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NAS Reviews

2-bay SOHO NAS
At a glance
ProductQNAP TS-231P 2-bay SOHO NAS   [Website]
SummaryDual-bay RAID 1 class NAS powered by dual-core Annapurna Labs AL-212
Pros• USB 3.0 ports
• Hot swappable drive bays
• Can use 2.5" or 3.5" drives
Cons• Nothing glaring

Typical Price: $199  Shop Amazon

Introduction

If I had been paying attention, I should have pulled two drives from the four-bay TS-431P Craig recently reviewed, run RAID 1 tests and saved us all a separate review. But I didn't, so QNAP was kind enough to send a TS-231P for this brief separate review.

As you may have guessed, the TS-231P and TS-431P are cut from the same cloth, or more to the point, use the same main board. Both are powered by a dual-core 1.7 GHz Annapurna Labs Alpine AL-212 backed by 1 GB of DDR3 RAM and 512 MB of flash. There's also a single-bay TS-131P that's powered by the same platform, but has a different board with only one Gigabit Ethernet port.

The comparison table below, clipped from the TS-X31P series spec sheet, provides the vital specs of the three products. For more detail, check Craig's TS-431P review, linked above.

QNAP TS-431P callouts

QNAP TS-431P callouts

The Table below shows the key components for the QNAP TS-431P.

QNAP TS-231P
CPU Annapurna Labs Alpine AL-212 @ 1.7 GHz dual-core
RAM 1 GB DDR3 Micron MT41K256M8DA-125 (x4)
Flash 512 MB Macronix MX30UF4G18AB
Ethernet Atheros AR8035A Gigabit Ethernet PHY (x2)
USB 3.0 Etron Tech EJ188H USB 3.0 host controller
Table 1: Key component summary

The TS-231P drew 15 W with two of our stock WD Red 1 TB (WD10EFRX) spun up and 9 W in power save mode with the drives spun down. Fan and drive noise was rated very low (mostly drive noise).

Performance

Firmware version 4.2.4 was loaded onto the TS-231P and performance tests were run using the Revision 5 NAS test process. All tests were run using Western Digital Red 1 TB WD10EFRX (x2 SNB supplied).

I periodically scan the Charts database, move discontinued products to the Archive and re-run the Ranker. I did that while preparing this review, with the result that Synology's DS216 is now the top-ranked RAID 1 class NAS.

The NAS Ranker performance summary for the two products is below, so you can see how the sub-ranks came out. Most everything is pretty dang close here, with the DS216 better in some areas, i.e. read benchmarks and the TS-231P better in others, i.e. directory copy writes.

Ranker performance summary comparison

Ranker performance summary comparison

Closing Thoughts

Seems like it's hard for manufacturers to make inexpensive NASes these days that can't saturate a Gigabit Ethernet connection (or just about) when handling large sequential files. Of the 18 two-bay RAID 1 products tested with the latest Revision 5 process, all but eight can write to a RAID 1 volume at 100 MB/s or better and all but seven can read faster than 100 MB/s.

RAID 1 File copy write and read performance - RAID 1 NASes

RAID 1 File copy write and read performance - RAID 1 NASes

So when choosing a NAS, don't get too hung up on having to get the #1 ranked product. In real life, you'd be hard pressed to see a performance difference from any NAS capable of 100 MB/s + large sequential file handling.

Although the TS-231P isn't the top-ranked NAS, with a #3 rank and around $25 cheaper, it's a better buy. But not as good as Synology's Marvell-powered DS216j, which is also ranked #3 and costs only $170.

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