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QNAP TS-119 Turbo NAS Review
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Date: Jun 09, 2009
Section:IT/Datacenter
Author: Shawn Oliver
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Introduction and Specifications


QNAP, purveyor of Network Attached Storage devices large and small, has just recently introduced what it's calling the world's most affordable NAS server with iSCSI. The device they speak of is the single-bay TS-119 Turbo Pro, which we've taken into our labs and scoped out across the pages to come. The device itself is just marginally larger than a typical external hard drive, and at first glance, that's exactly what it looks like. The array of LED-backlit words down the front panel and the port selection around back give away its true nature, though, as this thing is built for networks from the ground-up.



For those unfamiliar with the technology, a NAS drive is -- in its simplest form -- a slice of storage that can be accessed from any Internet-connected machine, so long as it's connected to a networked PC or a router via Ethernet. Or, if the machine is local to the network on which the NAS drive is connected, that statement could end with "any network-connected machine." Put as simply as possible, a NAS is an external storage solution for those who need to upload and download files from their external drive anywhere, not just when on the PC to which it's connected. The "networked" nature of these units make them extremely appealing to businesses small and large, as their employees can login from anywhere and access company data. This same fact has begun to increasingly appeal to on-the-go consumers, who simply cannot go a week, a day or even a few hours without needing to share data with a hard drive that's physically located in a place other than where they are.

    

The TS-119 Turbo NAS is, for all intents and purposes, a refreshed edition of the TS-109. This new model includes twice the onboard memory (512MB in the TS-119 versus 256MB in the TS-109) and a much more powerful processor (1.2GHz in the TS-119 versus 500MHz in the TS-109). It was introduced alongside the dual-bay TS-219 Turbo NAS, though aside from the obvious space constraints, practically all of that unit's new features have been passed on to the smaller, single-bay unit that we're looking at today. This drive supports 2TB of SATA HDD storage internally, which can be expanded to a maximum of 4TB by eSATA or USB expansion (both ports are included on the rear). The fanless design aims to keep things quiet, but as we'll detail later on, it definitely keeps things toasty. Aside from storing files and making them accessible via your local network or the Web, the TS-119 Turbo NAS also doubles as a network iTunes server, a UPnP server or a DLNA media streamer. QNAP provides built-in compatibility with Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and other NFS-supported High-Definition devices. Finally, the unit can also handle BitTorrent downloads remotely; in other words, you can enable the device to manage the download / upload of a torrent (or list of torrents).


 
QNAP TS-119 Turbo NAS
Specifications and Features
Storage capacity:

Hard drives:

CPU:
DRAM:
Flash Memory:
Connectivity:
 
LED Indicators:
USB:


Buttons:          


Compatibility:

Dimensions:
Weight:
Warranty:
Package contents:



MSRP
2TB max. internal (SATA HDD) / expandable to 4TB via eSATA or USB 2.0
None Included; accepts 1 x 3.5" SATA I/II HDD, up to 2TB
Marvell 6281 (1.2GHz)
512MB DDRII
16MB
10/100/1000 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet port; (3) USB 2.0 ports; eSATA port; AC adapter port
USB; Status; HDD; eSATA; LAN; Power
3 x USB 2.0 port (Front: 1; Back: 2)
Supports USB printer, flash drive, USB hub, USB UPS, etc.
System: Power button, USB One-Touch-Backup Button, Reset button

(See Full List Below)

7.17 (H) x 2.36 (W) x 8.27(D) inches
4.63 pounds
1 year
QNAP TS-119 Turbo NAS device; AC adater; Power Cord; CD-ROM (user manual, Quick Install Wizard and software inclusive); Quick Installation Guide; Screws; Ethernet Cable; Stands (2)
$299.99


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Design and Build Quality


QNAP's devices have always been simply styled; classic designs and black coats have become the norm, and nothing's changing drastically with the somewhat plain TS-119 Turbo NAS. The shell itself is solid aluminum, with the only plastic being on the front and rear end caps. The case itself boasts a matte black finish with curved edges, which sort of reminds us of Western Digital's early My Book Essential line.



On the front, you'll find two hard buttons -- 'Copy' (for one-touch backups) and 'Power' -- along with six LED-backlit status indicators. There's also a USB 2.0 port for easy expansion.



On the rear, you'll find twin USB 2.0 ports (for USB hubs, printers, external hard drives, etc.), an eSATA socket, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, an AC output and a Kensington lock slot for added protection.


The build quality of the unit is second to none, with the rugged aluminum shell exuding confidence. Opening the device up to install a hard drive wasn't too difficult, and everything within seemed sturdy and well built. Speaking of within, you'll hardly find anything in there. A single slab of PCB dominates the interior, waiting for your HDD to be inserted. There is plenty of open space within, which was a deliberate move to keep the fans out of the equation.



Inserting the hard drive was a lesson in simplicity. Simply align the connection pins, slide it in, and screw it down. Nothing to it, really. Just to be clear, QNAP doesn't ship its TS-119 Turbo NAS with a hard drive. The HDD you see here in our tests is for evaluation only. Those who purchase this NAS will have to provide their own hard drive, as the $299.99 MSRP does not include one.



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Initial Setup


While traditional external hard drives that connect to a single machine via USB 2.0 are typically plug-and-play, the same can't be said of a NAS. As with other drives in its category, QNAP encourages you to run its QFinder application from the get-go in order to find and map the drive, initialize the HDD within, name the NAS and configure it for use on your network. The good news is that QNAP provides this setup software for both Macs and PCs, and we tested both applications to ensure that they both worked well. Indeed, we were satisfied with the simplistic setup on both the Mac and PC, and it should be noted that the drive isn't affected in any way depending on what platform you originally configure it on; in other words, the setup and configuration process is the same on both Macs and PCs.

   
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We should note that the only issue we had during setup was the following: in order to ensure a solid setup, we connected the TS-119 Turbo NAS directly to our MacBook Pro via Ethernet and disabled Wi-Fi. Thus, the machine was not connected to the Internet and was only connected to the NAS directly (and not through a router, for example). This configuration allowed our setup to progress without a hitch. When trying this again with Wi-Fi enabled, the machine refused to recognize the NAS drive which was connected via Ethernet. Moral of the story? Kill all of your other connections when setting this drive up initially, and try to get a direct Ethernet connection if you can.

   
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The QFinder software walks you through every step of the setup, and the included documentation booklets from QNAP are also extremely helpful. Even first-time NAS users should have no issue setting their device up. We had the unit up and running and visible on a network within 20 minutes of removing it from its packaging, though we should note that this is with pretty much every configurable option set to default. To QNAP's credit, tweaking the configuration post-setup was dead simple via the QFinder application or Web interface, so users should rest assured that making future changes will not be difficult.

   
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Have a look at the screengrabs above and below (posted in order) to get a better idea of what you'll face in the not-at-all-daunting Initial Setup phase. Any screengrab can be enlarged by simply clicking on it.

   
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Account and Folder Management


After you've completed the initial setup, there are only a few things left to do (if you so choose). You can add users or groups, add or change folders, give / deny permission to view said folders, schedule backups, manage external drives connected directly to the NAS and setup your UPnP / DLNA / iTunes server. And that's just to get you started.



Needless to say, the real fun begins after the initial setup ends. QNAP provides a fantastic Web interface that enables you to do all of the above mentioned chores, and users can access files remotely via the Web or via Windows Explorer / Finder (in OS X). You can create folders that only certain individuals / groups can access, and you can setup your NAS so that it streams content from to or from other multimedia devices. With a UPnP app, you can even stream content on your NAS to your iPod touch or iPhone, though you'll need a Wi-Fi hotspot and a darn good broadband connection at home to ensure things stay smooth.



We should mention that QNAP's Web interface is stellar except for one critical aspect: the file management. Setting up new groups, tweaking the configuration and adding users is great, but actually uploading a file to the NAS via the Web interface is a real chore. For starters, it only allows you to add files, not folders. Second, you can't just drag-and-drop folders or files from your desktop to the Web interface. Finally, there's no status or 'Time Remaining' indicator to let you know how quickly your file is transferring (or if it has stalled completely).

   

   
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Thus, we found it best to simply map a network drive to the NAS on your PC or Mac (instructions are provided, though it's pretty simply for experienced NAS users) in order to upload or download files. Treating this like an external hard drive on your desktop is the most convenient way to get or store information. We should also mention that a few of our larger .zip and .dmg files would transfer over but never show up; it's as if they simply got lost on the way to the folder. Eventually things worked out, but we'd be remiss of our duties if we said that every single file transfer happened without nary a problem.

   

   
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Have a look at the screengrabs above and below (posted in order) to get a better idea of what you'll face in the Account Management phase. Any screengrab can be enlarged by simply clicking on it.



   

   


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Backups


One feature that almost every NAS buyer looks forward to using is automatic backup. Be a consumer with multiple PCs in the house, a small business owner with priceless records on file or a web company with critical back-end files to keep track of, everyone can benefit from regularly scheduled backups. QNAP recognizes this fact, and its Web interface tool has a dedicated section for tweaking and scheduling backups to fit your needs. Compared to Maxtor's Central Axis Business Edition NAS service, the TS-119 Turbo NAS is a bit lacking on the backup front, but it definitely has the basics down pat.


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The central "Backup" hub -- shown above -- has three main portals: External Drive, USB One Touch Copy and Remote Replication. The External Drive option leads you to the panel shown below, where you can select which folders (or all of them) within your NAS to backup, which external storage device will act as the recipient of your backups, a backup method and a copy option. As for backup methods, you can select from 'Do not backup,' 'Backup now,' 'Schedule Backup' and 'Auto-backup.' As the title implies, 'Backup now' begins backing up your selected folders immediately as you click 'Apply,' whereas 'Schedule backup,' enables you to pick the day(s) and time to backup your selected folders. 'Auto-backup' begins backing up your selected folders just as soon as an external storage device is connected. As for 'Copy options,' you've got two choices: 1) 'Copy' -- which simply backs up everything to the destination drive in a new save file and 2) 'Synchronize' -- which deletes the previous backup and just synchronizes with the HDDs current data.


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The 'USB One Touch Copy' section provides a few options that are similar to those mentioned above, but rather than copying files over to a selected storage location at a given time, this points your given folders to copy to whatever HDD you connect to the front panel USB port. In other words, this option is more for "one-time" backup needs, while the scheduled backup section is more of a "nightly / weekly" thing -- something you'll do on a regular basis.


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Finally, there's the 'Remote Replication' option. By using this function, you can back up the data on the local server to a remote server of the same NAS series, and also allow backup from remote server to the local server. Few options are given here, with just a Port Number cell accompanying check-able boxes for "Enable backup from a remote server to the local host" and "Allow remote Rsync server to back up data to NAS."


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Advanced Features


QNAP's TS-119 Turbo NAS has a lot of secrets. Good secrets, mind you, but secrets nonetheless. In fact, we'd argue that it's the lesser-known facts about this drive that makes it so attractive. For starters, it works perfectly across Windows, Mac, Linux and UNIX platforms. And we've tried it out -- believe it or not, it really does work seamlessly across systems. Too many devices claim this and come up short, but this unit delivers on its promise. Additionally, it features iSCSI target support, and while we don't expect many TS-119 buyers to take advantage, at least it's there.



Then there's the UPnP, DLNA and iTunes server support. You buy a NAS, you end up with a streaming media server -- not bad. Then there's the automated BitTorrent service, which manages your uploads and downloads even when your PC shuts down. You can also enable the device to connect to the Internet to update its clock (for precise scheduled backups), and it can also emit real-time device status, giving you information about system resource usage, total memory, free memory, packets sent / received, system up time, CPU temperature, HDD temperature, etc. Furthermore, you can arrange for your system to warn you if it exceeds a certain temperature.


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Speaking of alerts, the TS-119 can email you if one (or several) of a few things happen. For instance, you can force the machine to alert you via email if your capacity reaches a certain threshold, which could certainly come in handy. Of course, it also boasts DDNS support, which allows you to register a domain name (www.mynasnamehere.com, for example) and access it via that domain name. Pretty nifty, for sure. Those who like keeping their power bills down should also appreciate the fact that you can schedule the unit to sleep after a certain amount of inactive time, and you can even set the drive to shut down / bootup at given times during the day.


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QNAP also has a few other tricks up its sleeve here, with an 'External Storage Device' portal enabling users to format, partition and see the status of a connected HDD. You can also connect a USB-enabled printer to the device, enabling any machine with access to your NAS to send print commands remotely, so everything's waiting for you upon your arrival. Finally, the USB UPS support can monitor and manage the drive's interactions with a backup power supply. Heck, this thing even supports up to two network IP surveillance cameras -- let's see your vanilla external HDD do that.


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Performance


NAS transfer rates are always tough to measure. Depending on your router or switch, your hard drive and the system you're accessing the files with, the rates you see are bound to vary. That said, we did our best to test the drive out in a variety of scenarios (wired via router, wired directly via Ethernet and wireless via router) and with both a Mac and PC. We also tested transfers remotely over the Internet.



When using a 1,012.8MB .dmg file, we calculated a write rate of 23.44MB/sec and a read rate of 22.02MB/sec, which are strong numbers. Just to put things in perspective, the Maxtor Central Axis Business Edition NAS Server that we lauded back in March notched large file transfer rates of around half of these speeds. The Western Digital My Book World Edition NAS device saw write rates that were significantly slower but read rates that were marginally higher. Like we stated earlier, it's tough to compare results with different test setups, but as a general guide, we can see that QNAP's TS-119 holds its own amongst the competition. When transferring a folder full of JPEG images amounting to around 383MB, we saw performance drop somewhat as expected. Still, results were quite pleasing at 18.9MB/sec (write) and 17.1MB/sec (read).



We should note that downloading and uploading files over Wi-Fi was significantly less speedy (around 30% less in our testing) than the transfers from machines connected over Ethernet. Still, for a NAS device, we were really pleased with the performance. The Web interface was generally quick to load, and files / folders were quick to pop up in Windows Explorer when called upon. Even when accessing the drive remotely over the Internet -- which is far and away the slowest way to go -- we found the UI to be remarkably responsive.



It's hard to quantify things such as "snappiness" and "responsiveness," but suffice it to say, we couldn't be happier with the overall experience. QNAP has ensured that lag is kept to a minimum, and in all but a few circumstances, we felt more like we were interacting with a locally connected external HDD than a NAS drive. For anyone who has had to deal with sluggish NAS interfaces of the past, you'll fully understand just how impressive this is. Indeed, we sorely wish that all NAS interfaces could be this hasty.



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Summary and Conclusion


Clearly, QNAP has tucked all of its SMB / SOHO features into a NAS device that's perfectly suitable for at-home users. It's a unique take on a popular product, and frankly, we think it works -- if you're in the target market, that is. All things considered, the TS-119 Turbo Pro is still more of a small business-type device than something a Joe Six-Pack would pick up to store excess photos of his kids, but for prosumers and at-home professionals that can't afford to lose precious multimedia files, it's a real winner.



Unlike most consumer-level NAS devices, this one is built for heavy usage. It's evident from the very moment you dive into the CoverFlow-esque Web interface, and it's glaringly apparent by the time you forget that you're using a networked device and not a drive that's directly connected. It handles all of the basic NAS tasks with poise -- backups, speedy file transfers, group / user account management, etc. -- but also throws in more professional services such as iSCSI and a rugged, thick aluminum enclosure. Heck, QNAP even lets you choose the hard drive that will reside within.


We found the choice to leave fans out of the equation to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the drive itself was stupendously quiet. We could hear the HDD loud and clear over the NAS itself, so make sure you select a quiet hard drive if that ticking sound grates your nerves. The price for that silence, however, is heat. After around 4GB of transfers and about 45 total minutes of heavy usage, the drive was so hot that we couldn't touch the black casing for more than a few seconds before it just became too uncomfortable. It never got "bottom-of-a-hot-laptop" hot, but it was steaming nonetheless. We doubt it would ever get toasty enough to mar any devices you may stack it on top of, but we would have definitely approved of it more had it remained cool enough to rest our palms on for more than a brief moment.

We would've also enjoyed a few more backup options. In particular, we wish you could map the "One-Touch Backup" button to any backup command, giving users the ability to just mash the button as they check out for the evening and allow it to begin a backup. Also, we experienced a few "vanishing files" using the web interface (and only the web interface, just to clarify) that we never could figure out. We could always re-send the file and cross our fingers, but considering that QNAP is aiming for the "time is money" crowd, we expected more here. In the business world, there's no time for uploading a file to a NAS only to hope it arrives. It better arrive, every time, and quickly.



Overall, the TS-119 Turbo Pro is a very good NAS device with one of the snappiest Web interfaces we've ever seen, not to mention transfer rates that are near the head of the class. It also exhibited top-notch cross platform compatibility, which would prove exceptionally useful in mixed system scenarios with Linux, Mac and PC machines accessing it. We do wish the $300 MSRP was a touch lower, as you'll likely end up spending $400 or more by the time you purchase a decent hard drive with 1TB+ of space. Furthermore, $400 (for the NAS + HDD) looks even steeper when you realize that there is no option for RAID since there's just one bay. Yeah, you can connect an external HDD to add space, but it's just not the same. If cost is no concern and you genuinely have no need for more than one bay in your NAS drive, we can't help but recommend this unit. But, if you're watching your pennies and would appreciate a bit more legroom in the expandability department, we can't say the TS-119 Turbo NAS is the device for you. No doubt, the line between black and white here is pretty clear to us, and you'll likely know right away if the offering that QNAP has assembled is fitting for you.





  • Fast network data transfer rates
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Remote access
  • Very fast Web interface
  • UPnP / DLNA / iTunes server

  • Expensive
  • Runs extremely hot
  • Backup options are lacking
  • Single-bay design


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