Review: Network Attached Storage: QNAP TS-451A-4G NAS

I recently upgraded my 10 year old ReadyNAS Duo RND2150 to the QNAP TS-451A.

Why?  The primary factors were age, running out of space on my dual 1TB hard disks, declining access speed, and the worry about reliability of my old ReadyNAS Duo.

I was on my 5th hard disk on the ReadyNAS with one drive at 18,000hrs and the second at 10,000hrs.

Backing up the old ReadyNAS was turning into a chore taking over a week to complete on USB1.  My Macbook seemed to be constantly chugging away doing TimeMachine backups.  This is a bigger frustration than it seems because during TimeMachine backups the OSX Mail doesn’t work properly and I can’t send or receive emails.

Finally, OSX and iOS connectivity issues – the ReadyNAS OS development was stagnating as the device was no longer being produced.

This was going to be my 3rd NAS purchase.  Here’s what is important to me:

  1. The NAS had to be EnergyStar and the lowest possible power consumption
  2. It had to be quiet
  3. It had to have gigabit ethernet
  4. It had to be fast
  5. It had to have a good warranty
  6. It had to be compatible with iOS, Linux, OSX, and Windows
  7. I wanted it to be Linux based and customizable

So I talked with some friends about their devices and experiences, researched the various NAS devices, read the online reviews, and then took the plunge.

The following  is my review and comparison of the two NAS’s.

I ended up buying the QNAP TS-451A-4G with two Western Digital RED WD40EFRX 4TB NAS Hard Drives directly from Amazon.ca.  I did my shopping around online and was able to get both items with free shipping.  I could have saved a couple of bucks on the hardware elsewhere but would have had to pay for shipping.  Overall Amazon.ca had the best price…this time!

SURPISE!

So I ordered these items last Tuesday afternoon.  Next morning I was shocked to see Purolator at my door with the NAS in hand.  Amazon didn’t even have the tracking number for me yet!  Double surprise – Canada Post had my hard drives waiting for me that same afternoon.  I was impressed to say the least.

 

Click on the photo to view item at Amazon.com

Here’s the features that appealed to me:
  • 4-bay design                                 [versus 2-bay on my old one]
  • Low power consumption       [System sleep: 0.65W, HDD standby:12.1W, In operation:27W (with 4 x 2TB HDDs)]
  • Very quiet                                       [18.1 dB – I can barely hear it running]
  • Dual gigabit network adapters
  • USB3 ports front and rear
  • Universal card slot for SD cards etc
  • Modern NAS web based interface – I wanted something that would play well with Macs, iOS, Linux and Windows
  • Support Virtualization
  • Seemed to have a decent set of apps at the QNAP App Centre
Nice to have features:
  • HDMI port and IR remote control
  • Compact size
Things I didn’t like on the QNAP TS-451A:
  • All plastic chassis and hard drive sleds
  • Unknown commodity in my experience [I did get some personal recommendations on this particular QNAP device]
  • Warranty only 2 years [versus 3-5 years on the ReadyNAS]

Unpacking, Initial Impressions, and Setup:

I started the hardware install around 2pm.  My initial impressions were that the TS-451A lightweight and plastic.  The hard drive sleds feel cheap and don’t click or lock in nicely when inserted making me wonder if they are properly engaged.  Compared with the all metal construction of my two bay ReadyNAS the  TS-451A is lighter and feels less substantial.

The TS-451A comes with a pair of nice ethernet cables and installing the hardware was easy enough.  On first boot I was pleased with how quiet the TS-451A is.  My ReadyNAS sounds like a mini jet engine when it fires up.

Logging into the web interface was easy and I went through the setup steps and chose RAID1 mirror with encryption.  The hard disks then began to sync and I had to wait half a day for the 4TB HD’s to complete the sync job.  During sync you cannot do anything with the drive i.e. setup or install software.

Gotcha #1

By midnight I checked the web log and it said the sync was complete.  I normally don’t leave any computers running 24/7 so I went and shut it off by pressing the power button on the front.  The next morning I logged in to find that I was locked out from disk access again because now it was syncing the drives again for encryption.  Yuk.  Another half day of syncing here we come.  I should have just left the TS-451A on all night long…

Setting Up

The sync finally completed more than half way through day 2.  I went through all the web menus and set up the apps, users, folders and permissions for the drives the way I wanted them.  QNAP uses some different terminology from the ReadyNAS so setup wasn’t straight forward.  The online help was just ok because I still had to resort to google to figure out nomenclature and what everything in the settings and menus did.  I pity a non-techy person trying to set up a NAS for the first time.  For some reason I find that setting up the ReadyNAS RAID, volumes, and shares to be much simpler and self explainatory.

Gotcha #2

I don’t know if this is a function of the hard disk encryption or not but I found I had to “unlock” the System DataVolume before I could install software or even create shares.  This part was a little confusing because I just expected to be able to start installing software and creating shares after the sync was complete.  Instead of getting some kind of warning or message menus were just greyed out and unresponsive.  Not intuitive and poorly documented IMHO and I had to resort to more “google garbage“.

I then went through the process of transferring 800+ GB of data from the ReadyNAS to the TS-451A.