QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Storage Done Differently?

The QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Drive Review

The new NVMe SSD focused NAS Drive from QNAP, the TBS-464, is the first entry by the brand in their largely 2022 focused TS-x64 series and one that certainly left me a tad surprised when it was revealed. The use of SSDs in NAS servers is by no means a new thing, with several ‘flash’ produced NAS systems released over the years that focused on 2.5″ SATA/SAS or U.2 SSD in rackmount and desktop form. Likewise, the inclusion of dedicated NVMe Slots in NAS drives has now been around for around well over half a decade, either for use as cache or individual storage pools. However, combining these two concepts of NVMe SSDs and SSD only desktop NAS systems is something that has never really been done and that is what makes the QNAP TS-464 so interesting. Arriving in a spectacularly compact fashion, RAID support over 4 PCIe Gen 3 M.2 NVMe slots and an intel powered architecture, this new NASBook release has a great deal of potential to live up to for both home and business users alike. So, let’s take a good look at the TBS-464, the hardware, the software and ultimately decide if this new NVMe SSD focused NAS drive is worth your data.

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Quick Conclusion

The QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS is a genuinely groundbreaking and unique piece of kit that is slightly hampered by its own price tag! Easily the most compact NAS currently available from this (and indeed almost any other) brand, it brings the majority of NAS software, services and features that buyers want in a NAS that shifts focus to SSD storage media and does it whilst maintaining an incredibly small footprint. The appeal of a RAID 5, NVMe powered NAS for your data, when the price of such media (in Gen 3 at least) becomes significantly more affordable is also a smart move. As a first physical reveal of QNAP’s planned X64 and X62 series, it hits all the right notes for me and as long as you understand that keeping this device Prosumer (whilst not tiptoeing into the enterprise) means that occasional hardware scaling is required, it’s a great piece of kit. A unique joy to play with.

SOFTWARE - 9/10
HARDWARE - 8/10
PERFORMANCE - 8/10
PRICE - 7/10
VALUE - 8/10


8.0
PROS
👍🏻World’s First NVMe SSD Desktop NAS (at least as far I can find!)
👍🏻VERY quiet, even with the fan on internally
👍🏻
👍🏻Newest Gen Intel Celeron CPU available on NAS right now
👍🏻
👍🏻2x 2.5GbE and 4K 60FPS are always welcome
👍🏻
👍🏻Numerous considerations included/visible for heat dissipation and Anti-wear
👍🏻
👍🏻VERY compact deployment
👍🏻
👍🏻8GB DDR4 Memory included by default
👍🏻
👍🏻Four NVMes in a RAID 5 = Good speed and Performance
👍🏻
👍🏻QTS 5 has more 1st Party applications and services than any previous version
CONS
👎🏻The lack of 10GbE from the TBS-453DX is a shame (PCI Lane related)
👎🏻The NVMe SSD Bays are PCIe Gen 3 x2 (PCI Lane related)
👎🏻
👎🏻Memory cannot physically be upgraded beyond 8GB

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES

The first thing that hit me when I unpacked the shipping carton to get my hands on the TBS-464 is the size of the box. I was aware that this would be a small NAS, given the NVMe media choice, but the retail box is easily one of the smallest that I have received from QNAP. I was a little surprised to think that this box contained the TS-464 and accessories (will get to those later – because there is more than usual) and was a tiny bit concerned about damage in transit. Keen followers of this blog know that I will judge a brand that doesn’t protect their kit in transit quite harshly and this one might be toeing the line a bit.

Removing the outer box shows that the unit is held in a cardboard framework (the TBS-464 in plastic) and the accessories are held in a smaller compartment underneath the unit. Normally I would be quite critical of this (highlighting that hard/rigid foam be used) as shock/motion damage in transit is a greater hardware killer than most think, but I also have to factor in that the TBS-464 is very, VERY light. The unit itself only weighing in at 700grams and the complete box and accessories barely crossed the 1.5KG mark means that this level of protection in transit (unpopulated) is sufficient.

Laying out the accessories and unit on the table, there are the usual bits that you might expect (the external PSU, the mains power cable, the RJ45 Cat 5e cable, setup guide and 2yr warranty information), but there are also some dedicated M.2 NVMe extras too.

The external PSU on this rather modest-sized NAS arrives is 65W (unsurprising for much more power-efficient M.2) and QNAP state that it has been recorded at 18W power use in idle and 28W when in active use – this includes the internal fan in operation at all times.

Those M.2 SSD focused accessories are also of significant importance too, with 12 thermal pads and 4 metal heatsinks that are adhesively applied to the M.2 SSDs inside. NVMe SSDs, although lacking the slower moving parts of traditional hard drives, are formed of multiple cells that are attached to a length of PCB. These consist of the Controller (the brains, like the CPU of a computer), the memory and the NAND (where your data lives), with electricity passed through the SSD to read/write data. This results in the individual chips getting quite hot. The NAND can usually operate better when its a little ‘warm’, but the controller will work worse, the hotter it gets (also known as throttling, to preserve the life of the drive) and that is why there is a lot of accessories here for dissipating the heat from these SSDs. There is an internal fan and unique cooling system (at least, for NAS) that I will touch on later, but these accessories are primarily included to draw heat AWAY from the SSDs. They are of good build quality and are a nice indicator that QNAP didn’t just shove this thing out the door.

Overall, I am happy with the compact presentation and accessories, though I wonder how protected it is when shipped fully populated. Let’s take a look at the design of the QNAP TS-464 NAS.

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Design

As mentioned earlier, the TBS-464 is a remarkably small NAS drive. Indeed this NAS series (known as the NASBook series) has been around in different forms over the years, tough previous generations used m.2 SATA SSDs. This NAS, when deployed on the table takes up next to no room. Below is how the TBS-464 scaled up against my Google Pixel 2XL, a 2280 SSD and a pencil. Do remember that although this is a network-attached storage device, users CAN directly connect with this device point-to-point with a LAN cable, USB-to-Ethernet adapter (available in 2.5GbE and 5GbE) and even wirelessly with several USB-WiFi dongles supported. Therefore it is not impossible to imagine carrying this NAS system portable for home, school or business work, creating a portable, super fast RAID system.

The height of the TBS-464 is also quite impressive too, at just 3cm/30mm, it is a very petite NAS indeed. The drive installation does not involve trays or any form of hot-swapping (as you might expect, as M.2 NVMe does not support that kind of re-injection), with installation involving removing the base panel to access the slots.

The front of the TBS-464 features 4 LEDs that are used to denote SSD media activity on each bay internally. Unlike traditional HDD focused NAS systems, you are not going to hear any kind of activity from the storage media (the only noise coming from that internal single fan) resulting in a very, very low ambient noise level when in use that QNAP report at 25db(A) in full access mode.

Alongside those LEDs are two USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) ports, as well as a 1-touch-copy button that can be used to manually action a pre-set backup routine (that you set up in Hybrid Backup Sync 3 with QTS 5). It’s a shame that this system does not take advantage of USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s), given the wide variety of support we have seen of it on other TS-x64 devices in QNAP’s portfolio, but this is almost certainly down to those NVMe M.2 SSD slots taking up the lion share of the available PCI lanes of the CPU nad chipset.

On the side of the TBS-464, next to a vent, we find an additional USB 2.0 port. More USB ports are always going to be a good thing, but aside from the support of keyboards, mice, UPS heartbeats and a few other peripherals, USB 2.0 has limited use in 2021/2022 and I am surprised that it is still here (and arguably in abundance, as you will see).

Either side of the TBS-464 chassis features a large vent panel that is used in conjunction with the internal fan to draw in and then push air throughout the NAS. This will be discussed in a little more detail in a bit, but I did want to highlight that the previous generation of this NAS family (the m.2 SATA TBS-453DX) also featured stereo speakers in these vents – a very quirky and unique extra that added to it’s localized deployment. Although its inclusion was INCREDIBLY niche and almost completely overlooked, I am still a pinch sad that it is absent in the TBS-464.

The base of the TBS-464 NAS has vent holes under each m.2 2280 storage bay, but nowhere else. This is clearly intended as a means of ensuring the airflow is controlled internally to be drawn over each of the heatsinks and chips in a single wave.

To access the storage media bays of the TBS-464, you need to remove the rubber foot on the base of the chassis as shown, to reveal an available screw. The internals of this NAS are surprisingly well crafted in terms of how things are compartmentalized. But before we get to that, let’s discuss the ports and connections.

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Ports & Connections

Looking at the rear of the TBS-464, we can see an interesting mix of ports and connections available. The previous generation of this NAS family, the TBS-453DX released in 2018, featured an arguably more appealing 10GbE connection (made possible by only supporting SATA SSDs). The TBS-464  features 2x 2.5G connections, which might seem a bit of a step down for some, but the reality of this needs a little closer examination.

The two 2.5GbE RJ45 ports support link aggregation of course, so 5GbE connectivity via a supported managed switch is possible (as well as support of USB-to-5GbE adapters like the QNA-UC5G1T) and this allows up to 586MB/s read performance and 574MB/s write performance. Now, many might argue that this is quite a bottleneck for those internal PCIe M.2 NVMe SSDs – something we will go into more detail on later on), but such external bottlenecks of NAS are hardly new, given that most NAS hard drives these days can comfortably output 200MB/s, but are all bottlenecked to 1GbE anyway and worse still in RAID configs). I do still wish we had 10GbE on this device (even if it means removing all other ports except a single USB 3.0 port) but likely this was not possible technically anyway via the Intel Celeron inside.

QNAP themselves have tested the performance of the TBS-464 in a RAID 5 over 4 NAS SSDs from Seagate and reached max external bandwidth of 294MB/s Upload and 287MB/s Download.

The TBS-464 also features two HDMI 2.0 video output poets. These work in conjunction with the parallel running GUI called HD Station, to allow users to interact with the NAS and many applications using an HDMI TV/Monitor, as well as connecting a keyboard and mouse (or using a Bluetooth dongle, IR remote or WiFi remote) to interact with the system. This can be used as a standalone windows PC (using QVM), a Linux PC (using Ubuntu Station), a standalone surveillance system with camera control, support of Skype, Spotify, LibreOffice, chrome, Facebook and more. There is also a large homebrew community over on QNAPClub that supports lots of existing windows and linux tools that are converted over to the QNAP platform. As good as this all sounds, it is worth remembering that these two HDMI ports cannot be used independently and are only used for mirroring each other or creating a shared-wider single screen.

I am working on a 2021/2022 revisit of HD Station from QNAP, but below is the Setup guide and overview of the application from last year that still covers a lot of the platforms abilities and features:

One sour point on the TBS-464 that I will continue to come back to is the surprising number of USB 2.0 ports, with 2 more here on the back of the NAS chassis. I understand that this system has support of KVM for those visual ports and some connected client hardware, such as UPS’, external optical drives and Printers do not need USB 3, but given that QNAP has a large number of USB expansion devices, network adapters and supported USB devices like webcams, these ports seem a bit of old. Perhaps the chipset would not allow the swapping of these three ports in favour of a single extra USB 3 port (the truth is I do not know) but even having the USB 3 ports on the front (awkward for expansions) and the USB on the rear, seems a strange choice.

Overall, as long as you understand how QNAP have had to work within a given scope of the CPU and it’s PCI lanes, most of the TBS-464 NAS’ ports and connections make a lot of sense. But let’s take a look at the internal hardware of the TBS-464 and see how the system intended to deploy those super-fast NVMe SSDs.

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Internal Hardware

Removing the base plate of the TBS-464 reveals an internal framework that looks much less like a typical NAS and much more like a prosumer laptop. The components are clearly separated into individual sections, as well as the components also featuring an additional cover layer that helps the air flow through the system and over the components that need it most.

The four NVMe M.2 SSD ports are arranged in a deeper cavity and a 3+1 physical configuration. Each has ample room for single and double-sided SSDs (as well as the included thermal pads and heatsinks) and the system can be used with as little as a single NVMe SSD (allowing you to add drives later as your capacity or redundancy requirements grow). These bays are located directly next to the first side vent panel and the single internal fan is pulling air through this vent and over the SSDs. As long as you attach the thermal pads and heatsinks to dissipate (draw) the heat from the SSDs, the air will cool them down and then push air out the other side.

Revisiting the subject of CPU PCI lanes leads to one part of the TBS-464 architecture that may disappoint. Each of the M.2 NVMe SSD slots is PCIe Gen 3 x2 in bandwidth. This means that each slot can provide a potential 2,000MB/s of performance. However, the majority of modern PCIe Gen 3 SSDs arrive in Gen 3×4, normally hitting the 3,000-3,400MB/s performance mark. Although the TBS-464 is pretty much the ONLY desktop NVMe SSD NAS in the world, it is still a shame that each slot has this unavoidable bottleneck internally. This is still very, VERY high performance internally however that hugely dwarfs many other NAS of similar CPU architecture and something taht you would need a much larger arrangement of STA HDD or SSD to match.

That internal fan. once it has drawn air over the NVMe SSD media+heatsinks, will theN push air out over the CPU heatsink and out the other vent. It does this with very little ambient noise (as long as you utilize appropriate heatsink and pad installation) and ensures that this little NAS makes little to no impact on your hardware environment.

The TBS-464 uses a negative pressure cooling system, with large vents on either side of the compact chassis to pull air in one way over the storage media, then out through the other side. Below is a graphic:

The CPU and memory used in the TBS-464 are also of a good standard for a 2021/2022 Prosumer/SMB NAS release. Alongside an Intel Celeron CPU, it also arrives with 8GB of DDR4 2400Mhz memory (which sadly cannot be upgraded to the maximum 16GB supported by the CPU). 8GB is still a very decent about of base-level memory on this NAS. But the CPU is where I really want to focus.

The Celeron series is one that is generally refreshed every 18-24months by Intel on their production line. However, because of semi-conductor shortages and the effects of the pandemic in 2020/2021 on production lines, the result is that the Intel Celeron series most recent revisions have been remarkably erratic and the result is that the Celeron CPU of the newest TS-x64 series from QNAP actually spans three different (but  VERY similar CPUs).

In the case of the TBS-464, it arrives with the Intel N5105 or N5095. Both are 2.0Ghz in architecture that can be boosted to 2.99Ghz by the system when needed, as well as supporting on-broad graphics (so the support of transcoding and handling graphical data like 4K media and 3D images) to the same degree, AES-NI inline encryption and a great floating point. Aside from very minor differences around encoding/decoding and a slightly raised TDP (so, the amount of heat vs power draw) on the N5095, they are pretty much identical. Both are a nice jump up from the 2017/18 generation Intel Celeron J4115 that is used in the previous generation and at this price point, I am happy with this chip. Expect Plex testing and Virtual Machine testing soon.

Overall, the internal architecture of the QNAP TBS-464 NAS at it’s £499 RRP (579 Euros), which will almost certainly be lower on most e-retailers, seems a reasonable price for the architecture here. Let’s talk a little bit about the software included with the TBS-464, known as QTS 5.

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Software & Services

Alongside the hardware of the TBS-464 NAS, you also receive the complete software and services package of QNAP QTS (currently in version 5.0). This is a complete operating system. similar in design and presentation to Android OS, it runs hundreds of applications, services and functions, as well as arriving with many mobile and desktop client applications that allow you to interact with the data on your NAS in a much more tailored way. Alongside this, the QNAP QTS software on the TBS-464 also includes a few extra SSD tools for anti-wearing on the SSDs, better SSD profiling and even options to separate the media into storage, caching or tiered storage where appropriate. The performance and services of QTS have been covered many times on this channel, so reviewing it’s individual performance on the TBS-464 NAS is a difficult task, as we have to look at two key things. Is QTS a good software platform and is QTS 5.0 a substantial update on QTS 4.5? On the first score, I can comfortably say that QNAP NAS software and services have truly come into their own and the balancing act of supplying the end-user with the flexibility to use the system ‘their way’, whilst still keeping it user friendly is the best it has ever been. Is it perfect, no. In its efforts to make itself customizable in every way possible, QTS develops an inadvertent learning curve that may catch some novice users unaware. Likewise, although QTS 5 has done a lot of work on its presentation of information and notifications, there is still the odd moment of ‘TMI’ when switching between services on the fly. QNAP’s NAS software is still easily one of the most adaptable in the market right now and allows users to have a truly unique storage environment if they choose and although not quite as user-friendly as Synology DSM, it counters this by being fantastically flexibly by comparison (from file/folder structure to 3rd party services support and connectivity). In order to see the extent of the latest version of QNAP TS 5.0M use the links below to the written review and video below released in late 2021:

FULL Written QNAP QTS 5 Review FULL Video Review of QNAP QTS 5

Tests of the QNAP TBS-464 on how it performs as a Plex Media Server, host for Virtual Machines and more will be conducted shortly over on NASCompares YouTube channel. I recommend visiting there to learn more. Below is the video review for the QNAP TBS-464 NAS

QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS Review – Conclusion & Verdict

The QNAP TBS-464 NVMe SSD NAS is a genuinely groundbreaking and unique piece of kit that is slightly hampered by its own price tag! Easily the most compact NAS currently available from this (and indeed almost any other) brand, it brings the majority of NAS software, services and features that buyers want in a NAS that shifts focus to SSD storage media and does it whilst maintaining an incredibly small footprint. The appeal of a RAID 5, NVMe powered NAS for your data, when the price of such media (in Gen 3 at least) becomes significantly more affordable is also a smart move. As a first physical reveal of QNAP’s planned X64 and X62 series, it hits all the right notes for me and as long as you understand that keeping this device Prosumer (whilst not tiptoeing into the enterprise) means that occasional hardware scaling is required, it’s a great piece of kit. A unique joy to play with.

PROs of the QNAP TBS-464 NAS CONs of the QNAP TBS-464 NAS
World’s First NVMe SSD Desktop NAS (at least as far I can find!)

VERY quiet, even with the fan on internally

Newest Gen Intel Celeron CPU available on NAS right now

2x 2.5GbE and 4K 60FPS are always welcome

Numerous considerations included/visible for heat dissipation and Anti-wear

VERY compact deployment

8GB DDR4 Memory included by default

Four NVMes in a RAID 5 = Good speed and Performance

QTS 5 has more 1st Party applications and services than any previous version

The lack of 10GbE from the TBS-453DX is a shame (PCI Lane related)

The NVMe SSD Bays are PCIe Gen 3 x2 (PCI Lane related)

Memory cannot physically be upgraded beyond 8GB

 


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