QNAP TS-453A Review (Page 2 of 8)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware (External)

The QNAP TS-453As external design is practically identical everything in the same line of products we have reviewed from company in the past. This means it carries a strong family resemblance to everything ranging from the QNAP TS-439 Pro to the TVS-463. Interestingly, even though it is a product in the company's small business lineup, the QNAP TS-453A is much closer to the consumer TS-419P II than anything else. This means unlike QNAP's professional grade devices, the TS-453A does not have lockable drive trays. Furthermore, it features an external power supply brick rather than an internal power supply. There is an advantage to this; as its heat source is placed outside the system, you will get improved thermal efficiency in operation.

The QNAP TS-453A is not going to win any living room beauty contests like the HS-210, and frankly, if it is going to sit front and center underneath my TV, I think a facelift will do wonders. Meanwhile, the quad-bay TS-453A measures in at 18.0cm wide, 23.5cm deep, and 17.7cm tall according to specifications -- just like the TVS-463 and everything that came before. It features four prominent and easily accessible vertically mounted disk trays, and a small, dual-line LCD display placed near the top for the user's convenience. An infrared receiver is found above the fourth drive bay, used for the included RM-IR002 remote control -- more on this later. Drive number order is reiterated by a diagram sticker placed at the top of the unit. The ventilated disk trays provide excellent airflow over the hard drives driven by the rear mounted cooling fan inside the QNAP TS-453A.

QNAP's embossed logo is finished in brushed silver-colored metal, and placed near the top left corner; whereas a black, textured hard plastic surface occupies the rest of the front face. Two cleanly finished buttons are placed at the bottom left corner -- where one is a power button, and under it is another button labeled "Copy". This is to be used with the USB 3.0 port placed neatly in the middle of the Copy button for quick backup processes. Having the USB port in the middle of the button looks pretty cool, but you will sacrifice some usability. Both of the buttons protrudes slightly, so there is a slight chance that someone may accidentally knock the power button. Fortunately, the system will prompt you on the LCD screen to initiate the shutdown procedure after depressing the power button, so it is not really an issue with regards to accidentally powering off the machine.

The QNAP TS-453A's LCD display is navigated by two simple buttons adjacent to it: The Enter key, and the Select key. There is more than sufficient room for more, especially something like a D-pad may greatly enhance navigation. Fortunately, this screen is not necessarily used all the time. When on, its LCD screen features a blue backlight; and displays large, clear text in white to contrast with its background. The LCD display allows the user to monitor quick information, as well as easily perform some configuration and maintenance tasks. An array of LEDs can be seen under it to indicate system status, USB status, as well as LAN status, respectively. The system status LED will turn off when the hard disks are on standby. Each independent hard drive has its own status LED as well, which are cleverly placed on the system itself, on the clear strip near the top of each hard drive tray. This can be seen if you look carefully at the photo above. The drive status LEDs flashes when there is disk activity, and remains on when it is idling. It turns red if the system determines the corresponding hard drive is in trouble. The easy to access drive bays in conjunction with convenience added by the simple LCD screen really added to the overall usage experience of these excellent network appliances on my network. By retaining its excellent design, there is absolutely no learning curve for users who are familiar with using QNAP NAS systems -- it is all plug and play.

While the QNAP TS-453A is constructed on a steel frame, its shell that covers three sides of the system is composed of brushed aluminum in gunmetal with a black overtone. It looks pretty good in my opinion, but it is nothing we have not seen before from the company. For most business users, the NAS will be placed in a room where no one will bother spending time admiring your equipment. But for others, this may end up being in their living room, so appearance is important, although I still do not think the TS-453A will blend in too well with your home theater receiver and Blu-ray player. At the top, a label is there to show the user how to quickly get myQNAPcloud up and running quickly. A key unique to your specific box is provided to streamline to the setup process.

What we have at the back of the system are enough ports to function as a personal computer, rather than a simple network storage device as NAS devices are back in the days. At the top are two 6.3mm dynamic microphone jacks and one 3.5mm audio line out connector for all your karaoke needs as well. The beefy audio subsystem is powered by Realtek's ALC262 audio codec with a 24-bit stereo DACs and 20-bit stereo ADC; more on this later. Not only can this system act as your media center system though. If you plug in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, you can literally use it as your PC. Unfortunately, there is no S/PDIF output; the only way to get digital audio is via HDMI passthrough.

The connection array at the back is simple yet generous; where you are provided three USB 3.0 ports for storage, up to three printers, or peripherals. Two HDMI 1.4a ports are present for duplicating or extending your desktop; no HDMI 2.0 here though, unfortunately. Four integrated Intel Gigabit LAN ports reside below the USB ports. You can configure them for maximum performance, network redundancy, load balancing, and even multiple independent networks. The socket at the bottom right corner accepts the 12V DC input from the external 96W power brick. Meanwhile, a large single 120mm YS Tech FD121225LB exhaust fan pulls heat out of your NAS server, with its exhaust vents cut into the steel panel. A proper fan grille would be better for airflow in my opinion. More information on this fan will be explored on the next page.

The shell is attached by three screws. Removing it may require some prying; more on this later. Notably missing as shown in our photo above is the dreaded warranty seal we have all come to hate, because with the promised user upgradeable memory, you are now given limited access to the QNAP TS-453A's interior. We will show you where the seal went in just a moment. Additionally, you are also no longer forced to void your warranty if you need to open the unit just to clean out some dust off its fan.

There is nothing particularly exciting at the bottom of the QNAP TS-453A's chassis; what you will see here are four large legs affixed on top of its steel frame panel. As always, they are installed to reduce vibration noise, increase grip, and prevent surface scratching. The left side of the network attached storage system features a neat array of small openings on its brushed aluminum shell. It is placed right next to where the motherboard is inside, to make sure hot air does not get congested within.

Removing its vertically mounted 3.5" SATA disk trays reveals the connector back panel. The SATA backplane ports are powered by an external Marvell controller, connected to the Intel SoC on the PCIe bus. Since this is a SATA system, all hard drives are hot swappable. Removing the hard drive tray is very simple -- just pull on a lever at the top, and it is out. The disk trays are not labeled. Functionally, the installation order does not matter in a RAID system, but I think being able to discern which disk is which by a physical label can be very useful. Obviously, you can grab a permanent marker and mark them by hand, but labeling them "Disk 1" to "Disk 4" from the factory is probably not too hard. Each tray can accommodate a 2.5" or 3.5" drive, along with a maximum amount of ventilation openings at the bottom for improved heat dissipation. The latest trays are inner lined with a clear plastic layer to prevent any electrical short problems. The QNAP TS-453A supports single disk, RAID 0 (Disk Striping), RAID 1 (Disk Mirroring), RAID 5, RAID 5 plus spare, RAID 6, RAID 10, and JBOD (Linear Disk Volume). If you want to encrypt your data, you have the option to enable its FIPS 140-2 validated AES 256-bit volume-based encryption.

A RM-IR002 remote control is included with the QNAP TS-453A. It is powered by a single included CR2032 battery. I would have much preferred AAA batteries instead, since they are more readily available. That aside, if you are looking to place your network attached storage system in your living room, and use it as a media center PC, this will be an absolutely invaluable accessory. The remote control is very compact, and extremely simple in nature. As you can see in our photo above, there is a power button at the top, with an Info button next to it. A D-pad with an OK button in the middle is present to simplify navigation tasks. Below that, from left to right and top to bottom, we have Home, Back, Options, Mute, Volume Down, and Volume Up. All of them are aptly labeled with its corresponding symbol, which should be quite self-explanatory. Overall, you will not find a remote control much simpler, and I am happy it is quite intuitively designed.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware (External)
3. A Closer Look - Hardware (Internal)
4. Configuration and User Interface, Part I
5. Configuration and User Interface, Part II
6. Configuration and User Interface, Part III
7. Performance and Power Consumption
8. Conclusion