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QNAP TS-469 Pro vs Synology DS412+
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 02:20

The four-bay QNAP TS-469 Pro NAS server is somewhat of an upgrade to the previously reviewed QNAP TS-412 and is a direct competitor of the recent Award-winning Synology DS412+. For the most part, it's a worthy contender thanks to its rugged build, fast performance, and equally vast number of features for home and small-business environments.

In the end, in comparison with the Synology DS412+, we found that the QNAP TS-469 Pro's somewhat better hardware doesn't justify its much higher price, especially considering it doesn't offer the level of robustness and forward thinking found in the DS412+'s user interface and features. And if the Synology is not exactly for novices, the QNAP TS-469 Pro is definitely not for the faint of heart. Advanced users will still be comfortable with it, however, thanks to the well-organized Linux-based operating system.

That said, the new QNAP TS-469 Pro still ranks as one of the best four-bay NAS servers on the market, and is worth its $830 street price. Personally, however, we don't see why you shouldn't instead get the $650 Synology DS412+, which offers a much better combination of features, performance, and ease of use.

Design
For a multiple-bay NAS server, nothing beats the TS-469's hardware design. The server is housed in a rugged aluminum case that's both good-looking and practical. The four hard-drive bays are accessible from the front with removable drive trays. These trays can be removed or inserted into the bay without any tools and can be securely locked in their place to prevent accidental opening. The server comes with two (identical) keys, one of which is needed for both locking and opening the trays. This in itself is very well thought out since if you could lock the trays without using the key, you'd risk misplacing the keys and being unable to open the trays. The Synology DS412+ has a similar drive bay design but without the locking option.

As with the DS412+, you do need a screwdriver to attach the hard drives to the trays, which can handle both 2.5-inch (laptop) and 3.5-inch (desktop) standard SATA drives. The server supports hard drives of up to 4TB, effectively offering up to 16TB of storage space in RAID 0, or 12TB in RAID 5. For a four-bay NAS server, you really shouldn't use RAID 0 since the risk of losing data is too high. RAID 5 is probably the most popular in this case since it balances performance, storage space, and data integrity.

While Synology has its Hybrid RAID, which is similar to RAID 5 but also makes it possible to use of hard drives of different capacities or increase the RAID's total capacity without having to rebuild it from scratch, QNAP doesn't offer a special RAID configuration for its NAS servers. The TS-469, in my trials, did offer a way to expand the server's storage space without having to rebuild the RAID, however. You can do this when the hard drives are set up in RAID 5, RAID 1, RAID 6, or RAID 10, as long as you replace just one hard drive at a time, and don't use any hard drive larger than 4TB. Depending on the amount of data you already have on the server, it can take a long time, even tens of hours, for the replacement of one hard drive to be completed.

Like the TS-412, the TS-469 Pro has an array of LED lights on the front of the case that show the server's status. There's also a little LCD and there are two navigation buttons for scrolling through details about the server, such as its IP address and network name. In case of a serious error, such as network disconnection, the screen will also display a detailed error message, making it a handy feature.

Also on the front are a USB port and a one-touch Copy Button that helps quickly back up the entire content of an external storage device plugged into that USB port. On the back the server has another six USB ports, two of which are USB 3.0 ports, and two eSATA ports that can be used to extend its storage space or to host a printer. This is the area where the TS-469 Pro is clearly better than the Synology DS412+ since the Synology has only three USB ports, one eSATa port, and no Copy Button.

The QNAP TS-469 Pro also two Gigabit Ethernet ports, normal for a high-end NAS server. These ports can be used together for fail-safe or load-balancing purposes, and when used with a supported switch, can also increase the server's performance via Link Aggregation.

The review unit came with no storage. We installed four 1TB hard drives in it and then ran the QNAP Finder (bundled on an included CD) to launch the server's Web interface. The interface started with a wizard that walked me through the rest of the rest of the setup process. We chose a RAID 5 setup and was able to start using the server after about half an hour.

While we found this process easy enough, novice and home users will likely find it intimidating, as the included instructions are not written for laymen. Experienced users, on the other hand, might not need to read the instructions at all.

Features
Like the Synology DS412+, the QNAP TS-469 Pro is powered by a Linux-based operating system that can be managed via a Web interface. Unlike the DS412+'s Web interface, the QNAP TS-469 Pro's doesn't resemble the GUI (graphical user interface) of an operating system, but rather a standard interface familiar from routers or other lower-end NAS servers. Once launched and logged in, the interface shows two organized panes, menus on the left and controls on the right.

While it gets the job done, this interface clearly isn't as robust as the the Synology DS412+'s. Take managing hard drives, for example. Clicking on the Volume Management submenu under the Disk Management menu, we were able to pick a wizard to turn the server's hard drive into RAID 0. However, when we clicked on the last command of the wizard to initiate the RAID-building process, the wizard just disappeared, leaving me unsure of what was coming next, or if the command actually was in effect. As it turned out, we needed to click on the RAID Management submenu, which is under the Volume Management submenu, to view the building process. It would have been a lot more intuitive if the RAID build process screen were invoked automatically. Other items/features of the server are designed similarly. Basically, prepare to click around a lot when working with the server's settings and features.

And the TS-469 Pro has a lot of features.

Apart from standard features found in most advanced NAS servers, such as FTP servers, HTTP servers, DNLA media-streaming servers, an iTunes server, a self-download feature, iSCSi, a print server that supports up to three printers, and so on, the QNAP TS-469 Pro also offers a long list of features called stations, servers, or services, such as MyCloudNAS Service, Photo Station, Surveillance Station, MySQL Server, and Backup Server. There's also a QPKG Center through which you can add more features to the NAS server, similar to the Synology DS412+'s Package Center. The multitude of names QNAP uses for features makes it a little confusing. In the end, think of these as applications that can run on the sever, similar to Microsoft Office running on the Windows operating system.

While we didn't have time to try all of the server's features, all that we tried worked out as intended. Most of them could be made a little easier to set up, however. Take the MyCloudNAS Service as an example. It was quite easy to set up as long as the server is used in a network hosted by a router that supports UPnP. If not, you'll need to know how to program the router's port forwarding. If all goes well, once set up, you can access the server via http://xyz.mycloudnas.com, where xyz is the unique name for the server that you picked during the setup process. There's also a desktop application that works with MyCloudNAS Service and gives remote users access to the NAS server, similar to the Dropbox service. While this worked, we found it so much harder to configure and use than the DS412+'s equivalent Cloud Station.

All in all, prepare to spend some time with the TS-469 Pro if you want to get the most out of it. And in the end, you will find it an incredibly useful device since it indeed has a lot to offer. Virtually all you might expect from a network storage device, you'll find in the TS-469 Pro. We just wish its level of robustness and intuitiveness were on par with the number of features it has to offer.

Performance
The QNAP TS-469 Pro is one of the fastest NAS servers on the market. We tested it via a Gigabit Ethernet connection and it scored 105MBps and 103MBps for writing and reading, respectively, in RAID 5. When we switched it to RAID 0, it did slightly better with 108MBps for writing and 110MBps for reading.

Overall, the QNAP TS-469 Pro's performance was very similar to that of the Synology DS412+, just slightly slower in most of the tests, and it proved to be able to handle even the most demanding network.

The server remained quiet during the entire time we had with it, even during heavy operation.

Conclusion
The QNAP TS-469 Pro isn't the best deal on the market, but it would make an excellent NAS server for an advanced home or small-business network, despite its high price and somewhat confusing interface.

 

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