Today I’m taking a look at one of QNAP’s bestsellers, the TurboStation TS-453 Pro NAS. The TS-453 Pro isn’t just an ordinary NAS and it is one that can carry the Pro label with pride. It is a powerful, reliable and scalable NAS for SMBs and power users alike.
Built around the Intel Celeron 2.0GHz quad-core processor with a burst speed of up to 2.41GHz, we know that the TS453 Pro won’t limit it on the CPU side. There is plenty of performance at its disposal to run a lot of simultaneous apps, features and functions without the risk of slow-downs or bottlenecks.
RAM wise QNAP offers two versions, the standard one with 2GB that should be sufficient for most users but also a model that comes factory equipped with 8GB RAM in two 4GB modules and that is the one that I’m having a look at today. Users can also upgrade and switch memory modules themselves and it’s as simple as sliding the top cover off.
QNAP built the TS-453 Pro with an internal power supply, a thing that has ups and down depending on how you look at it. The internal PSU allows for better distribution of the power as well as run optimized with better efficiency, whereas the external power brick seen in other devices helps when something breaks since you can replace it with a universal brick that has the right power output from your local electronics store. Since we’re dealing with a pro model from QNAP, you shouldn’t expect any failures here, but it’s still something to consider when purchasing your network storage.
Since we’re dealing with a pro model from QNAP, you shouldn’t expect any failures here, but it’s still something to consider when purchasing your network storage.
Quad-Gigabit Ethernet allows you to set up both fast and redundant connections, connect the NAS to multiple subnets at the same time, or use some of them for virtual servers. Two USB 2.0 and three USB 3.0 ports allow you to connect external storage just as peripherals like keyboard and mouse when using it at an HTPC.
You can easily expand the storage capacity when your needs grow with the UX-800P and UX-500P external enclosures. They can provide a lot more capacity with additional 8 and 5 drive bays respectively.
Thanks to the HDMI port and the ability to connect mouse and keyboard to the device as well as QNAPs awesome QvPC technology, this unit doesn’t just work as an NAS. It also allows you to to run any system from Android to Windows via the Virtualization system and use it directly as HTPC with built-in apps such as Kodi, XMBC, and Browsers.
A relative new feature on QNAP’s NAS devices is the myQNAPcloud quick setup that allows you to set up your new device in a much more convenient way. It requires the device to be connected, but other than that you just need to either scan the QR-Code or navigate to the mentioned URL in and enter your code manually. Follow a few steps and enter your details and the system is ready to use.
There’s also a sticker on the top that will help you identify what drive bay is which so you easier know what bay the operating system is referring too. This and the quick-setup are both things that you primarily need when first connecting it, so you can remove the stickers once done – or leave them for later convenience.
Security is always an important factor to consider, after all the device will store all your precious data. QNAP added locks to all four drive bays to prevent sticky fingers from running away with the drives thanks to them being so easily swappable and you find an option for a Kensington Lock on the rear of the unit.
The TS-453 Pro provides numerous security options, such as encrypted access, IP blocking, and more. It has also been validated with military-level FIPS 140-2 AES 256-bit encryption so people won’t be able to access your actual data even though they should get hands on your drives. Antivirus is also part of the deal so you don’t get nasty small buggers nesting in your data.
Intrusion and theft are just one part of security, but QNAP has it all covered. You find plenty of options for local and remote backup of your files, both privately and to the public cloud. You can also synchronize and backup your files across all sorts of platforms, from smartphones to workstations and servers.
The display on the front allows you to easily get an overview of the device’s status, temperatures, fan speeds and important information such as network settings and configurations.
The units weight is about 4 kilo and that will make it stand great and secure on the 4 large feet that are fitted with rubber to absorb additional vibrations from either side.
A pro-model also requires great drive trays, and QNAP doesn’t disappoint here either. The four drive trays are made from solid steel with a plastic front. They are individually lockable for added security and to prevent you from accidentally ejecting them. the latches have no spring inside as sometimes seen on drive trays, but whether that’s a good or bad thing is really down to everyone’s personal taste.
Included in the package is everything you need to get started. The proper power cable for your geographical location, two LAN cables, two keys for the drive bays, and 16 screws to mount either 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives. There’s also a small ‘getting started’ guide to help you get going with everything and if it should be your first NAS.
The QvPC technology previously mentioned allows you to use your NAS as much more than just a central storage location, you can run virtual systems such as Windows, Linux, Unix, and Android, directly access all aspects of your NAS’ configuration, use it as a HTPC to watch movies, stream music, and surf the internet.
The Hybrid Station makes it all possible and you’ll get familiar interfaces from Firefox and Chrome, over XMBC to YouTube and Spotify. You can also monitor your security cameras in live feeds and connect your IoT devices.
This unit is so much more than NAS, it’s something that has to be experienced first hand to fully grasp the amount of possibilities you have.
Next to all these advanced functions, QNAP’s TS-453 Pro also covers all the basic functions such as FTP, Web, Radius, VPN, and Print servers, but also real-time and offline HD file transcoding and you can control the HybridDesk Station with the optional remote control. Streaming to media players and devices is also supported and so much more. It’s hard to cover every single aspect of such a unit.
It’s hard to cover every single aspect of such a unit, you can keep exploring new apps and find new uses for it for months.
A closer look inside
Upgrading the memory in the QNAP TS-453 Pro is a piece of cake. All you have to do is losen a few screws and slide the cover back. It will expose the two RAM slots on the side and it’s just about removing the old and adding now. There isn’t really a reason to do it here as we already have 8GB at our disposal.
But I am not stopping here, I’m taking it all apart to show you what is inside. A word of warning to anyone who attempts the same, it isn’t an easy task with this unit and you will void your warranty. I can also note that the front panel needs to be removed before you try to pull the mainboard out, it is secured with an extra screw at the front.
The front display setup is very simple, but it does a remarkable job and works as it should We see a beautiful created PCB that is mounted properly inside the enclosure.
The motherboard looks pretty much like any other NAS board that we’ve seen in other reviews. Ports at the front and back, a PCIe slot for the SATA bridge connection and some chips here and there. What else could it be, it’s a computer board.
The rear of the motherboard isn’t very spectacular and doesn’t hold much more than the memory modules. There are a few chips present and among them are the two Intel WGI210AT chips for the Gigabit Ethernet ports.
The top side of the motherboard is a little more interesting and covered with a lot more. To the top right we see the 512MB Flash module that uses Toshiba NAND for the QTS system and the rest is equally distributed around the processor that is passively cooled.
There are two more Intel WGI210AT chips located next to the LAN ports, a Genesys Logic GL3522 USB 3.1 compliant 4-port hub controller, an ASMedia ASM1442 HDMI IC, a Fintek F71869AD Hardware monitor chip, and two PLX Technology PEX 8603 that each offers 3 PCI Express Gen 2 (5.0 GT/s) lanes.
The power supply is built in and has its own little 40mm fan as well as plenty of connection to individually power all the components. No bottlenecks anywhere due to this.
The PSU is made by FSP Group that is known for their great power supplies. This one also comes with an official 80 Plus Bronze certification and can deliver a total of 250W, more than enough for a system like this, even when packed with the most power-hungry drives.
The two memory modules used come from the house of Transcend and each have 4GB capacity and a speed of 1600MHz.
The drive bridge is a little piece of art itself. It has several capacitors on the back to make sure your drives get the best and stable power. It also has two Marvell 88SE9215 SATA to PCIe controller directly on the board.
System Specifications, Features & Power Consumption
QNAP’s QTS operating system has come a long way since its start and we get the familiar and customizeable dashboard that gives us everything we need right there.
The chart contains the actual power consumption measured at the PSU connection and while loaded with a maximum amount of drives. Peak, or maximum, power draw will occur during boot times.
Setup – Initialization & Storage
There are multiple ways that you can initialize the units. I’ve previously mentioned the myQNAPcloud setup, but in this case I’ll use the old-fashioned Qfinder windows application. It will quickly detect all connected QNAP NAS on our network and allows us to configure and set them up.
The Qfinder will automatically detect whether a new firmware is available and prompt you to update your device. It is highly recommended to do so and it won’t take long.
A new firmware doesn’t just plug possible security holes and fixes bugs, it usually also adds a bunch of new features and functionality to your device. So do yourself the favor and update your NAS just as you should any other device on your network.
Once we’re through with the update and the unit has rebooted, we’ll be prompted with the actual setup.
We have two options how to initialize the unit, for home or business use. The difference is in what applications and features will be installed by default during the initialization and it can all be changed later. So no worries whether you pick the right or not.
The Home setup focuses more on media and sharing where the business setup focuses on performance.
There aren’t many steps to do to get through the initialization, but the unit does need a few information such as unit name, password and disk configuration.
The unit will also need a basic network configuration to allows you to access the administration panel once the initialization is done. In most cases you’ll just leave this on DHCP and let your router manage it.
Finally, it will give you summary of the settings before you apply it and the unit starts to set up both the system and your disk
Go get yourself a cup of coffee, do your dishes or just take a breather for about 20 minutes depending on your disk configuration and the unit will create your setup.
The setup wizard will also give the ability to get more utilities to install on your system before you close the wizard. This is basically just an easy hotlink to their webpage, but it’s convienient.
Login and Web Interface
I quite like the default web interface, maybe it is because I’ve seen it so many times and it feels like coming home. You don’t need to worry if you shouldn’t like it as you can customize and change its appearance once logged in.
Use the administrator details you generated during the initialization and login and you’ll be presented with a Quick Start guide that will explain the basics on how QTS works. You can just close the window if you already know this.
If you changed your mind about your disk configuration and want to redo it, that’s a piece of pie while you still have lot of options to customize it.
You can’t just create and change you configuration, you can also check up on your individual drives and locate their physical location.
The Storage Pools page isn’t really needed for most people as the Volumes does both, but it does allow for more customized setup for power users and enterprises where everything has to work together.
QNAP NAS servers can also use SSDs for caching purposes to heavily speed up operations and access to your hot files. It will however take away drive bays from your storage HDDs, so whether to use this or not is really up to you.
The Volumes page is the one we’ll be using to create our new disk array. I’ve randomly decided that I want to change it to a RAID 10 setup and that’s done in a few easy steps where the first of course is to remove the old storage pool.
Creating a new Volume is real easy and you only need to select a few things over a four page tuturial.
You need to select the drives you want to use in the volume and which raid type you’ll be using.
Depending on your pool choice, you’ll also need to define how much of the pool you’ll want to use for this volume. You can also enable full volume encryption and create an extra shared folder if you want to.
You’ll get one last view at your settings before you apply them by hitting the Finish button.
The NAS will create the pool and volume and you can follow the process on the screen until it’s Ready.
Setup – Users, Services & Backup
An NAS is no good without users, so we need to create those too. You should only use the admin user for administration purposes and create yourself a normal user too. But ultimately, how you create your setup is your choice, this is just one way to do it.
You can do a lot more than just give the new user a name, you can also set a description, email and optionally send out an email that the user was created, but also shared folder permissions and applications that user is allowed to access.
User groups make it easier to both keep control of your users as well as what they have access to. You can quickly add or remove rights for a whole list of users at once and I highly recommend taking advantage of this feature if more than just a couple of people have access to the NAS.
Creating new users groups only takes a few information, actually the only information needed is the name. But you can also add shared folder rights and users right away from the already created.
When initializing the NAS, a group of default folders are generated to be used with the build-in functions, but that doesn’t mean that these are enough for you. You can create pretty much unlimited folders and share them with just the users and groups you want.
You can add a description when creating your shared folder, helping you to keep an overview on what is destined for what.
You got a list of advanced settings when creating a new shared folder from guest rights to how the NAS should tret the folder. Media folders for example get automatic thumbnail creating.
Setup – There is more, Add-Ons & External Devices
By now there are too many QNAP apps available that increase the functionality of the NAS, that it’s impossible to list them all. This is just a small part of the available apps.
HTPC with XMBC, Kodi, Chrome, FireFox, YouTube, Spotify, Surveillance Station and QTS Management, TuneInRadio, Clementine, DeaDBeeF, and even games such as OpenTTD, Supertux, and Wesnoth.
All it takes to install it is hitting opening up the menu and pressing confirm after having unselected the features you don’t want. It will download and install all the apps one after another and after a short wait you’ll be ready to enjoy your NAS’ power directly on your TV or HDMI enabled monitor.
Once everything is installed, you’re ready to go. You can disable and uninstall individual parts at any time, should you not need them or fear a conflict with another app.
If you’re logged into the dashboard while connecting a USB device, the QTS system will prompt you with a popup how to handle the drive, much like the autorun question you’re used to on your Windows based system. You can also check on devices at the top of the dashboard at any time.
For more information about connected drives, visit the External Device page where you can control storage, printers, and UPS devices.
QvPC – A NAS with PC features and VM
QNAP is adding HDMI out to more and more of their NAS units and it gives us some additinal options that are amazing, one of them simply using the NAS directly on a connected monitor or TV. Just connect the HDMI cable and attach a keyboard and mouse and you’re ready to go. You can optionally also get a remote control to work with select units – like this one.
Using this feature requires the HybridDesk Station that we’ve enabled on the last page and it will give access to all the apps that we just installed.
Turning on the monitor reveals a login prompt, the system is ready for us and that is left to do is to chose my user and enter my password.
The dashboard looks very simple and it has to. You have to be able to find what you need easily and quickly, and you can.
The feature that probably will be the most liked and used is the HD Player with XMBC or the new Kodi media players. You can access all your media directly from the NAS in a convieninent fashion.
A YouTube app is also present, allowing you to quickly find your favorite song when in the mood. No need to listen to it on bad mobile phone speakers or the laptop.
With both FireFox and Chrome at your disposal, web browsing will be just as convienient as on your PC. Log in, sync your bookmarks, and surf on.
It isn’t jsut work and media as QNAP also added several games. Among them the legendary Transport Tycoon Deluxe in its free and open version, OpenTTD. A classic and very addictive game, playable directly on your NAS.
But hold on, that isn’t all you get – there is so much more. QNAP’s QvPC technology and their VM Station allow you to install any operating system in a VM directly on your NAS. Want Linux, Unix, Windows, or even Android. Not a problem.
All of this is fun, but let us see how it deal with a normal version of Windows 7. I will be creating a VM from scratch and attempt to install Windows from an ISO file I grabbed from my DVD.
As with everything on this NAS, you can also do all this directly through your browser. Just launch the Virtualization Station and follow the onscreen instructions.
The NAS will first check if you have the proper requirements in order before launching.
First time you launch it, you’ll need to provide a couple basic information what hardware it may use and where it should store its files.
I’ve created a separate share for my VMs and I’ve placed my ISO file inside that folder already.
You need a free network interface for it to work, so in case you have them all assigned as I had here from my previous tests of the functions, you’ll need to free one of them. This NAS has four LAN ports, so there is plenty to chose from.
It is also best to pick one that has a cable connected. If it doesn’t have that, you won’t see a transfer speed and the link icon is greyed.
Once those two steps are completed, the Virtualization Station is ready for you.
We’re greeted with a familiar looking interface that blends right in with the rest of the QTS and it really couldn’t be any simpler.
Let us create a new VM for a Windows 7 installation. Enter a password if you wish, it’s recommended, and select the ISO file you want to use.
You’ll also need to tell it what connected USB devices to be allowed access to.
Now all that’s left to do is to start the VM and see what happens.
I’m greeted with the well-known Windows start-up animation as I should be.
The setup launches and works as it does directly from the DVD, only it’s not running on your PC and optical drive, it’s a virtual machine running directly on your NAS.
Getting through the setup was a piece of cake and there were no troubles at all.
I was a bit worried, or rather I was wondering, how the NAS would handle the reboot during installation. We all know the situation where we’ve changed the boot-order to install, only to miss to change it again and having it restart with a fresh boot from the optical drive instead of the fresh install.
There was no noticeable difference in installing Windows on this VM compared to a normal PC, except the given slight display lag due to the network transfer and embedding in the browser. Anyone who ever used TeamViewer or similar tools for remote connections will know what I mean.
No problems what so ever. Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit is running, the network connection is established and I can start with the security updates and install the software I want to now.
This is VM for everyone. If you can read and follow instructions, you can install this too.
- Supermicro C7Z97-OCE
- Intel Xeon E3-1230Lv3
- Exceleram EP3001A 2GB PC3-10666
- Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
- Sapphire R7 240 2GB
Disks in Product:
We would like to thank our sponsors for supplying us with the components needed for the test system as well as drives.
The performance of the system we use to test with isn’t a major factor when testing a device of this sort. The performance of the NAS box comes down to the network it is running on, the protocol used to connect, and its own internal hardware.
With a device of this sort having so many different applications, Intel’s NASPT software covers all the bases and also gives us a set of results that we will be able to utilise and therefore give a benchmark against other similar systems in the future.
Intel NASPT (Network Attached Storage Performance Toolkit) performs its test by transferring varying sizes and quantities of data to and from the device based on twelve different scenarios.
As part of the testing, the NAS is connected through a Netgear GS724TPS managed Gigabit switch and then to our test bench to give the best real world setup test that we can and the NAS itself will be packed with Western Digital’s latest RED NAS drives. Intel’s NASPT software does require us to drop the memory down to 2GB, as using any more would lead to data caching and therefore skew the results.
I will be testing the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available as well just a single drive. The USB 3.0 speeds will be measured with our trusted Angelbird SSD2go Pocket drive.
HD Video Playback
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2 Gb file is read in 256 kB blocks sequentially from the drive. This simulates where a 720p HD video is being watched across the network to a media player on the other end.
2x HD Video Playback
2x HD Video Playback works with exactly the same data set as the first HD Video test, however this time the same content is streamed twice from the NAS box simulating two simultaneous streams being made to external media players.
4x HD Video Playback
In the same way that the 2x Video Playback streams to the equivalent of 2 external media players at the same time, the test here doubles that again up to a simulated 4 media players.
HD Video Record
The HD Video Record test is as the name suggests a write test to the NAS box. A single 2 GB file is written to the device in 256 kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
HD Playback & Record
The HD playback and record test now put the drive under the same single record and playback tests as before, but now at the same time. This will factor for the quick changes needed to switch between reading and writing two large blocks of data across the network to the device.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12 MB reads and 14 MB writes in varying sizes of blocks. The activity is predominantly non-sequential with the majority of access time made up of writing to the drives. There are quiet periods of read/write activity interrupted with busy periods to present a difficult workload on the drives.
The office productivity simulation is very similar to the content creation, with a total of 607 files written to and read from the drive. A total of 1.4 GB of data is written to and read from the drive with a close balance between each made – the majority of write access is made up of 1 kB writes.
File Copy To NAS
This test quite simply put copies a single large file from the test system to the NAS box to show how well the system can sustain a single write speed. The 1.4 GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64 kB blocks.
File Copy From NAS
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, however it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4 GB file is read off the NAS in 64 kB blocks.
Directory Copy To NAS
In the directory copy to NAS test, a directory tree representing that of a typical commercially available office suite is copied to the NAS to trace the bulk copy of a complex directory. A total of 2833 files making up 247 MB are moved, but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4 kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
Directory Copy From NAS
In the same way that the file copy from NAS traces the same file back across to the test system, the directory copy from NAS does exactly the same but to the entire directory that it copied across previously.
Last of all is a test based around a photo album. When a photo album is viewed on-screen, only the images that you see are loaded from the drive and so when you scroll through the album, the new images have to be fetched and read. The album here contains 169 photos with varying file sizes based on the size, quality and detail in the image. Reading the files in a photo album puts an unusual read load upon the drive as the metadata is read, a thumbnail constructed and finally the image viewed.
Complete Benchmark: Average Throughput
Intel NASPT provides a summary at the end of each benchmark, included in this is the average throughput from all the previous test as one number. This is a pretty good overall view of a device and as such I’ve started to included this as well. The numbers below are the average of the previous 12 tests.
As mentioned previously in the review, security is an ever growing concern and encryption is a great step to achieve this. As such I will be including a comparison between an encrypted drive and a normal single drive for a basic comparison and to show if and how it will impact on your performance.
Our benchmarks are real-world test and will variate a little. We see above that encryption doesn’t have any real impact on our performance and some of the tests even showed better stats with encryption than without. This can be attributed to normal statistic anomalies and I think it’s fair to say that encryption doesn’t have any real performance impact on this NAS.
The QNAP Turbo NAS TS-453 Pro has shown that it’s a powerhouse and such a performance will cost a premium. You can pick up one of these great NAS units at NewEgg for $680. I found plenty of the 2GB RAM models in the UK, but few with 8GB. Amazon does have it for £539.27 and German readers can find deals starting at 618.95 through Geizhals.
Where do I start, there is so much to tell about QNAP’s TS-453 Pro NAS. Let us just start with the design. We get a conventional looking NAS that easily blends into the surroundings while still giving you a quick view and access to all the relevant information and parts. It is a solidly built unit from the hardware and parts inside to the enclosure itself. It isn’t light and when packed with four drives it will stand firmly and secure on the four large feet, even on angled surfaces.
Having a quad-core 2GHz processor gives us a wide array of flexibility on what and how much we want to run. No enthusiast or SMB should run into any sort of throttling due to CPU limitations and coupled with the support for hardware encryption and media encoding you have all the power you need. The 8GB RAM in this model also help a lot when running VMs, databases, and other memory-hungry apps.
All that power has to go somewhere and the TS-453 Pro channels that into a great drive performance coupled with four LAN ports to give plenty of bandwidth for a lot of simultaneous users.
There are plenty of security features to go along with it, starting with physical locks. But the software part is also covered well with backup solutions for local, remote, and cloud backups. File syncing, Antivirus, and military grade encryption is also available on the TS-453 Pro.
The simple but beautiful design also embeds a display for easy information access and settings. The one-touch copy button eases regular backup processes and it comes with more apps available than you probably ever will need. The only thing I feel is missing a little bit on a unit like this is the eSATA, but QNAP opted for USB 3.0 for their expansion enclosures and that’s not bad either.
- Great performance
- HTPC and Virtualization Station
- Quad-core CPU and 8GB RAM
- 4 LAN ports
- USB 3.0 scaleable
- 80Plus Bronze certified PSU
- Land of plenty when it comes to apps
- no eSATA
“QNAP’s TS-453 Pro is probably one of the nicest and well rounded NAS units on the market. You get plenty of performance, massive amount of options and can save yourself the HTPC altogether. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s worth every penny.”
Thanks to QNAP for providing us with this review sample.