Qnap TBS-453A Review

QNAP TBS 453A front view

Now here’s something completely different. Probably the smallest NAS appliance currently on the market, Qnap claims the ultra-compact TBS-453A NASBook as the world’s first to use M.2 SSDs.

This slim plastic slab is the size of a generous paperback book and a mere 30mm thick so it can easily be carried in a bag to meetings and used for presentations. Home users looking for a more visually appealing storage and multimedia center will also approve of its sleek lines.

It’s no featherweight in the hardware department either as it sports a 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core CPU. Models are available with 4GB or 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3L memory and we have the latter on review.

It supports up to four M.2 SSDs which are treated a normal drives so you have all the same storage features and RAID possibilities as offered with Qnap’s standard appliances. If you’re buying it diskless, the NASBook supports 2242, 2260 and 2280 form-factor M.2 SATA SSDs – check out Qnap’s compatibility list which includes a good selection from the likes of Intel, Samsung, Transcend and SanDisk.

Hardware features

Qnap has crammed a remarkable number of hardware feature into the chassis. The dual USB 3 ports at the front are partnered by a backup button which when pressed, fires up a predefined One Touch job to copy data to or from the inserted storage device.

Next door is an SD Card slot along with drive status LEDs plus volume and power control buttons. A USB 2 port and internal speaker are on the side and a peek round the back reveals two more USB 3 ports, dual HDMI ports with 4K 2160P Ultra HD support, line-out for an external speaker and dual MIC-in for karaoke fans.

Standout features are the single Gigabit port and integral four-port Gigabit LAN switch. This makes the NASBook very versatile as it can be used to share LAN and Internet access with multiple systems or to create a private network using Qnap’s Network and Virtual Switch app.

TBS 453A Rear view

Easy upgrades

QNAP's TBS-453A Storage Manager

Qnap’s Storage Manager looks after the M.2 SSDs so all standard RAID arrays are possible

TBS-453A

The NASBook internals are accessed via thumbscrews cunningly concealed underneath the four rubber foot pads. Just slide them to one side, remove the screws and the base slips off to reveal bays for the SSDs and memory.

Each of the SSD slots has three screw mounts so you can use 42mm, 60mm and 80mm long cards. The installation kit also includes four tiny stick-on heatsinks plus the mounting screws

Two SO-DIMM slots are provided for memory and our system was populated with two 4GB sticks. The 4GB model comes with two 2GB modules which will both need replacing if you decide to upgrade later on.

The case even has a miniature blower fan positioned next to the CPU socket. The N3150 has a tiny 6W TDP so the fan doesn’t have a lot of work to do and we found it to be virtually silent.

Installation and features

The TBS 453A has a built in switch

The appliance’s built-in switch can be used to create a private network

Installation is no different to any other Qnap NAS appliance as a quick start wizard runs though setting up basic system details and helping configure the SSDs. We used pair of 256GB Transcend SATA III 2280 SSDs and opted for a mirrored Storage Space allowing us to create multiple NAS volumes and iSCSI LUNs.

Data backup features are extensive as the Storage Manager app schedules snapshots of selected volumes and LUNs and provides simple recovery tools. All of Qnap’s data protection apps are supported including the new Hybrid Backup Sync which brings all your local, remote, Rsync, cloud and iSCSI LUN backups plus snapshot replications into a single console.

The Photo, Music and Video Stations make the NASBook a great entertainment center and Qnap includes a remote control handset. The HD Station app allows videos to be played on an attached HD TV or you can swap the HDMI ports to the Linux Station app, view Ubuntu Desktop on it and control it with a local keyboard and mouse.

Great performance

Qnap’s TBS-453A QTS

Qnap’s QTS provides a wealth of features including a wide range of multimedia apps

With the same CPU as Qnap’s storming TS-853A (add web link to review), we had great expectations and the NASBook didn’t disappoint us. With a share mapped to an HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen9 rack server connected to the standalone Gigabit port, we watched Iometer report fast raw read and write rates of 113MB/sec.

Copying a 25GB test file between the NASBook and server returned equally good read and write rates of 111MB/sec and 110MB/sec. Our backup test was also handled well with a 22.4GB test folder and its 10,500 small files secured to the share at an average of 82MB/sec.

To test maximum performance, we connected a second server to the NASBook’s switch and mapped a dedicated share to it. With Iometer running on both servers, we recorded cumulative read and write rates of 226MB/sec and 224MB/sec.

There is a catch though, as the appliance has two embedded Gigabit network adapters with one dedicated to the switch and shared across its four ports. This creates a bottleneck and to highlight this, we connected both test servers to the switch ports, ran Iometer simultaneously on them and recorded read and write speeds for each one of 56MB/sec and 55MB/sec.

PROS:

  • Highly portable
  • Top performance
  • Innovative and compact design
  • Very quiet
  • QTS delivers a superb range of features

CONS:

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Very high costs per GB
  • Total switch throughput is 1Gbps

Conclusion

The TBS-453A is undeniably an innovative NAS appliance but the small capacities and high prices of M.2 SATA SSDs will limit its appeal. Capacity can be expanded further by connecting Qnap’s 5-bay UX-500P or 8-bay UX-800P expansion units but if would be far cheaper to buy a standard desktop Qnap NAS appliance that uses low-cost, high-capacity SATA hard disks.

However, the TBS-453A is an ideal candidate if you want a portable, high performance storage appliance packed with useful features. It also appeals as a compact and very quiet home multimedia center and certainly looks a lot more interesting than your average boring box of disks.

7.7 Total Score
Innovation at a High Price

The TBS-453A is undeniably an innovative NAS appliance but the small capacities and high prices of M.2 SATA SSDs will limit its appeal. Capacity can be expanded further by connecting Qnap’s 5-bay UX-500P or 8-bay UX-800P expansion units but if would be far cheaper to buy a standard desktop Qnap NAS appliance that uses low-cost, high-capacity SATA hard disks.

However, the TBS-453A is an ideal candidate if you want a portable, high performance storage appliance packed with useful features. It also appeals as a compact and very quiet home multimedia center and certainly looks a lot more interesting than your average boring box of disks.

Performance
9
Features
9
Build Quality
8.5
Usability
7
Value
5

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