It's fitting that the single-volume QNAP TS-109 Pro II features an enclosure with rounded corners because this network-attached storage drive also features a well-rounded feature set. Not only is it one of a few NAS devices we've reviewed that supports IP surveillance cameras, but it's also the first that can directly download content from Web sites that require authentication. The device covers NAS basics, too, in its capability to operate as an FTP file server, DNLA media server, iTunes server, or print server. We found each of the features easy to set up and use. In general, we found the QNAP TS-109 Pro II to be an able (and quiet) performer.
The downside? In addition to a rather lengthy initial setup procedure, the device doesn't support external drives formatted in NTFS. And the long list of features comes at a bit of a premium. At roughly $320 without a hard drive, the TS-109 Pro II costs about $30 more than the similarly outfitted Synology DS107+ and more than $100 over the somewhat more basic D-Link DNS-323. Nonetheless, we think the QNAP TS-109 Pro II is worth the money if you will take advantage of its expanded feature set.
Design and setup
Out of the box, the TS-109 Pro II comes without a hard drive, which is typical of many NAS servers. What's unusual, however, is the time-consuming--though not difficult--installation required to install a hard drive. It took us about 5 minutes and a lot of screwdriver work. When we got a 1TB 3.5-inch hard drive assembled, we found out that the next step took even longer: getting the hard drive set up as the internal storage of the NAS.
The process involved installing the firmware and getting the hard drive "ready." Both were easy; we followed the Quick Installation Wizard's instructions and used the included QNAP Finder software utility. The application took a few minutes to install the firmware from the bundled CD on the hard drive and then more than an hour to prepare the hard drive, presumably formatting it using EXT3 file system. This is by far the longest time for the single-volume NAS server. To put this in context, the Zyxel NSA-220 took around 5 minutes to set up its hard drives into a RAID configuration. Other than the amount of time required, the QNAP's setup process was easy thanks to its well-written software and clear instructions.
We like the look and the overall design of the TS-109 Pro II. Its has an eSATA port and three USB 2.0 ports that support printers and external hard drives. One of the USB ports is located on the front of the device and also works as a quick copy function where you can copy the entire contents of a USB thumbdrive onto the NAS server.
The TS-109 Pro II, however, doesn't support external hard drives formatted in the NTFS file system at all--it won't even read them, let alone write to them. It supports only FAT32 and EXT3 (Linux) file formats, a huge shortcoming because most large external hard drives are formatted in NTFS. This means you can't quickly plug one into the NAS to share content.
Other than the QNAP Finder, the included software includes QGet, a download management utility, and Net Replicator, a very simple backup software that worked much like how you would copy data using Windows Explorer, plus the capability to automate and schedule the job. If you want any other backup functions, such as the capability to make incremental backups, you will need to get a third-party backup application.
The QNAP TS-109 Pro II comes with a long list of features, including familiar NAS functions that let you use the device as an FTP server, a DNLA media server, an iTunes server, and a print server that supports up to three printers. We tried each feature out, and it worked as intended, with simple and straightforward setup and use via Web-based management. What impressed us the most was the TS-109 Pro II's Download Station and Surveillance Station features. While these two features are not exclusive to the QNAP TS-109 Pro II, they are very well done.
The Download Station allows for downloading multiple files directly onto the NAS server's internal storage without the involvement of a computer. The TS-109 Pro II supports downloading through BitTorrent, FTP, and HTTP. You can, of course, use the Web-based management for downloads; however, it's much better to use QGet, a desktop application that allows you to do the same thing but in a more comprehensive way. Once run on a computer, QGet software displays the download progress, letting you pause, start, and add or remove downloads to the queue. Best of all, it supports authentication, meaning you can make the TS-109 Pro II download directly from sites that require a log-in. Once the changes have been made, you can turn off the computer and let the NAS server handle the download. We tried downloading a 1.2GB file from a RapidShare premium account and that worked very well. Now think about downloading terabytes of data overnight: the TS-109 Pro II would help save energy by letting your shut off your computer during this time. By far, we found that the TS-109 Pro II offers the most complete PC-free download feature. The Synology DS107+, for example, can do the same thing but without the capability to download from Web sites that require you to log in.
We also enjoyed the Surveillance Station, which reminded us of the same feature found in the Synology DS107+. The main difference is the TS-109 Pro II, out of the box, supports two IP cameras, while the DS107+ supports only one (and you have to pay extra for it to support more, up to six cameras). Though TS-109 Pro II can support a maximum of only two cameras, the QNAP comes with a comprehensive list of supported cameras. We tried it with the Panasonic BL-C1, and it worked like a charm. We were able to record based on either a schedule (everyday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., while you're at work, for example) or motion detection. The video quality is the same, if not better, than that found in some tape-based surveillance systems.
Overall, we liked the NAS server's features and its desktop software, as well as its Web-based interface, which was easy to use and well-designed. The NAS supports SMB protocol, which means it can be accessed very easily on a local network just as you would access another computer in the network. The NAS server manages users just like a Windows XP machine, and you can assign access privileges down to a certain folder with no access, read-only, and read/write levels.
The QNAP TS-109 Pro II did well in CNET Labs' performance benchmarks. With a 1TB Hitachi DeskStar 7200rpm hard drive, the TS-109 Pro II scored 44.1Mbps and 42.5Mbps on our write and read tests, respectively. Among single-volume NAS servers we've tested of late, the QNAP's performance rates slightly above average.
(Throughput in Megabits per second: longer bars indicate better performance)
Overall, the QNAP TS-109 Pro II worked smoothly in our testing process and stayed very cool and quiet even during the heavy loads. However, we found that during heavy loads its performance decreased significantly. For example, when we had it downloading a big file and record video via an IP camera, it would take up to 45 seconds or so to start playing a 1GB video file.
Service and support
QNAP backs the TS-109 Pro II with a one-year warranty. A phone support number is not listed on its Web site, but an online support form is available. There is also downloads section on the Web site for new firmware and application updates, as well as a forum where you can get help from others.