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Saturday | December 10, 2016
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QNAP TS-453mini Review

QNAP TS-453mini Review

The last time we looked at a NAS from QNAP we left very impressed. The TS-451 was a quality product with some outstanding features. Today we take a look at a model with a slightly different design and some top notch specs, in our QNAP TS-453mini Review.

QNAP TS-453mini Review – Packaging and Bundle

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Given that this product is called “mini” we expected quite a compact box however this unit arrives in a fairly standard sized box for a NAS, providing some decent feature/spec info around the various sides. Inside the NAS is wrapped in a plastic bag, suspended in foam and the bundled items are stored in a separate box. Those items include product documentation, 90w power supply, mains cable, two network cables and a remote.

QNAP TS-453mini Review – The NAS

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We noted before that the box for the 453mini was fairly standard for a NAS, despite the mini name and in truth the NAS itself isn’t particularly compact. It measures 210x151x200mm and weighs 2kg. QNAP have flipped the device though giving it a smaller footprint than most NAS and installing the drives through the top, rather than the front. The finish used by QNAP is glossy black with their company logo on the front. Above the logo are our status LEDs, coving functions such as drive and network activity then above those is a larger LED which glows out from the recess between front and top, identifying power states.

At the bottom of the front panel we find the power button, USB copy and a single USB 3.0 port. The sides and top of the 453mini are blank, other than a sticker which helps with setup. Flipping the device over reveals the four rubber feet which keep the device sturdy on our desk and between them a removable panel. Beneath the panel are two slots for memory, 2 DDR3 slots (SO-DIMM) with the NAS supporting 8GB and 1600MHz.

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Round at the back of the NAS is our main connectivity which starts on the left with power input, 2x USB 2.0, dual GB-LAN, 2x USB 3.0 and HDMI 1.4a.

As far as other specifications go, the NAS is built around a quad core Celeron CPU running at 2.0GHz with boost up to 2.41GHz. Intel HD Graphics are also present as is 512MB of flash memory. The four drive bays all support 2.5 and 3.5″ drives with capacities up to 8TB each. SSD caching is also supported and as far as power use goes expect around 17w in standby, 1w in sleep and a touch over 30w when fully populated with mechanical drives.

QNAP TS-453mini Review – Setup

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Installation of the drives in the TS-453mini is a quick and easy process. Lift off the lid which is held on by fairly strong magnets, lift out the drive bays which are inserted vertically and snap in a 3.5″ drive. 2.5″ drives can also be installed using the bundled screws. We then insert the drive bay back in and put the lid on. After that we plug in the PSU, connect up a network cable and hit the power.

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To start the installation of our NAS operating system we use the Qnap Qfinder software on our desktop/laptop or head to start.qnap.com in our browser (or mobile app). This launches  simple process in which QNAP walk us through choosing usernames/passwords, deciding on the basic options such as what media servers are enabled and downloading/updating to the latest OS.

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QNAP TS-453mini Review – Software

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With the base install complete we are presented with a login screen. Here we enter our new details and if appropriate sign up for QNAPs account which allows for enhanced remote access (and support). On first login the system also checks for the latest firmware and prompts to install before also checking for the latest App updates.

The OS uses a fairly standard desktop like interface with icons present for the main basic functions (e.g. media playback, shared folders etc). Menus can be found along the top of the screen which give us access to options such as power/reset and a selection of tabs on the base offer links to the QNAP apps and feedback.

Most users will want to head to the App Centre though and that is where we can begin to tailor the device to our needs.

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Looking around the base options we find everything we need for media playback (including the ability to transcode file formats), download manager (inc Bittorrent) and cloud access. Anti-virus protection is built in and our control panel allows easy administration of the device including user accounts, storage, shared folders, ftp and power. There is also a handy resource manager on the right of the screen which pops out to reveal information on key aspects of our NAS.

Also worthy of note is a wide range of extra software which QNAP offer to enhance the user experience. These apps, some for smartphones/tablets and some for Windows/MAC allow us to perform useful tasks such as quick/easy syncing of data from multiple systems and perform full system backups.

QNAP TS-453mini Review – Conclusion

Starting with the build quality and design of the TS-453mini we have a NAS which immediately impresses. It’s fair to say that we are not fans of gloss finishes, they gather too much dust too easily, however the shape and overall look with that long thin status LED is impressive. The choice of black also allows it to blend into environments more easily than white models and the taller design, with hidden drive bays is an improvement over older/competitor models.

There is a very good selection of ports on the TS-453mini, plenty of USBs, dual GB LAN etc and the presence of multiple USB 3.0 spec ports means our external storage will be nice and fast. The device also supports printer sharing and can back-up the contents of a USB drive in one touch which keeps things simple. We also like the inclusion of the remote, it too keeps ease of use high and we need only that plus an HDMI cable to turn this into a media box, outputting HD video along with audio through the tried and trusted XBMC software. Also worthy of mention is that we can use our smartphone/tablet to control media functionality through the official Kore app.

As far as the initial setup goes… that’s another item in the easy to do pile. There are various ways to connect initially and once we do that a very clear step by step process takes place. All very clear with little potential to mess things up. The OS itself is very responsive and while this NAS isn’t Qnap’s most memory packed or fastest CPU (though it is close) we noted no lag or bottlenecks. Drive performance is rated for up to 220MB/s read and write and we noted no stability issues. The TS-453mini sat, doing its thing 24/7 throughout weeks of testing.

The above is all great however as we have found with QNAP before it’s the overall flexibility of the NAS which most impresses. For example its virtualisation features mean we can install (for example) Windows on the NAS, running in a virtual PC, and plug in a keyboard and mouse via USB to control it just like a “normal” desktop using the Hybrid Deskstation software. In another pretty cool move Qnap now allow us to set up our smartphone/tablet as a network camera and monitor it through Surveillance Station. Again, simple to set up and a nice feature to have.

Summary: Qnap’s OS has evolved hugely over the last few versions and while the base experience was always solid, the latest OS is fantastic. Responsive, easy to maintain, simple to set up and all running on impressive NAS hardware. We particularly love the virtualisation features along with on the fly transcoding and great media functionality. Just plug in an HDMI cable, switch the channel and fire up video/audio using the bundled remote.

Gold Award

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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