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QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L 4-Bay NAS Server

QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L 4-Bay NAS Server

March 26, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Product
QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L

4-bay NAS Server
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$590

QNAP has been a leader in the NAS (network attached storage) server market for some time, amassing a catalog of systems of various sizes and capabilities from 24-bay enterprise rackmount units to single bay servers aimed at regular consumers. The term NAS server really doesn't make any sense when you think about it, as all servers function as network attached storage. Generally it's used to describe a server with limited capabilities in a small form factor similar to that of a "dumb" NAS box, that is an external drive enclosure with networking capability and possibly some kind of RAID functionality. In any event, the TS-469L is a midrange offering within QNAP's stable of home and SOHO (small office / home office) NAS servers, a 4-bay RAID device running a dual core Atom D2700 processor, 1GB of regular desktop memory, and a customized version of Linux they call QTS 4.0. Fully assembled and pre-installed with their own operating system, all you do is pop in some drives, turn it on, choose what storage configuration you want to use and you're off to the races.

Recently we reviewed the HP
ProLiant MicroServer Gen8
, which at its core is a small PC with a server board supporting ECC memory, a low power desktop processor, and a drive cage with four hotswappable bays. It's essentially a pre-built server with specialized hardware that gives users a compact, customizable option without going the full DIY route. The Gen8 allows its users to change the CPU, memory, add an expansion card, load the O/S of their choice, and install and configure whatever services and applications that are necessary. The TS-469L is a similar product but has been formed by a completely different philosophy.



The box.



Package contents: NAS server, documentation, support disc, drive tray screws, two ethernet cables, one power cable.



The TS-469L.

The more complicated and faster MicroServer Gen8 starts at around US$450 for the most basic model so one might expect the TS-469L to meet or beat that this price. In reality, it carries a premium, costing about US$590 online due to a couple of factors. The case and probably the motherboard are not OEM parts, but rather specially designed and manufactured in order to keep the dimensions as slim as possible — it's about 40% smaller in volume than the Gen8. The software isn't off-the-shelf either and of course it costs money to pay the developers for ongoing support of the operating system and applications.

This probably doesn't account for the full price discrepancy but also keep in mind that QNAP isn't just selling you a device but also a carefully cultivated UI experience that makes things easier for regular users. It's a valid strategy for this type of device in particular as it doesn't have enough capacity to warrant a dedicated IT department or possibly even a designated system administrator. A testament to its simplicity is the setup process which, depending on the number and capacity of the drives used, can be completed in less than 10 minutes with minimal user interaction after turning it on for the very first time. The key for the TS-469L is software features (too abundant and varied to discuss here) presented in an easily digestible manner complemented with specifically tailored hardware, something that an OEM or DIY system really can't offer. Its capabilities are further fleshed out by QNAP's three-pronged application approach: apps on the server itself, on the desktops/laptops, and on smartphones/tablets.

QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L: Hardware Specifications

(from the product
web page
)
CPU Intel® Atom™ 2.13 GHz Dual-core Processor
DRAM 1GB RAM (Expandable RAM, up to 3GB)

NOTE:

1. The system memory can be increased to 3GB by installing an additional 1GB/2GB SO-DIMM RAM module.

2 .For the information of RAM module installation and compatible NAS models, please refer to the QNAP RAM Module Installation Guide
Flash Memory 512MB DOM


Hard Disk Drive
4 x 3.5” or 2.5” SATA 3Gb/s hard drive or SSD

NOTE:

1. The system is shipped without HDD.

2. For the HDD compatibility list, please visit http://www.qnap.com/en/index.php?sn=3877&lang=en
Hard Disk Tray 4 x Hot-swappable tray
LAN Port 2 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port
LED Indicators Status, LAN, USB, eSATA, Power, HDD 1, HDD 2, HDD 3, HDD 4
USB 2 x USB 3.0 port (Back: 2)

5x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 4)

Support USB printer, pen drive, USB hub, and USB UPS etc.
eSATA 2 x eSATA port (Back)
Buttons System: Power button, USB One-Touch-Backup Button, Reset button
Alarm Buzzer System warning
Form Factor Tower
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 (NAS only) : 3.65 kg (8.04 lbs)

Gross weight (with packing and accessories) : 4.79 kg/10.56 lb
Sound Level (dB) HDD sleep: 13.7 dB

In operation: 22.4 dB

(with 4 x 500GB HDDs installed)
Power Consumption (W) Sleep mode: 25W

In Operation:43W

Power-off (in WOL mode): 1W

(with 4 x 500GB HDD installed)
Temperature 0-40°C
Humidity 5~95% RH non-condensing, wet bulb: 27°C
Power Supply Input: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz, Output: 250W
Secure Design K-lock security slot for theft prevention
VGA Reserved VGA interface for maintenance
Fan 1 x quiet cooling fan (9 cm, 12V DC)

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The QNAP TS-469L's dimensions are 17.7 x 18.0 x 23.5 cm (H x W x D), giving it a total volume of just 7.8 Liters. It weighs 3.65 kg but with all four bays filled with high capacity drives, it balloons to over 6 kg. The enclosure is really nothing special, a simple amalgam of a reasonably well-built steel chassis and a thick plastic bezel.



The back is home to the AC power plug, a small power supply exhaust vent, the 92 mm main fan exhaust and the I/O ports. Video output is offered via both HDMI and VGA but they are for the HD Station feature and diagnostic purposes (command line) respectively. Managing and controlling the NAS is done primarily through a browser from a client machine. Also available are dual RJ45 and eSATA connectors, four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, as well as a Kensington security slot.



The outer shell can be removed via three screws revealing a fairly cramped interior. The mainboard is positioned vertically on the left side and the power supply, a 250W 80 Plus Bronze FlexATX unit manufactured by FSP Group, is located at very top above the drive area.



The TS-469L ships with only 1GB of memory, in the case of our sample, a single DDR3-1333 non-ECC SO-DIMM.



The trace-side of the board is fitted with a mylar sheet to prevent contact with the chassis. Here a flap has been cut out to access a second SO-DIMM slot. Another 1GB or 2GB SO-DIMM can be added.



Visible from the drive area is a passive heatsink cooling the Atom CPU and presumably the chipset as well.



The 92 mm exhaust fan at the back is centered right behind the drives but much of it is blocked by the circuit board with the SATA connectors. Despite this, the NAS ran fairly cool throughout testing even with the fan at its lowest speed.



The drive trays are somewhat flimsy but they fit fairly snugly inside the NAS.



Complimenting the status LEDs at the front are power LEDs for each individual drive. The copy button around the USB port activates an automatic backup of the external device connected to it.

TESTING

Connecting System Configuration:

Server Drive Configurations Tested:

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Testing Procedures

Given the limited customization options of the QNAP TS-469L, our physical testing procedures were brief. First, the system was put through a couple of different load states while system temperatures, power consumption, and noise were recorded. Secondly, we benchmarked the machine using LAN Speed Test, a network benchmark tool configured to transfer 10 successive packets of 1MB, 10MB, and 100MB, back and forth between it and a designated machine on our LAN detailed above. Timed manual file transfers of a batch of 99 files of various sizes totaling 1738MB was also performed. All performance tests were conducted three times each way with the results averaged. All traffic flowed through an unmanaged D-Link gigabit switch. There's nothing special about our network — all our hardware is consumer grade.

SETUP PROCESS

While the TS-469L has both VGA and HDMI ports, these outputs are used for secondary functions rather than for configuring and/or managing the server. Setup is actually designed for headless operation. The process involves installing the drives in the TurboNAS, plugging in the power and ethernet cables, turning it on, and then connecting to it via a different system on the network.



The first step is to download and install the Qfinder application. It scans the network, discovers the server's IP address, and links up with it to begin setup. Quick setup basically only asks you to confirm the date/time and hard drive information, and enter login credentials — the rest is decided for you. We found that using this option when four drives were present automatically set them up in RAID-6 (RAID-5 with an extra parity level on each drive) which may not be ideal.




Manual setup allows you to decide what services and apps are initially installed.




You also get to choose the drive configuration and file system. RAID-6 and RAID-10 are options including to those listed above. During testing, we primarily used four 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs in RAID-5, which incidentally took just under 10 hours to setup. The majority of the time was used to "sync" the array, even though there really was no data to sync yet.




Other than setup, the Qfinder app only allows access to very basic settings and information.
The most useful thing it does bookmark the login page on your browser. If you assign the TurboNAS a static IP address, you will likely will never need Qfinder again.



Once you're logged in through a browser you're presented with a scrollable three page home screen with shortcuts to the control panel, the app center, and a few of the stock apps. Additional apps will show up here automatically just like on most smartphones and tablets. At the bottom are links to both mobile and desktop applications that can interact with the TurboNAS.




The icon on the bottom right slides open a handy resource monitor.

SOFTWARE: NAS APPLICATIONS

The NAS has its own set of apps, with the stock ones including a variety of servers including iTunes and DLNA, an antivirus program, and HD Station which allows a few select PC applications to be installed and run via the HDMI port.



Stock NAS apps.



App Center. At time of writing there were a total of 112 apps available to download, broken down into 11 different categories. Home users will appreciate apps for some well-known services including Google Drive, Crash Plan, BittorentSync, Plex Media Server, PS3 Media Server, and Apple's AirPlay protocol.




In an age where everyone's devices are connected, the TS-469L of course offers a remote access option in the form of myQNAPcloud. Not only can you access your files with this feature, it has a VPN option, and the ability to backup to some cloud storage services including Amazon S3.




More sophisticated users can use Backup Station to sync the TurboNAS with their own remote host.






Built-in torrent capability is included via Download Station, which resembles a simplified version of the original BitTorrent client. One notable bonus feature is a search engine which scans many of the top torrent sites for results. If newsgroups are your thing, there are a couple of newsreader apps available for download: SABnzbd+ and NZBGet.

SOFTWARE: MOBILE APPLICATIONS

QNAP's library of mobile apps is short and limited iOS and Android only.



Current selection of mobile applications.






The Qfile app gives users the ability to access files on the NAS remotely and push media to connected DLNA devices. Though we were using the Android version, the UI is noticeably Apple-like.




The TS-469L's coolest feature is its HD Station app which lets users install a QNAP-compatible version of Chrome, YouTube, and most notably, XBMC. These programs output via the HDMI port and can be controlled via USB mouse/keyboard, MCE remote, or via the mobile Qremote app. Qremote's top controls toggle between the app selector, classic remote interface, mouse, and keyboard. The mouse is somewhat hard to use on a mobile device; if your finger lingers for too long at the end of a swipe, it detects it as a tap and triggers the left mouse button.



Due to screen limitations, the remote interface is split up into two sections. The controls are pretty self explanatory.




The XBMC experience mirrors that on the desktop and it managed to play full 1080p x264-encoded MKVs with DTS audio and subtitles without any stuttering. YouTube also ran fine in HD resolutions. Chrome worked well, including extensions, but Flash video, even in low definition, slowed things to a crawl.

SOFTWARE: DESKTOP APPLICATIONS

In addition to the NAS and mobile apps, there are desktop programs as well designed to work from the client machines connected to the TS-469L. Windows is supported by all of them, while OS X and Linux compatibility is more limited.



Available desktop apps.




One thing the TurboNAS is incapable of doing is backing up local machines across the network itself automatically. The NetBak Replicator application fills this void but has to be installed on every system that needs to be backed up. Entire drives or specific folders/files can backed up on a schedule or instantly on demand.






QNAP also has a Dropbox like feature in Qsync. You specify a local folder for it to monitor and it syncs it on-the-fly, only instead of going to a cloud service, it dumps it onto the NAS. These files are not placed in common shared folders for everyone to see however, they can be accessed via the File Station application on the TurboNAS.

SOFTWARE: CONTROL PANEL

While the TS-469L runs QTS 4.0, QNAP's take on on Linux for NAS, so managing it is a much different experience than running a desktop distribution. Its capabilities are boiled down into a relatively simple interface that's more similar to a router than full-fledged PC. Here we present a brief run-down of the some of the available options.



All the stock menus items in the control panel.




General settings.




Storage manager.




Network settings.



Notification settings. Error and warning messages can be received both via email and text message.




Network services menu, Win/Mac/NFS settings.




Network recycle bin settings.

SOFTWARE: CONTROL PANEL ( CON'T)



System status menu, hardware information.




Another resource monitor can be found here as well.



Hardware settings.




Smart fan settings. The fan has three speeds (low, medium, and high) that it uses and three different modes for control: fully automatic, dynamic basic on system temperature, or static (non-reactive).




On full manual mode all three speeds are allowed but you can't turn it off.

FAN CONTROL & NOISE

Noise Level ([email protected])
Fan Speed Setting (drive configuration)
SPL @1m
Low (SSD)
26 dBA
Low (4 x 4 HDD)
28 dBA
Medium (SSD)
31~32 dBA
High (SSD)
35 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of enclosure.

Microservers are rarely quiet and the TS-469L is no exception. The TurboNAS running with just a single SSD (to take drive noise out of the equation) measured 26 [email protected] with the fan on low speed, 31~32 [email protected] on medium, and 35 [email protected] on high. Compared to a typical quiet PC build, it's fairly loud but for this type of device, it's about average. However, with the fan on low speed, the overall SPL only increased by 2 dB when we loaded it with four Seagate NAS HDDs. This indicates that the drives were about as noisy as the fan on its own, so while we wouldn't mind if the lowest fan speed was slower, it wasn't so loud as to drown out the hard drives.

The TurboNAS' fan had a higher pitch than most, giving it a moderately whiny character, and it also had a hollow quality when the system was empty. The overall effect is best described as comparable to a loud 7200 RPM hard drive from a few years back before the WD Green and other eco-conscious drives started to appear on the market. Though louder, it actually sounded more pleasant after being filled up with drives. The chassis also seemed to handle vibration well as only modest reverberations could be felt on the exterior of the enclosure. However, like any other device with four hard drives inside, we'd much prefer it reside under the desk or in a closet somewhere rather than directly in our work area.

THERMALS & POWER

System Measurements
(4 x Seagate NAS HDD 4TB)
System State
Idle
H.264 Playback (XBMC)
CPU Temp
36°C
39°C
SYS Temp
33°C
HD Temp #1
30°C
HD Temp #2
30°C
HD Temp #3
30°C
HD Temp #4
30°C
System Power (AC)
40W
44W
28 dBA
Ambient temperature: 20°C.

Given its technical limitations there wasn't really a whole lot we could do to stress the TS-469L. In its stock condition the most demanding tasks are replicating/syncing files and using XBMC. The TurboNAS' low fan speed was more than sufficient to keep the internals cool when idle and playing media only increased the power consumption from a modest 40W to 44W and the CPU heated up by an additional 3°C while and the system and hard drive temperatures remained unchanged. Given these results, unless the TS-469L is placed in a particularly hot environment, the medium and high fan speed settings are likely unnecessary.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY COMPARISON

While the TS-469L uses an older generation of Atom processor, its energy efficiency was still pretty solid. With a single SSD installed, it idled at 15W and video playback with XBMC brought that number up to 19W. This puts in on par with the Supermicro 5018A-FTN4 rackmount server, though its Atom C2758 SoC has a higher 20W TDP. The results for the LGX AG150 and NUC DC3217BY, a pair of non-server nettops, demonstrate the power consumption benefits of using more recent processor technology and external DC power bricks that are generally more efficient at these lower levels.

NETWORK PERFORMANCE

For our network performance tests, we pitted TS-469L against a couple of recent desktop motherboards (one LGA1150, one FM2+) and the HP MicroServer Gen8, in both synthetic and real world file transfer tests. All the systems compared were tested with the fastest SSD we had on hand, the Samsung 840 Pro, to prevent any drive bottlenecking, and the TurboNAS was tested in one additional configuration: with four 4TB Seagate NAS HDDs running in RAID-5.

According to LAN Speed Test, the desktop motherboards with Atheros and Intel based network controllers reigned supreme. The MicroServer Gen8 benched better than the TS-469L with 1MB packets, particularly in reads, but QNAP pulled ahead with 10MB and 100MB packets, despite a performance downturn for all the systems involved. The RAID-5 configuration in the TS-469L was the slowest of the bunch by not by much.

Also keep in mind there are other variables that may play an effect in these results — the drive controller and operating system (the Gen8 was tested using Windows Server 2012, and the desktop boards with plain old Windows 7).

All the systems achieved better results with our real world transfer test. The FM2A88X-ITX+ came close to reaching 100 MB/s (the theoretical maximum for gigabit ethernet is 125 MB/s). As for relative performance compared to the LAN Speed Test results, only the SSD-equipped QNAP showed real improvement, pushing up to second place, well ahead of the MicroServer Gen8.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR's
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn't hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn't record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 second segments of room ambiance, then the fan/device
at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that
the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume
setting again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L delivers everything you would expect out of a 4-bay NAS server and much much more. All the common forms of RAID are supported as well as JBOD and single disk configuration if your prefer capacity over redundancy. It's armed with plenty of backup, replication, and sync options, as well as monitoring and alert features to let you know the instant anything goes wrong. It's not just a local device either as a host of services allow it to function as a capable server to the outside world. A host of NAS, mobile, and desktop applications provided by QNAP brings additional versatility to its already solid native functionality, and as this software library grows and matures, the TS-469L can only get better. While there's a lot of capability under the hood, less knowledgeable users will feel right at home as it's a snap to set up and the Linux-based operating system GUI is easy to navigate and no more complicated than a typical network router.

Typically these types of servers are run headless but the HD Station feature gives it some formidable media capability. You can install Chrome, YouTube, and XBMC, pipe it out through the HDMI port and control it with a keyboard/mouse, an MCE remote control, or an Android/iOS based smartphone or tablet. XBMC in particular, is a killer app that supports a wide array of video formats and presents it with a polished UI. Any server can act as the back-end for a media library but this TurboNAS can act as a front-end, outputting and controlling video directly. It also has applications for downloading content via BitTorrent or newsgroups, making the TS-469L an adequate HTPC alternative. If you already have a streaming/playback device, it complements it with DLNA support and apps for Plex media server, PS3 media server, and Airplay

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the TS-469L is how well it works despite the relatively slow and antiquated hardware inside. The Atom D2700 CPU is two and half years old and is now discontinued, and the system ships with only 1GB of RAM (upgradeable to 3GB). All of the NAS features we tested worked without any hiccups or noticeable lag. Even video playback of 1080p content with DTS audio rendered smoothly without dropping any frames, apparently using the D2700's integrated GMA 3600 GPU for hardware acceleration. The only performance problem we encountered was Flash video playback in Chrome being choppy, even at low resolutions, but due to the poorly optimized nature of Flash, there's really no way around this without more CPU processing power.

The QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L is essentially for people who don't want a server but need one. It combines the simplicity and compactness of a 4-bay NAS with many of the capabilities found in a full-fledged server and doubles as a HTPC as well. This hybrid design gives less sophisticated users much of the same functionality with fewer headaches. The line it walks unfortunately also makes it hard for us to judge whether the US$590 asking price, without any drives, is a fair one. What we can say is that our experience with TS-469L was pleasant and refreshingly easy compared to server systems we've dealt with in the past. It's almost perfectly-suited for its purpose and would be a welcome addition to any home or small business environment.

Our thanks to QNAP
for the TurboNAS TS-469L sample.



QNAP TurboNAS TS-469L
receives the SPCR Editor's Choice Award

* * *

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* * *

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