded at a high bit rate, complemented by good-looking video. All of that data needs to go somewhere, and it requires a powerful processor to play it back smoothly. You guessed it; QNAP is answering the call with the world's first karaoke NAS.
More accurately, QNAP sells four models aimed at that market, armed with high bit-rate audio. To enable it, QNAP uses the PCIe slot normally set aside for 10GbE connectivity and replaces the network adapter with a dedicated sound card that accepts two 6.3mm dynamic microphone inputs.
The TS-x53A series also features QNAP's new QTS-Linux dual operating system, which gives the NAS a Linux desktop through a keyboard, mouse and monitor (via on-board HDMI). QNAP released desktop virtualization through Virtualization Station several generations ago. The difference with this new dual operating system is that Linux is more integrated than before.
The TS-x53A family offers as few as two and as many as eight drive bays. All four models utilize the aforementioned QTS-Linux OS and enhanced audio features. They also employ Intel's quad-core Celeron N3150 (Braswell) SoC that consumes just six watts of power under full load.
For each model, there are two SKUs with different amounts of RAM build-in. The -4G systems include two 2GB DDR3 modules, while the -8G configurations come with two 4GB DIMMs, hitting the processor's upper limit for expansion.
The TS-453A features four gigabit Ethernet ports that support several independent and shared modes, including 802.3ad (link aggregation). Many of the modes accelerate network bandwidth without a switch that supports active-active mode, but you won't see a speed-up connecting the NAS to a single PC.
As with many of its contemporaries, the TS-453A lacks USB 2.0 altogether. Instead, it boasts four USB 3.0 ports. The popular one-touch copy function returns, allowing you to plug a drive in to the front USB port and press a button to pull data down to a special folder on the NAS.
We've tested other NAS systems with two HDMI ports, but the TS-x53A is the first with independent HDMI. This lets you run two applications simultaneously with video output from each. That's a great capability if you're planning to use the platform for more than just storage.
Pricing, Warranty And Accessories
We found the QNAP TS-453A available from several online resellers for $600. The price falls in line with other four-bay systems equipped with Intel's Celeron N3150.
But similarities to the competition end there. QNAP includes a remote control with the TS-453A, which is an optional purchase from other companies. QNAP also includes two Ethernet cables, as well as a quick-installation guide, external power supply and a power cable.
The TS-453A includes a two-year warranty that protects the system from defects. QNAP offers an optional warranty package that adds up to three years to the base warranty.