QNAP's latest two-bay NAS looks more like a set-top box than network-attached storage and that's no accident. It's becoming more common to see NAS devices replacing entire HTPCs, which makes it more practical for a design that can blend in with the kind of electronic gear you typically find around a TV. With a capable processor and the right features, a NAS could easily serve as the heart of your home theater experience.
Recently, Asustor (yes, it's affiliated with Asus) introduced the AS-202TE specifically for multimedia tasks and its HDMI output can be connected directly to your TV.
Before that, QNAP did something similar with the HDMI-equipped TS-269L. And not to be excluded, Synology has started offering the DS214play which touts 1080p transcoding on the fly, but its usefulness as an HTPC replacement is limited because it doesn't have an HDMI port. Instead, it relies on DLNA and AirPlay to pipe content where you want it. Granted, it's relatively easy to find devices that support those standards, but HDMI is more common, and certainly common enough to include in a media-oriented box we would think.
With that being the case, we're surprised another outfit has taken the same approach. The QNAP HS-210 we're reviewing also lacks HDMI, but it hopes to sit in your living room anyway...
The typical two-bay NAS tower design (such as used by the TS-269L) has been thrown out in favor of a set-top. Lying flat, the HS-210 measures just 41.3mm tall and 302mm wide/220mm deep, and it weighs slightly less than the TS-269L at 1.56kg.
Like most two-bay NAS devices, the HS-210 features an external power supply that is largely responsible for the lightweight design. The power brick outputs 60 watts -- more than enough for two hard drives.
The external design of the QNAP HS-210 is sleek and simplistic. Its removable front panel has been constructed from plastic and has received a glossy black paint job. The panel is fixed into place using a central magnet that makes removing and reattaching it very quick and easy.
Apart from a small LED indicator in the top middle of the panel and the words "SilentNAS QNAP" in the top right corner, there are no other visual features to speak of. This aesthetic theme continues all around the device.
Around back, the HS-210 has only the bare essentials for connectivity: a power jack, two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet jack and an SD card reader. Reset and power buttons are the only other items present.
If you tucked the HS-210 away (such as under other hardware), getting to the power button could be troublesome. That said, you should only need to push it on rare occasions as there is little need to turn the HS-210 off. With its efficient hibernation mode, the HS-210 will use as little as 1W when sleeping. Moreover, after a power outage the system can be programed to boot back up once power is restored.
If you read the intro, we obviously see the lack of HDMI-out as an oversight. It seems like something that should really be mandatory for any NAS targeting home multimedia usage. You can't connect the HS-210 directly to a HDTV and in order to stream data to a TV you will most likely need third party hardware.
Contrasting what may be its biggest con, the HS-210's most touted feature is a fanless design that runs quietly. This, however, may not be all it's cracked up to be because two mechanical hard drives can make a fair amount of noise when active. That says nothing of the potential thermal complications, though we haven't experienced any.
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