Storage is always something we keep wanting more and more. Businesses can produce information at a growing speed. Sometimes data is stored just because at some point it may be needed. Nothing is discarded, a digital hoarding. Similarly consumers can also generate an enormous amount of data, preserving digital memories including documents, photos, personal videos, music and digital TV recordings.
Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices usually provide a lower maintenance, more resilient solution than PCs with attached storage. These devices can also serve multiple client devices in the house and usually have a good supporting community.
I was curious to try the new QNAP TS-469L NAS because not only it provided the features mentioned (speed, resiliency) but also came with something new: a way to get your NAS connected directly to your Home Theater.
The QNAP TS-469L is powered by an Intel Atom 2.13 GHz Dual-core Processor and comes standard with 1GB RAM. Fear nothing as these are quite good specifications for a device that up until now was exclusively used for file storage and network services. Those are hardly functions that require high processing power.
But when you get into digital entertainment your digital content provider needs to up the game. High Definition content is demanding. So I was surprised to see a commercial NAS that actually provided for this use.
But here's the thing: this 4 x Hot-swappable tray supports 4 x 3.5” or 2.5” SATA 3Gb/s hard drive or SSD for large storage and can be plugged directly to your TV or Home Threater setup via the HDMI port.
Not only that but it has its own media center remote control, although the unit I tested worked pretty well with the Microsoft Media Center Remote Control as well. And with a built-in XBMC client, YouTube app and Google Chrome browser you have a complete solution for a home entertainment system.
Administration is pretty easy, while not simple. Like many other full-featured NAS, this model offers features that you might not even think of using. Some of them are pretty much set-and-forget. For example when you decide which storage system to use (RAID or non-RAID?) it will provide you with the best configuration possible.
A couple of gigabit ethernet ports provide enough communication power to give devices around the house access to all its services. And those gigabit ports can work well... In my tests copying large Microsoft Windows 7 ISO files from a laptop to the NAS I managed to achieve 65 MB/s, more than 100% faster than the 25 MB/s my existing NAS would sustain.
On top of this 2 x USB 3.0 port and 5x USB 2.0 port make this a very flexible storage solution. Those ports can also be used for other peripherals such as printer, USB keyboard/mouse or IR remote control (such as the Microsoft Remote Control).
VPN server, Time Machine server, FTP and web server, Cloud back support are all impressive but expected features in a NAS. But seeing my TV plugged to the NAS via HDMI and playing a HD movie was pretty impressive.
You don't have to do anything special about the TV. Simply plug a HDMI cable and the QNAP TS-469L will automatically use it for output. Being a quiet unit (HDD sleep: 13.7 dB , in operation: 22.4 dB according to the specifications) it didn't intrude while we watched movies.
Certainly a solution for those digital entertainment consumers who expect flexibility and performance.
- Built-in XBMC
- HDMI output with automatic switch
- Four HDD/SSD bay with multiple RAID configuration options
- Support for a large selection of HDD types and models (WD Red NAS Hard Drive WD10EFRX used in our tests)
- No support for external TV tuners such as the HDHomeRun