QNAP HS-210 review

QNAP HS-210 review

NAS drives are increasingly found in the home, offering a neat way to archive and access all your music and media and countless other important files. Whereas most are built more for server rooms than living rooms, the QNAP HS-210 will fit right in. Read our QNAP HS-210 review. (Read all NAS drive reviews.)

Network-attached storage was once the preserve of IT sysadmins and hard-core computer enthusiasts. Now NAS drives are increasingly found in many homes, a neat way to archive and access all your music and media and countless other important files. Problem is that most NAS drives are still built more for server rooms than living rooms – until now, with the QNAP HS-210. Also see: Best NAS drives 2014. 

Companies like Synology and WD have been making the NAS box more domestically acceptable for some time now, designing more shapely units in white colours that will blend better into the home. Unfortunately NAS drives’ impact on the environment is not all visual – there’s the key consideration of noise created by spinning disks and whirring cooling fans. When we’re settling down to enjoy a film or listen to music the last thing we want to hear is whirring and ticking. 

WD worked around the problem by using passively cooled chassis, relying on natural airflow to circulate and keep the disks and electronics’ temperatures down. That can work providing you use low-power hard disks and slower ARM processors, although performance then tends to suffer. And highly perforated cases like those employed by WD do little to stifle the noise of disks within. 

QNAP’s solution is the HS-210, which is also passively cooled, only with the help of a large metal plate across the top of the case that serves as a heatsink radiator. This helps reduce audible disk noise too, the only remaining moving part in this fanless design. And without the constant flow of air running through its innards, the QNAP HS-210 promises to be more maintenance free as it won’t be piling up dust inside like all other fan-cooled designs. 

But a similar compromise has still been made in its processing power here, with only a lowly 1.6 GHz ARM processor from Marvell, single core and built for cool running and power efficiency more than heavy lifting. For a media serving NAS hub in the lounge that may not be such a problem, although disk write speeds will likely suffer. 

QNAP HS-210L: Build and Design 

Contrasting with every other NAS drive we’ve seen, the HS-210 is styled more like a set-top box for a television than a network drive. It’s 303 mm wide, 220 mm deep and just 41 mm high, giving it a flat aspect with its two hard disks mounted side by side. These are entirely hidden from view behind a neat plastic guard that covers the entire front panel. 

Pull off this magnetically attached fascia and you can access the drive caddies – each hard disk is mounted in its own slide-in sleeve, like traditional NAS designs. 

The casework is predominantly glossy black plastic, save the brushed aluminium plate in anodised black that covers the entire top surface. 

On the rear is a slightly unconventional array of ports and connectors for a NAS drive too. There’s a single gigabit ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 too. A full-size SD card slot is unusual but potentially useful for dumping photos taken from a digital camera. 

We’d imagine the HS-210 being of most interest to audiophiles and cineasts, those whose media collection requires the healthy sized repository that’s possible with a pair of RAIDed hard disks. At this time the state of hard-disk art stretches to 6 TB per drive, giving you 12 TB of fast RAID 0 storage – albeit with zero protection if even one disk should fail. 

Alternatively you could mirror the disks with a RAID 1 arrangement, halving usable capacity but with full-time protection agains one disk breakdown. QNAP’s QTS operating system also allows a concatenated JBOD, pooling two disks; or you can configure with two simple volumes. 

In use, we never found the unit getting particularly warm on top, even after extended speed benchmarking trials.  

QNAP HS-210: Interface 

Like all new QNAP units, the HS-210 is running the company’s QTS 4.1 operating system. This is a gaily coloured affair, its user graphical interface taking from other popular trends in OS design. Large iPhone-style icons populate the interface desktop, providing quick links to the main Control Panel, various media stations, cloud sync and IP cam surveillance areas. 

If you click on a speed dial-style icon in the bottom right screen corner, a large system monitor panel slides out, a trick we first saw with Synology's DSM.

For users focused more on media storage, it’s worth noting that its’ now possible to leave your audio, video and photo media files in any directory on the NAS. They will still be scanned and indexed by relevant applications, such as Music Station, Photo Station and Video Station. 

QNAP HS-210: Performance 

We tested essential file serving speed, setting up the HS-210 for best possible performance with a pair of large disks in RAID 0 mode. Since the defining matter of the NAS speed is typically the gigabit interface, and then the processor speed, this gives an idea of its overall capability, although data througput would reduce in a RAID 1 setup, for example, as the disks become more full. 

Disks used were 3 TB WD Red 3.5-inch SATA disks optimised for small NAS use. These disks are also some of the quietest we’ve experienced and suitable for use in living rooms when truly silent operation is not essential. If it is, you could also configure with 2.5-inch SSDs although this would currently limit maximum capacity to 2x 1 TB, and would cost around £600 in solid-state drives.

Tested with SMB/CIFS networking protocol as used by Windows PCs, we saw top sequential read speeds of 53 MB/s and best write speeds of 41 MB/s. Small file transfers were impressively speedy here, averaging 38 MB/s for random reads and 26 MB/s random writes (4 kB to 1024 kB data averaged). 

Used with the AFP protocol as preferred by Apple Macs, top sequential speeds now reached close to the gigabit ethernet limit of 111 MB/s, quite consistently with all data from 2 to 10 MB in size. Sequential write speeds reached their maximum with 20 to 100 MB sized data, typically around 58 MB/s. That’s a good result for a single-core ARM processor. 

Small file dwindled in speed here though, averaging just 2.7 MB/s for 4 to 1024 kB random writes. We noted that 4 kB files transferred at just 0.069 MB/s, although this is not unusual for small AFP random write performance. 

Overall these performance figures suggest the HS-210 will not have problems with media serving duties, and should also work well with other NAS jobs. 

When standing idle the unit drew 10 W of power, rising to  just 15 W when under load.

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QNAP HS-210: Specs

  • 2-bay NAS drive
  • QTS 4.1.0 operating system
  • 1.6 GHz Marvell single-core processor
  • 2x disk bays for 2.5- or 3.5-inch SATA disks
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1x gigabit ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • external 12 V/5 A power supply
  • 303 x 220 x 41 mm
  • 2-bay NAS drive
  • QTS 4.1.0 operating system
  • 1.6 GHz Marvell single-core processor
  • 2x disk bays for 2.5- or 3.5-inch SATA disks
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1x gigabit ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • external 12 V/5 A power supply
  • 303 x 220 x 41 mm

OUR VERDICT

The QNAP HS-210 is a smart and stylish network storage drive not just for the home but potentially the living room too. Thanks to passive cooling, it’s calm and quiet, and can be made silent if your storage needs and budget can accomodate solid-state drives. Its processor may only be single-core ARM but it proved suitably quick in our tests to merit use for a range of NAS duties beyond just serving audio and media.

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