Editors Choice

Qnap TS-431XeU-8G Review

Space poor SMBs will love Qnap’s TS-431XeU as it’s probably the most compact rack mount NAS appliance on the planet. Its standard-width 1U chassis measures a mere 291mm deep, meaning it’ll slip easily in the smallest of data cabinets or some spare space in larger racks.

Its closest competitor is Synology’s RS816 which is slightly deeper and a little cheaper but comes a poor second for power with its elderly Marvell Armada CPU and 1GB of memory. The TS-431XeU is endowed with a speedy quad-core 1.7GHz Annapurna Alpine AL-314 CPU teamed up with either 2GB or the maximum 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory.

Qnap wins in the network stakes too, as the TS-431XeU has dual embedded Gigabit ports and a single 10GbE SFP+ port at the back (transceiver not included). It has four USB 3 ports which can be used to expand capacity up to a maximum of 24 drives with Qnap’s 8-bay UX-800U-RP or 12-bay UX-1200U-RP disk shelves.

The TS-431XeU is also being pitched at Qnap users who want a space friendly solution for expanding capacity of existing NAS appliances. Using the VJBOD feature of its QTS software, you can create iSCSI targets on the TS-431XeU and present them to other Qnap appliances as virtual storage pools.

App support

The new Storage and Snapshot Manager app supports snapshots while the Qboost robot keeps an eye on system health

Installation is a cinch as the QFinder Pro Windows app discovered the appliance on the lab network and directed us over to its web interface where a quick start wizard installed the current production QTS software. For testing, we chose a quartet of 10TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives and let the wizard create a big RAID5 array for us.

Prior to testing, we also upgraded the appliance with the latest QTS 4.3.4 beta software as it offers a number of valuable features. This is easy enough to do as you check the agreement box in the firmware download page and it’ll upgrade the appliance with the beta software.

A drawback of the Alpine CPU is it’s a 32-bit ARM-based model so can’t run a number of key QTS apps as Qnap has written them to support only x86 CPUs. These include QTier, Virtualization Station, Network and Virtual Switch, Gmail Backup, Memeo C1, Object Storage Server and Acronis True Image.

The good news is it can run Surveillance Station, Container Station, the IFTTT Agent and QIoT Suite Lite. Even better, Qnap’s new Storage and Snapshot Manager app allows you to run manual and scheduled NAS share and IP SAN snapshots – something not previously possible on 32-bit appliances.

10GbE performance

With a 10GbE SFP+ transceiver plugged into the appliance, we hooked it up over a direct fiber connection to a Dell PowerEdge R640 Xeon Scalable rack server running Windows Server 2016. Raw NAS performance is a mixed bag with a mapped share returning high Iometer sequential read rates of 8.8Gbits/sec but a significantly lower write rate of 4Gbits/sec.

It was a similar story with our real world tests as drag and drop copies of a 25GB file delivered average sustained read and write speeds of 4.8Gbits/sec and 2.1Gbits/sec. Our general backup test also delivered comparatively low results as securing a 22.4GB folder and its 10,500 small files to the share averaged only 1.3Gbits/sec.

We also found 10GbE IP SAN performance was slightly lower than NAS speeds. A 500GB target returned sequential Iometer read and write rates of 7.7Gbits/sec and 3.5Gbits/sec.

VJBOD setup

The VJBOD feature of QTS allows local storage to be presented to other Qnap NAS appliances for expansion purposes but there are some provisos with the TS-431XeU. Its 32-bit CPU doesn’t support VJBOD so it can only offer its iSCSI targets to those appliances that do support it.

We tested this by creating a 500GB target on the TS-431XeU and presenting it to a Qnap TS-1253BU-RP over its Gigabit ports. It’s easy to configure as from the recipient appliance, the VJBOD wizard scanned the network and found the TS-431XeU.

It handles further configuration and offers choices for creating a new iSCSI target on the donor or selecting an existing one. You then have options for creating a new storage pool or a static volume from the VJBOD volume and we recommend the former as only this allows you to run snapshots on the recipient appliance.

You can bind the VJBOD virtual volume to the recipient so no other NAS can use it. Note that VJBOD doesn’t support thinly provisioned LUNs or volume expansion on the donor appliance.

Performance for VJBOD volumes is good and we mapped a NAS share to our test server over a Gigabit connection. Iometer reported sequential read and write rates of 112MB/sec and 109MB/sec – only slightly lower speeds than for a NAS share on a local volume.

 Conclusion

Qnap’s QTS provides a wealth of backup facilities for NAS volumes, desktops and mobiles

Its 32-bit CPU does restrict the number of QTS apps the TS-431XeU can run but all the important ones are present and correct. Linking it with the VJBOD feature on existing Qnap appliances provides an easy way to expand central storage while features such as the Hyper Backup Sync app make it a great central repository for small office desktop and server backup.

The Cloud Drive Sync plug-in adds support for eleven popular storage providers including Dropbox, OneDrive and Amazon Drive. Qsync Central adds even more backup features as you can use it to sync folders and files on Windows and Mac systems along with iOS and Android mobiles.

At $699, the 8GB version is comparatively good value made all the more appealing by the integral 10GbE SFP+ port. Its compact dimensions allow it to fit in the smallest of office or rack spaces and with our sound measurements recording a zephyr-like 35.2dB, it may be seen, but it certainly won’t be heard.

7.8 Total Score

Its 32-bit CPU does restrict the number of QTS apps the TS-431XeU can run but all the important ones are present and correct. Linking it with the VJBOD feature on existing Qnap appliances provides an easy way to expand central storage while features such as the Hyper Backup Sync app make it a great central repository for small office desktop and server backup.

Performance
7
Features
7
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
8
Value
8.5
PROS
  • Ultra-compact design
  • Very quiet
  • Embedded 10GbE SFP+ port
  • Feature-rich QTS 4.3.4 beta
  • Handy for VJBOD expansion
CONS
  • Modest 10GbE write speeds
  • 32-bit CPU limits app choices
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