First Looks - QNAP TS-659 PRO eAegis Review

 

QNAP debuts Atom Dual-core-based TS-659 PRO Turbo NAS Server

QNAP announced the TSx59 professional NAS server portfolio, approximately a month after Intel announced its redesigned Atom processor, Atom D-510 dual-core. QNAP become the first manufacturer to supply product on this platform, beating it’s closest rivals by a hairline. The Atom Dual-core based Turbo NAS servers from QNAP include the QNAP TS-259 Pro (2-Bay), QNAP TS-459 Pro (4-Bay), QNAP TS-659 Pro and the QNAP TS-859 Pro. QNAP has consistently continued to maintain strong bias towards features, performance and value for money. A combination that clearly seems to work for QNAP, as it continues to grab market share from leading manufacturers such as NETGEAR with its innovative and ever evolving 6-bay and 8-bay product range constantly adding new features, with firmware updates with backward compatibility to ensure compatibility across the complete product range.

The QNAP NAS server range does consist of a large portfolio and this can sometimes mean selecting the right NAS becomes rather challenging. QNAP we believe is halting its current Atom based NAS server range in the form of the TS-639, TS-439, and all other TS-x39 models. This should make the selection process a little simpler. Our first looks review is based on the QNAP TS-659 PRO, as our preferred review product the TS-859 PRO was not available for us to pursue. We have been told the only difference between the two is the number of bays, and nothing else changes aside from the form factor.

Out of the Box

Out of the box, the QNAP TS-659 PRO is housed in a retail box well packed and designed. A host of features and options are listed with a comprehensive hardware specification of the product and presented in full color. The retail box is a two ply cardboard affair and manufactured 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! All our units shipped from eAegis are doubled packed so the retail box is neatly packed within the outer shipping carton to limit damage and retain the original box.

A concertina quick setup guide is comprehensive and will help both the users that have opted to purchase a diskless unit and do not have expertise in what to do next, and those users who simply wish to plug in a pre-installed and tested unit and go for action. All the required ‘bits and pieces’ for connectivity, including  two Ethernet cables allowing both ports to be connected are all packed neatly in a small brown box. Nice touch, clean and concise, not dumped into the box as an afterthought.

We are very pleased as to how QNAP has constantly evolved in improving its presentation to the customer with a clear and concise package allowing users to start with a little or no hassle.

NOTE: eAegis also provides customers with a comprehensive QA checklist detailing all the product serial numbers for asset and warranty management. This is only for systems supplied with pre-installed drives.

The outer design

QNAP TS-659 ProThe resemblance between the QNAP TS-639 PRO Turbo and the TS-659 PRO is uncanny. The outer case seems totally identical and on close examination this is proved affirmative. The only notable changes seem to be a new platform, additional features and model insignia. The TS-659 PRO drive bay configuration options now include the addition of 2.5" HDD support as well as the customary 3.5". A welcome addition as the 2.5" hard disk drives seem to be gaining capacity and cost per MB continues to drop. If the trend continues they will become a serious proposition for integration. Capacity, Cost and reliability are factors that will determine the shift from 3.5" to 2.5" form factors.

QNAP TS-659 ProUnlike many of its competitors, QNAP has elected not to install a door for its fascia. Eliminating the door assisted the TS-659 in keeping the drives at a lower temperature as a result of the air flowing through the drive bays with little or no obstruction, and thus keeps a steady temperature. This will continue to benefit the TS-659 PRO in its quest towards becoming one of the finest 6-bay NAS servers currently in its class.

Additionally, the vertical mounting of the drives in the TS-659 is a sound choice and one that distinctly offers a better airflow for keeping the drives a little cooler.

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. Clearly designed and built well.

Looking inside the TS-659

The QNAP TS-659 PRO has continued the tradition of the TS-639 with the MINI-ITX form factor and at the heart of which beats the Intel Atom Processor D510 1.66GHz (Dual-Core), Intel’s smallest and newest addition to its ATOM product family.

Codenamed Pineview it adopts the same Atom Architecture introduced originally and integrates a memory controller, DMI link and GMA 3150 graphics core. Some of the key features of the new chipset/processor combination are, increased power save management using the Low Thermal Design Power (TDP) principle, Integrated Graphics and Memory Controller, which results in increased performance and system responsiveness, Enhanced Data Prefectcher and Enhanced Register Access Manager which allows the anticipation of data the processor is likely to need ad stores the information within the processor’s L2 cache, which in turn results in improved performance since the processor wait time decreases not having to wait long for data, and finally the Intel Smart Cache, the cache and bus design for efficient data sharing, providing enhanced performance, responsiveness, and power savings.

Intel Atom Processor from the QNAP TS-659

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 2TB SATA II drives!

The structured cabling and the design of the case are good and allows for upgrading the system without any tricky maneuvers. We are not sure what you may need to upgrade aside from memory, and possibly hard drives, both of which can be achieved without any due concerns. Memory can be upgraded to 4GB in total but this is only advised if QNAP provides the ok from a warranty perspective.

Connectivity Suite

The QNAP TS-659PRO 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.

QNAP TS-659 Hardware

QNAP Turbo NAS Firmware

The new QNAP Turbo NAS firmware release v3.2 deserves a special mention here. Not only does it bring a host of new and substantially improved features (some listed in the sections to follow), but it adds to the new AJAX web interface with a host of flexible tools for the management of the NAS server. The interface and the preceding tools are one of the finest we have seen, leaving its competitors for dust. The ReadyNAS was once a proud owner of this title and has since fallen well behind as a lack of investment from NETGEAR becomes evidently clear as competitors continue to leap forward.

See QNAP TS-659 Pro new Frimware V3.2

Salient Features

The QNAP TS-659 PRO takes off where the TS-639 left off. The complete TS-x59 product range was certified as compatible with VMware® vSphere4 (ESX 4.0 and above) virtualization platform. This is a great boost for QNAP, who also got the TS-809 PRO and TS-809U-RP Rack mount models on the approval list as well. QNAP has continued to prove it has a real appetite for enhancing and adding newest features as and when required. This trend will continue and benefit new and current users alike as QNAP ensures all its firmware and features are backward compatible.

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.

IPv6 – The QNAP TS-659PRO Turbo NAS nowsupports IPv6 (Internet Protocol Version 6) allowing the NAS to run in a dual-stack IP host environment running IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously.

Selected Stalwart Features

QNAP TS-659PRO featuresIn the last version of the TS-639 QNAP introduced iSCSI which was a real boon for all QNAP users as well as future QNAP prospects. QNAP has leap forward with excellent additions to the iSCSI platform with support for VMware Ready certified iSCSI array, SPC-3 for clustered environment deployment, MC/S for failover, load balancing and performance gain, MPIO for failover and load balancing, LUN masking for advanced security and LUN mapping for flexible management and of course continued support for "Virtual Space Allocation" (Thin Provisioning). The iSCSI features of the QNAP TS-659 and all other NAS servers seem to be coming of age.

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!

Virtual Disk Drive (VDD) adds flexibility to storage expansion along with ease of management -The unique "Virtual Disk Drive" adds flexibility to expand the capacity of NAS. By using the built-in iSCSI initiator, the NAS can connect to other iSCSI targets on the network and turn them into virtual disks, which become multiple single volumes on the NAS. Up to 8 virtual disks can be stacked. The NAS serves as the storage stack chaining master. The user only needs to connect to this single entry (QNAP NAS) and is able to reach and use all the iSCSI LUN on the network.

Data Backup

The QNAP has added a few special extra in the most overlooked area of data backup. Many manufacturers totally fail to capitalize or even realize the most important area of any NAS server is often the inbuilt data backup software features. The backup solution commences with a cloud-based backup offering via (Amazon S3), and for MAC users a radical change to a user friendly method of providing a solution for Apple Time Machine support, as well as a unique encrypted remote replication, third party software backup, one-touch-copy backup and QNAP exclusive Windows-based utility NetBak Replicator. These allow users to choose and implement any backup modes to ensure redundancy of their data is created.

QNAP Backup utility

Performance

Having seen the TS-639PRO performs well last year we were looking forward to getting the results for the TS-659 with its new Dual-Core Atom platform.

Test Environment

QNAP TS-659 PRO (4x1000GB – Enterprise Class)
Firmware Revision: v3.2.1 Build1231
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.

TS-659 Real World Testing

The Real World Test performances results are an average of twelve full test cycles and clearly show the outstanding performance returned by the QNAP TS-659PRO, its super fast! Write and Read speeds are a credible 110.05MB/s and 114.25MB/s respectively. The QNAP TS-659 PRO could have been faster if the Giga Ethernet bandwidth was not a restraining factor, reaching the limit with ease and it seemed with more to spare! The QNAP TS-659 PRO is one of the fastest NAS we have tested to date.

TS0659 Drag n Drop test results

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-659 PRO Turbo can clearly hold its own!!

Overall Conclusion

The QNAP NAS servers have come a long way. The latest of these the QNAP TS-659PRO is just another example of fine workmanship as well stalwart features from a company that has clearly listened to its customers and respected a wish list of sorts. The TS-659 has advanced power management facilitation, optimized to return excellent performance, features that will appeal to an audience who is merely looking for a data backup solution be it in the home, business or even enterprise, and so much more to offer, all this without compromising the quality and warranty aspect of the system. We are not even able to provide any reasonable explanation as to why you should not buy one. Is there a competitor to it in the 6-bay arena? Heck NO!

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

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