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Qnap TS-431X2-8G Review

SOHOs and small businesses taking their first steps into the world of network storage will find Qnap’s TS-431X2 a good partner. This compact 4-bay desktop NAS appliance offers a big capacity as it’s certified for a wide range of SATA hard disks including 10TB models but the stand-out feature is its integral 10-Gigabit (10GbE) port.

This is the successor to the TS-431X model and updates its CPU from a dual-core 1.7GHz Alpine AL-212 to a more powerful Alpine AL-314 which runs at the same speed but is the newer quad-core variety. Those that bought the older model will probably be feeling a bit miffed as the TS-431X2 is being offered at the same price

Two models are available and we review the high-end version with the maximum 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory which costs $599. You can save some cash with the 2GB version which drops the price to $520

However, if you plan on using the 10GbE port note that it’s the SFP+ fiber version. A laser transceiver isn’t included so you’ll need to factor in the price of this although you can get them second-hand on eBay for as little as $25.

Build quality and installation

Qnap’s latest QTS 4.3.4 beta promises a wealth of new storage features plus the Qboost robot

The TS-431X2 is nicely built with a solid plastic chassis and shiny black LED status display panel down one side. The USB 3 port at the front links up with the Backup button above for instant copies of data between an inserted storage device and a predefined folder on the appliance.

At the rear you have the 10GbE port plus dual Gigabit and two more USB 3 ports. The appliance has a single cooling fan and the SPLnFFT iOS app on our iPad recorded a pleasantly low 38.5dB from one meter in front.

The drive carriers aren’t the tool-free variety but we found it easy enough to fit a quartet of 10TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives. Qnap’s QFinder Pro Windows app found the appliance on our network and directed us to its web interface where a wizard helped us create a big RAID5 array.

We then upgraded the appliance to the latest QTS 4.3.4 beta software as it offers a number of valuable features including snapshots. All we needed do was check the beta agreement box in the firmware download page and let it upgrade the appliance.

Storage and Snapshots Manager

The Storage and Snapshots Manager app brings snapshots and replication to EXT4 volumes

The new Storage and Snapshots Manager app is a winner as it introduces EXT4 snapshots to Qnap’s 32-bit appliances. Other vendors had to implement BTRFS to provide snapshots but this is only supported on their 64-bit appliances.

The app provides a wealth of information about storage configuration and utilization while snapshot management and recovery has been simplified. To create NAS snapshots, just select a volume and from the Snapshot menu at the top, take one immediately or use the Manager to schedule them at regular intervals.

Smart snapshots reduce wasted space as if enabled, the appliance won’t take a snapshot if the volume data hasn’t changed since the last one. The app can also snapshot file- and block-based iSCSI LUNs and clone NAS and iSCSI LUN snapshots.

Data recovery is a cinch as we chose a NAS snapshot, viewed its folders and could restore any of them to their original location, a new shared folder or a remote mount point such as another network system or even a cloud provider. LUN snapshot recovery is simpler as you view them on the timeline, choose the one you want and use it to revert the LUN.

10GbE performance

We tested 10GbE NAS performance by connecting the appliance directly to a Dell PowerEdge R640 Xeon Scalable rack server running Windows Server 2016. Overall, we found read rates much higher than writes with Iometer reporting raw NAS speeds for a mapped share of 9.1Gbits/sec and 3.9Gbits/sec.

Real world tests played out the same with drag and drop copies of a 25GB file returning average read and write speeds of 4.7Gbits/sec and 2.2Gbits/sec. Backups speeds were noticeably lower as our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files was secured to the share at only 1.3Gbits/sec.

It was a similar story for IP SAN testing with a 500GB target delivering raw sequential Iometer read and write rates of 7.7Gbits/sec and 3.6Gbits/sec. Even so, for a budget-priced desktop NAS appliance, overall NAS and IP SAN 10GbE performance is still comparatively good.

App choices

The File Station 5 app can browse NAS snapshots and simplifies data restoration tasks

Along with the Storage and Snapshots Manager, the TS-431X2 and its ARM-based CPU can run many other business apps including Qnap’s Surveillance Station, Container Station, the IFTTT Agent and QIoT Suite Lite. Some apps still only support x86 CPUs and include QTier, Virtualization Station, Network and Virtual Switch and Gmail Backup.

The freshly updated File Station 5 app makes data recovery even easier. You can browse NAS snapshots directly from its interface, choose folders or files and download them straight to your PC, copy them to another NAS folder or even email a link to share them.

The TS-431X2 works well as a small business backup repository as the Qsync Central app allows you to sync folders and files with the appliance from Windows and Mac systems plus iOS and Android mobiles. And then there’s Qnap’s Hybrid Backup Sync app which automates backup of local data to another folder or a remote appliance and runs one- or two-way syncing with one of twelve cloud providers including Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive.

Conclusion

Small businesses looking for an affordable entry-level NAS appliance with plenty of features for the price will like Qnap’s TS-431X2. Performance over 10GbE is a mixed bag with noticeably lower write speeds but this little 4-bay appliance will make a great backup repository and the new Storage and Snapshots Manager adds valuable data protection tools to the storage equation.

7.8 Total Score

Small businesses looking for an affordable entry-level NAS appliance with plenty of features for the price will like Qnap’s TS-431X2. Performance over 10GbE is a mixed bag with noticeably lower write speeds but this little 4-bay appliance will make a great backup repository and the new Storage and Snapshots Manager adds valuable data protection tools to the storage equation.

Performance
7
Features
7.5
Build Quality
8
Usability
8
Value
8.5
PROS
  • Compact and quiet
  • Good value
  • Integral 10GbE SFP+ port
  • Feature-packed QTS 4.3.4 beta
  • Snapshots for EXT4 volumes
CONS
  • Transceiver not included
  • Below par 10GbE write speeds
  • Some app limitations
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