Innovative QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Thunderbolt3 + USB 3.2 RAID Expansions
We are seeing lots of interesting new tech arriving from QNAP, the innovators of the NAS industry, at CES 2020 being revealed. However, of all the things being revealed, the TR-104C and TR-106C are the most demanded for existing QNAP NAS owners. New evolutions in the world of NAS are always good, but for users that invested in the Thunderbolt 3 NAS series that QNAP pioneered back in 2015 (now in its third generation), available space has been in short supply and a thunderbolt 3 RAID expansion has been sorely needed. Step forward the new QNAP TR-104C and TR-106C, a 4-Bay and 6-Bay Hardware RAID enabled Thunderbolt 3 (and USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB-C) expansion. Serving as a NAS expansion solution, or a high-performance TB3/USB3.2 DAS solution, these two devices have been along time coming.
What are the Hardware Specifications of the New QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Expansion Boxes for TB3 NAS?
Following the popularity of the QNAP TR-004 & TR-002 USB Hardware RAID Expansion/DAS boxes, the TR-104C and TR-106C follow the same logic, but just much better. Arriving with a hardware RAID controller, they allow you to relieve your host NAS drive from the resource use of supporting the RAID on the expansion box – resulting in better performance. Alternatively, you can use it as a traditional NAS expansion and expand your existing NAS RAID across the NAS+Expansion, using either Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1 Gen 2 (over USB-C), resulting in lower latency between them (ie faster access). The expansion is also supported for use with regular NAS boxes (so non-Thunderbolt3 too), as it can be connected with regular USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0 / USB 3.1) with a USB A-to-C cable. Both the TR-104C and TR-106C arrive with two USB-C ports that allow connection daisy-chaining of multiple Thunderbolt 3 devices in a line.
However, the appeal of the QNAP TR-106C and TR-104C is more than just about Thunderbolt NAS expansions. Another cool and underrated feature of these devices is that they can be used as traditional Direct Attached Storage (DAS) for those looking for a 4 or 6-Bay RAID enabled enclosure. The majority of hardware RAID enabled Thunderbolt 3 DAS enclosures in the market are either non-RAID (Akitio, Startech, etc), can only be purchased pre-populated (LaCie, G-Tech, etc) or are from brands that are showing signs of decline (Drobo – sorry!). Alongside this, the QNAP TR-104C and TR-106C can be used as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) hardware RAID DAS boxes – of which there are almost none in the world. We are still waiting on an 8-Bay version (originally leaked and discussed here last year, as the TR-008T, but perhaps it will become TR-108C), but a 4-Bay and 6-Bay Thunderbolt 3 NAS Expansion/DAS will definitely make many users happy in 2020. Finally, the hardware RAID controller supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10. 50 and 60.
Who are the QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Hardware RAID Thunderbolt 3 Boxes for?
The target audience for the Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (USB 3.2) RAID boxes actually pretty well spread. As unlike previous expansion chassis in USB or Thunderbolt, the TR-106C and TR-104C have a much wider range of potential applications possible – not just those in the content creation or post-production industry. In fact, the following (and more) user groups will see benefits in this new QNAP hardware RAID expansion:
- Users looking to expand their existing Thunderbolt 3 NAS storage (so, TVS-1282T3, TS-453BT3, YVS-882ST3, TVS-882BR, TVS-472XT, TVS-672XT and TVS-872XT owners) over TB3/USB-C
- Users looking for a reliable Hardware RAID (RAID Enabled) Direct Attached Storage Thunderbolt 3 Enclosure that is unpopulated
- Users looking for 10Gb/s USB DAS Storage over USB-C that is RAID enabled in 4/6-Bays (pretty rare)
- Users looking to expand their 2019 series NAS that features USB 3.1 Gen 2 (the Red USB ports FYI) and want a fast expansion option
- Users who just want to expand pretty much ANY QNAP NAS that has a USB Port
- Users who want to make a USB Backup that rivals/matches the storage pool of the connected Host NAS
This could be the best Expansion that QNAP has ever produced and I would not be shocked to see rackmount versions (TR-104CU, TR-108CU, etc) later in the year, as this is going to be BIG!
Which NAS will the QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Expansions be Compatible with?
In short, if your NAS has a USB Port, or a Thunderbolt Port, then congratulations – your NAS is compatible with the QNAP TR-104C and TR-106C. That is not just limited to QNAP NAS either, as they work as traditional DAS storage connected to ANY host NAS. The only factors to bear in mind are with regard to connection speed and RAID choice. So, depending on the port you connect to on your NAS:
- USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 / USB 3.1 Gen 2 = 5Gb/s
- USB 3.1 Gen 2 / USB 3.2 = 10Gb/s
- Thunderbolt 2 and a TB3-to-TB2 Adapter = 20Gb/s
- Thunderbolt 3 USB-C = 40Gb/s
Of course, these are theoretical MAXIMUMS and only really need your attention when you exceed 5-Bays (in the case of USB 3.1 vs USB 3.2) or 8-10 Bays (in the case of USB 3.2 vs Thunderbolt). And you can only use the option to spread a RAID across both the NAS and TR-104C/TR-106C (i.e. a RAID 5 on 8 HDDs, 4 in a NAS + 4 in an expansion) on a QNAP NAS. Other NAS brands or less powerful QNAP NAS will only have the option to see the TR-104C and TR106C as external storage and enabled you to use it as a mirror backup or just extra storage generally. Though you can still use the hardware RAID of the enclosures to maintain redundancy.
When will the QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C TB3 NAS Expansions be Released?
These new Thunderbolt and USB Expansions seem largely ready to go. They are an extension of the already 2019 released TR-002 and TR-004 (only much better) and so I cannot see the production of these devices taking a great deal of time. Given the popularity of March/April to the Photography and Videography industry, I can see QNAP targeting this market pretty hard and aiming for this release window.
How Much will the QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Cost?
The cost of both the QNAP TR-104C and TR-104C are a grey area. Technically, they should be pretty affordable, as the traditional hardware cost of a NAS and it’s intelligent/robust components are not a factor. However, these are pretty unique NAS/DAS expansion devices and as such have had to overcome a few technical hurdles in their creation. This will no doubt factor in their release price and with the non-thunderbolt 3 TR-002 and TR-004 arriving at £135 and £195 respectively without tax, I can see QNAP releasing this 4/6-Bay alternative at around £350-450 respectively (judging by the market cost from companies like Drobo and LaCie). I really, really hope they aim lower at the price mark, but we will have to wait and see.
What is the Alternative to the QNAP TR-106C & TR-104C Thunderbolt+USB NAS Expansions?
Unsurprisingly, if you are looking for a hardware RAID expansion for your NAS, or for a USB-C enabled DAS, then I would recommend the first generation of the QNAP TR series, in the TR-002 and TR-004 expansion enclosures. Arriving with USB 3.1 Gen 2 and USB 3.1 Gen 1 support respectively, this 2/4-Bay choice is still a winner and at a good price point for home and business alike.
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