Here at DigitalReviews.net we have been reviewing NAS storage units for about a decade, from very simple one or two bay units to enterprise level rack monsters.
Nothing much surprises us anymore in that field. Except when QNAP announced its NASbook.
This is a form factor that will attract many new users and one of the reasons for its anticipated success will have nothing to do with QNAP but the type of SSDs used in this unit.
We elected to equip them with 4 M2 SSDs from ADATA, a great combination.
Let’s see what this is all about.
You might recall the TS-453A from the QNAP stable which we reviewed a few months ago. A fully featured NAS with an interesting native application to cater for karaoke aficionados. It had a built-in soundcard and provision to plug in two microphones.
Well, it is not surprising that having nearly the same model number that this TBS-453A might also have the same feature set and performance levels as the TS-453A. The only main difference is that this unit is only less than an inch high! Or to be precise: 25 x 230 x 165 mm
Now those dimensions are very similar to your average book, hence the name NASbook. And being this small it is eminently portable. It is aimed at mainly two markets: home use and for office meetings where everyone can have access to the same data and multimedia applications.
Its dual HDMI output and 4K H.264 video display & transcoding abilities allows it to shine for any presentation setup. Ideal is also that for extra portability it has a wide range 10V ~ 20V DC power input.
Also, rather than carrying a laptop or PC to the meeting, the QvPC technology allows you to have PC-like experience when you plug in a monitor and keyboard/mouse.
The quad-core Intel 1.6GHz processor is quite adequate for just about everything it needs to crunch on the fly and a built-in 4-port network switch allows shared network access with multiple users regardless of being powered on or off.
ADATA M2 SSDs
Thanks to ADATA we were able to equip the NASbook with an optimal configuration of 4 M2 SSDs of 480GB each. These SP550 SATA 6GB/s drives are reasonable good value at around 200 bucks each.
The NASbook can handle various sizes of M2 drives, up to 22 x 80 x 3.5mm. Hence the 2280 size These lightweight compact drives are ideal for notebooks and ultrabooks. And they have low power needs. In addition, the ADATA drives have Device Sleep technology for even greater power efficiency.
The Premier SP550 M.2 range support RAID Engine and Data Shaping for better protection and have Intelligent SLC Caching and DRAM Cache Buffers. All that techno talk just means that it will boost read/write performance quite nicely.
Performance is great but a bit limited by the fact that they are built to the SATA 6GB specification. Not that you would easily hit that limit in daily use.
One of the downsides of using the “naked” M2 form factor SSDs (apart from the need for careful handling) is that they have relatively small capacities compared to standard hard drives and there is still that price/capacity issue. You would not be able to afford a 4 or 8TB SSD at the moment.
For the NASbook that capacity limitation is not much of an issue because of the market and applications that is being aimed at. If you really run out of space when the device is stationary you can always hook it up to a QNAP UX-500P expansion unit. These expansion units, either five or eight bay, play well with QNAP’s latest models.
We might try to get our hands on one of these UX-500P units to experience how convenient they really are in combination with the NASbook.
Getting the M2 SSDs into place is slightly trickier than with standard SSDs or hard drives. When I first got the NASbook on my desk I turned it over and look from all angles to find out where to insert the SSDs. No obvious slot or panel that could be unscrewed to give access. But, by unscrewing the 4 rubber feet, thumbscrews are revealed which takes the whole bottom panel off. Have a look at the alignment of the M2s to minimise the space taken up.
There is no LCD panel like on the standard models but to compensate some standard phrases are baked into the operating system to announce the status.
And apart from the (brightness adjustable!) LED lights to indicate activity on the drives we also have the pretty familiar “One Touch Copy” feature with two USB 3.0 ports plus the card reader, volume controls and the power button on the front panel.
Connectivity options abound on the rear panel: dual HDMI, two more USB 3.0 and microphone inputs plus 5 LAN ports, with one of them for hooking back into the network and the other ones for switching.
The only difference here with the equivalent standard TS-453A model is that the microphone jacks are much smaller (3.5mm) than the standard inputs on that model.
We have previously reported on the karaoke application and lauded the latest QNAP operating system, so after a quick word on testing and performance we can bring you our preliminary findings. (Since we are using these products over a longer period we might add to our experiences over time).
Testing and Performance
Over several weeks the NASbook performed admirably, was easy to install, easy to use and never missed a beat. In extended use the system never got hot even though at one time a warning signal came up that Disk 4 had a temperature of slightly over 70°.
The only other warning signal came from reaching the storage pool limit, set at 80%… After all, around 1.5TB total available in RAID is not all that much.
The ADATA SSDs performed very close to their specified maximum read and write capacities. That means almost 500MB/s. In real life this will never be a bottleneck for any type of application.
If anything is slow about this powerful combination it is the start-up time. Close to 5 minutes before the NAS is accessible (just like the other QNAP units) so it’s better just to leave it on all the time, especially since the NASbook hardly draws any power.
In many ways this QNAP TBS-453A is a very desirable product: extremely portable, yet fully featured and very capable. We think that QNAP have clearly identified a segment in the marketplace that hasn’t been covered at all. No one in their right mind would take a NAS unit to a collaborative meeting to access the same data and have a karaoke party afterwards!
Anyway, it can’t be all work and no play so I predict plenty of “homework” as a home media device for this little unit as well.
The bold orange quirky design may not be to everyone’s liking but it will get noted…
Priced under AUD700 it is very good value but you have to add the costs of the M2 SSDs as well.
The official retail price for these Premier ADATA 480GB units is $209 each, street price a little lower but you still need to budget about 800 bucks for having just 2TB on board – even less usable if you use any RAID configuration…
So, the real target market can handle that sort of expense but it might be a bit too much for just home use only.
Highly recommended if budget allows.