We'd like to think QNAP has come into its own as the leader in the prosumer network-attached storage (NAS) appliance space. The units we see are consistently high quality, there's always innovation in the user interface, the features are (as is usual for a NAS) ridiculously expansive, it's well supported and quite frankly, as far as NAS goes, the units actually look nice.
The latest to cross our testbench is the TS-559 Pro, a five-bay, Intel Atom-powered unit. You'd be mistaken if you're thinking this should bring the price down — this little beast still commands a price of around AU$1500, despite coming with no drives.
Inside and outside
With a brushed aluminium exterior, an LCD status screen and activity lights for each lockable quick release bay it looks about as good as a small squat box can, although thanks to a 120mm fan working in tandem with a 35mm fan on the rear it's quiet too. Dual eSATA ports, four USB ports and two gigabit Ethernet ports mean that your data from almost anywhere (sorry FireWire lovers) should be able to get to this device or vice versa.
A fifth front-mounted USB port has a "quick copy" function, which either copies data from a drive you plug into it to a predetermined folder on the NAS, or the other way around, depending on which you're treating as the master copy. You can also turn off this functionality and just use it for extra storage, UPS monitoring or as a printer share, just like the others.
A reset hole is on the back should things go pear shaped, and there's a VGA port that QNAP simply calls "reserved". You can plug a monitor into this during boot (not after, or it won't work) to make sure things are loading properly, and even plug in a keyboard. You'll soon be greeted by a Linux prompt and can navigate the unit's contents.
All of this is powered by an Atom dual-core processor with 1GB RAM, with the OS running off a 512MB DOM.
Into whose face?
QNAP's user interface is as polished as you'll see on a NAS. Although it still has the annoyingly redundant jump screen at launch, the rest is as well thought out as it can be when your device has more features than a Jamie Durie garden.
FTP, SFTP, SSH, iTunes, web and UPnP servers are accounted for; NFS/AFP/SMB/iSCSI protocols are covered; it can act as a storage point for Time Machine; has user and group management and quotas; supports up to RAID 6; has a web file manager (although this can't upload files larger than 2GB for some reason); supports scheduled power events; supports scheduled BitTorrent, HTTP and FTP downloads; can run an encrypted file system and can even have its capabilities expanded further by QNAP's QPKG system.