This is the kind of product I simply love to review. My office is usually filled with a bunch of me-too components that are very similar, be it motherboards, graphics cards or monitors. But the TBS-453A is something entirely new, and entirely cool. It’s a NAS designed to house M.2 SSDs instead of the usual mechanical drives used in NAS units. Yes, this means it’s going to be incredibly expensive to fill to any decent size of capacity (you’re looking at $800 for two 1TB M.2 SSDs as a minimum), but man is it fast. But is it too fast for the average user?
Because it uses such tiny drives, this is a very small NAS unit, at around the size of a small novel. It can host up to four M.2 drives, and supports RAID 0, 1 and 5 modes. There are five Gigabit ports on the rear. According to the specs, port 1 and any of the ports four ports from 2-1 and 2-4 can be used by the two internal network cards, while the remaining three ports are switch ports. Four USB 3.0 and a single USB 1.0 provide generous connectivity, which can be used for printers, UPS and other peripherals. Most interesting are the twin HDMI outputs, but we’re not sure if they’re HDMI 2.0. Qnap claims they’re 4K compatible, saying “up to 4K 2160P Ultra HD support”, but there’s no mention of the refresh rate supported. There’s even twin microphone inputs, to turn it into a karaoke machine if that’s your kind of thing. There’s also a line out for an amplifier, along with an IR remote, making this the perfect media NAS.
To power all of these goodies requires some serious hardware, which is where the Intel Celeron N3150 CPU comes into the equation. This a true quad-core CPU, with a top Burst speed of 2.08GHz. Note the use of Burst instead of Turbo – this means it only jumps to this higher frequency for smaller periods of time. Most of the time it cruises along at 1.6GHz, which is still much more powerful than the CPUs usually found in NAS units. A whopping 4GB of memory is included, which is around twice that of other NAS units, which can be upgraded to 8GB if you need even more horsepower. The CPU even has an integrated GPU, in the form of Intel HD Graphics.
While the included Qnap Video Station does video transcoding in real time, we’re not sure if it will be able to do so via Plex. Plex claims that no NAS on the market can do this, but given the sheer power of this thing, there’s a chance it might. This NAS shares the same super-easy to use interface found on other Qnap devices, which is basically identical to the one found on Synology NAS units, if not quite as polished.
If you’re fully cashed up, it’s possible to buy this NAS with M.2 drives preinstalled, with either four 240GB or two 240GB drives. Unfortunately we weren’t able to test this unit as we didn’t have enough identical M.2 drives, but Qnap claims each Ethernet port can deliver 112MB/sec of throughput per port. But this raises one very important question – do you need this much performance?
It’s the perfect unit for a very busy office or home environment where five or more PCs are accessing the unit at once, but if you’re only hooking it up to your PC and gaming consoles, we think it’s overkill. Still, Qnap should be commended for coming up with such a unique and powerful NAS, and the inclusion of media features means it’s also brilliant as a media server, albeit a very expensive one.