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Updated 5/18/2009: Link to retest article.
Updated 12/3/2008: Added info on SODIMM sockets.
Updated 8/18/2008: Added comments on jumbo frames and support.

QNAP TS-509 Pro

At a Glance
Product QNAP Turbo NAS (TS-509 Pro)
Summary Five-drive server-like BYOD NAS with support for single drives, JBOD and RAID 0, 1, 5, 5+ hot spare and 6.
Pros • Hot-swappable drives
• Online volume expansion and RAID migration
• Automatic rebuild to hot spare
• Built-in LAMP server, DLNA multimedia server, FTP, iTunes
• USB support for external storage, UPS or up to 3 printers
Cons • Expensive
• Logging and status reports could be better
• No US-based phone support
• Limited availability

Five-drive NASes seem to be the latest move in the small-business NAS race. In addition to higher capacity (5 TB with 1 TB drives), five drives let you have a four-drive RAID 5 array plus a spare drive that is automatically swapped in should one drive fail. Of course, you only need three drives for RAID 5, but I digress...

QNAP's latest entry is the TS-509 Pro, which is aimed squarely at Synology's DS508 [reviewed]. In general, the 509 Pro is a good right-back-atcha to Synology, except for one important omission that I'll discuss shortly.

Product Tour

The 509 Pro comes wrapped in a steel chassis with a plastic front panel bezel. Its tower form factor is a bit on the large side, but by no means huge, measuring 10.28(D) x 7.42(W) x 10.28(H) inches. Figure 1 shows the front and rear panels, which call out key features.

QNAP TS-509 Pro front and rear panels
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: QNAP TS-509 Pro Front and Rear Panels

The front panel sports an LCD status display, which the Synology DS-508 omitted but the Thecus N5200 and 5200 Pro have. You navigate through the menus with "Enter" and "Select" buttons and the display shuts off after a minute or so. The display isn't automatically turned back on when alerts are put up, however, and I think it should be.

The first button press to turn the display back on isn't ignored, so I kept getting into menus that I didn't want when I pressed the top "Enter" key. There is no "back" key, so I had to navigate all the way down to Menu 8 to return to the top "page" that holds the IP address information for the two 10/100/1000 LAN ports.

I'm a fan of audible signals on NASes, particularly when it comes to acknowledging a power down command press and making it obvious that drive has failed. The 509 Pro comes through on both counts.

QNAP has left off a front cover to cover the five drives that mount on sturdy metal drive trays that have key-lockable extraction levers. There cover isn't missed, however, since the front of the unit is functional and attractive without it.

The rear panel has more going on than the TS-409s, with an eSATA connector for drive expansion and four USB 2.0 connectors (in addition to the one on the front panel). The USB ports can be used for external storage, print servers or for connection to a compatible UPS. The TS-409 supports up to three printers.

UPS support includes APC USB auto detect, APC with SMNP management, or MGE Ellipse premium UPS support. The Smart Fan is temperature controlled and runs at low speed below 40C and at high speed above 48C. You can also manually configure the low and high-speed temperatures in either Celsius or Fahrenheit.

The dual 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports can be configured in standalone, failover and load-balancing modes. When in "standalone" you can connect the NAS to to different LANs, obtaining IP address information via DHCP or statically entering it. You can also enable a DHCP server on LAN 1 only.

I ran a quick failover test by running two LAN cables to the same switch, running a continuous ping and pulling a cable. The connection switched over without a hitch as I took turns pulling and reinserting each cable.

They are a bit hard to see in Figur 1, but the two connectors marked "Reserved" have plastic caps that, when removed, reveal a DB9 serial RS232 port and DB15 VGA port. (On the rear panel the connectors are labeled "RS232" and "Reserved" respectively.) I connected a display to the VGA port and was able to follow the complete boot sequence, which ended in a login prompt.

On a hunch, I also connected a USB keyboard and mouse and they were immediately recognized. I was then able to log in (admin / admin) and had complete root access. I didn't try it, but I would guess that the RS232 port allows serial access for both SSH (enabled by default) or Telnet, which are also available via the Ethernet interface.

Unlike the TS-409s, the 509 Pro has an internal universal power supply instead of an external brick. Although I like having the supply inside, it is not easily replaceable, requiring complete disassembly of the unit to get it out.

As for noise, the almost 5" fan is speed controlled and so helped keep the 509 Pro relatively quiet. But with five 7200 RPM drives spinning away, it was noisier than my Core 2 Duo desktop. The clunks and taps from the drives were particularly loud and seemed louder from bouncing off the cabinet sides. I didn't, however, have to banish it to my back room during testing, as I have with other, noisier products.

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