|QNAP TS-219P+ NAS Network Server|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Network|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Thursday, 30 June 2011|
Page 3 of 13
Closer Look: QNAP TS-219P+ Turbo NAS Server
The QNAP TS-219P+ has lower capacity than most NAS units in the market if you just count the number of models for sale, but I'm willing to bet that there are more two-bay NAS devices sold than any other configuration. Two bays can theoretically hold 6TB of data, in JBOD or RAID 0 modes. In RAID 1 mode, the capacity is halved, down to the size of a single 3.5" HDD, which is presently maxed out at 3TB for mainstream HDDs. A two bay unit pretty much forces you to think strategically about your storage requirements, because you can't get the combination of capacity and redundancy that is the hallmark of higher RAID configurations, especially RAID 5. Its either-or; capacity and speed with RAID 0, or single-level redundancy with RAID 1, take your choice. 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 in product selection, assuming that everything else is based on reasonably modern technology.
I mentioned the corporate IT environment earlier, and QNAP has plenty of solutions for that market. Today though, we're going to look at a NAS device that is scaled down for the small office/home office (SOHO) user. My home fits this description to a tee, as my wife and I have a small business, have 5 computers sharing our network, and have been using a NAS for the last six years as a file server and to manage our backups. We looked at the TS-259 Pro NAS server last year and were very impressed, now let's see what you have to give up, if anything with the TS-219P+.
The QNAP TS-219P++ shares the same basic technology platform as all the TS-x19P+ models, and there are three choices: TS-119P+, TS-219P+, and TS-419P+. Each one weighs a bit more than the next, especially with all drives bays filled. The empty TS-219P+ Turbo NAS unit weighs about 3.8 lbs, and adding two 2 TB hard drives piles on another 3.3 lbs to that. At ~7 pounds, the TS-219P+ is almost able to pass for a portable device, and the single bay unit, even more so. If I had to describe it visually to someone who knew nothing about NAS devices, I'd tell them it looks like a small, sleek toaster with a smart, German design. Oh, and the toast slides in from the front. Clever!
Multiple SATA 3Gb/s drives can be installed as a single disk (Each drive a stand-alone disk), RAID 0 (Disk Striping), RAID 1 (Disk Mirroring), or JBOD (Linear Disk Volume). Each drive can be formatted using FAT, NTFS, EXT3, or EXT4 file systems, and the system also offers AES 256-bit encryption. 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-219P+, which is a common part across a part of the product line. Each tray stands on edge, slides smoothly into the NAS and locks firmly into place. Barrel locks are not available 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 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 less expensive than the full size units, so it's worth investigating them if handling 2.5" SATA drives is a requirement for you.
QNAP keeps the front panel clutter to a minimum on the TS-219P+, forgoing any LCD screens, and there are only a few buttons and indicator lights on the bezel. In truth, there's not really enough room to include the LCD display that many of the four-bay units have. A single power button and USB (2.0) copy button and port are located on the lower left corner of the Turbo NAS. These buttons have multi-colored status indicator lights built into them, so it's best to check the manual for the color codes. Above these are four status lights which indicate activity for HDD1 and HDD2, LAN activity, and the presence of an eSATA device connected on the back panel. Once again, check the color codes to get the most out of them.
There's a single strip of ventilation holes on the left side of the QNAP TS-219P+ Turbo NAS. This is the primary entry point for cool air to the single-core Marvell embedded processor, 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 70mm 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-219P+ Turbo NAS server is equipped with a Marvell 88F6282 processor, which houses an ARM®v5TE Single Core CPU running at 1.6 GHz, with a 256KB L2 Cache. This is the third-tier specification level for CPU and memory in QNAP NAS servers, and it should provide decent performance in a two-bay unit, but we'll have to wait for our performance tests to be sure. There are two-bay units in the 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 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-219P+ 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 business end of the TS-219P+, it's not obvious (unless you were already looking for the blue USB ports), 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 it fast, easy, and cheap. There is an alternative, which many people prefer anyway. The eSATA interface has been implemented on most of the QNAP NAS products for some time, usually in the form of twin eSATA expansion ports, which are available here. They work great for attaching external drives if you're not going to disconnect/reconnect them on a regular basis, but eSATA has never been as cheap or easy to use as USB, at least in my experience. A single Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 port is provided, powered by a Marvell 88E1318 Ethernet Controller, which offers a full set of networking features. The TS-219P+ 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. The system Reset button is below that, 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). A Kensington lock hole and the 12 VDC power input sit 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.