Announced in December 2015, the QNAP TS-653A (or any TS-x53A series) brings us the worlds first dual OS NAS powered by the Intel Celeron N3150 quad-core 1.6Ghz processor. In addition to supporting hardware encryption, the included 8th generation Intel HD graphics processor enables the TS-653A to provide 4K UHD output via HDMI and 4K H.264 hardware accelerated transcoding and playback.
The dual OS capability combines QNAP’s QTS OS with open-source Linux in a response to the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Users will have access to feature rich Linux applications and developers will be able to build and deploy IoT applications directly on the TS-653A.
Additional images courtesy of QNAP:
The QNAP TS-653A is being reviewed as a worthy successor to the TS-653 Pro. Whilst the look and build quality has remained the same, a few noteworthy changes have been included in the new model:
- A more efficient quad core processor
- More powerful graphics to support 4K media
- Faster memory speeds
- Dual OS capability
- Increased surveillance camera licenses
|OS||Embedded Linux||Embedded Linux|
|CPU||14 nm Intel® Celeron® N3150 1.6GHz quad-core processor (burst up to 2.08GHz)||Intel® Celeron® 2.0GHz quad-core processor (burst up to 2.41GHz)|
|System Memory||TS-653A-4G: 4GB (2 x 2GB - expandable up to 8GB)|
TS-653A-8G: 8GB (2 x 4GB)
|TS-653 Pro: 2GB DDR3L RAM (expandable up to 8GB)
TS-653 Pro-8G: 8GB DDR3L RAM (4GB x 2)
|Memory Type||SO-DIMM DDR3L-1600||SO-DIMM DDR3L-1333|
|Flash||512MB (DOM)||512MB (DOM)|
|Hard Disk Drive||6 x 3.5” or 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s HDD or SSD||6 x 3.5” or 2.5” SATA 6Gb/s, SATA 3Gb/s HDD or SSD|
|Hardware Encryption Engine||Yes||No|
|HDD Expansion Support||1 x UX-800P or UX-500P||1 x UX-800P or UX-500P|
|LAN Port||4 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet port||4 x Gigabit RJ-45 Ethernet (supports trunking)|
|LED Indicators||Power/Status, LAN, USB, HDD1-6||Power/Status, LAN, USB, HDD1-6|
|LCD Panel||Mono-LCD display with backlight||Mono-LCD display with backlight|
|USB||4 x USB 3.0 port (Front:1, Rear:3)|
Support USB printer, pen drive, and USB UPS etc.
|3 x USB 3.0 port (Front: 1, Rear: 2)
2 x USB 2.0 port (Rear: 2)
Support USB printer, pen drive, and USB UPS etc.
|Video Output||2 x HDMI, up to 4K 2160P Ultra HD support||1 x HDMI|
|Audio Input||2 x 6.3mm microphone jacks (dynamic microphones only)||-|
|Audio Output||Line Out Jack (for amplifier or headphone amplifier)||-|
|IR Receiver||Supports QNAP RM-IR002, RM-IR003 Remote Control and MCE-compatible remotes||Supports QNAP RM-IR002 Remote Control and MCE-compatible remotes|
|Surveillance Station Software||Yes||Yes|
|Max Number of Cameras||License for 4 included|
Maximum supported is 40 (via optional license purchase)
|License for 2 included
Maximum supported is 24 (via optional license purchase)
|Cooling Fan||2 x 9cm quiet cooling fan (12V DC)||2 x 9cm quiet cooling fan (12V DC)|
|Power Supply||ATX 240W, Input: 110-240 Vac~, 50-60Hz, 5A||ATX 250W, Input: 110-240 Vac~, 50-60Hz, 5A|
|Power Consumption (W)||System sleep mode: 1.7W|
HDD standby 32.02W
In operation: 51.16W
|S3 sleep: 1.09W
HDD standby: 22.95 W
In use: 41.65W
|Dimensions||175mm (H) x 257mm (W) x 235mm (D)||175mm (H) x 257mm (W) x 235mm (D)|
A quick CPU check via SSH confirms the processor information above:
[~] # head -5 /proc/cpuinfo ; echo ; uname -a ; echo processor : 0 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 76 model name : Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU N3150 @ 1.60GHz Linux TS-653A 3.19.8 #1 SMP Sat Dec 26 05:39:29 CST 2015 x86_64 unknown
We typically go through the installation process with the NAS devices we review but as the steps and screens were no different to the QNAP TS-451+ we won’t go through them here again. Instead I’ll highlight a few noteworthy items.
On the topic of drives, QNAP have used Marvell’s 88SE9215 SATA controller with the unit. The 88SE9215 is a good choice as it supports up to 1GB/s (Gigabyte/sec) bandwidth for connecting SATA III devices to a PCI Express 2.0 host. Each host is capable of supporting up to four 6Gb/s SATA drives.
QNAP haven’t cut corners with providing quality audio support either. We found the Realtek ALC262 audio chip which provides a 4-channel HD audio codec typically found in some high performance multimedia systems.
The QNAP TS-653A ships with either 4GB or 8GB of DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM. If you are going to be running Virtualization Station or dual OS with Linux, you will probably want to get the 8GB version. If you do get 4GB and need to upgrade later, it is very easy to do. Like its predecessor, the SO-DIMM slots are easily accessible once the lid is off.
Before you dash out and buy some RAM, check first on the QNAP website or forums that the model you are looking at is compatible with the TS-653A. You need low voltage DDR3 SO-DIMM, Kingston and Crucial have a few models that will work. Whilst checking QNAP’s support forum for RAM compatibility, I noticed a few users discussing the use of 16GB (2 x 8GB) in their older model devices. Curiosity getting the better of me and having fond memories of doing something similar with the old HP Microservers, I grabbed a couple of the Kingston modules (KVR16LS11/8 1.35V 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SODIMM).
Please note: Whilst 16GB may work, we still recommend sticking to the maximum of 8GB as specified by QNAP. You may find yourself with no official support if you go beyond what QNAP recommends.
RAM capacity also confirmed via shell console to the TS-653A:
[~] # head -5 /proc/meminfo MemTotal: 16327636 kB MemFree: 7017336 kB MemAvailable: 15210688 kB Buffers: 226236 kB Cached: 7996484 kB
Running trusty old memtest+ to ensure we don’t see any memory related errors. I ended up running this overnight with no issues.
The QNAP TS-653A was configured with 2 x 250GB Samsung EVO 850 SSDs in RAID1 configuration. Speed comparison was against a QNAP TS-653Pro with configured with 3 x 5TB Toshiba SATA3 HDDs (7200RPM) with a 128GB SSD as cache. Note that we were expecting higher results with the SSD configuration, the TS-653Pro was used more as a baseline rather than a NAS competing on performance.
First up was a basic transfer test performed on the device via SSH.
/dev/sda: Timing buffered disk reads: 1538 MB in 3.00 seconds = 512.12 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing buffered disk reads: 1538 MB in 3.00 seconds = 512.01 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing buffered disk reads: 1538 MB in 3.00 seconds = 512.34 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing buffered disk reads: 1538 MB in 3.00 seconds = 512.36 MB/sec
In comparison, 7200RPM HDDs in RAID5
[~] # hdparm -t /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing buffered disk reads: 640 MB in 3.00 seconds = 213.11 MB/sec
Next up was some data transfer without using the drive cache.
[~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 1476 MB in 3.00 seconds = 491.83 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 1474 MB in 3.00 seconds = 491.15 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 1474 MB in 3.00 seconds = 491.15 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 1476 MB in 3.00 seconds = 491.71 MB/sec
Slightly slower speeds without the drive cache but as we see below, the SSDs are still well ahead than platter based drives.
[~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 612 MB in 3.01 seconds = 203.38 MB/sec [~] # hdparm -t --direct /dev/sda /dev/sda: Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 642 MB in 3.01 seconds = 213.37 MB/sec
The figures we saw were nothing surprising but the exercise was still worthwhile just to remind us of how much faster SSDs are. We tend to forget when spoilt with speed but unfortunately, traditional drives will always be the first choice for many as they still ahead on a $/GB measure. Performance over gigabit ethernet via an Intel NUC wasn’t too bad either.
We first came across QNAP’s Virtualization Station during our TS-x51 series NAS review. Virtualization Station enables the creation and management of a number of virtual machines that are stored on the NAS. It currently supports a range of operating systems including Linux, Unix, Windows and Android.
If you are migrating from other virtualization technologies such as VMware, importing tools are available to easily import into the station. The import feature gives you the added benefit of being able to download more VMs in the various marketplaces (e.g. VMware and BitNami) for a complex-free install. Similarly, you can export your VMs to work on other platforms.
Accessing your virtual machines can be done in a range of different ways. If you have a browser with HTML5/JAVA support (all mainstream modern day browsers do) you can access the machine console via Virtualization Station. Similarly, you can setup remote desktop and use a RDP client on your device of choice. Alternatively, if you attach a keyboard and mouse to the TS-653A and have a HDMI connection, you can install the QVM application to HD Station and output the VM console to an external monitor or TV. This is handy if you are having network disruptions and can’t gain remote access to the NAS.
Installation of the Virtualization Station was no different to what we saw in our earlier reviews. Performance and USB pass-through functionality was more or less the same as the 653 Pro, but it did feel a little more snappy in speed. This could have been due to the newer processor, additional RAM or most likely, a combination of both.
The HD Station has had a number of updates since we last reviewed it. Now supporting a range of media rich applications such as Kodi, Plex Home Theatre, Spotify and YouTube, the HD Station helps the TS-653A appeal to those media savvy users needing another machine in the media room. With its storage capabilities, the TS-653A will have an advantage against other media players. The included QNAP remote control can also be used to pair up to 3 TV or stereo IR remote controls for frequently used functions. This functionality is also replicated on mobile devices via the Qremote application.
Getting Ready for IoT
In preparation for the IoT era, the TS-653A utilizes QNAP’s advanced virtualization technologies to support a dual QTS & Linux system. This new architecture provides the benefits of installing applications via the QTS App Center as well as developing your own IoT solutions for Linux and storing them centrally and securely on the TS-653A.
With the aid of a keyboard, mouse and monitor (via HDMI), the QNAP TS-653A can operate the Linux Station like a regular PC. The unit has dual HDMI ports that can support dual monitors in duplicated or extended mode for greater flexibility and convenience.
Installation of the Linux Station was done in a handful of steps.
I spent a bit of time playing around with Ubuntu on the TS-653A and it works extremely well.
The QNAP TS-653A as you would expect is a very polished NAS capable of handling a typical small to medium enterprise workload. It’s simple to setup and use making it a great alternative for many businesses and power users at home. Running virtual machines on the Virtual Station was comparable to the TS-653 Pro. Similarly, HD Station was up to the task with video streaming and transcoding across a range of different formats. In general, the overall performance of the TS-653A was very good.
The TS-653A is available in a 4GB or 8GB configuration but highly recommend 8GB if you are wanting to run the Virtual Station. Likewise, if you start with the 4GB model, the memory is user upgradeable and fairly easy to do as we showed above. Just remember to check compatibility first.
QNAP has found a nice little niche in the crowded NAS market segment by differentiating itself through the provision of capabilities such as virtualization and dual OS. If you are after a polished NAS that offers something a little different, the TS-653A is one that you need to consider. If you don’t need 6 bays, QNAP have you covered with 2 (TS-253A), 4 (TS-453A) and 8 (TS-853A) bay models also available that are based on the same hardware.