QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Too Niche?

The QNAP TS-364 NAS Drive Review

QNAP are now very much in the process of slowly rolling out their new Prosumer and SMB series for 2022, but when it comes to the unit that they are slowly releasing, you can definitely see that they are being a great deal smarter (tactically) than previous generations. Alongside the release of the NVMe focused TBS-464 back in late October, the next unit in this series to arrive is the incredibly unique and unusual QNAP TS-364 NAS Drive. Today I want to review this rather different NA system and ultimately answer three main questions, 1) Is this a suitable alternative to a 2/4-Bay? 2) Is this TOO niche, even for a subject that is already as niche as NAS? And 3) Ultimately does it deserve your data? This 3x Hard drive and 2x NVMe SSD system (that 2nd storage detail is always way, way too overlooked) is formed in a similar shape to the previous 3-Bay systems before it but also arrives with the latest choices in internal/external hardware architecture that we have grown to expect in 2021/2022 from QNAP. With some users who look at 2-Bay solutions and the 50% storage loss of RAID 1 as a dealbreaker, whilst still looking at 4-Bay systems as capacity and price based overkill, is a 3-Bay NAS drive such as the TS-364 from QNAP what you have been searching for all this time? Let’s review the QNAP TS-364 and decide if this system is just right OR just a little too niche? Let’s go.

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Quick Conclusion

Once again, QNAP (in my opinion of course) are still very much the true innovators of the NAS hardware industry, seemingly exploring and almost always delivering on solutions that change what we expect private home/business servers to look like, support and provide. The TS-364 3-Bay (TECHNICALLY 5-Bay if you want to be accurate about it) has one heck of a balancing act to perform, providing more than the typical 2-Bay desktop chassis like the TS-253D and TS-264 are promising, whilst not leaning TOO heavily on the TS-453D and TS-464 to make itself or those redundant in price or approach. I think it MOSTLY sticks the landing and what you have here is the best example of this series that QNAP has ever produced, managing to balance the price point and value just right. In my introduction, I asked three questions. 1) Is this a suitable alternative to a 2/4-Bay? – It DEFINITELY is a good option, for those that are stuck between the rock and a hard place of 2 or 4 bays! 2) Is this TOO niche, even for a subject that is already as niche as NAS? – No, I think this system provides a valuable and till-now often overlooked section of the buying market. And 3) Ultimately does it deserve your data? – I think if you are a 2-Bay buyer, then spending the tiny bit extra for this 3-Bay is a no brainer, but if you are looking at 4-Bays, then the 3-Bay TS-364 might lack the extra storage potential, PCIe upgrades and base level connectivity long term of current prosumer 4-Bays like the TS-453D and TS-464. Overall, I like what the TS-364 is offering here and I think it fits well in the QNAP portfolio and solutions available to the end user.

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


8.0
PROS
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปBest example of 3-Bay NAS series so far
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปQuieter than I expected in use
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปNewest Gen Intel Celeron CPU available on NAS right now
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป2.5GbE Ready and has 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s)
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปGood balance of HDD and SSD Storage Support
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปVERY compact deployment
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป4GB Memory by default and 16GB Max is good upgradability
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปSurprisingly small, fo so much storage (long-ish though)
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘๐ŸปQTS 5 has more 1st Party applications and services than any previous version
CONS
๐Ÿ‘Ž๐ŸปThe lack of 10GbE from the TS-332X is a shame (PCI Lane related)
๐Ÿ‘Ž๐ŸปThe NVMe SSD Bays are PCIe Gen 3 x2 (PCI Lane related)
๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿป
๐Ÿ‘Ž๐ŸปHDMI 1.4b not HDMI 2.0/a

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES

The retail box of the QNAP TS-364 NAS is fairly standard stuff, with the typical brown box design and a product-specific label. It is at this tier that a solution will almost exclusively be an eShop/Online only purchase, so therefore any concerns about packaging will be much more geared towards protection in transit from movement and shock damage. On that score, I would stay that the less than usual shaped TS-364 NAS chassis is well protected.

The TS-364 NAS chassis itself arrives in quite an impressive surrounding of hard foam from all corners. Indeed, this foam takes up more than 40% of the retail box and will amply protect this unit virtually completely in it’s transit from Taiwan to..well.. everywhere. Alongside the TS-364 unit itself, there is also a box of accessories in a separate kit carton.

The accessories that are included with the TS-364 are fairly typical of QNAP (with a small exception) and are pretty much everything you are going to need in order to get started with your NAS (with the exception of HDD/SSD media that you will need to buy separately).

The TS-364 features an external power supply unit, likely for reasons of space, easy replacement and maintaining better internal temperatures. The external PSU on this rather modest-sized NAS arrives is 65W and QNAP state that it has been recorded at 32.8W power use when in active use – this includes the internal fan in operation at all times.

The TS-364 also features the support of both Hard Drives and M.2 NVMe SSDs, something I will cover in more detail later. The accessory kit arrives with additional click’n’load HDDs install pods and two M.2 SSD heatsink panels that are adhesive-backed and designed to be applied directly onto the controller of any installed NVM.e SSDs in the NAS allocated bays.

As glad as I am that QNA has included heatsinks for the M.2 slot media that you might install in the TS-364, these are remarkably small and a bit underwhelming. On the one hand, the space for the M.2 bays inside the TS-364 is a little small, but there is still amply space for a larger full-2280 length heatsink. Whether this smaller m.2 heatsink is being provided because of space, overall active system temp provisioning or as it is a general part on their production line – it’s still a bit of an underwhelming inclusion, as in a heavy use 24×7 environment, I am unsure how effective these will be.

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-364 NAS.

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Design

The external chassis of the TS-364 is a rather unusual one that will almost certainly split opinion. For a start, it manages to be both smaller AND bigger than both your average 2-Bay and 4-Bay. As peculiar as that statement might sound, let me explain.

The front of the TS-364 NAS chassis is an almost perfect square, at 142mm x 150mm – shorter than more 2-Bay NAS systems that stack their HDD media vertically internally, as well as narrower than a 4-Bay that has that extra HDD bay. However, in depth/length, it’s a different story as the TS-364 is 260mm deep – that is noticeably deeper than more other desktop NAS chassis (even most 8-Bay systems). This is because the system clearly uses a vertically airflow system, which draws air through the system using a system of front-mounted vent holes and a large rear active fan. There are no holes/vents on the sides, in order to maintain and capitalize on this active airflow.

Alot of the ventilation o nthe front is surprisingly well hidden. The LED panel on the front of the device (which has lights that indicate system access, network activity, HDD health, HDD health and connectivity) neatly surrounds the larger side vent panel very well.

It is only when you angle the chassis up that the ventilation on that front panel under the LEDs is exposed, as well as the base level vents under the HDD media bays and those that are going to pass air directly over the m.2 SSD bays. It’s a neat design move.

The actual chassis design itself might look a bit retro/naff for some and the plastic, white choice in colour/materials is another area that some might not be enormously keen on, but you cannot really fault the venting choices here. Likewise, if this chassis had been metal, it would have noticeably increased the ambient noise level. It is already reported at 20.5ย  bd(A) which is already higher than when I had it in operation for Plex and software testing – coming soon), so overall I like the design choices here.

The TS-364 also features a useful front-mounted USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) port that can be used for local backups (either direction), peripheral devices, network upgrades (up to 5GbE too, over USB, using QNAP’s own adapter) and more. I have always championed this remarkably underestimated and old skool’ connection of desktop devices and am pleased that this rather compact system still features it.

The overall design of the TS-364 is going to be of little importance to those that plan on setting up the devices in an unseen corner/attic/storage room – but for those that want to desk mount the system nearby, perhaps directly connecting using the aforementioned USB-to-5GbE adapter for high speed local work might find the TS-364’s oddly long shape to be problematic. Still, for what it is trying to achieve and in order to facilitate three hard drive bays and cool 2 M.2 NVMe bays, I think the system did the right thing. Now, let’s talk connectivity.

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Ports & Connections

The connectivity of the TS-364 NAS is something that I think falls somewhere between ‘good stuff’ and ‘just enough’. Remember that QNAP is currently the only brand to have a featured series of 3-Bay devices in their portfolio to fill a surprisingly user-ready middle ground between prosumer and business storage users. Alot of the external connectivity’s good and ‘meh’ comes down to those pesky CPU PCI lanes again. The fact that in order to maintain a good price vs performance point, brands tend to rely on Intel Celeron processors at this tier. These processors have a decent enough level of PCI lanes to spread across storage bays and connectivity, but it is still a finite amount. The result is that those two internal M.2 bays result in a tiny amount of ‘wing clipping’ in the external connectivity. Let’s go through them in a bit, but first, back to cooling!

As mentioned earlier, the TS-364 internal temperature handling comes down to well-placed vents, well placed internal heatsinks and that rear fan. The TS-364 features a 92mm single rear fan that takes up over 50% of the rear of the chassis, DIRECTLY behind those SATA HDD storage bays. It’s RPM can be adjusted of course, but it is recommended to leave it on automatic. Even in very light usage, any particularly noticeably noise came from the HDD media more than the fan.

The first cool thing in connectivity is that the TS-364 is one of the first Prosumer/lite-SMB solutions from QNAP at this scale that includes USB 3.2 gen 2 (10Gb/s) ports. Both are USB Type A and support everything from my powerful USB accessories and tools, to external storage drives of up to 1,000MB/s. It’s a bit odd that this is not the USB on the front of the chassis with 1-touch copying (where someone who regularly but ad hoc connects a drive for work/school to backup FAST), but better to have it than not at all.

Another nice connection choice is the default 2.5GbE network port on the TS-364. QNAP has pretty much set 2.5x standard gigabit connectivity as the standard on 80-85% of their hardware and almost certainly it will be 100% in the next year or so. The act that this is arriving at the same price point at 1GbE means, as well as being completely backwards compatible is a definite bonus.

There is the minor complaint that it is a single ethernet port (not the 2x 2.5G on the TBS-464 or the 2x ports that will almost certainly arrive in the likes of the TS-264, TS-262 or even TS-x53E series at some point far into the future no doubt), but again, at this price point, it’s a tough complaint to keep up with. Below is the reported maximum by QNAP in this connection, but also it is a shame that this system lacks the 10GbE (SFP+) port of the TS-332X before it. Though this is likely that blasted CPU PIC limitation again, plus the TS-332X had a shocking weaker CPU by comparison.

The QNAP TS-364 also features an HDMI output, much like the rest of the SMB Intel-powered devices from QNAP. This means that the system can support a parallel GUI via an HDMI TV or monitor, as well as Keyboard, Video Mouse (KVM) support with the use of USB wired peripherals, Bluetooth adapter connected wireless peripherals and several network remote controls (plus the QNAP QRemote application for Android and iOS). The TS-364 features HDMI 1.4b, so 1080p at 60FPS and 4K at 30FPS, which is a slight downgrade on the HDMI 2.0 available on other TS-x64 NAS systems revealed so far.

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:

The external connectivity of the TS-364 is a good mix of useful, if somewhat safe choices by QNAP. I like what is here but the bits that shine do seem to have the tiniest pinch of compromise about them (2.5G but a single port, 10G USB but not on the front, HDMI but 1.6b rev). Let’s open up this NAS system and take a look at media drive installation and those internal hardware specifications.

Accessing the inside of the TS-364 is easy, with the removal of three rear screws, the chassis comes apart in two halves, revealing the internal storage bays, the memory upgrade slots and the Intel Celeron CPU inside. Let’s discuss that internal hardware in detail.

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Internal Hardware

The TS-364 does not support any kind of hot swapping, as it does not use external removable trays. Instead, it features the three SATA storage media bays in a cage arrangement, with the two m.2 SSD media bays, SODIMM memory slots and CPU+heatsink neatly located underneath in the fan’s air path.

The three SATA hard Drive trays do not require a screw driver to install the media, though installation of SATA SSDs is going to prove difficult/impossible without an adapter. The trays themselves are also a little flimsier than those found in a system that supports hot-swapping (i.e removal whilst the system is in operation).

The trays are a U shaped surround that features four-pin clips each that hold the 3.5″ SATA Hard drive in place. Clearly the usual trays that QNAP use in their system’s would be unsuitable large in this chassis, but these still feel a little underwhelming. Your TS-364 NAS can be operated with as little as a single HDD inside, but with all three bays populated you can take advantage of RAID configurations like RAID 5 for a better balance of storage, performance and redundancy (i.e a safety net if a drive dies). The latest 18TB and 20TB drives slot neatly into the chassis, which means a potential 60TB of raw HDD storage can be achieved in the TS-364 – for such a small physical size and just three bays of storage – that IS impressive!

Revisiting the subject of CPU PCI lanes leads to one part of the TS-364 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. It is still great to have the flexibility of Hard Drives AND NVMe SSD, but it is still a shame that each slot has this unavoidable bottleneck internally. The fact they are included is still a HUGE bonus overall though, with the system supporting the use of these M.2 SSD bays for caching, raw storage pools or tiered storage alongside the HDDs RAID.

The CPU and memory used in the TS-364 are also of a good standard for a 2021/2022 Prosumer/SMB NAS release. Alongside an Intel Celeron CPU, it also arrives with 4GB of DDR4 2666Mhz memory (which can be upgraded to the maximum 16GB supported by the CPU). 4GB is still very decent about of base-level memory on this NAS and the fact that QNAP has included 2666Mhz memory (when older-gen units have always had 2400Mhz) is also a good sign for the brand’s future releases too. 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 TS-364, it arrives with the Intel N5105 or N5095. Both are 2.0Ghz in architecture that can be boosted to 2.9Ghz 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/J4125 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 TS-364 NAS at its ยฃ350-400 price (TBC at launch), 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 TS-364, known as QTS 5.

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Software & Services

Alongside the hardware of the TS-364 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 TS-364 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 TS-364 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 5.0 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 TS-364 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 TS-364 NAS

QNAP TS-364 NAS Review – Conclusion & Verdict

Once again, QNAP (in my opinion of course) are still very much the true innovators of the NAS hardware industry, seemingly exploring and almost always delivering on solutions that change what we expect private home/business servers to look like, support and provide. The TS-364 3-Bay (TECHNICALLY 5-Bay if you want to be accurate about it) has one heck of a balancing act to perform, providing more than the typical 2-Bay desktop chassis like the TS-253D and TS-264 are promising, whilst not leaning TOO heavily on the TS-453D and TS-464 to make itself or those redundant in price or approach. I think it MOSTLY sticks the landing and what you have here is the best example of this series that QNAP has ever produced, managing to balance the price point and value just right. In my introduction, I asked three questions. 1) Is this a suitable alternative to a 2/4-Bay? – It DEFINITELY is a good option, for those that are stuck between the rock and a hard place of 2 or 4 bays! 2) Is this TOO niche, even for a subject that is already as niche as NAS? – No, I think this system provides a valuable and till-now often overlooked section of the buying market. And 3) Ultimately does it deserve your data? – I think if you are a 2-Bay buyer, then spending the tiny bit extra for this 3-Bay is a no brainer, but if you are looking at 4-Bays, then the 3-Bay TS-364 might lack the extra storage potential, PCIe upgrades and base level connectivity long term of current prosumer 4-Bays like the TS-453D and TS-464. Overall, I like what the TS-364 is offering here and I think it fits well in the QNAP portfolio and solutions available to the end-user.

PROs of the QNAP TS-364 NAS CONs of the QNAP TS-364 NAS
Best example of 3-Bay NAS series so far

Quieter than I expected in use

Newest Gen Intel Celeron CPU available on NAS right now

2.5GbE Ready and has 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s)

Good balance of HDD and SSD Storage Support

VERY compact deployment

4GB Memory by default and 16GB Max is good upgradability

Surprisingly small, fo so much storage (long-ish though)

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

The lack of 10GbE from the TS-332X is a shame (PCI Lane related)

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

HDMI 1.4b not HDMI 2.0/a

 


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