QNAP TS-251 Three-quarter view

QNAP TS-251 Quick Review

I know the cool-kids love Synology; but I’ve made a habit of being a contrary git, so of course I prefer QNAP. According to my embarrassingly large inbox, I purchased my original QNAP TS-210 in 2009. It’s been through at least three sets of disks, served hundreds of hours of music and stored 15 years of photos. Not least of all, it was a key part of a demo environment in a book wot I wrote. It has had regular updates from QNAP, for which I’ve not paid a penny.

Sadly, the TS-210’s teeny 800mhz processor no longer cuts it. The motherboard has a dry joint, and the SATA controller occasionally pukes on my extra-compatibility list disks

So, after much deliberation and a sinking pound, I elected to finally replace the old girl with a QNAP TS-251. My expectation was the same but faster, but I’ve been genuinely impressed. The Dual core Intel J1800 is at least 5 times more powerful than the early ARM core of the TS-210, and comes with modern amenities such as USB 3.0 and HDMI support.

QNAP TS-251 Three-quarter view

QNAP TS-251 Three-quarter view

The form factor is still very small, if a tiny bit bigger than the my outgoing box. The fan seems to idle at 1005 RPM, and even under load is not perceptibly audible.

I was aware of the virtualisation features; and whilst nice to have, KVM wasn’t going to replace my home VMware lab. The virtual networking is more than competent, offering VLANs, 802.11ad, and virtual switches. Nicely integrated is a web interface remote console.

The base RAM 1GB of RAM clearly not enough, but 2 x 4GB SODIMMs is easy enough to add, although you have to remove the cage first.

QNAP TS-251 with cage attached

QNAP TS-251 with cage attached

There was a another nice feature I’d not considered; the Domain controller. Massive overkill for a home network, but it means I can implement single-sign-on and DNS without having to leave a much more power-hungry Microsoft VM running. Neat.

QNAP TS-251 with cage removed, showing SODIMM sockets

QNAP TS-251 with cage removed, showing SODIMM sockets

Optware has been replaced by Entware-NG. This took more time to find than I would hope, but it is a vital package manager.

One nice touch is that the 3.5″ disk trays will take a 2.5″ SSD without messing about with adaptors. Unlike my various HP Microservers, which need them at £15 a pop.

The one feature that seems to be missing is a mail server. You could argue that for a basic NAS, the QNAP has an embarrassment of features, and missing one probably isn’t a big deal. I’m far too old to be messing about with postfix. However, this is where the Virtualisation features and working for Fortinet really helps. I can easily spin up a FortiMail VM00 which will more than meet my needs.

QNAP disk tray with Sandisk Ultra II 960GB SSD

QNAP disk tray with SanDisk Ultra II 960GB SSD

So, all in all I’m really impressed. Disks! I forgot to talk about disks! Obviously a NAS needs storage. An extravagance perhaps, but for low power draw and high performance SSD was the only way to go. Given the relatively low write cycles, I chose the “consumer” grade SanDisk 960GB SSDs in a JBOD configuration. The disks are automatically backed up to a spinning rust array, on a weekly-ish basis. I can easily saturate the 1Gbps interface with SSDs, and wonder what kind of concurrent write performance I would get.


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