Qnap TS-453Be review
A powerful all-rounder with a slick interface and future-proofing through expansion cards
The Qnap TS-453Be is a new variant of the TS-453B, a model we originally praised it for its versatility and expandability although we were put off by the price. This year's model ditches a few consumer-oriented features of the old one, including the bundled remote control, USB-C port, SD card slot and the titchy two-line OLED display. Luckily, it still has the same Celeron J3455 processor along with 4GB of RAM, and retains one big advantage over rivals: expansion potential through an internal PCI-Express slot.
Using the latter you can install a QM2 expansion card with a 10GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet) port and an M.2 SSD slot to boost performance with a high-speed cache. Alternatively, you could fit a compatible TP-Link network card to turn your NAS into an 802.11ac wireless access point, or a USB 3.1 expansion card for 10Gbits/sec connections (although drives that offer that level of performance are few and far between). You can also upgrade the RAM to a maximum 8GB or connect a UX-800P or UX-500P expansion unit to add an additional two or four bays to the RAID. In short, as your needs grow or 10GbE grows more affordable, the TS-453Be won't be left behind.
Right now it's a solid and well-designed appliance, with a clip-on smoked plastic cover protecting the four drive bays. The slide-in caddies work much like Synology's, making it possible to fit four drives within a few minutes. There's a USB 3 port at the front with a button you can configure for one-touch backup, while the rear holds four more USB 3 ports, two HDMI ports, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and three audio jacks. That's more than enough to equip the TS-453Be as a media player or a desktop computer; two roles it's been specifically designed to play.
Qnap allows a choice of a setup routines: via the cloud, on your mobile using Qnap's Qfinder Pro utility. Notably, the cloud-based and mobile processes can identify and configure the NAS from a QR code on the chassis. All three work, but on a smartphone you're hampered by configuration screens designed for a PC display and keyboard, making them nigh-impossible on a smartphone screen with touch.
Qnap's QTS operating system is maturing nicely, matching Synology's for the overall user experience and ease-of-use. Key settings and control panels are easy to find and there's plenty of built-in help, plus an app store in the style of iTunes and Google Play. This hosts too many apps to list, but if you want to run Joomla or WordPress websites, serve media through Plex or Qnap's Music and Video Station apps, or run IP cameras through Surveillance Station, you're well covered. You can sync files and folders across the NAS, PCs and Macs using QSync or run virtual machines using the Virtualization Station app.
More ambitiously, Qnap's Notes Station app is a streamlined text editor with sharing features, like a simplified Google Docs, while the Linux Station app runs an Ubuntu installation inside a container on the NAS, with Chrome, Firefox and LibreOffice pre-installed. While no replacement for a proper desktop computer, it's surprisingly nippy, and with the four USB 3 ports at the rear your keyboard and mouse aren't hogging all the connectivity.
Given the spec, we were surprised to find the TS-453Be's performance isn't stellar. It's right up there for sequential reads and writes on massive media files, but somewhere in the mid-range when it comes to sorting smaller files. Thankfully, copying scores of tiny documents while streaming 4K video didn't seem to phase it. If you're after the fastest NAS then look for other options, but if you want a powerful, versatile, future-proof NAS, we'd say go for the Qnap every time.
If you’re after the fastest NAS around then look for other options, but if you want a powerful, versatile, future-proof NAS, we’d say go for the Qnap every time.
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