When QNAP first released a high-performance NAS with hot-swappable 3.5" and 2.5" bays the market took notice. The system set new standards for performance with advanced cache options, as well as a secondary array using flash-based drives. These systems are more like two NAS in one with one dedicated to cold storage using 3.5" drives, and a hot data area using SSDs. The magic starts when you mix the two with QNAP's auto performance tiering software called Qtier. Now, the technology comes in more affordable designs and that's what we're looking at today.
The QNAP TS-963X sells for just $611.26 (2GB memory model, 8GB costs $809.99 - Amazon) and features five 3.5" and four 2.5" drive bays. The system begs you to compare it to products from other NAS manufacturers that may offer a performance-focused 5 or 6 bay at this price, but nothing as advanced as the TS-961X.
All of that storage performance will need to escape the system at some point, and QNAP takes care of that with a pair of Ethernet ports. We hope you have your network ready because the TS-963X comes with a dedicated 10-gigabit port that also supports the new 5GbE and 2.5GbE standards. The second port on the system supports gigabit speeds.
The low power AMD GX-420MC quad-core is the heart of the new QNAP TS-963X. The processor operates at 2GHz and features a four-core design. The TS-963X-8G we're testing today ships with 8GB of system memory in a single SO-DIMM module. The TS-963X-2G costs less but only ships with a single 2GB SO-DIMM. Both systems support up to 16GB via dual 8GB modules as an upgrade.
What sets this system apart from traditional NAS shipping today is the disk arrangement. The TS-963X is essentially a 9-bay NAS that sells for a 5/6-bay price. Users can configure the system a number of ways but two standout as the most obvious. Users can use QNAP's Qtier feature that shuffles data across the drives based on hot and cold storage. Users would need to load hard disk drives into the 3.5" bays, and flash-based storage in the 2.5" drive bays.
The other arrangement uses the same drive division, but operates as two separate storage pools. With Qtier, the user doesn't need to manage the location of the data, it's autonomous. In the second, users would need to put the frequently used data on the flash and the cold data on the HDDs. Both have advantages based on your personal or office's workload.
This series don't support direct multimedia use (HDMI to your TV) but does feature a line out for audio. Additional IO includes two USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports with one on the front used to copy data to the NAS via a one-touch function that makes backup of portable devices as easy as hitting a button.
This series also supports the new NBase-T network technology with speeds of 10, 5, and 2.5 gigabit as well as more traditional 1-gigabit and 10/100-megabit. There is one Nbase-T port and one-gigabit port so users can operate the NAS on two networks.
Pricing, Warranty, And Endurance
We found the TS-963X systems available from a large number of resellers with a wide range of prices. Amazon carries this series and shows the 8GB memory model for $809.00 with free Prime delivery. The 2GB model sells for just $611.26, also on Amazon.
QNAP backs the series with a limited 2-year warranty in the USA.
A Closer Look
QNAP uses this unique design on a handful of pedestal NAS that allows the company to scale the drive count to levels we usually only see in rackmount systems. The pedestal form factor allows the company to place detailed status lighting for the drives and network letting end users visually spot reliability issues with a quick glance of the hardware.
The front USB 3.0 has a unique feature that allows users to plug in a device, like a cell phone, tablet, or portable storage drive, and back the data up to the NAS by simply pressing the copy button.
The drive sleds do not lock with a key but do feature a slide mechanism that makes it more difficult to accidentally open the door.
Most of the IO ports are on the back of the system. The round perforation area isn't for a fan. A small speaker sits behind it, and the NAS will talk to you when booting or shutting down.
We noticed the depth and density of the isolation pads on the bottom of the system. This keeps the NAS populated with drives from vibrating your desk or other platform.
The drive sleds are tool-less for most drives. You will need to use the supplied screws to mount 2.5" drives in the 3.5" sleds, but pairing the right drive in the right sled cuts installation time significantly from the old method where each drive required four screws.
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