|QNAP TS-419P II NAS Network Storage Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2011|
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Closer Look: QNAP TS-419P II Turbo NAS Server
The QNAP TS-419P II has more capacity than most NAS units in the market. Four bays can theoretically hold 12TB of data, in JBOD mode with 3TB drives installed in each bay. Very few people with anywhere near that much data are going to want to live without it for any length of time, so some sort of RAID configuration is undoubtedly called for. With four active drive bays, the main choices are going to be RAID 5, 6, or 10, depending on what type of data is primarily stored on the device. Despite its popularity, RAID 5 suffers from severe write performance limitations in large multi-user databases. Most people running that type of application are going to have direct-attached storage; it's really a necessity for that type of work. RAID 10 eliminates this problem, at the expense of capacity, but for some uses it's a much better solution. RAID 6 offers some additional redundancy, allowing for continued operation even with two simultaneous drive failures, with no additional performance hit and only one additional drive. This option is very popular because if one individual drive fails in a RAID 5 implementation, the array instantly starts operating as a RAID 0 configuration, which has NO redundancy. It stays in that vulnerable state until the array is rebuilt, which is a slow process that can take hours to complete.
The bottom line with any high performance storage solution is that the number of drive spindles in play is more important than almost any other factor, assuming that everything else is based on reasonably modern technology. When you combine the higher level of performance with the greater flexibility for online RAID capacity expansion & online RAID level migration, the additional cost of the extra drive bays looks like a bargain instead of conspicuous consumption. What initially looks like overkill in a NAS system might just be the very thing that saves the day some years down the road. With 2 Terabyte drives both affordable and readily available in performance and Green versions, four bays will most likely house all the files that 2-3 people can create in the span of 3-5 years. If you're a videographer, then there is never going to be enough space for all your files, and you are cursed with perpetual acquisition of more and bigger HDDs, for the rest of your life. It's still better than stacking cartons and cartons of Super-8 reels in the corner....
The QNAP TS-419P II shares the same basic technology platform as all the new TS-x19P II models, but the chunky profile sets it apart from the smaller units. It also weighs a bit more, especially with four drives bays filled with spinning platters. The empty TS-419P II unit weighs about 6.6 lbs, and adding four 2 TB hard drives piles on approximately 7 lbs to that. At 13+ pounds, it's never going to pass for a portable device, but it's still easier to pick up and move around than any PC case that has four external HDD bays. Don't forget, with a traditional storage server you would also need one more internal bay for the HDD or SSD with the operating system on it. If I had to describe the Turbo NAS visually to someone who knew nothing about NAS devices, I'd tell them it looks like a big, restaurant toaster with a smart, German design.
Multiple SATA 3Gb/s drives can be installed as: a single disk, RAID 0 (Disk Striping), RAID 1 (Disk Mirroring), RAID 5 (Block-level striping with distributed parity), RAID 6 (Block-level striping with double distributed parity), RAID 10 (AKA RAID 1+0, a stripe of mirrors), and JBOD (Linear Disk Volume). Each drive can be formatted with FAT, NTFS, EXT3, or EXT4 file systems. The Marvell-based NAS units (any product with a TS-x1x type model number) do not offer the additional option of AES 256-bit encryption. Even the Intel Atom CPUs on the pricier QNAP systems struggle with this extra processing chore, since they don't have the recent AES-NI additions to the Intel64 instruction set. You need the full-up Westmere architecture to get that capability, and most peoples' experiences using on-the-fly data encryption without it have been frustratingly slow. Our tests utilize EXT4-formatted disks without encryption.
QNAP uses a steel-framed tray with black plastic latches for each drive bay on the TS-419P II, which is a common part across a large part of the product line. Each tray stands on edge, slides smoothly into the NAS and locks firmly into place. Barrel locks are not included to secure the drives in place on the TS-x19 series, which may or may not be an issue for you (think of mechanically inclined, inquisitive children before you answer...). The drive trays from the higher-end units with integral locks are compatible, if you want to mix and match. The drive trays easily accommodate 2.5" drives without any additional hardware; just use the correct mounting holes. QNAP does not recommend mixing 3.5" and 2.5" drives in the same enclosure, and they do offer some small form factor units that are specifically designed for 2.5" drives. Those models are also less expensive than the full size units, so it's worth investigating them if handling 2.5" SATA drives is a requirement for you. There are some definite advantages to using that form factor in specific cases, as I outlined in my review of the Patriot Convoy 425XL SAS/SATA RAID Enclosure.
With the additional space available on the larger chassis, QNAP adds a few extra features on the front face of the 4-bay TS-419P II model, with an LCD screen and indicator lights on the bezel above each drive bay. A single power button and USB 2.0 "COPY" button and port are located on the lower left corner of the Turbo NAS. The older models had status indicator lights built into the buttons; on the newer TS-xxxP II versions, all the status lights are grouped together just above the first two drive bays. There are four status lights which indicate System Status, LAN activity, USB activity, and the presence of an eSATA device connected on the back panel. Directly above each drive bay, behind a solid strip of acrylic are indicators with bi-color LEDs to show the status of each HDD. Red means the system is checking the drive bay or there is an error reading or writing to the drive, green means the drive is present and OK, flashing green means the drive is being accessed.
There's a single strip of ventilation holes on the left side of the QNAP TS-419P II Turbo NAS. This is the primary entry point for cool air to the system CPU, as the system board is located on this side of the unit. Fresh air also enters through the drive trays, passes over the HDDs and is then exhausted out through the single 90mm cooling fan on the rear of the unit. The fan is a PWM type, and is controlled by the motherboard, in order to keep things cool when needed and quiet the rest of the time. I didn't pay much attention to the fan noise, as it was never really noticeable during my daily use. Of course, I do live in a somewhat noisy urban environment, so if you have to have absolute quiet all the time you should probably load your NAS up with SSDs or 2.5" notebook drives, which run both cooler and quieter. Take a look at the QNAP SS-439 Pro, if you go down that road, as it's optimized for the smaller drives.
The QNAP TS-419P II Turbo NAS server is equipped with a Marvell 88F6282 processor, which houses an ARM®v5TE Single Core CPU running at 2.0 GHz, with a 256KB L2 Cache. This is a 25% increase in CPU clock speed from the previous model, the TS-419P+, and this upgrade is available in all the TS-x19P II models that were released recently. The same basic integrated controller is available from Marvell in 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 GHz versions, so this was probably a straightforward upgrade path for QNAP, but you never know... Our previous tests showed a clear performance advantage for the models which are based on the Intel Atom, so I'm interested to see how well this bump in clock speed improves performance for the Marvell units. There are two-bay units in the larger product line with Intel ATOM dual-core CPUs, and they clearly have the computing power to vanquish any potential processing bottlenecks. In the 8 and 12-bay units at the top of the product line the system CPU gets a big bump, to Intel Core i3 Dual Core (3.30 GHz) and Intel Xeon Quad Core (3.10 GHz), giving us a solid clue to the actual computing requirements for a full featured, high performance NAS. Those inexpensive, shiny boxes that use port replication hardware fall flat on their faces when asked to pull anything more than light duty. QNAP employs a 16MB Flash Module to store firmware and applications on the TS-419P II motherboard. This acts like the system drive, yet it takes up very little space and uses almost no power. There's no built-in backup module in case of data corruption, like the TS-x59 units have, so be extra careful during firmware upgrades.
Looking at the back panel of the TS-419P II, you can see most of the hardwired I/O points. Starting at the top is the system Reset button, recessed inside the case to prevent accidental actuation. Two levels of reset capability are provided, Basic System Reset (hold for 3 sec), and Advanced System Reset (hold for 10 sec). Next in line, there are two eSATA ports, for use as capacity expansion or as backup capability. I know some of you are saying, "The NAS IS my backup." Sorry, but that's only half true; you really don't have a backup if you don't have off-site storage, and these eSATA ports can help facilitate that. Directly below, are two Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 ports provided, powered by twin Marvell 88E1318 Ethernet Controller ICs, which offers a full set of networking features. The TS-419P II NAS supports 4074, 7418, and 9000 bytes for MTU when Jumbo Frames are enabled. Note that Jumbo Frames are only available in a Gigabit network environment. Below the network ports are three Hi-Speed USB 2.0 ports. It's not completely obvious (unless you were already looking for the blue USB connector hardware), but USB 3.0 has not trickled down to the lower level QNAP servers. It's unfortunate, because USB 2.0 is such a huge bottleneck when trying to use inexpensive portable drives for making copies of your data. I always like to have a full set of backups stored at an alternate location, and USB makes that fast, easy, and cheap. A 12 VDC power input is the last rear panel connector poking out from the internal PCB, and a Kensington lock hole sits along the bottom edge.
The drives get installed in removable drive trays, which some people call drive caddies, but I prefer the term "tray". The four bottom mounting holes on each HDD are utilized, and that's the only option. Because the tray and drive need to solidly engage the SATA connectors on the backplane, there is no realistic way to include shock mounting for the drives. Of course, in a couple of years someone like Lian Li will do just that, and prove me wrong.... The tray is made from carbon steel and then plated for corrosion resistance. The latching mechanism is a combination of steel and plastic, and each tray is labeled with the slot number. They are all physically identical and you can mix and match them all you want, until you build a drive array and then you had better remember which one goes where, if you ever take them out. Seriously, keep them in the same, sequential order they ship in - creativity and imagination are completely out of place in this one instance.
Now that we've had a thorough tour of the exterior, let's do a tear-down and see what the insides look like. The next section covers Insider Details.