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QNAP TS-451 Turbo NAS Server Review

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Technology Details: QNAP TS-451 Turbo NAS

The biggest chip on the board is the Intel Celeron J1800 CPU, a dual-core member of the 22nm Silvermont family. It’s architected as a System-On-A-Chip (SOC) in this iteration, so most of the peripheral interfaces like USB, SATA, Video, Audio, etc. are built right into the die from the start. As a result, this section of the review is shorter than many recent articles. NAS devices are a perfect application for this sort of chip, as smaller, lighter, cheaper, easy to integrate are what every NAS designer wants. It consumes very little power, with a max TDP of only 10W. Honestly, I know I’ve been waiting for what seems a very long time for Intel to field a worthy replacement for the Atom. It’s been the bottleneck for so many consumer tech items that were all just being strangled by the performance limitations of the Atom. Even the dual core models seemed stuck in low gear, as they never really outpaced the competition. I’m guessing we have the tablet wars to thank for Intel bringing their low power line up to scratch. The last NAS I reviewed needed a heatpipe style CPU cooler in order to keep the 32nm Celeron CPU temps in check. The performance of that unit was great, but it was a trick squeezing a heatpipe cooling solution into the typical 4-bay tower format. The Celeron J1800 is the only chip on the main board that needs a heatsink, and the low, finned aluminum block is held in place by two weak springs, and plastic push-pins. The difference in power dissipation couldn’t be more obvious.

QNAP_TS-451_Turbo_NAS_Server_Bay_Trail_Die

As much work as the CPU does in its usual role of counting digits, it also has to communicate and control most of the subsystems that would normally be handled by an Intel Platform Controller Hub (PCH) in a normal PC or laptop. The PCH is usually the second hardest working chip on the main board, and integrating all those interfaces into the Celeron SOC increases the TDP of the overall package somewhat. The Celeron CPU in the TS-451 does not have native CPU support for the Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (AES-NI) set. These new instructions speed up the encryption/decryption process by anywhere from 3x to 10x, depending on the implementation. As slow as the Atom-based and Marvell-based models are with encryption enabled, the latest Celeron-based models from QNAP are the minimum level that can realistically support AES 256-bit volume-based data encryption. Even with the enhanced computing power offered by a modern CPU, the extra load of data encryption is just too much to handle without a major performance hit.  The GPU section of the Celeron J1800 is based on Ivy Bridge Intel HD Graphics, with 4 execution units, and it supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.0, OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.1 (on Windows). This isn’t exactly a gaming-ready GPU, but it’s perfectly suitable for handling hi-res streaming video.

QNAP_TS-451_Turbo_NAS_Server_Intel_baytrail-D_platform

Asmedia supplies the SATA interface ICs for this new generation of QNAP towers. The ASM1061 uses one PCI Express v2.0 lane to create the interface for two SATA 6Gb/s ports. In the TS-451, two of the chips are used, and both are located on the SATA backplane. The backplane itself plugs into the x4 PCIe connector on the main controller board, providing a direct connection between the x4 PCIe port on the J1800 Celeron and the SATA controllers. It’s all very modern; the x1 PCI Express lane allows for 2.5 and 5GHz signaling at both ends of the connection. On the SATA side, the ASM1061 provides 2 Serial ATA PHY connections for 1.5, 3.0 and 6.0 Gb/s signaling. The primary usage of the TS-451 is with traditional 3.5″ HDDs in all the bays, none of which operate anywhere near the full capabilities of the SATA 6Gb/s interface. The second Asmedia chip on the TS-451 main board is an ASM1442 high speed TMDS level shift ICs for High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) and Digital Video Interface (DVI) video. In the old analog video days, this would be called a driver chip. In the digital world, you can amplify signals by just adding a few bits across the board and voila, the signal level is higher, AKA “level shift”. The magic of digital math is pretty awesome sometimes.

QNAP_TS-451_Turbo_NAS_Server_ASMEDIA_IC

USB 3.0 is final supported natively by the Intel CPU/SOC, so no extra chips are needed for that function. The two USB 3.0, plus the additional two USB 2.0 ports are all connected directly to the Celeron J1800. The same goes for Ethernet; no additional silicon is needed for the networking function, either. Gone are the usual high-end Intel Ethernet controllers that I’m used to seeing on QNAP products. The SOC does it all…. Ditto for audio. Every PC (…errrrr, NAS) needs a Super I/O + Hardware Monitor. In this case, those duties are handled by the Fintek F71869AD.  It’s unlikely that QNAP needed the IEEE 1284 Parallel Port, Keyboard Controller, or Floppy Drive Controller that are included here, but they no doubt used the auto-controlling fans and temperature sensor pins for the CPU thermal diode. This same Fintek IC showed up on the TS-x70 series, about a year ago. This set of functions is a very mature and low-tech application space, so Fintek are probably winning the spot on price. The PIC16 chip is a simple (only 33 single-word instructions) FLASH-based 8-bit microcontroller that is well suited for controlling the low-level functions of industrial and consumer-level products. It’s a lot easier to use a dedicated MCU like this to control the lights and buttons, than to code those requirements into the main CPU/SOC. Plus, the code is consistent across the entire product line, instead of unique for every model that has a different CPU.

QNAP_TS-451_Turbo_NAS_Server_PIC16_Fintek

To measure isolated NAS power consumption, Benchmark Reviews uses the Kill-A-Watt EZ (model P4460) power meter made by P3 International. Obviously, power consumption is going to depend heavily on the number and type of drives that are installed. The power draw also depends on the fan speed that’s required to keep the unit cool. When the device first started up it pulled a max of 57W when all four drives were spinning up. Once the system completed its boot process, it then went into idle standby mode, where it consumed 34W. This is slightly higher than the 31W specified by QNAP, but this unit had 4TB drives installed and 8GB of memory, which is pretty much a maxed out system.  With all drive bays filled and during heavy file transfer operations, it drew just 40W. I had the power settings configured to allow the drives to spin down after a preset time period, and the power consumption dropped to 14W in that state. When the unit is turned off, it still consumes  1-2W in Vampire mode; be aware that even when it’s turned off, the 90W external switch-mode power supply still pulls a small amount of power.

We’ve seen the ins and outs of the hardware, the new software, and the technology under the hood; now let’s take a detailed look through the extensive list of features that you get with most every QNAP Turbo NAS. I know the next couple of sections are overly long, but it’s critical to understand just how much these units can do. You don’t want to be fooled into thinking it’s just a big box full of drives. It’s capable of so much more than that.


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3 comments

  1. Piotr Z.

    If I’ve read the screenshot of ATTO correcty, you’ve just measured your C drive on SSD 🙂 1Gbit interface is exactly that – 1Gbit = theoretical 125MB/s. With the overhead it will max out on 110-180MB/s which you got in other softwares. I would suggest fixing that part of otherwise great review 😀

  2. Bruce

    Well, that might explain the very strange results I got….. Thank you so much for pointing that out. I will redo that test and post the true results.

  3. jamief

    QNAP suggest 3 possible usb tv tuners for use with this model….namely UPMOST DVB192A HD; Hauppauge Win TV Nova_T Stick (Device: 70019;HW rev DiF4) or Asus My Cinema U3100 Mini. I mistakenly bought a QNAP USB tv Stick when I originally acquired the above unit, thinking that it would naturally be compatible. Some of the above sticks are difficult to either isolate or acquire in UK and I was wondering if anyone else with similar NAS has had any luck with any other usb stick.

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