The QNAP TS-253B ($699) is a two-bay network-attached storage (NAS) device designed for small-to-medium businesses that require a scalable network storage solution. The TS-253B is easy to use and offers a wealth of multimedia, backup, security, and content management apps. It uses the latest Intel CPU and 8GB of RAM to deliver good throughput and is equipped with a nice selection of I/O ports, including an internal PCIe slot that can be outfitted with an M.2 SSD/10GbE card. It also has a USB-C port, numerous USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, and HDMI connectivity with support for 4K video output. It delivers solid throughput in our tests and is easy to set up, but it emits a somewhat annoying hum, and its price is high for a two-bay NAS that doesn’t come with storage drives.
Design and Features
There is no resemblance between the TS-253B and the QNAP TVS-463 we reviewed a few years back. Instead of a gold finish, it features a matte-black exterior and has a smoky-black sliding panel that covers the front-loading dual drive bays. The included drive trays are tool-free and lock in place when inserted into a bay. Next to the drive cover is a strip of metallic-blue trim that holds a power switch, an SD card slot, a USB-C port, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB One-Touch Copy button that lets you back up data to and from a connected USB drive. There’s also a cluster of small LED indicators for power, USB activity, LAN activity, and SD card activity, and there’s a small LCD panel just above the drive bays that displays information, such as the IP address for each LAN port, drive capacity, fan speed, and temperature. Around back are two Gigabit LAN ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a reset button, two HDMI ports, two audio inputs, an audio output, and a small grill for the internal speaker, which provides system sounds, as well as voice alerts and music playback.
The TS-253B uses Intel’s Apollo Lake J3455 CPU, a quad-core Celeron processor that runs at 1.5GHz, as well as Intel’s AES-NI hardware accelerated encryption. Our review unit came with 8GB of RAM installed, but you can order a 4GB version for $549. This NAS device doesn’t come with any storage drives, but it supports hot-swapping, and you can populate it with 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives with capacities of up to 10TB, and configure them for RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and JBOD. You can also populate the internal PCIe x2 slot with one of QNAP’s add-on cards, such as a QM2 M.2 SSD/10GbE combo card or a wireless adapter card. The TS-253B is covered by a two-year warranty and comes with two LAN cables and a 12-button remote that can be used to play music and video when the NAS is being used as a media server.
As with the QNAP TAS-168 and TVS-463 models, the TS-253B uses QNAP’s QTS NAS operating system, which offers a user-friendly, Windows-like web interface. You can also control the device from your Android or iOS mobile device, but that requires downloading multiple apps, such as Qmanager (system management), Qfile (file management), Qmusic (music streaming), and Qphoto (photo browsing and sharing).
When you first open the web console, you’re greeted with a screen that is populated with several tiles. The Control Panel is your main management console and where you go to adjust System settings, set privileges, manage network connections and FTP file sharing, and access Applications. The System menu offers General settings, where you can do things like rename the NAS, change the default port number, and configure the login screen; it also has a Storage Manager dashboard, where you can monitor disk health, set temperature alarms, and view storage-usage reports. Other System menus include Security, where you can allow or deny client access to the NAS based on IP address, and Hardware, which lets you enable system sounds and voice notifications for specific events and set temperature thresholds that will enable/disable the fan. Power settings allow you to enable Wake On LAN (WOL) and create a schedule for restarting or shutting down the NAS, and Notification settings let you enable email and SMS notifications for certain events.
The Privilege menu is where you go to create and manage user groups and shared folders. You can also set up storage quotas for each user and configure Active Directory authentication. In the Network and File Services menu you can configure the NAS to connect to a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN), set up a proxy server, enable Dynamic DNS, SNMP, and FTP services, configure Windows, Apple, and NFS settings, and enable access via a Telnet connection. In the Applications menu you can configure the NAS for use as an iTunes and DNLA Media server, manage your multimedia libraries, configure anti-virus settings, and configure RADIUS, TFTP, and NTP server settings.
You can download QNAP and third-party apps in the App Center. Here, there are more than 100 apps for backup and synchronization, file browsing, content management, communications, entertainment, home automation, and security. There are also dozens of mail, malware, and diagnostic utilities, as well as an If This Then That (IFTTT) agent that lets you create triggers that will automatically transfer files to the NAS from cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Popular apps include Virtualization Station, Plex Media Server, QNAP Photo and Music Station, and Gmail Backup. The QNAP Surveillance Station lets you turn the TS-253B into a Network Video Recorder (NVR) system when configured with compatible IP cameras, and CloudLink allows you to remotely access the NAS via the myQNAPcloud website.
Installation and Performance
Installing the TS-253B in testing was relatively easy. After installing two Seagate 6TB HGST SATA drives I entered www.qnap.com/qfinderpro in my browser’s address bar, which launched a webpage containing the Qfinder Pro utility, installation instructions, and tutorials. I entered my drive model and number of drive bays on the Qfinder Pro page, hit Start Now, and followed the on-screen instructions to install the drives and connect the NAS to my router. I downloaded and installed the Qfinder Pro utility, which instantly recognized the drive. When I hit Initialize, I was prompted to run the web-based Smart Installation Guide, where I had to enter a name and password for the NAS, configure network settings, and configure the disks. I chose Single Volume RAID 1, confirmed my settings, and hit Enter. After about 10 minutes, the drives were formatted and ready to go.
The TS-253B delivered strong throughput in our file transfer read/write tests, in which we measure how long it takes to transfer a 4.9GB folder containing a mix of photo, video, music, and text files. Its read speed of 65MBps was almost twice as fast as the Asustor AS6302T (37.1MBps) and was right up there with the Asustor AS3202T (66.2MBps), both of which are two-bay devices. The QNAP TVS-463, a four-bay NAS device, is our current read leader (86MBps).
The TS-253B’s write speed of 75MBps was also faster than what we saw from the Asustor AS6302T (63.6MBps) and the Asustor AS3202T (70MBps). The five-bay Synology DiskStation DS1515+ NAS remains the fastest, with a write speed of 85MBps.
While most NAS devices emit some noise, the TS-253B’s constant hum is worth mentioning, especially if you’ll be placing it on your desktop within earshot. It wasn’t overly loud during testing, but it was noticeably louder than the Asustor AS6302T and the Synology DiskStation DS1517+.
Versatile, But Pricey, and Without Drives
The QNAP TS-253B is a solid, albeit pricey, choice for SMBs looking for a versatile two-drive NAS solution that will handle storage, backup, and media server workloads. It delivered good scores in our file-transfer tests and has room for expansion via an internal PCIe card, a USB-C port, and multiple USB 3.0 ports. Its two HDMI video outputs allow you to use it as a 4K media server, and there are dozens of apps available that you can download to press the NAS into service as a mail server, a home/office surveillance system, a cloud server, and more. That said, the Synology DiskStation DS1517+ offers more bang for your buck; for around $100 more, you get five drive bays for increased storage capacity, more RAID choices, better overall performance, and significantly quieter operation.