Review of QNAP's 4
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Review of QNAP's 4

Jun 02, 2023

Christopher White Neowin @fezmid · Jun 4, 2023 13:04 EDT with 21 comments

Have you ever thought about installing a server in your home? Maybe you want to keep your private data off of cloud servers (i.e.: someone else's computer). Perhaps you like the idea of being able to access files on your internal network without needing Internet access. Or it might be that you just like tinkering with technology and want a device to play around with containers, virtualization, or run applications on your home network.

Whatever the reason, the QNAP TS-464, a four drive NAS device that can act as the central hub in your home while allowing you to access your files while you're away, should be on your short list.

The QNAP TS-464 is a four-bay NAS device that looks very similar to the TS-453D that I reviewed a couple of years ago. The TS-453D, which is QNAP's best-selling prosumer/SMB NAS device, is now officially sunset and replaced with the TS-464. So how does it stack up?

The TS-464 comes with an Intel Celeron N5095 CPU that has four cores, four threads, runs a base 2.0 GHz and can burst to 2.9 GHz. The processor has Intel UHD Graphics built in, running at 450 MHz with bursts up to 750 MHz, making it a very good candidate for use as a video streaming platform if you need to transcode your files. This is big advantage over the recently reviewed Synology DS1522+.

From a memory perspective, the QNAP TS-464 comes standard with 4 GB of DDR4 SODIMM and is expandable to 16GB (2x8GB SODIMMS). Although I've read some people comment that they're unofficially running 32GB of RAM on the NAS, Intel says that the CPU only supports 16GB maximum, so I wouldn't recommend it.

2 x 2.5GbE (RJ-45)

2 x 2.5GbE (RJ-45)

6.61" × 6.69" × 8.9" / 16.79 x 16.99 x 22.61cm

There's a single 120mm fan in the device that runs extremely quiet. During my testing, the TS-464 was roughly six feet (1.8m) away from me, and I could rarely tell that it was running.

There's the obvious four drive bays, allowing up to 88 TB of storage space (4x22 drives), although keep in mind that you should not only have backups of your data but redundancy using RAID-1 or RAID-5 is also recommended to prevent data loss due to a single drive failure. You can review QNAP's compatibility page to identify what drives are supported in the TS-464.

From a connectivity perspective, there are two 2.5GbE ports on the back that can be aggregated into one to improve performance via 802.3ad, and QNAP provides a tutorial on their website.

The QNAP TS-464 has two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, one on the front and one on the back. If you're confused about the new USB naming standards, you aren't alone, but can read more about it here. There are also two USB 2.0 ports on the back, as well as a "copy to NAS" button on the front, something Synology has removed from their devices, not that I think many people are using it.

You can secure the TS-464 with a Kensington lock if you're concerned about the physical security of the device. Finally, the drives themselves can be locked with an included key.

The device has a plastic panel in front that covers the four drive bays. There's a button on the left that lets you slide the panel off, and it's held firmly in place with magnets. This keeps someone from accidentally removing a drive and makes the TS-464 look nicer than some of its competitors, but the type of plastic attracts all of the dust in the environment.

The QNAP TS-464 is priced at $549 in the United States, and €699 in Europe.

One of the main advantages of buying a NAS device is the simplicity of setup. While you can built a PC, install FreeNAS or something similar onto it, and have a great server, that takes time to do.

With the QNAP TS-464, simply connect the disks to the sleds, plug them into the front drive bays, connect an Ethernet cable, plug the power cable in, and then turn the device on. The system will boot up, obtain an address via DHCP, and you can connect to begin the installation process.

As with the hardware installation, the intial setup of the QNAP TS-464 is also straight forward. Install QFinder Pro on your computer and it will automatically detect the device on your network. Double click on the discovered device and a wizard will prompt you through the steps to create a new account and install the OS on the device.

Once that's complete, you'll be dropped into the QTS interface and ready to setup your disks.

Configurating the storage volume is an extremely easy process that is handled by a wizard. The process first creates a Storage Pool, and then once that's complete, you create volumes that live in the pool. Finally, you create shared folders that use storage from the volume. This gives you the flexibility to assign different attributes (such as encryption) to different volumes.

After logging in, click on the Storage & Snapshots icon on the desktop, and follow the steps. You're first asked whether you want to enable Qtier, a feature used in systems that have different types of disks. QTS analyzes data usage and moves heavily used files to faster disk (like SSD), and less active data is moved to larger, slower disks. It requires a minimum of 4 GB of RAM, so with a 4-bay NAS, this feature probably isn't very useful.

Next, select the disks that you want to be part of the pool. Again, with only four drives, most people will select them all and never think about it again. If you want to use snapshots, you can configure how much space should be reserved for its management.

Finally, review the settings before clicking the Create button and then wait for the pool to be created.

Next, go through and create one or more volumes in the pool. You start by deciding whether you want a thick volume (space is allocated immediately) or a thin volume (space is allocated as needed). Think about how you're going to use the NAS device. If you only need one volume, then a thick volume is the right choice, but if you plan on having multiple volumes, using thin might be preferable because you can overprovision your storage. The downside to using a thin volume is that you have to manage the space manually a bit more and performance can suffer as more space is allocated. I sound like a broken record, but with only four disks, most people are probably best served by using thick volumes.

On the next screen, choose the volume name and capacity, and whether you need it to be encrypted or not. You can also encrypt at the folder level if you prefer. Finally, define the snapshot schedule if you want, so that you can revert any malicious attacks or accidental mistakes, and then create the volume.

The last step in provisioning storage is to create shared folders that can be exported to devices on your network. As with creating a Storage Pool and a Storage Volume, a handy wizard walks you through the procses. Simply give the folder a name, select which volume it should be applied to, grant access to whatever users should be able to see it, select which advanced options you're interested in (if any), and click Finish. If you look at the screenshots in the gallery, you'll see I created four separate volumes for testing, which I'll get into in the next section.

Now that we know how easy the QNAP TS-464 is to setup, how does it actually perform? I'm happy to say that the device works extremely well!

As with all of my NAS reviews, in order to test performance and bypass the PC as much as possible, I used OSFMount to create a 4GB RAM disk and then used Robocopy to test throughput between my desktop and the QNAP TS-464. The volume on the NAS was created as RAID-5 using the ext4 filesystem: There was no way to select what filesystem I wanted, and I had to read on the QNAP website that ext4 is the only option. I suspect that this won't matter for most people.

For my test, I created four separate shared folders, each one configured slightly differently in order to see how certain features would impact performance. The tests included:

QTS does a good job of showing you the details of the volumes in the Storage & Snapshots tool.

The results of both my Robocopy and the CrystalDisk were similar, and the overall performance was very good, with large file transfers practically maxing out the gigabit Ethernet connection, and smaller file transfers doing almost equally well.

The only real difference from the recently reviewed Synology DS1522+ was in the RND4k Q32T16 write-performance. While Synology was able to hit 115MB/s, the QNAP TS-464 was stuck under 50MB/s. Without encryption, the speed was roughly 45MB/s, but with encryption the speed dropped to just over 30MB/s, and none of the configuration tweaks I made would increase that number.

One advantage the QNAP TS-464 has is that it comes with two 2.5GbE ports built-in. If you have a network that supports this faster speed, you can in theory increase your speed by 2.5x. Running through the same tests as above, you'll see that for most tests, this is exactly what you get.

Unfortunately, most home and even prosumer network gear does not support 2.5GbE. You can get them from QNAP, but if you want something from a company like Ubiquiti, you have to move up to their Enterprise line, which isn't very practical in a SOHO environment.

As is standard with all of the NAS vendors, there's a dedicated application store that allows you to install apps. The store is broken up into several sections. The first, QTS Essentials, lists out some of the most popular apps. While the name is a bit misleading (most people won't, for example, need to install QButton, an app that maps functions on a remote control with features on the NAS), there are useful tools such as Download Station (a torrent client - use it for legal torrents only!), Container Station (run Docker and LXD containers), and Virtualization Station (run virtual machines on your NAS).

Then there's a Recommended section. These tools seem to be applications provided by QNAP that meet more of a niche use, such as Qmiix Agent (kind of an IFTTT for your NAS), Wireless AP Station (turn your NAS into an Access Point if you install a WiFi card in it), or QuFirewall (QNAP's firewall, which feels like it should be installed by default or at least under the QTS Essentials section).

Finally, there's a Partners section, where companies can release software such as Plex, phpMyAdmin, and TeamViewer for easy installation.

The QNAP TS-464 has two PCIe slots, allowing you to connect different expansion cards to your NAS device. For example, as noted above, you could purchase a WiFi card to turn your NAS device into an AP. If you want faster network speeds and have the infrastructure for it, you can install a 5GbE or 10GbE card. If you want to improve your cache, there are SSD cards you can install as well.

The interface of QNAP devices is going to be something of a personal preference. In the past, I noted that "Synology feels more like a Windows interface, whereas QNAP is definitely leveraging the look and feel of iOS. Both get the job done and neither feels 'better' than the other." While that's still true from the desktop perspective, with icons in the middle of the screen and the ability to move to different pages, the applications themselves are now more advanced and give more control out of the box. For example, although Synology does offer the ability to configure snapshots, it's an add-on package, whereas QNAP builds it natively into QTS.

Although I still prefer the Synology DSM interface overall, that's probably because I'm just more familiar with it. That said, while I was exploring the TS-464 for the review, I began to feel much more comfortable with the UI and how things were laid out, so you can't go wrong with QTS.

If you're already a TS-453D owner and you're looking to upgrade because it's feeling a little long in the tooth, buying the TS-464 is a no-brainer. The same can be said if you already enjoy and understand the QNAP ecosystem.

If you're moving from another platform like Synology or Teramaster, then the decision is a little more difficult. The QNAP TS-464 has on-board video transcoding, something recent Synology devices like the TS-1522+ have dropped, so if that's important to you, this is a good choice.

Your network configuration can also factor into the decision. If you are lucky enough to have a 2.5GbE network, the extra throughput on the TS-464 is great to have, and isn't an additional cost. If, like most of us, you are still stuck at GbE speeds, the hardware feels a bit wasted.

If you want a device to connect directly to a display, the QNAP TS-464 has an HDMI port. I personally find this feature not very useful, as I'd rather stream my media and control the NAS device via IP, but if you have this specific use case, it's a perfect solution.

Finally, make sure you analyze your storage requirements. Since the TS-464 only has four drive bays, you might be more limited in storage space, especially if you want to have two-disk redundancy in a RAID-6 configuration. In that case, you should look for a NAS device that has at least five or six drive bays. QNAP sells the TS-664 for $739. It has six bays but the other specs are the same.

If you know you only need four drive bays, and prefer the QNAP interface over its competitors, purchasing the TS-464 is an easy decision, and it's the same price as its predecessor was when it was released. Just remember that for any storage solution, the NAS device itself is generally not as expensive as the hard drives you have to buy for it, so keep an eye out for great deals to keep that cost down!

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