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QNAP TS-453mini NAS Review

Qnap takes a vertical approach to reduce noise, and making for a small office NAS that fits in tighter spaces.

Our Verdict

The TS-453mini is a model you can use anywhere. That isn't a reference to its size, it's a reference to all of the powerful features. It's also a small unit that can literally fit just about anywhere. The Intel Celeron J1900 processor is powerful for an SoC and the on board transcoding engine allows this model to be a multimedia powerhouse.

For

  • It's a versatile NAS that packs more features than the competition.

Against

  • It's expensive at $529 (2 GB) and $689 (8 GB).

Specifications, Pricing, Warranty & Accessories

QNAP is back with another innovative product that binds a unique design with the best NAS software available today. The TS-453mini has a 29 percent smaller footprint than typical four-bay NAS products but suffers from an identity crisis. 

QNAP has released several new NAS models and features this year. To date, the company has the most product SKUs available, but hardware innovation isn't where the company has pulled away from the rest of the market. QNAP was the first company to release support for Docker, an in-GUI search engine, and retained the in-board app lead. Moving away from the NAS, QNAP leads in mobile and off-site connectivity features as well. QNAP isn't just firing on all cylinders; it upgraded the whole car.

With so many models available, overlap is inevitable. The Intel Celeron J1900 quad-core processor used in the TV-453mini is powerful. This processor has hardware-encryption acceleration built in and multimedia features via Intel HD Graphics. The processor is also used in QNAP's TS-853U-RP 8-bay rack-mount NAS, so it scales well enough for serious business needs.

The TS-453mini is very small compared to most of QNAP's other products. It's not quite as small as traditional two-bay systems, but it's small enough to make the comparison. Unlike other SMB models from QNAP, the TV-453mini looks like a toy rather than a serious office product. The piano-black finish, plastic cover and thin, blue-line LED give this model a home-theater look. That's where the identity crisis comes in.

Most NAS models designed for home-theater use are underpowered and lack features that users want. Someone who purchases a dedicated NAS for home-theater use isn't oblivious to technology. This is the person getting the call about technology and not the caller. Multimedia NAS products with two drive-bays, underpowered SoC processors and the like work well for the cloud but are less than optimal when transferring a 50 GB Blu-ray ISO file.

So, even though the TS-453mini is designed for small businesses, we think it could be the best home-theater NAS ever made. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at the 453mini and discuses its features in more detail.

Specifications

The QNAP TS-453mini ships in two configurations from the factory. The first version has 2 GB of DRAM in a single SODIMM, and the second ships with 8 GB of DRAM in two 4-GB SODIMMs. The Intel J1900 processor can address a maximum of only 8 GB, and most users will want to take advantage of the larger model to run more applications at one time. The SODIMM location is easy to get to, so it is possible to add memory to the lower-cost TS-453mini-2G later.

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As mentioned in the introduction, the Intel Celeron J1900 is a powerful processor for NAS appliances. We've tested other products with this processor, and our only complaint is the 8-GB limit for system memory. If it weren't for that memory limit, this 2.0-GHz processor that burst to 2.41 GHz could run heavier workloads reserved for enterprise systems.

Integrated into the processor is a hardware-transcoding engine that allows users to convert video files on the fly for viewing. When you're streaming from your NAS over the Internet to mobile devices, this is a must-have feature. Over the last several years, Intel has made great progress on the processor's built-in graphics system. Intel HD Graphics are powerful enough now to enhance and not burden the CPU. Many people now use the onboard graphics in desktops, and it's even possible to play the latest games at medium resolutions in a desktop. QNAP took advantage of the CPU's video capabilities; the TS-453mini can play 3D content and supports up to HDMI 1.4a.

The TS-453mini ships with new, tool-less drive sleds. The 2.5-inch drives require screws for mounting SSDs, but the 3.5-inch drives go in tool free. The system can make use of SSDs for cache, but most users will not exercise that option for normal file use. We recently tested the cache option in the QNAP TS-863+ review, a system with eight drive bays.

Aside from the new case design, the rest of the TS-453mini is typical for QNAP products. Users get a liberal dose of USB for ease of use and expansion. The USB port on the front comes with a one-touch copy button that automatically backs up your phone, tablet or external storage drive. Four more USB ports on the back give users even more expansion options. Users can even use the HDMI in conjunction with a keyboard and mouse to turn the TS-453mini into a desktop.

Dual gigabit-Ethernet ports on the back allow data access from the network. Users can run the system on two separate networks or use one of many options that take advantage of both networks at the same time to increase network traffic speed or reliability.

The new case design is the star of the TS-453mini show today, and we'll talk about it in more detail further into the review.

Pricing, Warranty & Accessories

We found both QNAP TS-453mini models available online from several e-tail shops. Newegg listed both as available at the time of writing. The TS-453mini-2G (2 GB model) sells for $528.99. The 8 GB model (TS-453-8G) costs $689.00, but eliminates the hassle of finding compatible DDR3 memory and installing it yourself.

QNAP Home/SOHO products ship with a standard two-year warranty that covers the hardware. The TS-x53 product series is eligible for QNAP's extended-warranty program. You can read more about the service here. I'm not a fan of the two-year warranties; I would really like to see products like the TS-453mini we're testing today covered by a five-year warranty. That said, two years is the standard for nearly all NAS models in the price range.

One accessory really stands out from the included goodies list. The TV-453mini ships with a remote control. This is the first QNAP appliance we've tested that shipped with a remote. The system also includes two Ethernet cables, a power brick with power cable, screws for mounting 2.5-inch drives in the drive sleds and tool-less drive-sled rails.

  • thebigt42
    $140 just for 8 gig of ram vs 2. That is nuts! I bet they lock down the 2g version so you cant change the ram yourself too.
    Reply
  • astonerii
    You keep changing the GB on these things. The 8GB is 4GB several times and the 2GB is 4GB at least once.
    Really too bad the prices are so high for these things, but they are niche items I guess. I would like to have one, but prices are too high for my want.
    Reply
  • Haravikk
    Every time a NAS ships with an external power brick of dubious origin I just can't fathom why; while a power brick is a bit easier to replace if it fails than an internal PSU, if they used a standard PC type (e.g- an SFX PSU) then it needn't be that hard. Better yet, a device in this size could easily stand to be a little taller if it meant it could accommodate a pair of slim PSUs such as those common in servers (for redundancy).

    Aside from often coming from an unknown source, and being easily the most commonly failing component (more so than hard-drives in my experience), power bricks just destroy any aesthetics that a company tries to put into their "small" devices; hint, if a device is only small because you've made components external, then it's not small, it's badly designed.

    Sorry, but it's a real annoyance for me, and the reason I'd rather build a NAS in a small(-ish) PC case as I just don't trust power bricks at all, and for an always-on data storage device that's a pretty big negative.
    Reply
  • Uneventful
    I am would really like to know more about the Home Theater possibilities of this NAS. The article mentioned that it came with a remote, but that was all. I would like to know a couple of different things: What application or interface it uses if you hook it up to a TV via HDMI and use the remote? What sort of files can it play back? Does the HDMI 1.4a port support 4K?

    I have a older QNAP NAS myself and I know that it can run the Plex Server, but is the TS-453mini able to transcode fast enough with the hardware transcoding for watching 1080p on a client? Can you run it as a Plex server and have it playback on the TV at the same time? Does it have support for outputting DTS or DD streams? I would really like more details about how this NAS could be used in a home theater.
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    I'm working on a software overview article for each of the major NAS companies right now. There is a lot to go over for each.

    The two most common for home theater use are XBMC and KODI. KODI is just the newer version of XBMC. The software supports 7.1, DTS, Dolby, the HD versions and so on. I use KODI to play back 1:1 Blu-Ray ISOs and it works great.

    The system can run Plex Server and it's fast enough to transcode on the fly.
    Reply
  • jakjawagon
    $140 just for 8 gig of ram vs 2. That is nuts! I bet they lock down the 2g version so you cant change the ram yourself too.
    Actually they don't. While they recommend you only upgrade using the overpriced kit they'll sell you, it is compatible with standard laptop DDR3 RAM and easily upgradeable.

    I bought a TS-451 a few months ago (pretty much the same specs but half the RAM and a CPU with fewer but higher clocked cores, and a more traditional design), and am mainly using it as a media server. Apart from one squeaky drive (salvaged from an old laptop and due to be replaced when I can afford it), I'm very happy with it. Fast enough for my needs, and very configurable even though default settings work well.
    Reply
  • Dyason
    I'm working on a software overview article for each of the major NAS companies right now. There is a lot to go over for each.

    The two most common for home theater use are XBMC and KODI. KODI is just the newer version of XBMC. The software supports 7.1, DTS, Dolby, the HD versions and so on. I use KODI to play back 1:1 Blu-Ray ISOs and it works great.

    The system can run Plex Server and it's fast enough to transcode on the fly.

    Fantastic to hear it runs Plex Server. Curious if it will run Plex Theatre for playback as I prefer this over XBMC and KODI. Does it just run normal linux apps for playback?
    Reply
  • CRamseyer
    https://www.qnap.com/i/en/app_center/

    The link goes to a list of applications that are already in the App Manager. Plex Theater is on the list.
    Reply
  • mwituni
    As an existing QNAP user, I don't know how any QNAP NAS's can be seriously considered for any awards, nor why they do so well on reviews They entice buyers with fancy options, but are not interested in developing applications users need.

    SVN (Subversion Source Control) is the most popular and source control software in use, yet QNAP have been promising a proper SVN-server application since 2009, and still not delivered! How can users take them seriously - they're obviously not interested in developing applications the community needs, only the minimum needed to trick buyers into purchasing and evaluators to award prizes. They claim you can install SVN by an outdated method - which is very risky and outdated by a few years, and in my experience does not work at all.

    They have a GIT client, so can claim they "have" source control applications. But no SVN support.
    Their marketing department needs to kick the development team into gear.
    Reply
  • Rop
    Hi guys, i own a 453 Mini and it works great for my needs.
    Wish to know if anyone can explain in better detail about why there are so many reports on the Intel Celeron J1900 accesing more then the 8GB ram that are in the spec sheet for the procesor, as many haave installed 16GB and claim it to be fully accesable and usable. And has anyone actaully tested this to be 100% certain that i can in fact accesss more ram then Intel states?

    Thanks in advance for you contribution.

    Reply