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Software & Wrap Up
At the time of testing, the latest firmware version available for the TS-853A was 4.2.2 which was released in early September. This build offers a few minor bug fixes and changes compared to the previous version 4.2.1.
The firmware is of course QTS 4.2, which is an extremely well-polished and feature-dense operating system that offers one of the newest and most impressive apps we've seen on a desktop NAS. Called 'Linux Station', the feature essentially converts your QNAP NAS into a Linux workstation/desktop computer by installing Ubuntu. This ties in nicely with the TS-853A's ability to accept a mouse, keyboard and monitor.
Downloading and installing Ubuntu via Linux Station takes just the click of a button and within 15 minutes or so you are ready to get working. Not only can you access Linux Station locally but it's also possible to connect remotely through a web browser from a networked computer.
For those seeking a simpler environment that retains web browsing and media playback, QTS 4.2's 'HybridDesk Station' will likely be of interest. This app takes advantage of the highly rated XBMC entertainment hub as well as the Chrome web browser to let you play media or browse the Internet directly from the NAS, both of which can be done on a big screen TV through the HDMI interface.
It's also worth noting that you can switch between the environments so you aren't locked into one or the other.
Other apps include the 'Storage Manager' which provides a simple web-based snapshot tool for quick and easy backups that lets you restore data back to any point of time. Snapshots also enable Windows users to restore files directly from File Explorer simply by right clicking on files, saving time and effort.
There are countless other software features embedded in the QTS 4.2 OS and covering them all simply isn't possible. For more information and even a live online demo, visit QNAP's website.
The TS-853A is the ultimate home server/media player and while it's certainly a luxury item at $900 for the base configuration, that price tag is justified given the features targeting small to medium businesses. Solutions like the TS-853A are especially appealing because businesses can avoid setup, support, and maintenance fees.
Diskless eight-bay NAS servers start at around $800 and while Synology's DS1815+ is around $50 cheaper than the TS-853A, it doesn't have the same breadth of abilities, not to mention its older processor and lesser memory.
QNAP's QTS operating system continues to evolve and has come a long way in a relatively short time. Between its great looks, responsive performance, and ease of use, you can tell the platform has been polished. The addition of HybridDesk Station was also awesome to see for those who want a simplified interface.
The TS-853A's software and hardware were able to handle any video file we threw at it, though I should point out that 4K resolution output is limited to 30Hz via HDMI 1.4a. For a business-oriented device, I feel the lack of lockable drive trays is a bit of an oversight and following Synology's lead by including tool-less drive cages might have been a smart move.
Overall, QNAP's TS-853A is without question the most capable and complete NAS server we've come across and currently stands as today's best value high-end eight-bay desktop NAS.
Pros: Eight drive bays, quad-core Braswell SoC handles 4K video, brimming with connectivity, refined QTS 4.2 operating system.
Cons: Lacks tool-less, lockable drive cages. Expensive but not excessively so (except QNAP's premium on models w/ 8GB RAM).