Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – A Buyers Guide

Thunderbolt 4 DAS vs Thunderbolt 4 NAS? What Is The Difference?

The ascent of NAS has grown in popularity, largely due to video editing suites requiring a large amount of storage accessible by multiple users simultaneously. Even in the early days of Thunderbolt NAS, around 2017 and 2018, one of the key advantages over traditional Thunderbolt DAS storage was the facilitation of a much less complicated workflow. A NAS could be accessed by hundreds, if not thousands, of users at any given time via the internet or a local area network. The system could be used to package projects, distribute and archive them in a single system, as well as managing and facilitating multi-site backups, thanks to intelligent software that has evolved over the years from most NAS brands. Adding to this, editors could directly interface with a QNAP NAS over Thunderbolt and/or 10GbE with the appropriate interfaces, meaning this single storage system could house, manage, distribute, and orchestrate multi-tier backups for an entire photo/video production company. Whereas traditional Thunderbolt DAS can only be accessed by a single user at any given time and lacks the software management and automation that a NAS offers. However, there are definitely times when a Thunderbolt DAS is better than a Thunderbolt NAS too!

What is DAS? – In the context of Thunderbolt technology, DAS (Direct Attached Storage) refers to a storage device that is connected directly to a computer or server via a Thunderbolt interface. This setup offers high-speed data transfer and access for a single user, making it ideal for tasks that require rapid, individual access to large amounts of data. Occasionally referred to as ‘LAS’, or Local Access Storage.

And What is NAS? – In the context of Thunderbolt technology, NAS (Network Attached Storage) is a storage system connected to a network, allowing multiple users and devices to access and share data simultaneously. Unlike DAS, NAS provides broader scalability, remote access capabilities, and supports various data management features, making it suitable for collaborative and multi-user environments.

Clearly, there are significant differences between them:

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – PERFORMANCE?

Thunderbolt DAS utilizes simple direct storage access for a single user and does not need to facilitate the use of a system operating system or be built on an architecture that needs to service multiple users at once. Thunderbolt NAS, however, operates on IP architecture and because it needs to run its own internal operating system, as well as have its data in its own file system that is not locked into any external file system of an operating system like Windows or Mac, performance is noticeably lower than that of DAS when utilizing exactly the same storage media. So, if you are a single access user and performance is what matters, Thunderbolt NAS might not be for you.

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – Plug n Play?

There is also no avoiding that because a Thunderbolt NAS system like the QNAP TVS-h874 has its own operating system, software, appliances, and protocols, it is nowhere near as straightforward and simplistic to connect with as a traditional Thunderbolt direct attached storage device. Most of the initial work in connecting with the QNAP will be done at the beginning, and after that, the system will be automatically connected with your client machine, but if you are hoping that the TVS-h874 is as straightforward and plug-and-play as a Thunderbolt LaCie or G-Technology box, you are going to be disappointed!

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – Fast Network/Remote Access?

Another advantage of utilizing Thunderbolt NAS systems over traditional Thunderbolt storage devices is the ability to use 10GbE passthrough. If your home or office uses larger bandwidth network connections such as 2.5GbE or 10GbE, you can use a direct connection with the NAS over Thunderbolt from your Mac or Windows system to also connect to that larger and higher bandwidth network. Additional Thunderbolt DAS storage will only provide you storage while using up that Thunderbolt port for little else.

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – Expandability?

Expanding a traditional RAID storage device can often be quite tricky. Some Thunderbolt solutions, like the Areca series, allow users to use software RAID to attach their own series of expansion devices and add further drives to your ever-growing storage area. However, they are very much in the minority, as most Thunderbolt plug-and-play DAS solutions do not allow any kind of external expandability. Once the storage media inside the system has filled up, you either have to buy new, larger hard drives and gradually replace all of the drives, which can take weeks, or you need to buy a new Thunderbolt box and start over, adding to growing storage piles.

Thunderbolt NAS, on the other hand, allows several means to expand and upgrade your storage very efficiently over the system’s lifespan. The system arrives with two internal M.2 NVMe slots that allow you to install further, faster SSDs which can be used for additional storage or pooled together with the existing larger hard drive storage. Moreover, the system features multiple USB ports that allow you to attach one of the many official QNAP expansion devices that increase the size of your storage pool – this is especially fast if you utilize the ZFS QuTS software that now supports ZFS expansions. The QNAP TVS-h874 system also allows you to attach fast USB drives with USB 3.2 Gen 2 architecture, which will then become available via the Thunderbolt and remotely via network and internet connections. The QNAP NAS allows you to create multiple smaller storage areas both inside and outside of the system, and all of these are accessible via a single Thunderbolt port or via the network. This pales in comparison to the majority of other Thunderbolt DAS systems that only provide a single large block of storage to work with.

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – File System Considerations?

File System Locks – Connecting a storage device via Thunderbolt to your Mac or Windows system does not always immediately make the storage available. One significant difference that many users overlook is that multiple operating systems use very different file systems, from an old USB drive all the way up to a LaCie 6big, for example. This can often result in a drive that works fine on a Mac being completely unusable on a Windows system. This has always been a challenge for editing suites with mixed Windows, Mac, and Linux OS systems in-house, preventing a single Thunderbolt device from being usable between one system and another without appropriate formatting or future provisioning during initial file system creation.

A Thunderbolt NAS, on the other hand, utilizes the system’s own EXT4 or ZFS file system during the initialization of the NAS and, after that, can be communicated with remotely via the network, internet, or over Thunderbolt by practically any operating system, as well as multiple client applications available from the brand, with third-party tools also supported. In terms of cross-platform file sharing, a Thunderbolt NAS is significantly more convenient.

Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – Costs, Price and Value?

The Price – Something a lot of you may have already noticed is that a Thunderbolt NAS like the TVS-h874 is much more expensive than a similarly scaled direct attached storage RAID box from OWC, G-Technology, or LaCie. This is because, in order for the NAS system to provide support for all of its features and services, it needs to utilize significantly more powerful hardware in terms of the CPU, memory, and general system internal cooling systems. A traditional Thunderbolt RAID DAS system does not have any of these extra features and therefore often runs on very modest SoC (Software on Chip) or RoC (RAID on Chip) processors with minimal RAM. All of this extra hardware results in a Thunderbolt NAS system being significantly more expensive than traditional plug-and-play Thunderbolt storage.

Thunderbolt 4 DAS vs. Thunderbolt 4 NAS? Which Should You Use?

Understanding the distinctions between Thunderbolt 4 DAS and Thunderbolt 4 NAS is crucial, especially when considering devices like the QNAP TVS-h874. This NAS device stands out for its versatility and future-proofing capabilities. Supporting both Thunderbolt 4 and 3, it offers an excellent long-term storage solution, adaptable to evolving client devices. While both Thunderbolt 3 and 4 deliver 40 gigabits per second bandwidth, Thunderbolt 4 excels with enhanced security, power delivery, and improved internal management. The file system flexibility of the Thunderbolt NAS, like the QNAP TVS-h874, is a significant advantage, particularly in multi-OS environments commonly found in editing suites. It overcomes the limitations of traditional DAS systems, which often face compatibility issues across different operating systems. The NAS’s ability to be communicated with remotely, regardless of the OS, streamlines cross-platform file sharing.

However, it’s important to consider the price and performance aspects. While Thunderbolt NAS offers more features, it comes at a higher cost due to its more powerful hardware. In terms of performance, Thunderbolt DAS provides straightforward, high-speed access for individual users, whereas Thunderbolt NAS excels in multi-user environments and offers greater expandability. Each system has its strengths, and the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs. If you prioritize ease of use, single-user access, and maximum performance with the right storage media, Thunderbolt DAS could be more suitable. On the other hand, if your focus is on versatility, expandability, and multi-user access in a cross-platform setting, a Thunderbolt NAS like the QNAP TVS-h874 would be an excellent investment. Remember, Thunderbolt is just the conduit; the type of system you choose should align with your specific workflow requirements and future scalability needs.

Recommended Thunderbolt NAS Solutions:

QNAP TVS-h874T – $2499+

QNAP TBS-h574TX – $1499+

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      69 thoughts on “Thunderbolt NAS vs Thunderbolt DAS – A Buyers Guide

      1. If I’m going to dish out 1500+ quid for a super NAS then there is no way that I will accept a max of 16gb of ram. I’ll just build my own box with 64gb for less than a grand thank you.

      2. Now that the OWC Mercury Pro Dual U.2 exists, I’ve shifted my focus away from NVME NAS, toward NVME DAS. For $500, the Mercury gives me 8 NVME’s. For not much more money than the QNAP unloaded, I got the Mercury plus 8 x 4tb NVME’s. Much faster than the QNAP. Then I have my trusty HDD_based TruNas system for backups and fun.

      3. Talk about consistency. Every single video on this channel (and I watch all of them without exception) reliably has the following:

        – Robbie being excellent in his delivery, detail and articulation of obvious pros and cons of a system in question
        – Seagulls
        – Complaints about “slow” NVMe drives, completely ignoring the fact that any NVMe drive on a single lane will saturate all network bandwidth
        – A clown complaining in the comments about lack of ECC memory support
        – People finding things that are missing from a device in question: Robbie reviews a 4-bay device, they want an 8-bay. Robbie talks about an 8-bay, a clown turns up saying he needs a minimum of 20 bays, all full of 22TB drives storing his mission critical bird videos
        – People saying anything less than an EPYC with an RTX4090 is not sufficient for Plex
        – A long comment thread where two ‘professionals’ almost resort to insults on the basis of disagreement on ECC memory
        – A person knowing nothing about NAS, but certain he needs a pro-grade solution for his photography side hustle
        – A person running a decommissioned 2011 enterprise server idling at 900W, who thinks it’s a better option than modern solutions

        Always a sight to behold. ????

      4. Finally… faster storage that doesn’t take up a lot of space. So tired of these vendors releasing old underpowered cpu, 1x nvme connections, or slow ethernet boxes.

      5. Appreciate your opinions and reviews but this content could be condensed further especially without repeating use of clips. I skipped a head 3 – time and landed on the same Simpsons clip. Please be more concise. longer videos are welcome if you are showing / discussing more about the products performance and use case otherwise. spec sheet is quicker to read.

      6. I really find your videos very informative. Have a QNAP TVS-H1688X and a TVS 1282 i3 fully populated with more than enogh disks. However, as time goes by, new Technolgy comes up. My point is that this perticular TBS-h574TX is just looking ugly Chinese. Cant they make it look squared or 19″?!? And this holds not only for QNAP, but many others that you even tested! Ugly boxes, and NOT SUFFICIENT. It would be cool to have a NAS with 8 PCIe 4 or 5 Bays but I guess, that is to come yet. Thanks for all those Videos that you made, I saw 99% I would guess

      7. Finally a consumerish NAS that supports something aside of M.2. For the price I’d have liked gen 4 but I’m guessing there aren’t enough PCIE lanes for that. The real disappointment is the memory. I’d rather a slightly more expensive unit that could be upgraded to 64gb and supported ECC even if that made it a little larger. I can still see use cases for this but it really wouldn’t have been hard to make this a real banger of a unit.

      8. I’m jumping in ????
        For NAS PCI 4 is not necessary ( The 10G ethernet or TB4 will be your bottleneck ) unless you want to use your nvme ssd internally for VM ( and deal with more heat and power consumption )

      9. Hi, and Iam pretty new to modern NAS so polities if the answer is obvious. Could a ‘normal’ 3.5inch SATA DAS be attached to store ‘legacy’ data such as media files ???? on HDD as well?

      10. or the record, E1.S is a form-factor. Power Loss Protection (PLP) support helps to record data that resides in buffer memory to NAND flash memory by utilising the backup power of the (often solid) capacitor in case of a sudden power supply shut down. Like when you switched off older electronics in the day, where indicators, displays etc often stayed-on for a few seconds after switching the power off.
        But (only) PCI Gen3 x2 is baffling!
        There are quite a few very nice features in this box but that “low” PCI Gen3 x2, that is an unfortunate choice!
        For that kind of price I would expect more. They could have dropped the 2.5GBe (perhaps combine it with the existing 10GBe, as there are nowadays chipsets that support both).
        BTW, I would wonder how the i3 would perform under QuTS Hero.
        And fixed memory and only 16GB for the i5? Why not 16GB for the i3, and 32GB for the i5?
        Sorry, a very hard pass on this model, too many caveats for me.
        Not interested, not even by a long shot.
        And very time deadbolt is being mentioned again and again, I do not give the video a thumbs, it is becoming silly to me.

      11. I could live with the reduced data rates of the NVMe’s but the memory being limited to 16 GB is a deal breaker for me.

        I would want to use it as a VM platform and that would require more RAM.

        Also it would be nice to have a 6 or 8 bay version as I would want to run RAID 6 and with current NVMe capacities RAID 6 would really cut into the total storage available.

        Perhaps the next generation of this device will be a viable option for my business needs!

      12. This NAS makes no sense to me: as a business user if I wanted a high speed portable NAS for production work I would list Registered ECC as a minimal requirement. This has the trappings of a business or pro series unit, but is instead a consumer grade platform with the artifice of enterprise trappings glued onto it. Factor in their asking price and it’s a solid “not on your life” scenario. There are ways of getting these requirements into a smaller form factor chassis and keeping the weight down.

      13. Possible the limited memory is part of price/market separation

        There is plenty of space to put sodimm slot or solder down a package of memory have higher capacity

        If you want highspeed pcie with switch / more memory you need to pay more for a pro / hero edition

        Thanks QNAP , you won’t get my money ????

      14. At 15:20 – thin and thick provisoning are explained the wrong way round.

        Thick allocates actual pool space, while thin allocates theoretical space which different disks/luns can share.

      15. trying to justify the extra cost coming from a x72xt system. it seems that the bottleneck is still 10gbe or the 10gbe thunderbolt over ip. speeds I’ve seen the 874t do are about the same as what im getting with a x72xt system. am i missing something here?

        im not transcoding or anything just serving file for video editing.

      16. When creating the shared folder you inadvertently double-clicked the next button at approximately 8m50s thus skipping the storage settings tab. That was a bit of a frustration for me as that was the one piece of information I was primarily interested in ????

      17. I’m completely lost to why you are using a LUN setup on MacOS, if you use Qfinder you just mount the volumes and you are done. MacOS will recognise them as part of its system. Or is this solution if you have a 3rd party software that for some reason doesn’t recognise the volumes as internal?

      18. Thank you for this guide! One idiot’s level question though – does QNAP sell/is it possible to install a thunderbolt 4 expansion card into a TVS-h874 to get the thunderbolt 4 functionality? I picked up an h874 last year which has been great, but I would prefer to have thunderbolt connectivity instead of fiddling with a 10gbe expansion card which has had middling results thus far.

      19. I would like to add a few (hardware/software) experiences/advisories;
        It might not be clear, but per TB port on the QNAP, it is one user. (obviously, I would say)
        Also, the order(!) of connecting any other(!) TB hardware is very, very important;
        If you have other (non-QNAP) hardware, they *must* be connected to your (TB) client/machine first.
        And thus the TB-enabled QNAP should always be connected last in your (existing) TB-chain.
        As QNAP is connecting to your client as a, what I have understand, DAS over IP.
        You can also use the existing TB-connection of the QNAP (to your TB-enabled Client/machine) to “share” the (other) ethernet-connection of the QNAP, so you have also an internet-connection (over TB), simplifying the wiring. However, if your Client/machine also has its own ethernet-connection, depending on your platform(OS), it might be that your Client/Machine will have preference to the TB connection over the ethernet-connection. That might be undesirable under certain circumstances. So far, the only solution I have found is to temporary disconnect the TB connection between your Client/Machine and the TB-enabled QNAP.
        And finally, as many will know, TB cable is 3 meters in maximum length. Should you need longer cables, you can opt for so-called optical TB-cables (up to 300 meters, I believe) that are rather expensive.
        In practice, TB can become quite expensive or sometimes unpractical, perhaps 10GBe can be a good alternative.

      20. I see you put the system install on the RAID 5 with four HHD. I heard that it is best to install the system onto the NVMe drive. Is this true? I put mine on a RAID 1 on the internal M.2 PCIe NVMe slots but would rather have that space for PC to NAS and NAS to PC file accessing if you think I can just use any pool.

      21. Great video, I love the NAS. I had a question. With this system, what is the best use of the on board NVME drives? I mainly use my TVS-1282 as a Plex device now. I also have a GPU installed that helps with 4k. Would there be any big benefit to using a GPU in this NAS or is that even possible without removing the installed thunderbolt 4 card? Thanks for any help you can offer and please continue making these videos ????

      22. I am replacing a server acting as a DC for a school / nursery and I don’t want to pay windows licences, so I ended up with a Synology DS1621+ to act as a DC and file server. 6 bays is enough, but i cannot really see the need to spend £4k unless you run multiple VMs ( i spent £860 for the box and a 140 quid to upgrade the ram and add 2x NVMEs ). i run 2 windows VMs and a couple of dockers on it without issues, just don’t see how the cost is justified.

      23. yeah well, you could also buy a real server with this money and put in one of those mellanox connect-x 4 25 gbps card in. cards/modules/om3 optic cables are very afforable these days. especially compared to this nas, and then you have a proper real server.

      24. One major issue is that Qnap has yet to adopt to AFP, in my world, I add fast nvme formatted to AFP to use maximum speed, just to realize that I can’t connect that media straight to the NAS and use HBS3, instead I have to have my MacX as a go between. Adopting to afp and USB-C at HBS3 one-click port would solve a lot of issues and future proofing the workflow.

      25. After watching a previous video, I bought the h874 ( non – T model ). I run a Windows VM that is up 24/7 . When running a VM like this, is it possible and/or advisable to run the VM off an SSD to keep down the wear and tear on the HDD’s ?

      26. We now have a few of this QNAP model, we opted for the i7 version as the i9 version was needing special-order and thus more time to arrive. We also opted for the non-TB4 version as in our applications, 10GBe is sufficient at the moment.
        Plus TB4 has a few drawbacks; cable-length is rather limited (3 metres) unless you go for the really expensive optical cables.
        Plus with the TB implementation, the QNAP’s really act (almost) as if they are DAS-attached. Whilst that is not really a big issue unless you are using more TB-enabled hardware, than the order(!) of how you daisy-chain the TB-enabled devices becomes really important! (spoiler alert: often you will need to attach the NAS as the last one in the chain)
        I strongly recommend to get a try-and-buy before you opt for the TB-option if that fits your own TB application.
        BTW, the reason the heatsinks are not that big is the fact you do not need bigger heatsinks as one should only(!) put a heatsink on the controller-chip of your SSD’s, not on the flash-chips themselves.
        Yes, a TB4 cable should be included but never has been with any TB itterations of QNAP (we have them all, there were never TB cables included). But then TB cables are not that expensive, you do not need the super-duper extremely expensive Apple version (for example). There are several video’s on YT testing and comparing cheap & expensive TB cables, made no difference. Same goes for HDMI cables, it is digital signals, it often comes down to the quality of the cable and/or connectors.

      27. Ok. Thank you for the video. I own several TB DAS devices. I’ve been looking at adding a NAS but I don’t understand why I might want a TB NAS or a NAS with just 10GbE ports on my network. Any help here?

      28. I have a question, can I connect (G-Raid 3 12TB TB3 DAS) to (QNAP TVS-872XT) via TB3 for added Storage? And also be accessible to all users using 10GbE/other TB3 connectors?
        I have been looking for the answer and you kinda confirmed it (Generally) here: 17:17. In other words, can I chain my DAS using my NAS.
        Thanks a lot for that informative video.

      29. I’m glad I found this video. I just need bulk storage just for myself. I almost bought a NAS but hesitated because I didn’t want the networking function at all and it was even troublesome because I didn’t want the security headaches