NAS Does QTS + Linux

Having developed NAS products for more than a decade, QNAP now ships a massive range of devices for both enterprise and home environments. We've tested many of the company's offerings over the years and one of its most recent releases, the TS-x53A, just so happens to be on-hand today in its biggest form, touting eight drive bays, a Braswell quad-core SoC, and a heap of connectivity options.

Offered additionally in two ($448), four ($598), and six-bay ($792) versions, the TS-x53A is a broad series of new NAS boxes supporting QNAP's HybridDesk Station and QTS-Linux dual system features. This is said to be the first QTS-Linux dual system NAS geared for the Internet of Things era.

Based on QNAP's advanced virtualization technologies, this new series opens up the door to existing apps designed for the QTS operating system with the ability to develop or utilize IoT packages for Linux and display them using an HDMI output.

Although the eight-bay TS-853A we're reviewing is classified as a NAS, it's really more of a server. Actually, it's hard to define a product such as the TS-853A, which has so many potential uses and could directly replace several devices.

This is something I feel QNAP is doing much better than any of its competitors. By simply plugging in a keyboard, mouse and HDMI monitor, the TS-853A pretty much becomes a PC and could certainly displace an HTPC. It's also possible to operate the Linux Station as a remote desktop via web browser for instant management.

The TS-853A packs a wealth of connectivity options, and the TS-x53A series supports an expansion enclosure offering an additional five or eight drives as well as upgradable memory.

While we're talking about RAM, we have tested the 4GB version, but there is also an 8GB option as well. Tech-savvy users will want to purchase the much cheaper 4GB model and upgrade the memory to 8GB for around $20 -- much cheaper than the nearly $200 premium QNAP will charge you. All up, the 4GB TS-853A is currently selling for $965 in diskless form on Newegg. Keeping all that in mind, let's move on to check the unit out in greater detail...

QNAP TS-853A

As mentioned previously, there are four models in the new TS-x53A series spanning from two to eight bays and we're looking at the latter. The TS-853A measures 7.29" tall, 11.74" wide and 9.25" deep (185.2mm x 298.2mm x 235mm) and weighs 7.3kg, which are fairly modest dimensions for an eight-bay NAS, particularly given that the power supply has been fitted internally.

From the front, the TS-853A features a large panel above the drive bays and QNAP has used this area to house its 'Touch-N-Go PC-less Installation' feature. This is a feature that is only found on their premium models, and while not necessary it does provide some useful information such as the devices IP information.

Like all good NAS devices, the TS-x53A series allows drives to be hot-swapped during operation. The use of individual, detachable 3.5-inch hard drive trays makes adding or removing storage capacity a breeze. Interestingly, however, the drive bays cannot be locked for better security, though there is an anti-theft K-Lock Security Slot at the rear which can be used to prevent the removal of the entire device, though not individual drives.

Moving on, each drive also has its own activity and power light on the front of the case, while status, LAN and USB LED indicators sit on top. The power button resides on the bottom left and glows blue when active, and there's a USB 2.0 port below it for easy data transfers from portable storage devices.

Around back the models do vary, so let me break it down for you. All four models have three USB 3.0 ports, a line out jack (for amplifier or headphone amplifier), dual 6.3mm microphone jacks (dynamic microphones only), dual HDMI outputs and a password and network settings reset switch.

The two-bay TS-253A features two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a small 70mm cooling fan. The rest of the line-up gets quad-Gigabit Ethernet support and the TS-653A features a pair of 90mm fans while the TS-453A has been upgraded to a single of 120mm fan.

Cooling the TS-853A are a pair of 120mm fans which seem to work well. Having two fans also means the unit will still be able to remain fully operational in the event that a fan fails.

For those interested in using this as an HTPC replacement, the bundled remote will be appealing as it lets you watch movies and shows without needing a keyboard or mouse. QNAP's own HD Station integrates the powerful Kodi media player and web browser and this is where the QNAP RM-IR002 remote control comes into its own.

The Infrared remote control costs $30 to purchase separately through QNAP ($25 on Newegg), so being included with the TS-853A adds more value to this model. That said, the remote is quite basic and even cheap feeling, dare I say, but it does work quite well for the most part (on occasion it failed to register some actions). Personally, I'm just as happy with the free Qremote smartphone app, though this won't be as convenient for everyone.