QNAP Turbo NAS TS-470 review

Pros

  • Excellent read/write speeds
  • Efficient fault tolerance
  • Updated, attractive QTS UI
  • Four Gigabit Ethernet ports

Cons

  • Complex cloud remote access
  • A bit pricey

QNAP's Turbo NAS TS-470 is the company's most ambitious NAS to date. The device's hardware specs broke the record for write speed among NASes we've tested, and it's up there with the best we've tested in terms of reads. Excellent RAID fault tolerance in simulated drive failure and a slew of advanced business features make this an excellent NAS. However, the new QTS Intelligent Desktop and the myQNAPcloud remote access service could both use some work, preventing this otherwise notable storage device from achieving top marks.

Hardware features

Weighing in at £899, the TS-470 is pricey for a four-bay NAS that ships diskless. Synology's DiskStation DS1813+ has similar hardware specs and a similar price point, except that it has eight drive bays and can support up to 32TB of storage, compared with the TS-470's 16TB cap. The DS1813+ is a bit cheaper at around the £770 mark currently.

So yes, the TS-470 is on the expensive side, but it provides excellent internal components, such as 2GB DDR3 RAM (expandable to 16GB) plus 512MB flash memory, an Intel 2.66 GHz dual-core processor, and lots of connectivity options. These options include four gigabit Ethernet ports (two on-board and two courtesy of a PCI-E NIC – upgradable to a 10 GbE card), dual USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, and two eSATA ports. The USB ports support USB external drives, printers, and other USB-equipment such as hubs and UPS devices. Internal storage support includes 2.5in or 3.5in SATA HDDs and SSDs. Hot swap and hot spare are also supported.

QNAP's NAS even has an HDMI port. You can connect it to a TV and play back multimedia stored on the NAS. In fact, it also ships with a remote control. The rear panel sports audio in and out connections.

Clearly, in addition to business users, QNAP is targeting this NAS at home cinema and high-end audio aficionados.

The TS-470 has a tower form factor measuring 180 x 235 x 175mm (WxDxH). It has an LCD on the front panel for scrolling through system information – such as the name of the NAS, IP address, and fan and disk status – but it dims quickly. Furthermore, the scroll buttons next to the LCD are more quirky in response than those on Western Digital's comparable My Cloud EX4 SMB NAS.

Software features

As with most NAS boxes in this category, the TS-470 supports the SMB/CIFS, AFP, and NFS file systems used by Windows, Mac, and Linux.

QNAP's NAS also offers a good balance between consumer and business features. On the consumer side are apps such as File Station, Photo Station, Music Station, iTunes Server, and Video Station – all for managing, sharing, and streaming multimedia. Consumers will also appreciate the fact that this box supports DLNA and AirPlay, which allows streaming multimedia from the NAS to AppleTV using QNAP's Qfile app or QAirPlay.

This box is also very strong on business features. A variety of user authentication methods are supported including LDAP, RADIUS, Active Directory and Windows ACLs. The OS features native web, RADIUS, proxy, and Syslog servers.

SMBs also have a number of backup options. Time Machine and NetBak Replicator are some of the third-party client backup solutions supported. Administrators can use cloud backup services such as Amazon S3, Elephant Drive, as well as Dropbox and Google Drive. Also, Rsync remote replication can be setup with another Turbo NAS or an FTP server.

Some neat security features are on offer here, too, including IP address blocking, SSH, SSL certificates, secure RTP, and integrated antivirus.

Virtualisation

Businesses often want to make a NAS part of a virtualised storage infrastructure. The TS-470 supports iSCSI targeting and is VMware certified. It can also support Hyper-V and Citrix platforms.

For Windows shops, the TS-470 is manageable with Windows System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012. The NAS also supports Windows Server 2012's ODX (Offloaded Data Transfer) – a feature that speeds up file transfer performance by writing data directly to storage arrays; placing less workload on a system's CPU.

VMware infrastructures can manage the TS-470 through VMware's vSphere client with the vSphere plug-in. QNAP's Flexible Volume feature, besides providing online volume and storage pool expansion, gives you virtualised storage with thin-provisioned volumes using iSCSI targeting.

TS-470 setup process

The last time I set up a QNAP NAS, I had to use the QNAP Finder app on a disc shipped with the server. This app located the NAS on my network and then I could go into the browser-based UI for configuration. The TS-470 ships with a quick install guide that details how to connect the cables and then points to the URL start.QNAP.com to set up the NAS.

Once I powered on the NAS, the LCD lit up with the message "System Booting." The screen displayed the device's name and IP address. After a beep, the LCD dimmed. In fact, as I used the two scroll buttons next to the LCD to navigate through the different settings, the LCD would dim whenever I paused to read the settings on its little screen. This got annoying; I wish there was a way to control the dimmer timing through the LCD buttons. Western Digital EX4's LCD is easier to work with, doesn't dim when you are trying to view settings, and is a little bit larger, making it easier to read.

There’s a sticker on the unit that has a URL you access from a computer connected to the same network as the Turbo NAS. The sticker has a cloud key printed on it which you also use to register and set up the NAS. A QR code lets you set up the NAS using a mobile device.

Using the cloud key is what QNAP's website deems the "cloud installation" option. This is the method I chose. However, when I entered the key, I received a "Device not found" error on QNAP's site. Overall, this was a clunker of a cloud-setup install, compared with Western Digital's My Cloud and My Cloud EX4 NASes.

As an alternative, I used the old fashioned QNAP way to set up the NAS – by downloading Qfinder from the company's site. Qfinder pinpointed my NAS on the network and allowed me to double click its listing within the Qfinder interface to open up the NAS settings. The NAS settings are in the NAS OS – called QTS.

Immediately upon entering the interface, the device detected that newer firmware was available. I was able to proceed with the firmware upgrade through QTS. Everything was cranking along fine… and then the update stopped. There is nothing more heart-stopping than updating a piece of critical network equipment's firmware only to have that update interrupted. I started to close out of QTS to re-open it, but before it closed, the message "System is being updated now please do not shut down or restart the firmware" popped up.

In the end, I finally got the firmware update. The NAS emitted a few beeps, but I saw nothing indicating the new update was applied until I exited and went back into QTS.

QNAP's QTS and cloud setup still need polishing, particularly in comparison to WD's EX4 – that device's software handles cloud setup and firmware updating with more aplomb.

The new QTS 4.0.3

Despite the initial setup and firmware issues, QTS 4.0.3 is a good user interface update for QNAP Turbo NAS. The new UI has a very Mac OS X look. Icons are animated – personally, I could do without moving icons in a business-class NAS, but I am sure this will appeal to some users.

On first run, QTS opens with a tutorial on using the basics of the NAS and its various apps. The home screen is populated with default icons, including Control Panel, Storage Manager, Shared Folders, and Users. There are also shortcuts to more business-oriented apps and settings such as a Virtualisation Guide and Domain Security. The bottom of the home page has three tabs: QNAP Mobile, QNAP Utility, and Feedback. QNAP Mobile and QNAP Utility are both shortcuts to external links that take you to QNAP's website where you can download mobile apps and add-ons. The Feedback tab is self-explanatory.

This NAS can perform a surprising number of tasks, so many that it's impossible to test them all for this review. One interesting feature is the ability to create ISO shared folders to mount ISO images. I haven't seen many NASes which have folders that can automatically handle ISO-image mounting. A few other capabilities of note: Setting up password complexity, binding specific NAS services to specific network interfaces, Network Access Protection (blocking unsuccessful Telnet attempts for a specified number of attempts, for example), and uploading certificates and private keys.

Given all these features, the TS-470 is a worthy business NAS with lots of baked-in security.

Performance

You can upload and download data using QNAP's File Station app or via a mapped drive through your system's file explorer. In testing, I found using Windows file explorer for working with larger files to be more efficient. When I uploaded a 1 GB file through File Station, my browser, IE 10, crashed. I also had to wait a few seconds for a list of local files to appear in a browse window, from which I could choose files to upload. For working with smaller files, File Station is fine. Through the app, you can copy files, create shares, share files by creating links for email or via HTTPS URL, you can compress files, and do quite a bit of other management tasks with them.

Performance I/O through Windows File Explorer was excellent, among the best we've tested for SMB NASes. A simple upload and download of a 1.5GB video clip yielded an average write speed of 90 MBps and a read speed of 101 MBps. This is through a lone GB Ethernet port with no link aggregation.

The TS-470's write benchmark beat our previous SMB record holder, the Synology DS 1813+ which clocked 83 MBps in writes – and that read speed is excellent, too, although not quite up there with the Synology NAS which managed 108MBps.

However, this sterling performance slowed down when working with files through the QTS File Station. Read speed averaged 34 MBps and writes were 75 MBps. That is still not bad performance, especially for writes, but you will get maximum performance doing your large data reads and writes via a mapped drive to a shared folder.

Drive recovery

The TS-470 was configured in RAID 6 for fault tolerance. I tested drive and data recovery by pulling one of its drives with the device running. I pulled a drive from the third bay. The LCD displayed "HDD3 ejected" and the NAS beeped. I then replaced a pulled 1TB Samsung HDD with a 2TB Western Digital Red HDD.

The system beeped twice. I went in Storage Manager in the QTS interface and I saw that the RAID array was rebuilding. A more ideal behaviour would be for the device's LCD to display this same status, the way the WD My Cloud EX 4 does when this happens. The EX4's management interface and LCD both show consistent statuses of the RAID degradation and rebuild process, which is preferable. When it comes to disaster recovery, you want to have as much information about what's going on with your system in as many locations as possible. However, I was pleased to see that as the rebuild took place, I could access all of my data and keep working with the NAS. The RAID rebuild was completed about two hours later.

Remote Access with myQNAPcloud

You can remotely access the NAS using the myQNAPcloud service. Alternatively, you can use DDNS or QNAP's CloudLink, which is in beta currently.

To configure myQNAPcloud, you click on the icon for it in QTS. Then, clicking a Get Started button opens up the myQNAPcloud wizard. The first order of business is creating a cloud account. By default, your QNAP cloud link is .myQNAP.com.

The entire remote access setup is a bit involved and complex. For one thing, QNAP does not use relay tunnelling like Western Digital or Synology do with their cloud NAS remote access platforms, both of which are virtual no-brainers to setup. Furthermore, QNAP's service relies on you having a UPnP router that will port forward traffic. According to QNAP, they opt not to use relay for security and performance reasons. Other vendors use an encrypted tunnel, however, so I am not sure how much of a security advantage you are getting.

The cloud wizard walked me through a series of steps and confirmed that port forwarding was automatically configured. However, I could not remote access the NAS, and the ports I needed to open on the router remained closed. Port forwarding can be tricky, because the ISP may be the entity blocking a port. I am confident that I could get the ports opened to get the myQNAPcloud service to work, but it was all kinds of hassle compared to other cloud NAS services I've tested.

Verdict

The TS-470 is the best NAS we've seen from QNAP. The hardware definitely delivers worthy small-business class performance – yet there are still software issues that remain from previous Turbo NAS devices we've tested, including a clumsy firmware update process. While the TS-470 can match other NAS champs in performance, it lags some competitors in terms of setup and its cloud service. Drive recovery was excellent, although I would prefer to see the status of the recovery process on the LCD as well as in the software.

The good news is that these issues can be fixed with a software release. The hardware is already impressive – especially the four GB Ethernet ports, which can be upgraded to 10GbE. There is no question that this is a NAS that can benefit many small businesses.

However, the Synology DiskStation DS1813+ still remains our favourite, with its excellent performance and equally top notch software – and it’s also a little cheaper than this model.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

QNAP TurboNAS TS-470

Maximum Storage Capacity

16TB

Rack-mount or Standalone

Standalone

Device Type

Expandable SMB NAS

Hard Disk Configuration

RAID

Connection Type

USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Ethernet, SATA

Network Medium

Wired