If you want to get a lot out of your NAS server, the QNAP TS-239 Pro may be the right choice for you, provided you don't mind getting your own hard drives and you possess a decent amount of networking know-how.
The QNAP TS-239 Pro supports an Ajax-based Web interface that's robust and easy to use, similar to that of the Synology DS209+. It comes with a well-rounded and generous feature set. It's the first two-bay NAS device we've reviewed that supports dual-Ethernet, dual-eSATA, and a VGA port for external monitor. Apart from the support for an IP camera, PC-less download capability, and many other advanced features, the QNAP TS-239 Pro also covers NAS basics, with its ability to operate as an FTP file server, a DNLA media server, an iTunes server, or a print server.
The QNAP TS-239 Pro doesn't have much of a downside except for the fact that it's rather expensive, costing $500 without any storage, and runs a bit noisy. The QNAP TS-239 Pro would make a good choice for a small business or a home office. If you are looking for something cheaper and simpler to use for home, we'd recommend the WD My Book World Edition.
Design and setup
The QNAP TS-239 Pro can support two SATA hard drives, up to 2TB each, bringing its total amount of storage up to 4TB. Like most NAS servers from QNAP, however, the TS-239 doesn't include any hard drives.
Installing the drives was easy, provided you have a Phillips-head screwdriver. Then, you'll have to work with the firmware to make the drive ready. This process is simple and straightforward--especially with the included instructions--for tech-savvy users. Novice home users, however, might have some problems with the initial setup because there are a lot of steps.
The look and overall design of the TS-239 Pro is aesthetically pleasing, especially its tool-free front-access removable drive trays. Each tray includes a latch that can be pulled, removing the drive from the bay. Also the trays have a security lock to keep them from accidental or unauthorized pullout. On the front, you'll find an USB port for external hard drives and a Copy button, which will automatically copy the entire contents of the USB drive onto the NAS' internal storage. This is a great way to quickly back up a thumb drive. Unfortunately, there's no LCD on the front to manage the copying or other functions of the device.
To make up for the lack of LCD screen, the TS-239 Pro is the first NAS server we've reviewed that is also a complete computer. It comes with a VGA output, which you can hook to an external monitor, and its USB ports support both keyboard and mouse. We connected the server to an LCD monitor and a keyboard and it booted up without incident. As it turns out, the server is a Linux computer powered by a 1.6Ghz Atom processor with 1GB of RAM. When the booting-up process was done--this took rather long, about 5 minutes--we were greeted with a command prompt interface; not a graphical user interface. As great as this novelty is, the NAS was intended to be controlled via its Web interface.
On the back, the TS-239 Pro has another two USB ports and two eSATA ports and each supports additional storage, both for expanding and backing up the internal storage.
This is the first two-bay NAS server that offers two eSATA ports: high-speed ports for external storage. The USB port can also be used to host a USB printer, in addition to a USB hard drive, keyboard, and mouse. The server is also the first of its kind that offers dual-Ethernet ports. The TS-239 Pro's two Gigabit LAN ports can be used either for fail-safe or load-balancing purposes, but unfortunately, they don't support throughput aggregation, which would increase the throughput speed when the two of them are used at the same time.
The QNAP TS-239 Pro comes with an overwhelmingly long list of features that can be accessed over its Web interface. You can launch this interface from any network computer by using the QNAP software (included) or you can just type in the device's IP address in a browser. Unlike what you see if you hook the NAS to a monitor, the Web interface is a robust and intuitive management system and to some extent resembles the UI of the Windows OS.
For example, if you want to add more users, you can use the "Create User" Wizard that works you through steps for making a username, generating a password, and assigning privileges to different folders. Similar wizards help you with other functions or features.