QNAP TS-109 Pro II NAS Review

Today we are going to talk about QNAP latest all-in-one TS-109 Pro II network-attached storage device. This device is positioned as a great solution for SOHO users as it offers high stability even when there are multiple simultaneous accesses to the services. Read more in our review!

by Platon Scheblykin
10/07/2008 | 04:25 PM

The device we are going to test today has been released quite recently but has already gathered a lot of positive reports from hardware reviewers and ordinary users. It is a single-disk Network Attached Storage from QNAP called TS-109 Pro II.

 

Some users think that a single-disk NAS is quite enough for storing critical data provided that you make regular backups to an external disk or workstation. There are actually very few home multi-disk NASes that show a considerable performance growth if you use RAID0. So, although hard disks are getting cheaper and cheaper, and single-disk and dual-disk NASes of similar functionality do not differ much in price, single-disk NASes still enjoy stable demand. The TS-109 Pro II model we are going to test today is likely to enjoy it as well due to its rich functionality and appealing hardware properties.

Thinking about an opponent to QNAP’s device, we stopped at models from Synology two of which had visited our labs before. We didn’t have the single-disk model at hand and took the dual-disk DS207+. Comparing the specs of the DS207+, DS107+ and TS-109Pro II, we found that the NASes from Synology differ but little from each other functionally whereas the NAS from QNAP is even superior to them in some hardware characteristics (the amount and type of system memory). That’s why the TS-109Pro II is compared with the DS207+ in this review so that you could see the difference in their functionality and performance. We are going to add to the results in the future by testing a dual-disk NAS from QNAP.

Specifications and Accessories

Parameter

Specification

CPU

500MHz

RAM

256MB (DDR2)

WAN

1 RJ-45 port (10/100/1000 BaseT) 
GigabitEthernet with auto crossover

Other interfaces

1 SATAII port (internal HDDs)
1 eSATA port
3 USB 2.0 ports

Maximum internal HDD 
capacity

1TB

Supported file systems

EXT3
FAT (external storage devices)
NTFS (Read Only, external storage devices)

Cooling

Passive

Power consumption

6.6W (min) – 14.4W (max)

Temperature

0-35ºC

Dimensions

210mm x 60mm x 182mm

Power supply

External PSU

Additional features

  • HDD sleep mode
  • Web server (PHP + MySQL)
  • iTunes Server
  • Print server
  • Multimedia Station
  • Download Station
  • Surveillance Station
  • Web File Manager
  • NetBak ReplicatorS

The box contains:

We must confess we didn’t found the CD in the box and had to download everything from the QNAP website.

Exterior and Interior Design

The case of the TS-109Pro II is made from thick anodized aluminum which is the material of expensive devices. The surface of the case is somewhat rough. Your fingers will leave almost no trace on it. The front and back panels are made from black matte plastic. The overall mix of colors and materials looks stylish, but is also practical.

Although this NAS can be positioned horizontally if you want, its case is designed to stand upright. This is indicated by the smooth sides and the captions on the front panel that you can read normally only when the device is placed on the stands. The aluminum stands match the device’s design perfectly. There are no grooves or anything to fix them on the case. Instead, the stands are somewhat springy and have rubber pads on the interior surface in order to embrace the NAS tightly. Alas, the grip is not tight enough and the stands slip off the case quite easily. They stand firm on a desk surface, however, due to the rubber feet.

One of the main advantages of the TS-109Pro II is that it has no fans and should produce very little noise (its noise level will depend on the noisiness of the hard disk you install into it). This is a hefty advantage for a home device that is expected to work all day long in a living apartment. Indeed, we could only hear the motor of the hard disk during our tests of the TS-109Pro II. When the HDD was in standby mode, the NAS proved to be absolutely silent. Of course, passive cooling is less efficient than active (with a fan), especially when the HDD is under load. We checked the efficiency of cooling of our TS-109Pro II, of course. The current HDD temperature was displayed on the statistics page of the NAS’s Setup Manager, but we verified it using an infrared thermometer. Having removed the top panel, we measured the temperature of the HDD at work. The showings of the temperature sensor proved to coincide with what was reported by our thermometer. The HDD temperature was 41°C in idle mode. Then we loaded the HDD by running an IOMeter pattern with 50% random requests, 50% reads, and with a data chunk size of 32KB. The HDD was 45°C hot at the end of the test, which was good. Such temperatures are absolutely safe for a HDD. We ran the test at an ambient temperature of 20-22°C, so your HDD may be hotter if the ambient temperature is higher.

Before installing a HDD into this NAS, you may want to have a look at the controls and indicators it has. The front panel carries the following (from left to right):

The indication system is based on ordinary LEDs (the Status indicator is dual-color) that are connected to light pipes, but the indicators have different colors and are shaped according to the corresponding captions and icons. This is a simple and effective solution as a quick glance is enough to see the necessary indicator. The brightness of the indicators is optimal, too.

The back panel of the NAS carries the following components (from left to right):

Like most single-disk NASes, this one doesn’t support hot-swapping, so you have to take the device apart in order to install the hard disk. When we took our TS-109Pro II out of the box, we found the necessary screws neatly packed. The NAS’s case consists of two pieces: the top and front panels make up one piece. The other piece is the back and bottom panels together with the PCB and the aluminum frame for fastening the hard disk. That frame also serves as a heat-spreader because the internal disk doesn’t have any other contact with the case. The HDD is connected to the PCB via a single connector that is soldered to the latter.

 

We found one drawback when we were installing our hard disk into the NAS. The pieces of the case do not cling to each other tight enough. They are not fixed between each other even when closed. And if you don’t tighten the case with self-tipping screws, there is a rather wide gap between the side panel and the back or front panel. Otherwise, we have no complaints about the design of the case.

 

To take a look at the components of the PCB we had to unfasten the HDD frame first. Then we unscrewed the PCB from the bottom of the case. That was not difficult. The PCB is about the same size as the bottom panel it is fastened to. Most of the components are installed on one side, save for two memory chips and a few elements accompanying the controllers. The connectors, buttons and indicators are, on the contrary, all installed on the reverse side of the PCB. The mounting quality is high as you can expect from such a top-end device.

The TS-109Pro II is based on Marvell’s SoC controller 88F5182.

This Orion series of SoC controllers seems to be popular among developers because both products from Synology we have dealt with are based on chips from the same series. Besides various interface controllers (SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, PCI Express, PCI, etc), the 88F5182 incorporates a Feroceon core (based on the ARM9 architecture) with dedicated 32KB caches. The NAS’s internal and external SATA interfaces are based on the SATA controller integrated into the 88F5182.

The 88F5182 can work with both DDR and DDR2 memory. QNAP’s engineers chose the more modern type and installed four DDR2 chips (Hynix HY5PS121621CFP, 32Mb x 16) into the TS-109Pro II. The NAS has a total of 256 megabytes of system memory.

The NAS’s boot-loader and OS core are stored in an Intel JS28F640 flash memory chip (8MB, 75ns access time). The PCB has a seat for a flash memory chip of a larger capacity.

The LAN port is based on a popular Marvell 88E1118 chip that is often installed not only in NASes but also on mainboards.

The NAS’s three USB ports are all based on a GL850G chip from Genesys Logic. As a matter of fact, this chip supports up to four USB ports.

Home NASes usually have a very cheap microcontroller for the control and indication system. Here, it is one of the most widespread chips, PIC16F627A from Microchip Technology.

The PCB has a few seats for connectors one of which is actually a pin-connector. It is the processor’s UART. The other seats may be used to install a JTAG connector, a processor interface (GPIO), and a connector for in-circuit programming (PIC):

 

There is also a seat for a mini-PCI slot on the PCB.

Firmware

At first we wanted to compare the firmware of the TS-109Pro II with that of Synology’s NASes feature by feature, but it would be too long and complicated. So, we’ll just describe the current firmware of the TS-109Pro II and compare it generally with the competing products at the end.

You won’t be able to work with the TS109-Pro II right after you turn it on for the first time. You must first use a program from the included CD to find the NAS on the network and upload firmware into it. The internal hard disk must be already installed because a large part of the firmware goes into a system partition on that disk. As we didn’t find the CD in our box, we downloaded the latest firmware and the software bundle from the QNAP website. This seems to be the only source of firmware for the TS-109Pro II because we could not find any project on the Internet focusing on alternative firmware for this NAS. We guess there are two reasons for that. QNAP’s devices belong to the hi-end sector and are expensive. Expensive hardware is not what every user can afford. Then, it is because of the high price that a respectable manufacturer like QNAP will do everything for the firmware to meet all of user requirements. So, the main way of customizing the firmware of the TS-109Pro II is to write your own scripts and install additional applications by means of the integrated package manager QPKG.

Additional Services

Before we discuss the setup options offered by this NAS, we want to describe the additional services available in the TS-109Pro II. It is a web-server that allows to create and publish your website right on the NAS’s hard disk. This server supports PHP4 and MySQL.

The Download Station service can download files to disks connected to the NAS. The web-interface of this service displays a list of downloads you can add and remove and a small page with settings. The Download Station can download files using direct links or the BitTorrent protocol.

The TS-109Pro II also offers a network gallery called Multimedia Station. When you save photos into the corresponding folder (you can load them from within the Multimedia Station), thumbnails are created for the photos automatically and you can see them on the Multimedia Station page. There are not too many operations you can do with the images, though. You can sort, add and remove them.

The Web File Manager service is a file manager for the disks attached to the NAS. Like the previous service, this manager offers just some basic functions for working with files. The possible operations are shown as icons above the directory tree.

The Surveillance Station allows you to connect a web-camera to the TS-109Pro II and establish a simple video surveillance system. There are all the necessary options for that here: viewing the image in real time, scheduled recording, movement sensor, camera setup opportunities, etc. There is a log of events related to the Surveillance Station.

Web-Interface

Now we’d like to discuss the structure of the web-interface and the capabilities of the Setup Manager integrated into the TS-109Pro II. You have to pass three steps to get to the settings. First, there is a title page from which you can go to an additional service or click the Administration link to enter the Setup Manager.

The title page also allows you to change the entry password and choose the language of the web-interface.

The Administration link leads to the Setup Manager’s start page containing links to all of the setup pages.

This page is the easiest way to find the necessary setting. When you click a link, you will see the Setup Manager’s main interface. It consists of four sections. There are small buttons in the top right of the header of the displayed page:

The horizontal bar below the header contains icons referring to groups of settings. The icons are rather too abstract and not intuitive. That’s why choosing the required group of settings from the start page is handier.

The rest of the page is divided vertically in two parts. The left partis where you can choose a page in the current group of settings. The right part displays the contents of the page. The settings are represented in a logical structure. If it were not for the incomprehensible icons, the web-interface would be perfect.

The firmware has an integrated Help system. It is not ideal, but acceptable, offering information, even though brief, about every setup option. It also covers the NAS’s additional services.

All the settings of the TS-109Pro II fall into eight groups. Let's take a closer look at them one by one.

Quick Configuration

The first group is called Quick Configuration. It is a quick setup Wizard, actually.

System Settings

Manual setup begins with the System Settings group which in its turn begins with the Server Name page where you can specify the network name of your TS-109Pro II.

The NAS’s system date and time are configured manually or via an NTP-server on the Date & Time page.

The File Name Encoding Setting page is where you can choose a character set for displaying non-Latin filenames correctly. You can choose from 10 different sets.

On the Configure SMTP Server page you can specify your SMTP server account for sending letters informing about failures in the operation of the NAS.

The current parameters of the group can be viewed on the View System Settings page.

Network Settings

The Network Settings group begins with the TCP/IP Settings page where you can specify LAN port parameters, enable Jumbo Frames support, and turn on the integrated DHCP-server.

The options of the Microsoft Networking and Apple Networking pages refer to the parameters of the NAS when it works on the corresponding type of a network. When it comes to Microsoft, the NAS can work either in a workgroup or in a domain.

You can transform your TS-109Pro II into an NFS-server on the NFS Service page.

The Web File Manager page is where you can turn on the namesake service.

You can find the parameters of the NAS’s integrated FTP server on the FTP Service page. You’ll find everything necessary for flexible setup here.

The Multimedia Station page is for turning on the namesake service.

An iTunes server can be established using the iTunes Service page.

The Download Station page is where you can enable the download manager.

The Web Server page is for turning on the corresponding service, set up the access port of the user page, and change the PHP configuration file.

Your DDNS account parameters can be entered on the DDNS Service page.

MySQL settings can be found on the MySQL Server page.

The Surveillance Station page is for turning on the namesake service.

If you enable the Web-server, the NAS’s address will produce the start page of the user site or a page with the Web-server’s messages. If you want to provide an opportunity to enter the settings menu then, you must specify a port on the System Port Management page the NAS’s settings will be available at.

The current parameters of the group can be viewed on the View Network Settings page.

Device Configuration

The Device Configuration group shows information about storage devices connected to the TS-109Pro II as well as about a network printer (if available).

User Management

User accounts are managed using the Users and User Groups pages of the User Management group.

The Quota page allows you to limit the amount of disk space for individual users.

Network Share Management

The Network Share Management group contains one page only where you can specify folders that will be accessible remotely via the network.

System Tools

The System Tools group contains some additional features of the NAS. You can do without them all right, but it is good just to have such options. The Alert Notification page goes first in this group. You can specify two addresses email notifications about failures in the NAS’s operation will be sent to.

The Restart/Shutdown page allows you to reboot or shut down the TS-109Pro II with a click of a button.

The Hardware Settings page is where you can specify the NAS’s behavior in case of a power failure, errors, etc.

If you connect a compatible UPS to the TS-109Pro II, you can specify its parameters on the UPS page.

You can view detailed information about the attached HDD on the Hard Disk SMART page. You can also test the HDD here.

The NAS’s firmware can be updated on the System Update page.

The USB one touch copy backup page is for choosing the parameters of the appropriate feature.

An interesting feature can be found on the Change Logo page. You can load up to four small pictures to be displayed in a small fragment of the web-interface’s title page.

The name of the Backup to an external storage device page is self-explanatory.

You can set up data backups from the TS-109Pro II to a remote server or vice versa on the Remote Replication page.

You can Backup/Restore/Reset Settings on the namesake page.

You can write IP addresses that will not be allowed to connect to the NAS on the IP Filter page.

The Network Recycle Bin page allows to create a kind of Windows’ Recycle Bin.

You can allow users to connect to the NAS via Telnet or SSH on the Remote Login page.

The QPKG page contains a manager of packages that can add to the functionality of the NAS by installing new programs. This is a potentially huge advantage but we couldn’t find any packages available for the TS-109Pro II.

System Logs

The last group of the Setup Manager is called System Logs. The pages of this group offer information about various aspects of the NAS. The System Event Logs page contains an internal log of the NAS’s operation while the System Information page displays information about the CPU load, amount of free system memory, and HDD temperature.

Sammary

Summing it up, the TS-109Pro II seems to be inferior to Synology’s products in terms of functionality. It is on the same level as the firmware of the DS107+ when we tested the latter one year ago. If we haven’t dealt with Synology’s products since then, we’d think the firmware from QNAP even better in some respects. However, we have tested the DS207+ with updated firmware (which is also available for the DS107+) and our requirements have grown stricter. The firmware of the DS207+ has a better interface. It has a list of favorite settings on the start page and offers a handier navigation in the menu of settings, and its icons are more intuitive. The TS-109Pro II is also inferior in terms of additional functionality. For example, it doesn’t offer such features as Synology’s Audio Station or advanced logging.

But if taken without any comparisons, the firmware of QNAP’s device is quite good. We like its backup opportunities, the option of changing the logo on the title page (animated images are supported) and QPKG. You may have noticed even more interesting features if you have viewed the screenshots above.

Software Bundle

The software bundle included with the TS-109Pro II consists of three programs: QNAP Finder, QGet and NetBak Replicator.

QNAP Finder

QNAP Finder is the tool you’ll need the most. You need this program to initialize your new NAS. Besides, QNAP Finder allows you to update the NAS’s firmware, create network disks in your OS, connect to the NAS to change settings or work with files, shut down or reboot the NAS remotely, and launch the other programs from the software bundle included with the TS-109Pro II.

QGet

The QGet program is for those people who don’t want to work with the Download Station via the web-interface. It is in fact a client of that service and may be handy if you add new downloads often. Besides providing every feature of the NAS’s web-interface in a new and prettier interface, it offers the so-called Drop Basket every modern download manager has. This Basket is an icon displayed above desktop windows. You can add a new download by simply dragging and dropping the appropriate link into it.

NetBak Replicator

The third program is called NetBak Replicator. It is a backup tool for the TS-109Pro II. The program window offers three tabs: creating a backup, restoring a backup, and an event log. On the first tab you select folders you want to back up and a target folder on the NAS where backup files are going to be saved. You can copy data from any disks attached to the computer, even from network disks. On the second tab you select folders and files you want to restore. And every action is recorded in the event log. Besides, NetBak Replicator can filter out the copying of files according to specific patterns (matching files are not backed up), run a scheduled backup procedure, etc.

Performance

Now it’s time run a few tests with our TS-109Pro II and DS207+ (in single-disk mode). Both are top-end products in the home NAS category and both are worthy of this positioning with their functionality and specs. Therefore our requirements to their performance are going to be strict. Here is a list of the equipment we used for this test session:

We’ve got devices without WLAN modules today, so we are only going to measure the speed of their Gigabit Ethernet ports. For every disk-related test we connected the tested NAS directly to the testbed, i.e. to the notebook. We first measure the speed of the integrated HDD using IOMeter. There are two patterns: 512 bytes to determine for maximum amount of disk operations per second and 64KB to see the maximum data-transfer rate. We exclude random and write operations in both cases to get the highest results possible.

TS-109Pro II:

DS207+:

The QNAP product is considerably slower than the DS207+ in this test with the exception of the flash drive. We don’t count in the suspiciously high result of the DS207+ when reading from the flash drive (we discussed that in our DS207+ review). The poor performance of the TS-109Pro II with the internal HDD is probably due to the use of an integrated SATA controller instead of a discrete one (like in the DS207+). The high performance of the USB port of the TS-109Pro II is only achieved by means of its firmware because Synology’s NAS uses the same USB controller.

The next test is about the integrated FTP server available in both NAS devices. FTP remains an important data-transfer protocol, so this test has high practical value. We measure the data-transfer speed not only for the integrated HDD but also for an external device, a USB flash drive. We upload and download files with FlashXFP and mark the average download speed reported by the program in the server connection log. We use the following content types: a 700MB DivX movie (L), a 200MB folder with MP3 files (M), and a 200MB folder with photographs (S).

This test depends on the performance of the NAS’s processor, and the TS-109Pro II is now almost as fast as the DS207+. The latter is somewhat better, probably due to more optimized firmware.

Finally we wanted to compare images recorded from the web-camera’s interface and through the Surveillance Station. But although our camera is on the list of devices supported by the TS-109Pro II, we could only see a blank screen on the Live View tab of the Surveillance Station. Moreover, you can only work with the camera in the Surveillance Station of the TS-109Pro II through Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher, which is not convenient for users who prefer other browsers.

Still, although the TS-109Pro II is inferior to the Synology DS207+ in performance, its results are quite good for its class.

Conclusion

When we were writing this review, we had no idea how the two products from Synology and QNAP would compare. Network devices from these companies gather positive reports from hardware reviewers, so it was hard to tell which would be the favorite of the comparison. But after we had examined the firmware of the TS-109Pro II, the picture got clearer. And now that every test is completed and every feature is discussed, we are quite sure the Synology product is somewhat better. Not only because it is a dual-disk NAS. As we noted in our reviews, the capabilities of the firmware of the DS107+ and DS207+ are roughly the same. And the amount of system memory is more important for home NASes than the processor’s support for specific operation modes. Anyway, the QNAP product proved to be somewhat less functional and to have a little lower performance than the DS207+.

The pricing of the two models should be taken into account, too. The DS207+ is about as expensive as the TS-109Pro II, which spoils the impression from the latter a little bit.

The TS-109Pro II is a high-quality product, though. It was inferior to the Synology NAS in our tests, but its performance is higher than that of most other devices of this class. The list of its highs and lows indicates that.

Highs:

Lows