If you're a NAS aficionado, it will be no revelation that the QNAP TS-469 Pro is both fast and extremely capable. What might surprise you is that you can attach this SMB-class network-attached storage box via its HDMI output to an HDTV or other high-def display to play movies and music, or to browse the Web. Of more interest to IT types is its on-board display, which allows you to administer the box locally without need of a monitor.
The direct-connect multimedia capability is actually available in any QNAP NAS box with an HDMI output, and it stems from the company's implementation of XBMC. A free, open-source, cross-platform equivalent of Windows Media Center, XBMC is a little more complex than Media Center but is also more capable, supporting more codecs, devices, and protocols. Web browsing is courtesy of Google Chrome. Both apps are installed under the umbrella of QNAP's HD Station launch application.
You can install a YouTube player and QNAP's My NAS within HD Station, too. The latter is the same interface that shows up in your Web browser when you administrate the box over the network. One of the easier-to-use NAS-box interfaces out there, My NAS is also second to none in features, offering DLNA serving, multimedia Web portals, LDAP, RADIUS, Active Directory support, VPN, email and Web serving, and a lot more.
To use any of the HD Station apps, just attach an HDMI-capable TV or display to the TS-469 Pro's HDMI output, and add a USB keyboard and mouse. XBMC will appear and let you browse for all the content stored on the TS-469 Pro and any other servers it finds on your network. If you'd like to know more about XBMC, download the PC version and bang away at it.
You can also control XBMC and the other HD Station apps from across the room using the $40 QNAP remote control, QNAP's Qremote app for iOS devices, or any MCE (Media Center Extender) remote. The box has an infrared receiver, so you might be able to use other third-party remotes as well.
The TS-469 Pro is a four-bay box with locking, front-mounted trays and a handy LCD screen that facilitates basic array configuration and presents pertinent information such as boot and array status. The CPU is a 2.13GHz dual-core Intel Atom, and 1GB of memory is on board (expandable to 3GB). Ports are plentiful, with a USB 2.0 port on the front for quick copying and offloading, and four more on the back for attaching peripherals and slower storage. You'll also find two USB 3.0 ports and two eSATA ports on the back to accommodate faster storage devices.
Network communications are courtesy of two gigabit ethernet ports that support both failover and aggregation, and you can attach a USB Wi-Fi dongle should you wish to use the box wirelessly. In addition to the aforementioned HDMI port, a VGA port is available for older displays. When HD Station isn't enabled, you can access the TS-469 Pro's command-line interface on the external display.
For some reason, QNAP populated our test TS-469 Pro with four unmatched 7200-rpm hard drives--two different-model 500GB Seagates, a 500GB Hitachi, and a 300GB Samsung--all combined in RAID 5. Although this oddball arrangement resulted in a massive waste of capacity, working out to a total capacity of just 900GB (four times the 300GB capacity of the smallest drive, minus the capacity of one drive for parity info), it was still quite fast. The box wrote our 10GB mix of files and folders at 69.9 MBps and read them at 39.5 MBps. It wrote our single 10GB file at 92.9 MBps and read it at 110.8 MBps. That's good performance that would've undoubtedly increased with faster drives. The box also played a high-bit-rate (40-mbps) 1080p video on an attached display with no problems whatsoever.
The QNAP TS-469 Pro is a feature-rich and extremely capable NAS box for small businesses and workgroups. It's arguably best of breed, though it certainly is pricey. If you shop around you can find it for $800 without drives. Home users who want to take advantage of HD Station in a home-entertainment setup would be better off with the TS-269 Pro, which has the same feature set but only two drive bays and costs about $200 less.
This story, "QNAP TS-469 Pro review: A fast NAS box well suited to both business and pleasure" was originally published by PCWorld.
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