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QNAP TS-669L 6-Bay NAS Review

QNAP TS-669L 6-Bay NAS Review

QNAP's new "L" designation means great performance with a lower price point. If you're shopping for a large capacity NAS, but don't have a large budget, read our review of the QNAP TS-669L 6-Bay NAS.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, May 6 2013 2:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: QNAP

Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 127 IMAGES

I'm often asked about bang for the buck NAS servers. No one wants to pay more for less, so getting a large volume of features, while retaining some volume in your wallet, is universal. When it comes to included features, QNAP takes the cake. QNAP's hardware and software features routinely outrank other products on the market, but the high feature count usually means paying a higher price.

QNAP recently addressed the price discrepancies with the new "L" designated product. You'll find the new low-cost products with an "L" in the model name, replacing the Pro found in similar products. Today we're looking at the QNAP TS-669L, a near replica to the TS-669 Pro.

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As you can see in the image above taken from Google shopping, the 669L has a lower cost of ownership when compared to the 669 Pro. Looking over the two spec sheets at QNAP's website, we found only a few hardware differences between these two models. First, the LCD display and buttons for PC-less configuration are removed. In addition, the drive sleds are a bit different - the lower cost 669L does not ship with locking drive sleds. Aside from those features, the 669L is identical to the 669 Pro, according to QNAP's website.

For many, the TS-669L is just what's needed, especially if you have a media center replacement in mind. Without a display, you don't have the distraction when watching movies, and the new media center functions are pretty amazing.

Hardware Specifications and Pricing

Modern NAS servers have moved beyond data storage through a wire network. In order to get the most out of a NAS you need to look at the extra I/O hardware and the mountain of potential software features.

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As we mentioned in the introduction, the QNAP TS-669L has the same hardware and software features as the much more expensive TS-669 Pro, other than the display and locking drive sleds. At the heart of the NAS is an Intel Atom 2.13GHz dual-core processor that's fed by 1GB of DDR3 RAM. Over the last several months we've seen the 2.13GHz Atom in a number of NAS products, and it's become the standard for SOHO / SMB products.

The TS-669L has a number of I/O ports for connectivity. To the network, you have two gigabit Ethernet ports that can run teamed or deliver storage on two separate networks. The unit also has dual USB 3.0 ports as well as five USB 2.0 ports. Two eSATA ports on the back of the NAS also extend the storage capacity that starts with six HDD bays.

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The QNAP TS-669L also has a new feature that you may not associate with NAS products, an HDMI port for A/V functions. NAS HDMI was introduced nearly a year ago at Computex 2012, but it took the NAS makers a little time to program quality software for it. Now your NAS can play movies, music and pictures on your TV, just like a standalone media player or media center. QNAP sells an optional remote control, but you can also use your Android or iOS device as a remote to control the onscreen media functions. These functions built upon the other smartphone / tablet software packages that work to monitor or control QNAP NAS functions.

After an extensive search on Google shopping, we found the QNAP TS-669L available for as little as $780 in the US at the time of writing, which is roughly $200 less than the TS-669 Pro.

Software Features

NAS products are equal parts hardware performance and software features. One compliments the other in a balanced product. You need more hardware performance to run more software features at the same time.

Just because a NAS has the ability to run SQL doesn't mean the hardware will let you run SQL at a high rate of speed while a user downloads Bit Torrent, watches YouTube and decompress an NZB file.

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It's really difficult to find words after a feature list like that. Extensive, to the point of being flamboyant, maybe? Those are just the official features. More software packages are available from the QPKG Center.

Packaging

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If you're shopping for a NAS for the first time it's important to know that some big box retailers like Fry's usually have some products on the shelves. When shopping in the retail jungle, you want to learn every detail about a product in this price range before making a decision on what model to buy. QNAP does a good job with their retail package.

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We found nearly every detail (other than performance) just by reading each side of the package.

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QNAP has one of the best inner packages on the market with a very liberal amount of protective foam around the NAS.

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Inside we found a printed quick installation guide, a note to download the latest firmware, a software disk and mounting screws for the drives.

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On the cable side, we received two Ethernet cables and a power cable.

QNAP TS-669L

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Here we get our first look at the TS-669L. Although there is a place for a LCD display like the TS-669 Pro, this model doesn't have one. For me, it took a bit to get use to not having a display, I kept seeing the face of the NAS and thinking it was off. Also, the 669L uses different drive sleds that further reduces the price of the unit. The included drive sleds don't lock like many of the others found in the QNAP product lineup.

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Just below the power button is a special USB 2.0 port that's encapsulated by a copy button. This allows the user to plug in a USB drive and hit the button to quickly and easily backup the contents of the external storage device.

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The 669L doesn't have a full LCD display, but there are LED status lights that show the system is on, as well as LAN, USB and eSATA activity.

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The NAS is keyed for SATA drives only so you can't use SAS drives in the 669L. The 669 Pro model is limited to SATA drives as well.

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Most of the I/O ports are on the back of the NAS. Dual 120mm fans keep the HDDs and NAS circuitry cool. The built-in power supply has a small fan built in to keep the power supply cool The NAS is very quiet, even during the start up sequence. It's quiet enough to place on or under your main computer desk.

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There are six USB ports on the back of the NAS, two USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0. Dual eSATA and dual gigabit Ethernet ports give you a lot of options for connectivity.

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The latest feature on NAS products like the QNAP TS-669 is HDMI. This feature when paired with free software turns your NAS into a power media center with 1080p video and surround sound audio.

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The built-in power supply distributes 240 watts, more than enough for six HDDs plus all the USB ports filled.

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The included 1GB DDR3 memory stick is mounted on the inner side of the motherboard and it's not easy to access.

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I like how QNAP glues SODIMM in place. Other connections on the motherboard are also hot glued so they can't dislodge during shipping.

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The TS-669L is user upgradeable to 3GB of DDR3. To get there just leave the 1GB SODIMM in place and add a 2GB SODIMM stick to the easy access connector on the other side of the motherboard.

Configuration Menus

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Mouse over to enlarge.

Test System Setup

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Our NAS test 'system' has migrated to a full 45u rack like what you'd find in a datacenter. There are ten servers that attack the target NAS with 120 Hyper-V installations of Windows 7 64-bit, each with a dedicated gigabit Ethernet port. The systems feed to three Extreme Networks Summit 400-48 switches that link together via Extreme Network's proprietary link cable system. One switch has a two 10GbE Xenpak adapters installed. When testing NAS products with 10GbE capability, the NAS connects to the switch via single or dual 10GbE courtesy of an Intel X520-SR2 installed in the NAS.

This level of testing wouldn't be possible without the help and support from several companies, many of which have little to do with NAS products. We would like to thank AVADirect, Antec, Corsair, Gigabyte, Icy Dock, Kingston, LSI, Noctua, Rosewill and Western Digital for their much-appreciated support.

Intel NASPT

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct measurement of home network attached storage (NAS) performance. Designed to emulate the behavior of an actual application, NASPT uses a set of real world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications. Traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more provide a broad range of different application behaviors.

TweakTown Custom 120-Client Office Test

The TweakTown Custom 120-client Office Test uses 120 Windows 7 Hyper-V installations and custom software to stress each NAS with traces from Microsoft Office tasks. Both throughput (in Mbits per second) and latency (in milliseconds) are measured.

Western Digital RED - The NAS HDD

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TweakTown uses Western Digital RED 1TB hard drives for all of our NAS tests. You can read our full review of the Western Digital RED 1TB here.

Benchmarks - 1 HDD / JBOD

JBOD: A single or combined multiple drives and capacities linked together to form a single drive.

Note - No Data Redundancy

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

One of the easiest ways to start with a NAS is to purchase your NAS and use an existing drive until more HDDs are purchased.

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 0

RAID 0: Normally used to increase performance and useful for setups such as large read-only NFS servers where mounting many disks is time-consuming or impossible and redundancy is irrelevant.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 10

RAID 10: A Stripe of Mirrors. Multiple RAID 1 mirrors are created and a RAID 0 stripe is created over these.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 5

RAID 5: Use block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 6 and Single Client Wrap-up

Benchmarks - 4 HDD / RAID 6

RAID 6: Extend RAID 5 by adding an additional parity block; thus it uses block-level striping with two parity blocks distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Single Client Performance Wrap-up

While the QNAP TS-669L didn't win many of the single client performance tests, it still delivered solid performance. The tests we're most concerned with are RAID 5 and RAID 6.

Most users will run a redundant mode in their home or office. RAID 5 is the sweet spot for performance, but RAID 6 gives additional data redundancy, at the cost of usable capacity.

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

The Intel NAS Performance Tool (NASPT) is an excellent way to determine NAS performance in a single user environment. Any review that only uses NASPT assumes that only a single computer will access the target NAS at one time. We took issue with this method of testing and spent over a year designing, building, programming and finally validating the TweakTown Multi-Client Test.

The test uses Microsoft Office data recorded to traces and played back to the NAS from up to 120 client Windows 7 installations (clients). We record total throughput of all clients and average response time per client.

Over time we'll populate the two multi-client charts with several NAS products from a span of categories. The products range from a dual Xeon server with 2x 10GbE to a 2-bay NAS with a single gigabit Ethernet connection. The products will fall into their performance categories based on performance and not marketing material or opinion.

Throughput

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In the previous two reviews, I received a couple of emails about the Thecus N8900 in the chart. Its performance is quite a bit higher than the others and that's because it's running 10GbE and not gigabit Ethernet. Eventually we'll have to divide the products, but for now we want to show what's possible if you have the means to invest in hardware.

In a way, this is a marketing document to show what we've achieved over the last 13 months. Our maximum performance with a dual Xeon system and SSDs is over 9K Mbps throughput. Look for a full report on this test and watch for incremental evolutions like power over time during the full test and Mbps per Dollar, IOPS per Dollar and so forth.

The QNAP TS-669L has the lowest throughput on our chart, but our chart is filled with a mix of products that span different categories. The TS-669L is a low-cost model and the only 'budget' NAS on the list at this time. QNAP's current programming (firmware) seems to favor large sequential file transfers like what home users need. This test uses Microsoft Office files that are smaller file sizes.

The QNAP software allows the administrator or home user to tune the performance by selecting the RAID stripe size when building the array. In our test we always select the default stripe size.

Latency

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The QNAP TS-669L also produced the highest latency in all of the tests. This again comes down to tuning. As we get deeper into the R&D of the test, we'll be able to tune products for best case performance.

Final Thoughts

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When I explain what a NAS is to family and friends everyone's ears perk up, that is until they hear the price. To be honest, I'm not all that comfortable with reviewing these products. The reviews already take a very long time to write, and the tests take quite a while as well. Even though we have 14 pages dedicated to the QNAP TS-669L we've covered maybe 15% of the features in the text. I'd estimate 100% coverage would take roughly six months with other product reviews happening at the same time. That could be reduced to a month by focusing exclusively on one product, but one review a month doesn't pay the bills.

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How do you really define a NAS today? Is it a redundant storage device that just so happens to do 60 other tasks as well? The truth is, it is a redundant storage device that's been turned into a media center, cloud storage, database server, download station and at least 54 other devices including (with a little work) a desktop computer.

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In the image above, we see the LAN side of the NAS, connecting your digital world on one side of the internet.

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On the other side of the router, the cloud side you have many of the same functions without being secured to a physical location.

QNAP has redefined what a NAS is and did in a very short period of time. The first NAS I ever reviewed came from a company called Anthology Solutions and the unit was a Yellow Machine. The NAS held four HDDs that weren't hot swap capable and had very few features outside of storing data. It really wasn't that long ago, but the leap in features and technology between Ol' Yellow and the QNAP TS-669L is like the difference between living in Antarctica and on the equator.

The one area that hasn't changed much over the last eight years is the one thing holding the technology back from mass adaption in the home - the price. The Yellow Machine cost $1299 in 2005 with four 250GB HDDs, 1TB of total capacity. The QNAP TS-669L with six 1TB Western Digital Red HDDs would comes in at $1260 (estimated WD RED 1TB price at $80). The feature list over the last eight years has increased by an immeasurable amount, but price has remained steady.

When looking at the large upfront investment, it's a tough bill to swallow. What most people don't realize is that NAS products live for a very long time. Even the HDDs inside last a long time since your NAS doesn't go through start and stop procedures, as often as desktops or notebooks. The Anthology Yellow Machine is still alive with three of the four original HDDs in daily use at Zac O'Vadka's parents house (our PSU reviewer). Although the initial hit to the wallet is quite high in computer component terms, the long life span mitigates the cost. I've always suggested starting out with three HDDs and build your NAS through the migration feature when more capacity is needed. With today's 3TB and 4TB drives, it may take you quite a while to need more storage space, but the incremental increase in capacity is also larger, and that also helps to reduce the total cost over time.

The QNAP TS-669L is a solid product that should be looked at as an investment that will give you several years of service. QNAP products evolve as software features come to market, another nice addition that strengthens the long-term investment theory. The TS-669L is one of the best starting points on the market today for users looking to reduce the initial cost of ownership. The throughput performance is down a bit to some of the competition, but that is an issue that's just a firmware away, if QNAP addresses the issue.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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