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Review: Lord of the NAS: QNAP Turbo Station TS-109 Pro

by Steve Kerrison on 23 July 2007, 08:55

Tags: Qnap

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qajea

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The house of Terabytes

Watch out, fellow nerds. We're not the only ones with more than one PC any more. In the modern home, it's not uncommon for there to be at least two PCs, particularly where there are quarreling children involved.

And with multimedia technologies starting to mature (it's taken long enough, hasn't it?), the average number of computers in the home continues to grow.

Perhaps a more interesting metric than PC count, however, is the amount of storage we possess. Take the storage on your person right now. Maybe a couple of GB from the SD card in your phone? What about that 30GB iPod? Suits you, sir.

That's the storage within the confines of your pockets covered. Now let's run through the house.

'x' number of PCs, with 'y' GB of storage on each, on average - depending on how geeky you are - you'll get either a figure that makes you go "woah, that's a lot" or "never enough!" (I get over 2TB, ignoring testing gear).

If that's what storage is like in the home, imagine the storage in an office, even a small one of five-to-ten people.

And as the number of storage devices grows, so too does the chance that one of them is going to go tits up.

But, with data that's duplicated centrally, the worries are less. Happily, such an arrangement is no longer the preserve of the corporate network. It's available to the smallest office and to home users, too.

Regular HEXITES will be familiar with the network-attached storage (NAS) devices we've already reviewed.

Today, though, we're taking our first look at such a product from QNAP. Let's see what kind of twist the company can put on its NAS offering, shall we?

QNAP TS-109 Pro

QNAP produces surveillance products and a range of storage solutions from small personal devices, through to rack-mountable arrays.

The TS-109 Pro NAS box – SRP £170 (inc VAT) - sits somewhere in the middle. It's a single-drive device aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and has a features-set that, on paper, is better even than for some of its multi-drive competitors.

There's also a non-Pro TS-109, pitched at £20-30 less. This is aimed at the home and lacks a few of the features that business users might require.

According to the spec sheets, the hardware for each version is identical; only the supplied software is different. That's an interesting thing to know, given the openness of the system, as we'll see in due course.

Here's a run-down of the important specifications:

Feature Details
CPU Marvell 5182 (ARM926EJ-S)
Memory 128MiB DDR-2
HDD support Single SATA internal drive, up to 1TB
Single eSATA external drive, up to 1TB
Networking 1x GigE
Protocols/features: TCP/IP, DHCP Client, DHCP Server, CIFS/SMB, AFP,
NFS, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, DDNS, NTP, Jumbo Frame, Active Directory
Filesystems Ext-3 for internal/external drives
FAT for external drives
NTFS read-only for external drives
USB 3x USB ports supporting printers, cameras, hubs and mass storage devices.
Auto-copy button for backup of USB drives.
Dimensions 210(D) x 60(W) x 182(H) mm
Thermals Passive, aluminium enclosure dissipates heat
Security (physical) Kensington lock slot
Software features E-mail alert
Auto power on after power loss
Network recycle bin
Apache web server
MySQL server
Remote replication
Q-RAID 1 disk backup
UPnP media server
Photo server
Multimedia server
iTunes server
Download server

We've tried to condense the important features down into the above table, but for the whole shebang, hit the QNAP website.

So, quite a big list of features, along with a few interesting hardware details.

We've not had an ARM-powered NAS in the labs before and the DDR-2 memory is a NAS novelty, too. However, clock speed (333MHz (500MHz according to QNAP)) and on-board memory (128MiB) are in-line with what we've seen before. Supported hardware is what we'd expect too, given that this system is, like many others, Linux-based.

Of course, it's the Linux OS that underlies the lengthy list of software features. There are a number of familiar items in the list but this is the first time HEXUS has seen PHP and MySQL on a NAS box.

Given the target market of the TS-109 (Pro), we reckon it's a clever move to put them in there. The question is, will the TS-109 Pro take a performance hit as a result?

Before we investigate performance, let's get hands-on with the hardware.