First Looks - QNAP TS-639-PRO eAegis Review

 

QNAP Enters 6-Bay NAS Market with the TS-639 PRO Turbo

TS-639 PRO Turbo NASDuring the past 12 months or so, QNAP product announcements seem consistently strategic in nature with a strong bias towards features, performance and value for money, a combination that has quickly allowed QNAP to increase its share of the NAS market, clearly at the cost of its competitors.

QNAP, not one to sit back on its laurels, recently announced the 6-bay TS-639 PRO Turbo. This follows, with relative quickness, on the heels of it’s very successful 5-bay TS-509 PRO. The market segmentation for NAS systems of 5 bays and above are customers with demanding storage needs that require above normal features and performance ratios than those currently offered by many manufacturers. QNAP, for its part, seems to be cognizant of this fact as it continues to constantly update its feature set, and indeed needs to be on the ball to maintain its lead as an innovative Network Attached Storage solutions manufacturer.

The current plethora of NAS systems in this class seem to all share very similar features. However, manufacturers such as QNAP do go the extra mile and offer other features that are product based and are appropriately aimed at home and business users. It is this deferential that affords the prospective buyers with the opportunity cost of selecting the appropriate storage solution to their demanding needs. The QNAP TS-639 seems to fall squarely in the category of both home and business and with features that will appeal to both.

First Sight
TS-639 Front

The resemblance between the QNAP TS-639 PRO Turbo and the TS-509 PRO is uncanny at first sight. Closer examination reveals that the TS-509 PRO is an upright unit whilst the TS-639 rests on its side with vertical drive bays. The trays for the drive bays are exactly the same for both and interchangeable between the two. This trend continues with the LCD panel and the size is almost the same, although the TS-639 seems a little smaller compact sized form factor that packs a mini-ITX sized main board with a built in power supply unit. The resemblance comparative analysis ends here as the rest is totally different!

The QNAP TS-639 PRO is designed and manufactured on a completely new and innovative platform. Our perception leads us to believe that the TS-639 may just be the first of a future line of x39 platform based products that QNAP will announce at a later date. A detailed discussion of this new platform can be found within this review.

Unlike many of its competitors, QNAP has elected not to install a door for its fascia. Eliminating the door seems to have helped the TS-639 keep the drives cooler as the air flowing through the drive bays has little or no obstruction, and thus keeps a steady temperature. This strategy seems to be prevalent throughout the QNAP desktop product ranges that deploy hot swap drive bays.

Additionally, the vertical mounting of the drives in the TS-639 is a sound choice and one that distinctly offers a better airflow for keeping the drives a little cooler.

Out of the Box

With its vertically mounted hot swappable six drive bays, neatly positioned LCD panel, a smooth power button with a direct copy to USB slot just beneath and excellent curvature gives it a clean design look, without running the risk of being over designed. Good design is in the eyes of the beholder, so this is very much a subjective impression on our part!

TS-639 PRO Hot swappable bays

Out of the box, the TS-639 is packed well in a retail box, which is also designed well, and provides an excellent list of features and hardware specifications of the product in full color. The retail box is a two ply affair and packed to try and limit transit damage. Technical support details are printed on the top lid of the box so as to ensure these are noted immediately on receipt. Do not discard the box before you do so!

A single sheet quick setup guide will help both, the users that have opted to purchase a diskless unit and do not have expertise in what to do next, or those users who simply wish to plug in a pre-installed and tested unit. All the required peripherals for main connectivity are provided and packed neatly in a small brown box.

Inside the TS-639 PRO Turbo

The TS-639 has a unique design concept that allows QNAP to manufacture a mainboard that is based on a MINI-ITX form factor, at the heart off which beats the new Intel® Atom™ processor, Intel’s smallest and lowest power processor.

TS-639 new designedNewly designed from the ground up, 45nm Intel® Atom™ processors pack an astounding 47 million transistors on a single chip measuring less than 26mm², making them Intel's smallest and lowest power processors. All this while delivering the power and performance you need for accomplishing any task at hand. Based on an entirely new micro architecture, the Intel® Atom™ processor was developed specifically for targeted performance and low power while maintaining full Intel® Core™ micro architecture instruction set compatibility. Intel® Atom™ processors also feature multiple threads for better performance and increased system responsiveness. Coupled with a generous 1GB SODIMM memory, the unit packs a pretty hefty punch. We are unable to confirm emphatically but to the best of our knowledge QNAP is the first ever manufacturer to design a NAS system on the Intel® Atom™ processor platform. Compatibility should not be an issue, as Intel has diligently worked to ensure backward compatibility of the processor on the x86 core.

The Power Supply is a Seasonic 250W FlexATX Active PFC full range input small form factor power supply designed to follow the Intel Flex ATX power design with dual +12V rails and no minimum load requirements on +3.3V output. Providing a peak power of 275W and operating temperatures of 0°C to 40°C this Flex ATX is ideal as a replacement or new build pc power supply. More than adequate to take the load of all six drives populated with 1TB Enterprise drives!

The innards are not cramped, but upgrading the system can prove difficult. Especially if the upgrade is to any parts of the mainboard as the access is very restricted, unless of course you remove the mainboard from its mounting and then carry out the upgrade. This would normally be for a memory upgrade, having already 1GB as standard; we are not sure extra memory may be required. We plan to carry out memory upgrade testing at a later date.

Connectivity Suite

TS-639 Back ViewThe TS-639 has five (5) USB 2.0 ports with one on the front and rest at the back of the unit. Support for a whole host of USB peripherals is provided and was tested by us when we connected 4 differing USB external HDD units and a variety of printers for sharing. The USB on the front is used for the configurable One Touch Copy Button feature offering backup convenience.

Ethernet connectivity is via two RJ-45x2(10/100/1000) BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X WOL supported ports that facilitate Link Aggregation for 802.3ad, load balance and fail over. Load Balancing, which allows you to balance traffic across the two ports to maximize transfer rates, as well as Failover which in turns allows you to have the luxury of the second port taking over in case the first port fails. QNAP has also added a Multi-IP feature, allowing the NAS to be deployed with two different IP settings for sharing among different workgroups in two different subnets.

The connectivity suite is completed with 2 x eSATA interfaces allowing for a higher level of future expansion when needed.

Salient Features

The TS-639 has an impressive list of features where QNAP can, possibly, make a few ‘unique feature’ claims. Whilst the common features shared with competitors require assessment to the extensive nature of the feature set, there is no doubt that QNAP has a tremendous appetite for adding world class features to its complete portfolio of Network Attached Storage systems at timely intervals.

Selected Unique Features

LCD Panel “Touch-N-Go” functionality - Allows users to select RAID option and pre-format, without having to invoke the management panel. Easy to use and after a handy two clicks, the unit’s on its way to formatting for the selected RAID level.

DUAL OS Firmware - DOM architecture accommodating a DUAL Fail Safe Operating System to allow for failure without loss of functionality.

Secure Data Protection by AES 256-bit Volume-based Encryption – The unique "volume-based encryption" feature secures the server data by AES 256-bit encryption. Even if the hard drives were stolen, there is no need to fear that the confidential data would be leaked since the data can only be accessed using an authorized password.

Selected Stalwart Features

Built-in iSCSI Target Service - Finally iSCSI has arrived within the QNAP servers! The TS-639 Pro can serve as a NAS and an iSCSI target server. The built-in iSCSI target feature provides an affordable IP-SAN (Storage Area Network) alternative for SMB.

TS-639 Pro Turbo NAS side viewThin is in! - The TS-639 also supports "Virtual Space Allocation" (Thin Provisioning) in a storage consolidation environment, where many applications are sharing access to the same storage array; thin provisioning allows administrators to maintain a single free space buffer pool to service the data growth requirements of all applications. Cool feature provisioning enables over-allocation or over-subscription.

Policy-based Unauthorized IP Blocking - The protocol-based unauthorized accesses can be flexibly defined & blocked to prevent malicious attacks.

RAID Capacity Expansion and RAID Level Migration - RAID options are good with a full complement of RAID levels. Add larger drives in the set and increase the capacity by replacing one drive at a time to a full set without loss of data, the same methodology to migrate up to a higher RAID level without loss of data – upgrading on the fly!

A full set of features supported can be found on our Product page for the TS-639.

Data Backup

Backup is facilitated using Netback Replicator that handles workstation backup. Some of the other features are the ability to plug a USB device into the front port and pressing the button next to it will copy all the data onto the appliance! As far as general backups are concerned QNAP provide the Netback Replicator which handles workstation backup.

Performance

We were keen to test the TS-639 and see how it fared, what with a newly designed platform and with six bays to its disposal and 1GB memory. We were a little apprehensive as the platform deployed had never been tested in this sector before. It was a first for an Intel Atom based NAS. QNAP is renowned for adding extra pizzazz to their systems to boost performance, without any compromises.

Test Environment

QNAP TS-639 (3x500GB – Enterprise Class)

Firmware Revision: 1.0.0 Build 0827 – Dated 2009/1/5

RAID 5 Configuration

Network

NETGEAR FSM726 10/100Mbps + 1000Mbps ProSafe Managed Switch

Test Method

There are two tests that we used to measure performance on the Windows platform:

Real-World testing utility that consist of workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications, traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation as well as a broad range of different applications, using 1024 KB sequential block reads and writes on a 2 GB test file, as well as Drag & Drop of a 2 GB file over CIFS, Windows default network protocol.

drag and drop test

The results garnered from the Real World Test performance show a willingness to have a go by QNAP on a totally new x86 platform, without being shy. We were, to say the least, pleasantly surprised as the results starting to pour in, the skeptics among us were tight lipped whilst the QNAP confidants were rejoicing without reservation. QNAP, it seems, have cracked it, a low power consumption NAS, that is compact in size, is packed with features, has a sensible price tag and gobbles up data in its path whilst coasting in the fast lane. Read and Write speeds are a tad below the 100MB/s based on an average principle. Not bad at all!!

Drag and Drop is a methodology used by a majority of users to move data back and forth on their individual systems. As such, we feel this method should form an integral part of our testing of products and to ensure a return in results depicting a realistic process. Drag and Drop results are consistent with other market competitors in the six and seven bay categories. The QNAP TS-639 PRO Turbo can clearly hold its own!!

Overall Conclusion
The underlying thought of having a six bay unit that can pack at a total of 9TB (see note below), as well as have a well designed and neat compact form factor, with silent fans, providing the airflow to keep the system at a low temperature, and with a low power consumption makes it a must have NAS.
NOTE: The maximum logical volume is 8TB in EXT3 filesystem, however one can create an additional volume to overcome this limitation. 

Notable features such as iSCSI, online RAID expansion and online RAID migration, remote replication, Secure Data Protection by AES 256-bit Volume-based Encryption, to name but a few, make the TS-639 a truly credible value for money NAS.

In our opinion QNAP decided to raise the bar with the TS-639. Design being the biggest differentiator, as it uses not just one but a number of the hottest techniques in the sector. Power consumption is low measuring in at 32W idle mode and 59W full load. Armed with a respectable performance score, loaded with excellent features for both home and business users, and an easy to use interface makes the TS-639 a NAS thoroughbred.

This review is courtesy of: eAegis.com Product Testing and Evaluation Division.

Please email reviews@eaegis.com for a PDF version.