QNAP TS-453A Review (Page 3 of 8)

Page 3 - A Closer Look - Hardware (Internal)

There is little wasted room inside the QNAP TS-453A network attached storage. With an identical chassis design compared to other NAS boxes we have seen from QNAP, there is definitely space at the top for an internal power supply, but they chose to use a brick instead. It is also built nearly the exact same way as ASUSTOR boxes like the AS7004T, from the way components are mounted to the way panels are interlocked. We can see the LCD controller module at the front, as well as the four 3.5" drive bays occupying majority of the area. A few centimeters of clearance room can be seen between the rear 120mm fan and the hard drive bays. This allows some space between components to reduce heat congestion. Its well-placed rear exhaust fan can then easily take out the warm air, and allow cooler air to flow over the mounted hard drives with minimal turbulence noise. A small black heatsink over the CPU is placed between the fan and the hard drive bays to cool the processor. The motherboard is mounted with its components facing inwards to take advantage of the airflow generated by the sole rear fan as well, with the entire back covered by a piece of clear plastic, just in case anything makes contact with the shell and short circuits. Generally speaking, it is pretty packed inside the QNAP TS-453A, but everything is neatly placed and cabled to maximize cooling efficiency.

The power supply is an external brick manufactured by FSP. The FSP096-AHAN2 is a 12V power supply specified for up to 8A of current. This means it can deliver a maximum of 96W. As far as efficiency is concerned, it is "VI" rated. To skip over all the nitty gritty compliance details of this technical specification, the basic gist of it is it has to be at least 87.5% efficient in given conditions, and consumes less than 0.50W in no-load mode.

Unless you are someone determined to void your warranty and persistent enough to rip your new $600 file server apart, it is actually quite a challenge to dig into the further details on this product. I bet the guy who designed the chassis was probably thinking to himself, "No one is going to take this product apart, but if someone tries, I will make their life as hard as possible." As it has always been, QNAP has 'conveniently' made everything interlocking -- for example, the motherboard cannot be removed unless you release a screw hidden behind the front panel as well as the SATA backplane, which the latter cannot be taken out by itself, since it is blocked off by the chassis frame and power supply. But if you are as inclined as I have, then a bit of persistence and thirty minutes of time will prove to be quite rewarding. (It took me almost two hours with my first QNAP, but with some experience, half an hour was good enough this time around.) After removing the power supply and disengaging the chassis back panel, remove four screws on the SATA backplane. You can now slide it out by moving it to the left. Take out all the screws at the back of the motherboard, disconnect all the cables, and remove six more screws to take out the front panel. A screw next to the front panel controls will allow you to take the motherboard out entirely. Now we can finally really take a closer look at the hardware under the hood.

QNAP's TS-453A NAS features an Intel Celeron N3150 "Braswell" system-on-a-chip. The 14nm Intel SoC features four cores running at 1.6GHz, Turbo Boost up to 2.08GHz, 2MB L2 cache, and is rated at 6W TDP. An integrated Intel HD Graphics HD Graphics is clocked at 320MHz (640MHz burst), and can utilize up to 8GB of system memory for graphics. There is a small black heatsink near the center of the motherboard to cool down the Celeron N3150. It is attached by four plastic clips. Four Intel WGI210AT Gigabit LAN controllers powers all the Gigabit Ethernet ports at the back. USB 3.0 is supplied natively by the SoC. Two ASMedia ASM1182e PCI Express packet switches can be spotted. Hardware is monitored by an ITE IT8528E chip. All of these mentioned ports are soldered directly to the motherboard, as shown in the photo above.

QNAP's embedded Linux based operating system is installed on an Apacer 512MB flash memory chip on a module. Meanwhile, the audio subsystem is powered by a Realtek ALC262 high definition audio codec on a separate board. The ALC262 features two 24-bit stereo DACs and three 20-bit stereo ADCs. An ON Semiconductor NCS20072 operational amplifier can be seen on the same board.

The user upgradeable memory slots can be seen above. Since this is the back of the motherboard, you can easily add extra RAM to the system immediately after taking the shell off, which means you will not void your warranty. Even the clear plastic sheet that covers the back of the motherboard has a small cutout for easy RAM installation. Our NAS came with 2x2GB of DDR3L-1600 SODIMMs featuring eight Samsung K4B2G0846Q ICs on each module. The TS-453A is also available with 8GB of RAM, but at press time, there is a price difference of $150 between the two models. A pair of 4GB SODIMMs is only about $40 at press time, and you can easily upgrade it yourself in less than five minutes. From my experience, I never needed any more memory than my QNAP NAS already came with, but user upgradeable memory is always a good thing for more RAM intensive applications. This is especially useful if you are planning to use it as a virtualization box.

Lastly, we have the rear 120mm fan, SATA backplane, and front panel LED board. The front panel LED board is even labeled "TS-470 PRO" on the silkscreen. All ports on the SATA backplane are SATA 6Gb/s ports supplied by a pair of Marvell 88SE9215 controllers. An ASMedia ASM1466 SATA repeater chip is found to ensure data signal quality and integrity. On the left, the YS Tech FD121225LB is a 120mm ball bearing PWM fan specified at 0.18A for a maximum of speed of 1800 rpm. The rated airflow is 73 CFM and 2.6 mm-H2O static pressure at 34 dB of noise.

We can see QNAP used excellent hardware for their network attached storage system. But we must understand the sum of the system is not limited to just the hardware, but also the software. Over the years, network attached storage systems have evolved from relatively simple file servers to fully fledged network appliances with more features than I can keep track of. As such, we will take a look at the latest operating system update from the company, QTS 4.2. After putting everything back together, and praying that my TS-453A still starts, we hit the power button to fire it up.

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