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Can A QNAP NAS Replace Your HTPC?

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QNAP HD Station

Introduction

In the past couple of months we've taken a look at a few NAS-as-HTPC contenders. The first was Thecus' N5550 and the next was the ASUSTOR AS-604T.

The latest contender is QNAP with its HD Station. The image below shows the NASes that support HD Station, which include the TS-x69 series with firmware 3.8.1 or later. You'll also notice QNAP recommends upgrading to 2 GB or more of RAM for HD Station.

QNAP models that support HD Station
QNAP models that support HD Station

The model provided to me to test HD Station was a TS-469L, which Tim recently reviewed. It was equipped with its standard 1 GB of memory for my testing.

Setup

Setup of the QNAP HD Station was as easy as the other NASes we've looked at so far. Locate it near an HDMI-equipped TV, connect the HDMI cable from the NAS to the TV, install the network cable, plug it in and power it on.

Once powered on and logged into the QNAP Admin UI, I simply went to Applications -> HD Station and then chose Get Started Now, which you see below.

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QNAP HD Station Get Started Now screen

The next screen brought up a choice of apps to install. At present HD Station includes four apps: XBMC (software media player and entertainment hub for digital media); Google Chrome broswer; YouTube and My NAS.

QNAP HD Station Apps screen

QNAP HD Station Apps screen

I installed all four and will be looking at each in detail later. The NAS also has Twonky, a DLNA media server, which allows you to serve media to devices via the network. For purposes of this review we'll stick to HD Station.

Features

I mentioned before that QNAP gives you multiple ways to do things and at times it was almost dizzying deciding which one would work best. For example, wireless and USB mice and keyboards are supported. So I used a Logitech K400 keyboard/mouse combo for my testing. The official XBMC Android and iOS apps are supported for XBMC, and unofficial ones work as well. The QNAP QRemote iOS app is supported for all apps (an Android version is in the works, but has not been released). MCE-compatible remotes and IR receptors are also supported.

QNAP has also come up with an IR remote, available in the QNAP Accessory Store for $40.

The "best" control is both a matter of test and use patterns. On the one hand, the Logitech K400 keyboard and mouse was very convenient for many of the text input screens we'll see later. But the keyboard/mouse combo doesn't pass WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) muster very well; she likes her TV simple.

XBMC Android Remote

XBMC Android Remote

The official XBMC remote for Android and iOS worked very well and was probably the best app within XBMC for text input and selection. But it has a level of geekiness that was hard to sell to my family. I've included images of the Android and iOS official remotes above and below.

XBMC iPad Remote

XBMC iPad Remote



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