QNAP TVS-473 Review (Page 2 of 8)

Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware (External)

My first impression of the QNAP TVS-473 was it took a page out of Apple's design book, just like the TVS-463 I reviewed two years ago. Although it has been redesigned -- mainly shifting the LCD screen and drive bays to the left side of the company logo instead of the right -- the TVS-473 is quintessentially QNAP. However, similar to the TVS-463, instead of the standard black design, the TVS-473 is available in only gold. At least here in North America, gold colored devices have largely made way for black, silver, or chrome finishes since the late nineties. Why the resurgence? According to an article I read a couple of years ago, gold iPhones and MacBooks were a result of demand driven by the mainland China market, and this is probably no exception.

The QNAP TVS-473 is not going to win any living room beauty contests, and frankly, if it is going to sit front and center underneath my TV, you are looking at devices of a different form factor, which the company does sell. Meanwhile, the quad-bay QNAP TVS-473 measures in at 18.82cm wide, 27.96cm deep, and 19.93cm tall according to specifications -- just like the TVS-463 and everything that came before, except with a bit more depth. 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 first drive bay, used for the included RM-IR004 remote control -- more on this later. Drive number order is reiterated by a diagram sticker placed at the top of the unit. The redesigned disk trays are no longer lockable by a key, but should still provide excellent airflow over the hard drives driven by the rear mounted cooling fan inside the QNAP TVS-473.

QNAP's embossed logo is finished in brushed silver-colored metal, and placed near the top right corner; whereas a gold, textured hard plastic surface occupies the rest of the front face. Three cleanly finished buttons are placed at the bottom right corner -- where one is a power button, under it is a button labeled "Copy", followed by a USB QuickAccess port. The copy button is to be used with the USB 3.0 port placed neatly in the middle of it for quick backup processes. Having the USB port in the middle of the button looks pretty cool, but you will sacrifice some usability. Both buttons protrude 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 USB QuickAccess port is for accessing files on your NAS directly from your computer without a network connection.

The QNAP TVS-473'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 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. Even the M.2 drives have status LEDs in front. 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 TVS-473 is constructed on a steel frame, its shell that covers three sides of the system is composed of brushed metal in gold, just like the rest of the NAS. 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 TVS-473 will blend in too well with your home theater receiver and PVR. 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. If you plug in a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, you can literally use it as your PC. At the top are two USB 3.1 Type-A ports by an included add-in card. A second slot is present for a 10GbE card or wireless network adapter, where the latter can turn your NAS into a wireless access point with the right app installed.

Moving on, Two HDMI 1.4a ports are present for duplicating or extending your desktop; no HDMI 2.0 here though, unfortunately. Next, you are provided with three USB 3.0 ports for storage, peripherals, or up to three printers. 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. Adjacent to all these are two 3.5mm microphone inputs and one 3.5mm audio output for all your karaoke needs. If you add a 10GbE card to the free expansion slot at the top, you can pull up to 1035MB/s in throughput according to the company's internal testing. Of course, this is under a very specific configuration. A built-in speaker does things like announcing system status. Imagine the surprise on my face when I first booted up my TVS-473 and a female voice suddenly says out of absolutely nowhere, "System Boot Complete". 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 TVS-473'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 TVS-473'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 bottom and 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 a controller native to its AMD RX-421BD accelerated processing unit platform. Since this is a SATA system, all hard drives are hot swappable. Removing the hard drive tray is very simple -- just unlatch the lock at the bottom, pull on a lever, 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 one 2.5" or 3.5" drive. The latest trays are made out of plastic instead of metal to prevent any electrical short problems, and are not compatible with previous QNAP devices. The TVS-473 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.

An RM-IR004 remote control is included with the QNAP TVS-473. It is powered by two included AAA batteries, which is convenient and readily available. 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 a Home and Info button under it. Volume control occupies the next line. A D-pad with an OK button in the middle is present to simplify navigation tasks. Below that, we a Play/Pause button with four auxiliary buttons. 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