Best value

Qnap TS-831X Review

The TS-831X targets bandwidth hungry small businesses as it’s Qnap’s first entry-level desktop NAS appliance to come out of the box with dual 10GbE SFP+ ports. It looks good value as the base price of $999 for the diskless model on review includes the full 16GB of DDR3 memory.

Competing directly with Synology’s 8-bay DS2015xs, it also employs an Annapurna Labs Alpine SoC (system on chip) which provides the embedded 10GbE ports. The DS2015xs has a quad-core 1.7GHz Alpine AL-514 SoC whereas Qnap has plumped for a slightly cheaper 1.4GHz AL-314 version.

There little between them for price but TS-831X scores higher for value as it has a quadruple helping of memory and another trick up its sleeve. Along with dual 10GbE and Gigabit ports, it also provides an extra PCI-Express slot for adding even more network ports.

Storage capacity can be expanded outside the box with the appliance’s two rear USB 3 ports. These can be used to connect Qnap’s 5-bay UX-500P or 8-bay UX-800P enclosures allowing the hard disk count to be pushed to a maximum of 24.

Seagate’s high-capacity 10TB IronWolf

We tested the TS-831X using Seagate’s high-capacity 10TB IronWolf drives

Easy deployment

For this review, we opted to test using Seagate’s latest 10TB IronWolf SATA hard disks. Specifically designed for use in NAS appliances, the IronWolf offers a host of valuable features for reliable 24/7 operations and claims to be the first in its class to have rotational vibration sensors.

We got our hands on the IronWolf drives so early that Qnap hadn’t yet certified them. Even so, we loaded up a triplet and created a huge 18.1TB RAID5 array from them without any problems.

Installation is handled very nicely by Qnap’s QFinder app which discovered the appliance on the network, loaded the latest QTS software and provided sage advice on the various types of storage pools available. We opted for a thin storage pool so we could create multiple volumes inside it with thin provisioning.

Good NAS performance

For performance testing, we linked the appliance over 10GbE to a Lenovo x3550 M5 rack server equipped with dual 12-core E5-2650 v4 Xeons plus an Emulex dual-port fibre 10GbE adapter and running Windows Server 2012 R2. With a share mapped to the server over 10GbE, we saw Iometer record solid raw read and write speeds of 1,176MB/sec and 801MB/sec.

Real world NAS speeds were good with our 25GB test file copy averaging read and write speeds of 449MB/sec and 346MB/sec. Backups won’t take long either as our 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files was secured to a share at 252MB/sec.

We ramped up the pressure by mapping another share to a second E5-2600 v4 server over a dedicated 10GbE link. With Iometer running on both servers, we saw cumulative raw read and writes rates of 2,348MB/sec and 1,350MB/sec.

IP SAN performance isn’t so clever with a 500GB target returning Iometer read and write speeds over 10GbE of 980MB/sec and only 540MB/sec. We saw similar speeds to these with Synology’s DS2015xs indicating the Alpine SoC doesn’t handle IP SAN demands so well.

Missing apps

Another drawback of the Alpine CPU is it’s ARM-based so doesn’t support a number of key apps as Qnap has written them to support only x86 CPUs. First up is the new VJBOD feature which provides capacity expansion using remote iSCSI targets.

The TS-831X doesn’t support this so you can only use its iSCSI targets to expand capacity on another Qnap appliance that does support VJBOD. Other omissions are the Virtualization and Linux Stations, the Network and Virtual Switch app and NAS and IP SAN snapshots and replication.

That said, the TS-831X is far from bereft of data protection tools. The new Hybrid Backup Sync app makes light work of backup management as it controls all your local, remote, Rsync, and iSCSI LUN backups from a single interface.

Qsync Central Station

The Qsync Central Station 2.0 provides a wealth of Internet-enabled file syncing tools

Qnap’s RTRR (real-time remote replication) is ideal for creating essential off-site backups as it can be used to run one-way syncs between folders on local and remote Qnap NAS appliances. Even better, Qnap has now added RTRR support for two-way folder syncing and the app provides quick start wizards for every type of task.

Cloud features

Qnaps’ QTS software has a superb range of cloud-related features with the Qsync Central Station app providing great workstation backup facilities. On our Windows 10 systems, we linked the Qsync desktop app with the appliance using its MyQnapCloud address and created jobs for real-time file syncing between folder pairs.

Installing the Cloud Backup Sync add-on brings in cloud features for the Hybrid Backup Sync app. With this in place, we could also use it to manage backups to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Storage.

Hybrid Backup Sync app

The new Hybrid Backup Sync app provides a central console for all data protection tasks

There’s more as the new File Manager app now provides links for accessing a wide range of cloud syncing accounts. Once remote accounts had been created, we could view all our cloud storage and use simple drag and drop manoeuvres to copy files between them and the appliance.

Conclusion

The TS-831X is a good choice for small businesses that want an affordable NAS appliance that’s fibre 10GbE-ready. The main drawbacks are Qnap’s reduced app support for its ARM-based Alpine CPU, the underwhelming IP SAN performance and the need to factor in the additional costs of 10GbE transceivers plus extra networking equipment to support them.

However, NAS performance over 10GbE is impeccable and Qnap’s cloud support and data backup features are extensive. Synology’s 8-bay DS2105xs is similarly priced but the TS-831X is much better value in the long term as it has four times the memory and an additional expansion slot.

8.4 Total Score
Small Business with Great Value

The TS-831X is a good choice for small businesses that want an affordable NAS appliance that’s fibre 10GbE-ready. The main drawbacks are Qnap’s reduced app support for its ARM-based Alpine CPU, the underwhelming IP SAN performance and the need to factor in the additional costs of 10GbE transceivers plus extra networking equipment to support them. However, NAS performance over 10GbE is impeccable and Qnap’s cloud support and data backup features are extensive. Synology’s 8-bay DS2105xs is similarly priced but the TS-831X is much better value in the long term as it has four times the memory and an additional expansion slot.

Performance
8
Features
7.5
Build quality
9
Usability
8.5
Value
9
PROS
  • Integral 10GbE SFP+ ports
  • Good 10GbE NAS performance
  • Top value
  • Data protection apps
  • Excellent cloud support
CONS
  • Some apps not available for ARM-based CPu
  • Below par 10GbE iSCSI performance
  • Additional cost of 10GbE transceivers
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