In the world we are in today, data is everywhere, whether it be a simple photo or song on your phone right up to multi-level databases that run in huge datacentres. Naturally the latter is the last thing that you would be running from home so lets bring everything down to end user level for this review. In the home and also smaller offices, there may be the need to store large amounts of data that more than one person can easily gain access to. In the home this may be your music, video or photo collections whilst in an office you may have small databases, presentations and spreadsheets that more than one person may need to access. Typically the average user would have simply shared the folder from their system for everyone else to access but this does come with its limitations.
Such limitations lead to the need for an option to have everything centralised into a single place and for SOHO (Small Office – Home Office) users having a full blown server deployed onto their network is not always the most economic or financial option available to them. A NAS box however allows for the centralisation of all their data for multiple users along with the multitude of other features that individual units can offer.
As time moves on we have seen that NAS boxes are becoming a more frequent purchase for SOHO users and their flexibility and ease of setup shows why they are becoming more and more popular.
QNAP is a leading brand in the NAS sector with devices ranging from a simple single disk base model right upto rackmount units that are used in enterprise level deployment for large businesses and companies.
With this being our first NAS box review that we have ever done, we spent some time contemplating what was the best way to simplify the testing whilst still giving a comprehensive result on the performance that is on offer. Give us a motherboard, graphics card or memory and we know exactly how we are going to test them, write our review and give our feedback for you, the audience, the make your decision on what to purchase.
After a bit of research we found that there is a NAS box testing solution available from Intel that tests a NAS box in a varying number of ways to simulate different deployment situations. Whilst this won’t test the setup and other features such as web server, iTunes server and a boxes particular features, it will give us a set of data to write our review on based on the disk performance and speed onto the network.
With this all in mind, lets delve straight in and take a look at the QNAP TS-419P II 4 bay NAS.
The front of the box keeps everything nice and simple with a clear shot if the storage box itself and its model to the top left. Under the model name there are a few brief highlights into hte specification of the unit with some software features highlighted to the right.
The back of the box gives an insight into the NAS box features and how this would benefit the end user when deployed onto their network.
On the side of the box we get a complete run down of the NAS box hardware and software specifications.
Inside the box we find a quick installation guide, installation CD and a slip informing us about the free firmware updates that QNAP offers and encourages you to check for updates which may lead to better performance in the future.
Included with the device itself we have the power cord, screws for fixing the hard drives to each of the trays and two CAT 5e Ethernet leads for connecting to your network.
Our first look at the TS-419P II shows us a sleek matt black front with clean and simple layout. On the left hand side of the drives is the power button and a single USB2.0 port with a copy button surrounding it. This port enables you to copy the contents of a flash or small hard drive to the NAS with a one-touch solution.
Above the drive bays we can see the screen portion of the device with the four activity lights to the lower left and to the right of the screen there is an enter and menu select button. We can just see behind the glossy cover the LCD itself which is blue backlit during use.
On the TS-419P II, the drive trays are mounted vertically, with bay one on the left and the fourth to the right. Each of the drives individually latch into positioned and can be removed independent of each other.
On the rear of the NAS box, we find an array of connectivity options including two 10/100/1000 ethernet, two eSATA ports and three USB2.0 ports. Above the eSATA is a reset switch which would require a pin to press in the eventuality that connecting to the device is no longer possible. To the left of the I/O area as an 90mm fan which pulls air in and through the drive bays keeping the disks cool during use.
Looking into the hard drive bay area, we can see the four SATA power and data docks which each of the drives connect to as the trays are locked into position.
Inside the Chassis, there is not a whole lot to it. Above the drive bay area and behind the LCD is a large mostly empty area that allow for cables to pass through from the motherboard to the daughter boards. We can also just see the 90mm fan at the rear which draws air in and through the drive bay area.
Nestled to the right of the NAS box is the motherboard. The TS-419P II is power by a Marvell 2.0GHz CPU core with 512MB of DDR3 RAM. The operating system is loaded onto a 16MB flash IC and can handle upto 12TB of RAW capacity and a SATA II interface.
Each of the drive trays are individually labelled for a simple reminder as to which drive is which. When the trays are inserted into the drive bay, the latch on the front simply clips and locks into place. Removing is as simple as lifting the latch up, which is a firm fit, and then pulling the drive out of the bay.
In general a NAS box is just an external hard drive caddy that is attached to your network rather than by USB or even Firewire. Because of this we can find a whole host of other features and utilities bundled into them giving them the leading edge over the other options available on the market.
|DRAM||512MB DDRIII RAM|
|HDD||4 x 3.5″ SATA II and 4 x 2.5” SATA II HDD/SSD
|HDD Tray||4 x hot-swappable tray|
|LAN Port||2 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port|
|LED Indicators||STATUS, LAN, USB, eSATA, HDD 1, HDD 2, HDD 3, HDD 4|
|USB||4 x USB 2.0 port (Front:1 Back: 3)
Supports USB printer, disk, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS, etc.
|eSATA||2 x eSATA port (Back)|
|Buttons||Power button, USB one-touch-backup button, reset button|
|LCD panel||Mono-LCD display with backlight and buttons for configuration|
|Alarm Buzzer||System warning|
|Dimensions||177(H) x 180(W) x 235(D) mm
6.97(H) x 7.09(W) x 9.25(D) inch
|Weight||Net weight: 3 Kg (6.61 lbs)
Gross weight: 4.6 Kg (10.14 lbs)
|Power Consumption (W)||Sleep mode: 13W
In operation: 26W
(with 4 x 500GB HDD installed)
|35.6 dB/ 36.7 dB|
|Power Supply||External power adaptor,96W, Input: 100-240V|
|Secure Design||K-lock security slot for theft prevention|
|Fan||1 x quiet cooling fan (9 cm, 12V DC)|
|Powerful All-in-one server|
As with each type of network connected device, there is generally a web based admin panel that you connect through to change various settings and configurations on the device. QNAP here have opted to use a flash based portal.
The first page we come to after going to the admin panel is a turbo wizard that gives quick access to the NAS boxes basic setup for users and folders.
Each section in the administration panel is sub divided into more refined groups depending on what area you wish to manage.
Under the disk management is one of the areas that you will end up going to as part of the NAS setup process. From here you can configure your RAID array and also see the status of the drives.
As we mentioned before, a NAS box contains a whole host of server based features, all of which can be configured in another sub section of the admin panel with ease.
When testing a device of this sort, the system that we use to test with is not a major factor in its performance. The performance of the NAS box comes down to the network its running on 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.
To eliminate any bottlenecks that would occur during testing on our gigabit switch, we bridge the LAN connections on one of our test benches and connect the NAS box into the secondary LAN isolating it from the main network and giving it the most bandwidth we can.
The system that we use to run the Intel NASPT software does require us to drop the memory right down to 2GB as any more than this leads to data caching and therefore skews the results from the NAS box.
Following on from this we test the NAS box performance under each of the RAID options that it has available, to show, depending on the end users needs, the relational differences in speed from the drive and thus one can decide which particular RAID configuration will be best for them.
HD Video playback is a read test, where a single 2Gb file is read in 256kB 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.
During the HD playback we found that there was a close balance between all RAID configurations which for a single user is great. Naturally we can see the speed factor aggregation of RAID 0 just taking the llead over JBOD.
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.
When we start to add in the extra clients, JBOD quickly becomes a bottleneck and the multi disk arrays which have the data spread across the multiple disks take the lead. Again here we find that RAID 0 is just under 10MB/s faster than the other array types.
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 upto a simulated 4 media players.
Pushing the number of streams up the array gets faster with speeds now pushing 100MB/s
The HD Video Record test is as the name suggests a write test to the NAS box. A single 2GB file is written to the device in 256kB blocks sequentially to the disk.
When it comes to writing data to the drives, the parity based arrays immediately fall down do to the way data is written to the drives. JBOD and RAID 0 are closely match whilst RAID 1 and 10 follow closely behind.
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.
Mixing the two tests together shows that overall the speed factoring of RAID 0 is the best overall for this type of content, the other arrays still gave a good set of results based on their operations.
For content creation, Intel have simulated access to via video creation applications. This is made up of 98 files with 12MB reads and 14MB 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.
In this test we see a more stark comparison between the parity and non parity drives with RAID 0 coming back as more than twice as fast as RAID 5 and 6.
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 1.4GB 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 1kB writes.
In the office productivity the small file sizes allow the parity based arrays to keep pace with the speed based arrays giving a variation of 10MB/s between RAID 6 and 0 overall.
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 1.4GB file is copied to the drive and written in 64kB blocks.
Similarly to what we found with the content creation test, here the RAID 5 and 6 arrays take a lot longer to write to the drives due to the parity being written at the same time.
File copy from the NAS works in exactly the same way as the copy test, however it works in the opposite direction. The single 1.4GB file is read off the NAS in 64kB blocks.
When reading the single file from the NAS, there is a close set in the data but the speed based arrays naturally pull just in front to give the fastest times.
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 247MB are moved but the file sizes vary considerably with an average size of 41.4kB. Due to the varying sizes of the files, only around 50% of the writes are sequential.
As we can presume by now the parity based drives do suffer slightly here, but the small file sizes do allow them to keep a closer pace with the RAID 0 setup.
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.
When copying the same data set back we found that rather than the RAID 5 or 6 arrays falling just behind, RAID 10 was the slowest. We did run this individual test again a couple of times more then usual just to ensure the data was right.
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.
Finally the photo album with its very small reads gave a very close set of results and shows that in this particular environment with a scenario of constant small reads, any array is near enough good as each other.
As we mentioned right back at the start, this is our first NAS box review that we have done and we therefore don’t have any other items to compare this to. We have found that the Intel NASPT software gives us a good all round set of results which give us what we hope the end user wants to see.
From the go we found the QNAP TS-419P II stylish and therefore would fit into a home environment in particular very well. Installing the drives into the bay was a breeze simply by securing each disk to the tray with four screws, then sliding and locking each one into place. Once the device is plugged in and turned on the system boots itself up and then displays its IP address on the screen, though which you can then connect to it via your internet browser for maintenance and configuration. The management system is very clear and simple to use and this for a novice user would break the ice as looking at the whole host of features listed on the box may look daunting for some.
Performance wise we found that in some tests the NAS box was able to push out as much data as the 1000Mbps could handle which is a good sign showing that there are clearly no issues with the NIC’s handling data without any bottlenecks.
When it comes to suggesting what RAID type to use for the end users needs, it all really comes down to particular circumstances. If you’ve got a mission critical set of data that you need the redundancy factor on the RAID 5 or 6 is your option. If you want a complete running backup of the data then RAID 1 or 10 is the choice or if you’ve got a copy of all the data else where and/or speed is what you are looking for then RAID 0 would be the choice to make but as said it all comes down to the particular case of the end user. In general we would always suggest RAID 5 for redundancy, RAID 10 for the mirrored backup and then RAID 0 for the speed factor.
By now you’ll be wondering how much you’ll be putting aside to purchase one of these. The TS-419P II comes in at £444.98 from Overclockers UK who also sell a pre-assembled box with 8TB of Western Digital Caviar Green drives for £939.98. For anyone who is interested, to purchase the TS-419P II with the same four Seagate Barracuda 3TB drives like we use here to maximise the storage potential, expect to be paying around the £1000-£1100 mark. Whilst this is a large chunk of money to be spending on storage space, we do have to consider that one of these uses far less power than a computer or full blown server running 24/7 and also the simplicity and convenience of such a device more than justifies the reason to purchase.
Overall we have been very impressed with the TS-419P II from QNAP, its ease of use, looks and well placed price in the market make it a desirable option and one to seriously consider. For this reason we are proud to give it our Innovation award.