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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.
The QNAP TS-239 Pro has basic NAS features that allow you to use the device as an FTP server, a DNLA media server, an iTunes server, a print server--that supports up to three printers--and so on. Each feature worked as intended, with a simple and straightforward setup.
The QNAP TS-239 Pro impressed us with advanced features like Download Station, Surveillance Station, built-in iSCSI target service (which is usually only available in enterprise NAS servers), AES 256-bit volume-based encryption and dual-Ethernet. We didn't try out the iSCSI target service, but the rest worked well and as intended. The dual-Ethernet, unfortunately doesn't make the NAS' throughput any faster (it's only for fail-safe and load-balancing), but is nonetheless a plus.
As a network storage device, the NAS' primary feature is to provide storage space for the network, and this is where the TS-239 Pro excels. The NAS supports SMB protocol, which means it can be easily accessed on a local network just as you would access another Windows computer. The NAS also supports Macs. Any Mac OS X computer in the network will find the TS-239 Pro automatically and will add it to the storage device list in the Finder. Unfortunately, the TS-239 doesn't support Time Machine (a backup function available in OS X 10.5 or later).
We tested the QNAP TS 239 Pro in both RAID 0 and RAID 1 configurations and it excelled in both, especially the read test.
In RAID 1, the configuration that offers high data security at the expense of storage amount and performance, the QNAP TS-239 Pro scored 176.6Mbps in writing and 292.4Mbps in reading. This is much higher than the 120.1Mpbs and 206Mbps of the My Book World Edition. Nonetheless, they were both bested by those of the Synology DS209+, which got 240Mbps and 322Mbps for the write and read tests, respectively.
In RAID 0, the speed-optimized configuration, the QNAP TS-239 Pro improved over its RAID 1 performance with 223.9Mbps for writing and 373.9 for reading. These numbers were very close to those of the top dual-bay NAS performer, the Synolgoy DS209+, which had a RAID 0 read of 256.3Mbps and a write test of 375Mbps.
All in all, the QNAP TS-239 Pro is one of the top-three performers among all NAS servers we've reviewed; however, we found that the gap between its write speed and read speed was larger than what other NAS servers experienced.
Overall, the QNAP TS-239 Pro also worked smoothly in our testing process and stayed very cool, even during the heavy loads. However, we found it a bit noisy, enough to be a bother if you use it in a quiet environment.
Service and support
QNAP backs the TS-239 Pro with a one-year warranty; this is short for a storage device. Technical phone support is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. On the QNAP Web site, you'll find applications and firmware downloads, as well as a forum where you can find help from other users or search for existing solutions.