TS-431XeU – A Budget NAS Champion?
In the NAS market for home and SMB users, QNAP is a well-known name. The Taiwan based company has a wide range of Network Accessed Storage (NAS), Network Video Recorder (NVR), and Digital Signage (DS) devices. They have been in business since 2004, and have a foothold in the US, European and Asian markets. In the grand scheme of things, QNAP caters mainly to the budget and hobbyist level of network-based storage users. The quality is not top tier, though usually at the acceptable level. The affordable pricing is what makes them a good draw for SOHO and home users. One of their latest products is the TS-431XeU NAS, which is aimed mainly at this category of buyers.
TS-431XeU – An Overview
This is a very compact rack mount NAS for home and small business users. It is firmly rooted in the budget category and comes with a quad-core CPU under the hood. This NAS has been optimized for high-speed networking. And cross-platform collaboration and file-sharing have also been optimized in the TS-431XeU, with a focus on file synchronization. Security protocols including antivirus, encryption, and IP blocking are also present.
Build & Design
The ultra-compact design is one of the main draws of this NAS. It can slot into very space constrained locations, thanks to a short-depth design. That depth of around 11 inches ensures that this NAS is perfect for smaller racks, and in areas where you need a lot of space for extra cabling. It can slot in pretty much anywhere, like a Surveillance room, a home office, or an AV room.
The NAS is powered by a moderately powered quad-core processor, rated at 1.7Ghz. The processor is sourced from Annapurna Labs, the well known Amazon AWS subsidiary. Called the Alpine AL314, it is an ARM Cortex-A15 processor, coupled with a SATA interface and 8GB RAM. The SATA interface has a 6Gb/s speed rating, while the RAM is the slower DDR3 variant. But since this is a budget-oriented NAS, this doesn’t come across as a major issue.
[~] # head -5 /proc/cpuinfo ; echo ; uname -a ; echo info processor : 0 model name : Annapurna Labs Alpine AL314 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU @ 1.70GHz Speed : 1.7GHz Features : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt CPU implementer : 0x41 Linux NAS1D8312 3.10.20-al-2.5.3_sa #2 SMP Tue Dec 5 05:19:55 CST 2017 armv7l unknown info
For connectivity, there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports. But the main highlight is the inclusion of a third port, this time with an SFP+ transceiver. This port has the same compact footprint as the regular SFP but is upgraded to support faster 10Gb/s optical lines from Ethernet. In contrast, SFP can only support a maximum transfer speed of 4.5Gb/s.
The inclusion of such a high-speed port in a budget NAS is a welcome feature. It makes the TS-431XeU a much more attractive proposition for instances where virtualization or high-speed data transfers is essential.
The system itself is powered by an intelligent desktop OS called QTS. It provides multiple apps and features for a wide range of services, including both productivity and entertainment. This cloud-based system also provides a built-in app center. It is, on the whole, efficient, well designed, and intuitive.
The NAS is designed for improved IOPS performance and efficiency of the storage volumes inside. Along with HDDs, the system also supports SSD cache acceleration. This helps boost the IOPS numbers, especially when dealing with applications that put a strain on workflow. This is the hallmark of a budget oriented device, as it seeks to combine affordable HDDs with the performance provided by more expensive SSDs.
There is enhanced support for more complex RAID configurations, along with advanced recovery features. Hot-swapping and changing hard drives without shutting down the system is eminently possible, making this NAS a good option for SMB customers who want uninterrupted workflow with minimum possible downtimes. The TS-431XeU also improves overall efficiency and safety by including modes like multiple port trunking.
Expansion of existing storage capacity is a breeze with this QNAP product. It has Virtual JBOD, which enables this NAS to be seamlessly coupled with other QNAP NAS products. The system is highly economical.
Safety, Security, Backup & Recovery
The TS-431XeU is also well stocked in the safety and security department. It supports snapshots and provides a specialized snapshot tool in the Storage Manager app on QTS. Using snapshots, one can save system status and data from any instance. In the event of system failure, or capture by malicious software like ransomware, the snapshot feature can be enabled to recover and restore the files and system settings.
For further protection against data loss, this NAS offers very flexible Hybrid Backup solutions. These are available for both Mac and Windows users and allows for the transfer of backup data to remote cloud services. The QNAP device supports Amazon Drive, Amazon Glacier, Azure Storage, Google Cloud Storage, Yandex, and other popular service providers.
The device also supports 256-bit AES encryption, along with other advanced security features like 2-step verification, restricted access, dedicated antivirus, IP blocking, and integrated VPN support.
12TB of HDD Goodness
The QNAP TS-431XeU supports large capacity HDDs and we love Seagate IronWolf drives so what better test drive than the Seagate IronWolf 12TB (ST12000VN0007). The IronWolf 12TB drive comes with IronWolf Health Management, a technology that promises to optimize and manage the health of the drives. Apparently, it also makes it easier to recover data in the case of a failure.
The huge capacity (in today’s terms) makes it perfectly suited for business due to the scalability it offers when paired with a NAS. An added bonus for us is that the IronWolf drives are designed for extreme use. This means that you can leave the drive on 24×7 and see the same performance year after year. You’ll also get peak performance whether you are using 10% of the drive or the entire 12TB.
Hdparm was used to see how the IronWolf performed with buffered and cached disk read speeds:
[~] # hdparm -i /dev/sda | grep -i serial Model=ST12000VN0007-2GS116 , FwRev=SC60 , SerialNo= ZCH075LJ [~] # hdparm -Tt /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing cached reads: 8132 MB in 2.00 seconds = 4072.65 MB/sec Timing buffered disk reads: 376 MB in 3.00 seconds = 125.31 MB/sec [~] #
File transfers worked well as well given the limitations of using platter based drives:
The QNAP TS-431XeU is a very likable and feature packed NAS. It may not boast of top-of-the-line specs, but that is not expected from a budget NAS device anyway. But despite the low price tag, the TS-431XeU doesn’t skimp on features and provides a robust list of useful stuff for the average SMB or home user. The QTS system comes with a lot of useful apps like built-in IoT apps, QSync file synchronization tool, the QSirch search engine,
And the QMailAgent email client. Add the compact form factor, hassle-free expansion options, and fast data transfer, and you have an excellent performer.