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The Zimacube NAS Teardown (Early Review)

Par : Rob Andrews
10 novembre 2023 à 15:18

The ZimaCube NAS – Teardown of the Prototype

This article marks the beginning of a three-part series focusing on the ZimaCube NAS Prototype by Ice Whale. In this first installment, we conduct a hardware-only teardown of the prototype, providing a factual and detailed analysis of its construction and design elements. Our aim is to present an objective view of the ZimaCube’s physical attributes, examining how it is assembled and the quality of its components. As part of our comprehensive coverage, we will closely inspect the ZimaCube’s storage configurations, cooling systems, and overall build quality. This teardown is intended to offer a clear understanding of the device’s hardware capabilities, setting the stage for subsequent evaluations of its software and performance in the later parts of this series. The ZimaCube NAS Prototype has been designed to offer a balance of storage capacity and compactness, and our teardown will assess how well these design goals have been achieved. We will explore the intricacies and technical aspects of the prototype, providing insights into the potential strengths and limitations of this new NAS solution in a straightforward and precise manner.

The Zimacube NAS Kickstarter Project is now LIVE and you can find out about it HERE

IMPORTANT – Please note that while the ZimaCube prototype we’re examining is representative of the solution being promised by Ice Whale, it’s important to remember that this product is still in active development and currently undergoing crowdfunding. As with any project in this stage, there are inherent uncertainties and potential changes that could occur as development progresses. Consequently, while we aim to provide an accurate overview of the prototype’s current state, the final product may differ from what is presented. Additionally, as with all crowdfunding initiatives, there is an element of risk involved for backers and potential buyers.

Disclaimer – Where are the Power and Noise Tests?

This article is about taking the ZimaCube NAS apart and finding out more about its hardware architecture. There will be users arriving at this guide who are going to want to know why I have not included temperature tests of the system when in operation and power consumption tests. These are definitely, definitely going to be tests I’m going to perform; however, a large part of the effectiveness of these and the measurable benchmarks is going to be heavily focused on the efficiency of the Casa OS running on this hardware. The Casa OS NAS software has already been around for a few years in the Zimaboard and Zimablade systems, and the ZimaCube prototype I received included this software. However, Ice Whale have told me that a more featured and system-developed version of this software is being rolled out with the ZimaCube, which arrives with significantly more horsepower across both its standard and pro versions than the previous two Ice Whale single board server NAS devices. Therefore, measuring the performance and efficiency of this system with the software it currently arrives with would not be a fair test, and therefore I am holding back on these more operational focus tests for when the intended software update is rolled out.

ZimaCube NAS N100 Teardown Start

The ZimaCube system was not shipped to me in the retail packaging, but rather in a plain brown box with protective foam surroundings. Nevertheless, the system did arrive with the enclosure completed, as well as its external PSU included as well. There was no accessories kit, but I am sure this is something that will be addressed much further down the line during intended fulfillment and retail. The chassis was pretty much identical to all images currently shown by the brand on their Kickstarter pages. The chassis is metal on all sides, with each of the ventilation panels in plastic material. The front-mounted panel utilizes a magnetic attachment system in four corners, whereas all other ventilated panels are held in place with hinges hooked into the edges of the enclosure.

As previously discussed, the ZimaCube arrives with six SATA storage bays and an additional PCB tray-loaded module that houses two or four M.2 NVMe SSDs. To access this storage area, the front panel needs to be removed. As much as I like the streamlined and understated aesthetic of the ZimaCube, removing the front panel is not as easy as I would like, and I think a small handle, small separate pull tether or something along those lines would really help in removing this panel in the long term. It is a small complaint, but when you look at similar chassis designs in the Jonsbo N2 and N3, which both use the same understated vented front panel, they include a small fabric protruding element that allows you to remove the case easily. The ZimaCube doesn’t really have any aperture with which you can leverage that front case off easily.

The SATA trays are all pretty high quality, spring-loaded on the handle, and although they cannot be locked, they do feature LEDs running at the base of the tray panel. They are quite a snug fit inside the chassis, and they have definitely used every available millimeter in order to populate this enclosure with six SATA bays and that M.2 module, but nevertheless, these are pretty good quality trays and also include pretty clear instructions for the installation of different types of media.

Removing all of the trays shows us a pretty clean internal backplane. Each of the individual connectors is combined SATA and data, and there seems to be a good surround of ventilation around this internal storage cage. You can make out the two active rear cooling fans which, although beneficial, I will be interested to see how air flows throughout this system and over the motherboard and CPU cooler located above the hard drive cage, as (and I will go into more detail on this later on) these are the only two active cooling fans in this system, which is always good news. Noise-wise is something of a question for the more aggressive i5 pro system.

The M.2 module connects to exactly the same backplane as the rest of the main SATA storage bays but interfaces into a U.2 connector on this board that is slightly out of alignment with the rest of the data bays – nothing wrong with that, and if anything, I’m pleased to see that they have separated it with its own interface and lanes. No doubt. Removing the module is nice and straightforward and is done so with the removal of a single hexagonal screw located on the front. This totally makes sense, as unlike the more hot-swap supported SATA drives, the M.2 caddy is one that is going to be less stable upon hot-swapping attempts.

The U.2 connector that this M.2 caddy interfaces with is largely identical to the SATA connectors, but clearly, this is where space has been at a premium and this module is a little bit more stylized as a 9.5 mm width drive. Nevertheless, injection and removal are very clean and there is little chance of missing the interface during use.

The M.2 PCB contains either two or four drive interfaces, depending on which version of the ZimaCube you choose to use, and I will go into a lot more detail in a later article about lane distribution on these and on the rest of the system. Once again, space is at something of a premium and if you do choose to use M.2 heatsinks in this drive area, you are going to have to utilize moderately low-height ones in order to not interfere with the already full hard drive cage.

On the base of the M.2 module, we find an ASMedia PCIe chip that no doubt is bolstering these individual drives in order to leverage a little bit more lanes and speed. This is not unusual and something we have already observed in the case of the Flashstor from Asustor, but nevertheless, it also confirms that this system is really stretching the availability of those lanes and the speeds afforded to them.

ASMedia PCIe product ASM2812, a low latency, low-cost, and low-power 12-lane, maximum 6 downstream ports packet switch. With upstream PCIe Gen3x4 bandwidth, ASM2812 can enable users to build up various high-speed I/O systems, including server, system storage, or communication platforms. As this is the non-pro version of the ZimaCube system, I cannot confirm yet if this additional PCIe controller is present on that higher-spec device or even if the interface utilizes the same U.2 connectivity. Though I can imagine that they will either be largely similar or pretty much identical. Next, I wanted to remove some of the plates and panels around this system to get a better look at the internal cage of this NAS.

The front panel ports are exactly as Icewhale detailed in their initial Kickstarter details, with the N100 version of the ZimaCube featuring a combination of USB Type A and Type C as needed (as well as audio in/out). The panel just above this is another fully ventilated panel and behind it is the metal chassis that is also completely ventilated throughout. On the ZimaCube Pro, the system benefits from the front-mounted USB-C port being Thunderbolt 4! I will be curious to see how the motherboard factors this in, as well as the potential heat generation associated with heavy TB4 use. Let’s look at the rear panel.

The rear ports of the N100 Zimacube model are all pretty familiar stuff, more USB ports, 2x 2.5GbE network connections and twin visual outputs in the form of a displayport and HDMI (both 4K 60FPS) – though I have yet to confirm if these mirror one another or the software and architecture allows for multiple displays. There is also the PCIe upgrade slot that allows for greater network connectivity. I completely understand why the N100 lacks 10GbE (to a point…), as integrated 10GbE onto this motherboard would be complicated and likely jack the price up – when there are other ways to achieve this for interested users looking at the N100 later. However, I am still a little surprised that the i5 Pro version lacks 10GbE and instead arrives with 4x 2.5GbE. TECHNICALLY this is 10GbE (with the right port trunking/aggregation/SMB Multi/load balancing/etc support), but with this amount of storage bandwidth across HDD and SSD available (even if you limit the M.2 NVMes to 3×1 or 4×1), its a shame that 10GbE isn’t standard in the Pro. Passive ventilation holes are present on pretty much every side and I am particularly pleased to see an especially large ventilation panel on the system’s right side, where you would find the PCIe slot (backers of the more advanced Kickstarter tiers have been looking at the GPU equipped models, with active cooling on board). But, let’s be honest – it’s whats inside that counts! Let’s get those side panels off and have a butchers inside.

Full credit to Ice Whale on the ZimaCube NAS, unlike a lot of more affordable NAS systems that leverage the use of plastic external chassis with metal internal frameworks, the ZimaCube is pretty much all metal, which is going to be great for heat dissipation (though that does mean questions about noise in operation, of course, from vibration). Each side, as well as the top and base panel, are removed via 4 hexagonal screws in either corner. They are hooked in multiple corners and come off easily but also at the same time do feel very securely attached.

Removing both of the side panels allows you to remove the top panel, as these three pieces overlap at the top joints. This reveals a rather snugly fit motherboard. As discussed numerous times here on the blog, as well as in the crowdfunding campaign, I’m sure, this is a pretty compact system for this amount of storage, and although I’m not surprised that the mITX board inside is pretty tightly fitted, I’m still amazed at just how much they’ve packed in here. It’s already pretty apparent why they abandoned the inclusion of an internal PSU here, as notwithstanding the utter lack of space that would have ended up infringing on storage potential, it’s a great deal more elegant for this kind of design to have an external PSU that feeds into a single modest power cable running through the system connected to the mobo and the storage backplane respectively.

As this is the slightly more modest Intel N100 version of the ZimaCube, the CPU fan does not need to be too crazy in comparison to that of the i5. Nevertheless, after running multiple reviews on Topton motherboard built systems, I’m actually quite impressed by the CPU cooler that this system arrives with. Whereas most Topton boards that run on modest Celeron or Pentium processors arrive with an exceptionally low-profile CPU cooler, the N100 here is placed under a much more substantial CPU heatsink and fan. It’s not exactly enterprise-level, of course, but given the economies that this system is designed with in mind, the CPU fan is better than I was expecting. Note, I resisted the urge to remove the CPU fan and take a closer look at the CPU largely because I did not want to compromise future testing of this device. Nevertheless, I will update this article and future articles later with details on this when I run the more evolved Casa OS software and system benchmarks first.

The onboard memory that this prototype arrived with was 8GB of DDR4 non-ECC SODIMM memory. The system features a single SODIMM memory slot and, given this CPU supports a maximum of 32GB, that means one SODIMM slot should be enough. Once again, a lot of more economical systems have a tendency to cut corners and increase efficiency in those systems by opting for pre-soldered individual memory modules attached to the motherboard. This often results in the inclusive memory being more affordable, but also limits any kind of upgrade or flexibility in the amount of memory you need. Therefore, much like the CPU heatsink, I am impressed that they opted for a traditional removable SODIMM slot here.

The Casa OS runs on an included NVMe SSD, in this case, a Samsung 980 Gen 3 SSD. It isn’t a huge SSD in capacity, but then again it does not need to be and once again just goes another step towards keeping this system affordable. It is still too early to say whether, if this system completes its crowdfunding and fulfillment is reached, whether all systems will be utilizing a similar known branded SSD for the operating system – this is once again another area in which some brands will cut corners and go for unbranded SSDs for OS drives. We’ll have to wait and see on that one. As the system is using an mITX motherboard, there are the inevitable question marks around SATA ports. This system has a lot of SATA storage to handle and it is always interesting to see how different NAS developers get around the low number of ports afforded to mITX motherboards. Originally, I assumed that these six storage bays would be connected to an M.2 SATA adapter, or perhaps, an auxiliary board connected at an angle to the base of the motherboard by PCIe. However, on closer inspection of the motherboard inside the ZimaCube, it turns out that this system isn’t even using the available SATA port that it arrives with and instead has a very different method in mind to connect that additional backplane for the SATA drives.

As mentioned in the early promotional materials for this device, there is an additional available M.2 NVMe slot on this motherboard which can be used for further drives for storage, caching, and more depending on the operating system you would intend to use. We are still awaiting further confirmation of how the improved Casa OS is going to manage and allow users to configure storage drives. So the true abilities of this M.2 slot are yet to be confirmed in line with the operating system, as well as support of third-party peripherals too. Nevertheless, this still means that even the N100 model of the ZimaCube is arriving out the gate with six SATA bays and four M.2 bays spread over two different areas of the system. For a price tag of $400 to 500, that is pretty unique in the market. Additionally, closer inspection showed that it wasn’t just a standard M.2 connector, but actually a twin-layered interface that allows you to use not only a standard 2280 length SSD, but also install a much smaller M.2 underneath. Once again, this is not unusual and often some AliExpress motherboards provide this in order to maximize space to add an M.2 network adapter or to use SATA multi-lane M.2 adapters. Although I’ve yet to get full confirmation from Ice Whale that this is a 100% unique board, or a modification of an existing board (or perhaps something in between), it will be interesting to see what is possible with this two-tier M.2 connector.

One slight area of confusion is the PCIe slot on this motherboard. I can appreciate that a lot of the components are going to be shared between the standard N100 version of this system and the pro i5 version, as they’re going to be going through similar methods of mass production if this crowdfunding campaign reaches fruition. However, the initial specifications provided by Ice Whale on this system said that the N100 version arrived with a PCIe Gen 3 x 4 slot. However, the prototype I have here clearly has a much larger speed PCIe physical interface. Now, perhaps this is the speed that is afforded to the system layout and this physical slot is simply a case of them reusing the same components across development on multiple systems. Indeed, when you look at the previous single board servers that this brand produced, these were times four speed PCIe but also included cutouts that allowed you to use larger cards. Therefore, I’ll have to hold out on confirming the PCIe architecture on this system when we do our deeper dive into the backend to see if this is a physical anomaly, or if it is a Gen 4 slot in a x16 physical interface, or maybe even that it has been software downgraded out of necessity. We will have to wait and see.

Flipping the motherboard over shows us a very clean board and no further interfaces. Recently, I’ve looked at some of the pre-made mITX boards available on AliExpress, and some boards have provided additional M.2 interfaces on their base. Needless to say, this is not something present here.

Removing the rear vented panel wasn’t too tricky and revealed two individual active cooling fans. As this system has absolutely tons of ventilation (out of necessity, I’m sure), these two fans are going to have to work pretty darn hard alongside the CPU fan at the top. It’s a very clean installation. The vented panel that lives above these fans, much like the others dotted around this system, is of pretty reasonable quality, I would say, for the price point. It’s definitely plastic and a little bendy, but given the largely exclusive use of metal across the rest of the system, this is absolutely fine.

As mentioned earlier, though, I do have questions about the system temperature on the more aggressive pro version, arriving with a 10 core Intel 12th generation i5 CPU. This teardown is of the much more affordable and comparatively modest N100 version, and I do genuinely believe that the inclusive CPU fan and twin rear fans are more than enough to keep this system cool. But it will be interesting to see if further active and passive ventilation and cooling are required on the more aggressive system and whether these two fans should be further supported by smaller fans in one of the two available panels at the front and back of the motherboard cavity. Equally, until I know for certain what the PCIe speeds are on the M.2 NVMe in that module, it’s hard to say at this time how much of a concern heat dissipation is going to be.

The storage backplane and the main motherboard are connected via a single cable. This really surprised me and was a novel way to get around the traditionally understood limitation of most mITX motherboards having fewer SATA ports. My working knowledge of EDP cables and their bandwidth is pretty slim, and I’m going to have to hit the books a little bit to find out more about the way this system connects these drives to the motherboard.

As mentioned earlier, the two rear fans on the system are the only methods available for active cooling in conjunction with the tons of passive ventilation located across this whole chassis. When you look at the surrounding area where the motherboard is found, there is a ton of passive ventilation available, and I kind of hope that there is at least the option to add further active cooling here, in the event that the i5 runs a little hot. I can’t help but feel that Ice Whale have largely completed development of the N100 model, but the pro series version is still in the closing stages of development. Everything I’m seeing here seems to make a lot of sense and there are some really impressive design choices in order to create a large storage potential box that has a small physical footprint. But nevertheless, I’m not sure a lot of these methods are going to translate one-to-one on the more aggressive system.

The ZimaCube NAS system features a standard external power jack port, a design choice that significantly contributes to its compactness and storage capacity. By opting for an external power supply unit (PSU), the designers were able to maintain the system’s small size while maximizing storage potential. This approach is in stark contrast to using an internal PSU, which would have inevitably increased the physical dimensions of the device, thus limiting its storage capability. Additionally, the external power connector of the ZimaCube is neatly integrated, connecting directly into an adapted cable that runs into the internal boards. This method differs significantly from some of the cheaper NAS cases available on AliExpress, which are built on Topton or similar motherboards. These often rely on internal power management boards for power distribution, a solution that can sometimes seem makeshift and less reliable, as seen in the CWWK AIO-T6 Power board HERE.

The external PSU accompanying the ZimaCube is fairly standard, rated at 220W. While not from a particularly well-known brand, it fits within the norm for such devices, offering sufficient power without the need for brand recognition. This aspect of the ZimaCube is interesting because it reflects a balance between functionality and cost-effectiveness, a crucial consideration for consumer-level NAS devices. However, it’s important to note that there has not been any confirmation on whether this specific PSU model will be the final choice for both the ZimaCube and ZimaCube Pro NAS devices. Such decisions in hardware, especially regarding the PSU, can have significant implications on the overall reliability and performance of the system, making this an area to watch as the ZimaCube moves from prototype to production. The PSU is connected to a mains cable via a 3 pin ‘micky mouse’ connector.

When viewed in its disassembled state, the ZimaCube reveals a thoughtfully designed internal layout, with each component placed to optimize both space and functionality. The image of the device in bits provides a clear view of the internal arrangement, showcasing how each part contributes to the whole. This disassembled view is particularly insightful for understanding the practical implications of design choices like the external PSU. It highlights the space savings and how the internal configuration is tailored to accommodate the unique power delivery method. The decision to use an external PSU, when considered alongside the internal design, underscores the ZimaCube’s balance between compact form factor and robust functionality, a critical aspect for users looking for efficient yet powerful NAS solutions.


ZimaCube NAS N100 Teardown – Conclusion and Verdict

The Ice Whale ZimaCube NAS has real potential to be a noteworthy addition to the compact NAS market right now, as the middle ground between turnkey systems from the likes of Synology & QNAP and full DiY solutions is being split by increasing releases in between!. This prototype showcases a thoughtful internal layout and efficient use of space, particularly in its storage configuration. The innovative design accommodates multiple M.2 and SATA storage bays, maximizing storage potential within a compact form factor. Of particular interest is the cooling system of the ZimaCube. The N100 model demonstrates efficient cooling capabilities, which are crucial given the compact nature of the device. However, the performance of the cooling system in the more powerful i5 model, especially in terms of heat dissipation, remains a point of curiosity and one that will need to be judged on it’s own later on.

The ZimaCube NAS, with its blend of compact design and robust storage options, is poised to be a significant player in the NAS market, especially as this will be the 3rd release by IceWhale (with the ZimaBoard and Zimablade before it meeting largely universally positive responses). As the system hopefully moves from prototype to production, further details about its internal lane allocation, noise levels, system temperature, and power consumption will be vital in understanding its full capabilities.

The upcoming release of the latest Casa OS software will undoubtedly provide deeper insights into the overall performance of the ZimaCube, making it a promising option for those seeking an efficient and powerful NAS solution. As always when we are talking about a device that is built on crowdfunding as its means of production, this prototype needs to be viewed as exactly that – a prototype and a hopeful indication of what is to come. In that regard, I am really impressed with what I am seeing in the ZimaCube N100 model NAS and with it’s crowdfunding entry point hovering around the $400-500 mark for the N100 model (depending on how/when you choose to back), I would certainly consider the NAS I have taken apart today to be worth that price tag – especially factoring it against other 6 Bay NAS systems of a similar architecture right now (and even that does not factor in the unique extras like the 4x m.2 NVMe, 2.5GbE and 8GB memory out the gate).

IMPORTANT – This article will be updated with more information as it is sourced from the prototype. Additionally, a follow-up article and video are in the works to explore the system’s internal lanes allocation, noise levels, system temperature, and power consumption. However, these aspects will be covered in more detail once the latest and most suitable version of the Casa OS software is released, providing a more comprehensive view of the ZimaCube’s performance and capabilities. A quick reminder of the key specifications for both the ZimaCube Quad and ZimaCube Octa models:

 

Model ZimaCube

Zimacube Pro

CPU Intel N100 Intel i5-1235U
Cores 4 Core 10 Core (2P + 8E)
Threads 4 Threads 12 Threads
Clock Speed 1.0-3.4Ghz 0.9-4.4Ghz
Integrated Gfx Intel UHD Graphics, 750Mhx Max Intel Iris Xe Graphics eligible, 1.2Ghz Max
 
Memory 8/16GB* 64GB
Memory Type DDR4 DDR5
SATA slots 6x 3.5”/2.5” 6x 3.5”/2.5”
M.2 NVMe Slots 4+2 4+2
PCIe Slots 1x Gen3x4 1x Gen4x16
Network Ports 2x 2.5GbE 4x 2.5GbE
Thunderbolt No Yes, 2x Type-C
USB Type A 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 6x USB 3.2 Gen 1
USB Type C 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 2x (TB4)
USB 2.0 2X 0
Visual Output HDMI 2.0 and Display 1.4 HDMI 2.0 and Display 1.4
Chassis Size 240 x 221 x 220mm 240 x 221 x 220mm
Power External 220W 19V PSU* External 220W 19V PSU*

This table provides a clear comparison of the two versions of the ZimaCube NAS, highlighting their distinct hardware configurations.

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Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review

Par : Rob Andrews
8 novembre 2023 à 18:00

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review

Here at NASCompares, we’ve seen a myriad of Network Attached Storage devices come and go. Enter the Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS, a unit that piques our interest and promises to redefine the NAS landscape. Designed to cater to a diverse audience – from the meticulous tech hobbyist to the demanding professional – this NAS claims to strike a harmonious balance between power, versatility, and ingenious craftsmanship. Whether you’re a bustling business safeguarding your digital empire, a media maestro in search of expansive storage sanctuaries, or someone merely dipping their toes into the vast NAS waters, our deep dive into the U8-450 is bound to offer insights. We’ll dissect its every aspect, from the outer shell to the heart of its hardware. So, gear up and join us as we unravel what makes this NAS tick and if it’s worthy of the NASCompares spotlight. Let the exploration begin!

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Quick Conclusion

The Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS demonstrates efficient space utilization with its 2U chassis and depth of 38cm. Its innovative features, such as the inclusion of TRAID and the direct integration of ports like the 2x SFP+ 10GbE, are commendable. With a price tag of $999, it provides tremendous value, especially given its robust connectivity options, including 2x 10GbE and 2x 2.5GbE ports. Internally, the device showcases a custom M-ITX board and a fanless CPU heatsink covering the Intel Atom C3558R. While the TOS 5.1 NAS Software has seen notable improvements, it still trails behind Synology DSM and QNAP QTS in terms of smoothness and application breadth. However, Terramaster’s post-Deadbolt enhancements emphasize security. Plus, the device’s compatibility with third-party OS solutions like UnRAID and TrueNAS underscores its flexibility. In conclusion, the Terramaster U8-450 is a potent, adaptable, and value-packed NAS solution. Its strengths in design, hardware, and security make it a robust choice for both new and experienced NAS users.

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


7.8
PROS
👍🏻Surprisingly compact for 8 Bays of Storage
👍🏻Half Depth rackmounts are becoming increasingly popular
👍🏻Dual 10GbE - LOVELY STUFF!
👍🏻Also has support of SMB MultiChannel and an extra 2x 2.5GbE
👍🏻Decent throughput Capable CPU
👍🏻Great RAID Options
👍🏻Snapshot Replication
👍🏻BTRFS/EXT4 Support as preferred
👍🏻A large amount of maximum memory supported at 32GB
👍🏻M.2 SSD Bay inside for caching/storage
👍🏻TOS 5.1 is genuinely good, if not quite as polished/evolved as it\'s competitors
👍🏻Possibly also has a PCIe 3x4 (TBC!)
👍🏻VERY easy to install TrueNAS, UnRAID, Proxmox, OpenMediaVault, etc (and also easy to reverse)
CONS
👎🏻Supports ECC Memory, but not included (might annoy some)
👎🏻Software lacking in comparison to Synology DSM and QNAP QTS
👎🏻NOT QUIET!


Where to Buy a Product
amzamexmaestrovisamaster 24Hfree delreturn VISIT RETAILER ➤ 
amzamexmaestrovisamaster 24Hfree delreturn VISIT RETAILER ➤

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Packaging

Upon first glance, the Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS is encased in a typical brown box. But closer inspection reveals the subtle Terramaster branding, a small but significant touch adding an air of distinction to the overall packaging.

This attention to detail is not just skin-deep. Inside, the NAS is shielded by hard foam on all sides. This robust protection ensures that there’s minimal potential for motion-induced damage during transit, underscoring the brand’s commitment to delivering its product in the best possible condition to users.

Inside the primary box is another smaller one, designed specifically for the accessories. This compartmentalized approach ensures that every component has its place, reducing the risk of damage or scratches. The accessories kit itself is comprehensive, containing an ethernet RJ45 Cat 6 cable, screws suitable for both 2.5” and 3.5” drives, handles for dressing up the chassis front, a user-friendly instruction manual, and pertinent information about the 2-year warranty.

As a bonus, a handy screwdriver is also included, showcasing Terramaster’s thoughtfulness. It’s a bit of an old school addition, but I always like those things…

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Design

The Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS boasts a traditional rackmount 2U chassis, a design familiar to many. However, it sets itself apart with its compact depth of just 38cm. This smaller depth is not just for aesthetics but also offers potential benefits in terms of space-saving and placement flexibility, especially in crowded server rooms or setups with limited depth.

A noticeable feature of its design is the neat configuration of HDDs. They are arranged in two rows, with each accommodating four HDDs. Above this arrangement, an added strip dedicated solely to ventilation ensures that the drives remain cool, promoting longer lifespans and optimal performance. This efficient use of space and focus on ventilation underlines Terramaster’s commitment to marrying form and function.

The system’s flexibility is another commendable aspect. Users aren’t forced to fill up all the slots immediately. Instead, the U8-450 can function with just a lone drive if required, allowing users to populate it over time, as needs and budgets dictate. This flexibility extends to its RAID configurations as well.

Thanks to Terramaster’s innovative TRAID feature, users can mix drive capacities. TRAID intelligently calculates the optimal storage configuration, contrasting with traditional RAID systems that typically demand uniform drive capacities.

When it comes to security, the trays on this model don’t feature locks. However, this minor oversight is compensated by their spring-loaded handles, ensuring easy access and secure placement. Another notable design feature is the combined data+power configuration for all internal SATA ports. This integrated design ensures that there are no loose or dangling wires, promoting better airflow and reduced clutter inside the chassis.

The front of the NAS prominently features a power button, strategically placed for easy accessibility. However, some users might miss having a USB port on the front for quick plug-ins. But Terramaster addresses this by placing two USB ports at the back of the device. The half-depth rackmount design isn’t just a stylistic choice; it mirrors a trend that has gained traction over recent years. An 8-Bay chassis benefiting from this design is especially noteworthy, as it suggests a balance between space efficiency and storage capacity.

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Ports and Connections

The Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS doesn’t skimp on its ventilation. At the rear, you’ll find two adjustable fans, ensuring that the internal components remain cool even under heavy workloads. The TOS software allows users to easily adjust these fans based on their preferences or needs. Not to be outdone, the PSU, rated at 250W, has its dedicated fan, ensuring consistent and optimal power distribution without overheating.

While the device does offer impressive ventilation and cooling, there’s a noticeable omission: the lack of a redundant PSU version. It’s somewhat surprising, especially considering the ample space available within the case. Redundant power supplies are often sought after for their ability to ensure uninterrupted operation, so some professionals might find its absence a bit disappointing.

The NAS also boasts 2x SFP+ 10GbE ports. Instead of being mounted on a standard PCIe card, these ports are directly attached to the internal ITX Mobo. This direct integration can lead to more stable and efficient data transfer rates. And for those considering potential upgrades, the price of SFP+ to RJ45 Copper adapters has become more affordable in recent years, now hovering around the $40-50 range.

Furthermore, the device comes equipped with 2.5GbE x2 ports. Together with the aforementioned 10GbE ports, they support an array of features like link aggregation, port trunking, and SMB MultiChannel. This gives users a versatile range of connection options, ensuring efficient data transfers and network reliability.

In terms of value, the U8-450 stands out prominently. Priced at $999, it offers exceptional value for an 8 Bay Rackmount NAS, especially one that’s half-depth and comes with both 2x 10GbE and 2x 2.5GbE ports. Such a price-performance ratio is hard to find in today’s market.

For expanded connectivity, the NAS features 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) Type A ports. These are versatile and support a range of devices, from storage drives to official Terramaster expansion enclosures. They can also accommodate office hardware such as printers, scanners, UPS systems, and even 2.5G-to-USB Adapters.

However, users looking for visual outputs might be a tad disappointed. The U8-450 lacks an HDMI or any visual output. This is primarily because the CPU doesn’t come with integrated graphics. Moreover, the Terramaster TOS software doesn’t offer an HDMI GUI, focusing more on network-based access and management.

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Internal Hardware

Accessing the internals of the Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS is straightforward. A mere five screws around three sides secure the top lid, making it quite easy for users who need to peek inside or make adjustments.

Once opened, the presence of a custom M-ITX board is immediately noticeable, underscoring the device’s specialized design tailored for its specific use.

Interestingly, the Terramaster TOS NAS Software bootloads not from an internal SSD or HDD, but from an external USB drive. This approach could offer flexibility in software management and potential recovery scenarios.

Dominating the motherboard’s landscape is a large, fanless, black CPU heatsink. Beneath this heatsink lies the heart of the system: the Intel Atom C3558R.

The CPU, which we will delve into shortly, is pivotal for the device’s overall performance. Out of the box, the U8-450 comes equipped with 8GB of DDR4 SODIMM memory. While this may suffice for many users, those with more demanding tasks can upgrade the memory, thanks to the two available slots, up to a maximum of 32GB.

For those keen on fast data access and caching, the motherboard hosts 2x M.2 NVMe SSD slots. These are built on the Gen 3 Architecture. However, Terramaster remains tight-lipped about the exact speed specifications of these slots. The hard drive bays are neatly organized, connected in pairs of fours through a SAS cable to the motherboard.

While two ports on the board cater to each 4x drive set, an intriguing observation is the presence of a spare, unused port.

With a little unofficial modification, this could potentially accommodate an additional 4x 2.5” SSDs within the cavity of the 2U drive chassis design, although it’s worth noting that such modifications are not officially supported by Terramaster.

Further enhancing its potential, the board showcases a Gen 3×4 PCIe slot with a removable backplane. Curiously, Terramaster’s product page remains silent about this slot, but on inspection, it does seem ready for use. Given that the U8-450 employs an M-ITX motherboard, it benefits from a plethora of internal space. This expansive design ensures exceptional ventilation and airflow, vital for maintaining optimal performance and longevity.

However, it’s hard to overlook one particular oversight: the absence of a 2x PSU redundant version. Especially when there’s clearly ample room for such an addition, which would enhance the system’s resilience and appeal to professionals seeking an added layer of backup. With the internals sufficiently examined, it’s time to shift focus to the TOS software.

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review –  Software

TOS 5, the latest software offering from TerraMaster, presents a remarkable leap in functionality and performance.

Key Software and NAS tasks that are supported are:

  • RAID 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD – as well as TRAID, the Flexible RAID configuration
  • Apple Time Machine Backup
  • AI Photo Recognition Tool
  • Multi-client Sync Tool
  • Cloud Migration and Synchronization
  • NAS to NAS Rsync Support
  • Plex Media Server
  • Docker
  • Mail Server
  • Web Server
  • DLNA Media Server
  • WordPress Server
  • Download Server
  • Snapshot Support

This new iteration brings forth more than 50 fresh features and over 600 improvements, demonstrating TerraMaster’s commitment to meeting diverse business needs while enhancing the system’s speed, security, and user experience.

Significantly, the browser access speed in TOS 5 has been supercharged, now operating at a pace 3x faster than before. This boost is largely attributed to its incorporation of progressive JavaScript language and a streamlined framework, ensuring speedy loading and responsive interaction. Such design innovations result in TOS 5 boasting the quickest response time in the entire TOS series, with a performance rate that’s a staggering 300% faster than its predecessor.

From a monitoring perspective, the revamped resource monitor provides real-time, intuitive insights into the system’s performance metrics. Users gain a comprehensive understanding of numerous parameters, from system load to device temperature, with an impressive 30-day historical record. Security is given paramount importance with the introduction of TerraMaster’s unique security isolation mode and the support of the WORM file system, ensuring protection against malicious threats and data tampering.

Storage and backup capabilities have received an overhaul as well. With features such as file deduplication, TRAID elastic array, and optimized storage architecture, users can save up to 40% of storage space. The backup suite is comprehensive, catering to both home users and larger businesses. The introduction of TRAID in TOS 5 provides a flexible RAID solution, similar to Synology’s Hybrid RAID, enabling users to mix drive capacities.

TerraMaster further showcases its versatility by integrating applications for cloud synchronization and data management. The new CloudSync app consolidates multiple cloud drives, while TerraSync ensures efficient data synchronization across users and devices. Additionally, TOS 5 debuts AI-driven photo management with Terra Photos and introduces Docker to its container tools, broadening customization capabilities. To ensure seamless mobile management, the TNAS mobile app has been revamped, aligning with the new features of TOS 5.

The software supports various key NAS tasks and applications, including RAID configurations, Apple Time Machine Backup, Plex Media Server, Docker, and DLNA Media Server, among others. In essence, TerraMaster’s TOS 5 offers a solid foundation for those beginning their NAS journey, though seasoned users might find it a tad streamlined.

In TerraMaster’s TOS 5, it’s evident that the software exhibits considerable advancement and introduces a plethora of impressive features tailored to modern-day needs. However, it’s essential to position this in the broader landscape of NAS solutions. When pitted against the established prowess of Synology DSM and QNAP QTS, certain gaps in TOS 5’s offering become apparent. These industry leaders have already ventured deep into the integration of advanced AI-powered applications, further extending their versatility. Additionally, they possess superior, proprietary VM hypervisor tools that cater to a more seamless virtualization experience.

All in all, while TerraMaster’s TOS 5 has undoubtedly made commendable progress and will cater to a broad array of users, those seeking the zenith of NAS software experiences might find it somewhat wanting. It’s a robust step forward for TerraMaster, but the journey to the pinnacle of the industry is still ongoing.

Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS Review – Conclusion and Verdict

The Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS has been quite the journey to explore, with a rich set of features, a few quirks, and areas ripe for enhancement. Here’s a comprehensive take after delving deep into its offering. Design-wise, its traditional rackmount 2U chassis with a depth of only 38cm indicates efficient space utilization. The inclusion of two rows of HDDs, the introduction of TRAID, and direct integration of ports like the 2x SFP+ 10GbE to the motherboard underscore the brand’s innovation and commitment to performance. When it comes to ports and connections, the NAS doesn’t disappoint. From the rear-mounted fans adjustable via the TOS software to the 2x 10GbE and 2x 2.5GbE ports, it’s built for versatility. Its price point of $999 offers incredible value for an 8 Bay Rackmount NAS, especially given its robust connectivity options.

Internally, the U8-450 boasts a custom M-ITX board, a fanless CPU heatsink that covers the Intel Atom C3558R, and options for memory and SSD expansion. The presence of an unused port even hints at unofficial modding possibilities, highlighting its potential for adaptability. Software-wise, the TOS 5.1 NAS Software has undergone significant enhancements. It’s more intuitive and robust than earlier versions. Yet, it’s worth noting that it hasn’t quite achieved the same seamless experience or breadth of applications as its counterparts in Synology DSM or QNAP QTS. Terramaster’s efforts post the Deadbolt ransomware attacks are evident in the OS’s enhanced security features, a testament to the brand’s commitment to user safety. Moreover, the device’s compatibility with third-party OS solutions like UnRAID and TrueNAS, via USB bootloaders, provides users an avenue for customization and flexibility. The Terramaster U8-450 Rackmount NAS emerges as a potent, adaptable, and value-for-money NAS solution. Its strengths in design, hardware, and security make it a solid choice. While there’s room for improvement in its native software offering, its overall performance, combined with its adaptability, ensures it’s a commendable option for a range of users, from beginners to NAS veterans.

PROS of the Terramaster U8-450 CONS of the Terramaster U8-450
  • Surprisingly compact for 8 Bays of Storage
  • Half Depth rackmounts are becoming increasingly popular
  • Dual 10GbE – LOVELY STUFF!
  • Also has support of SMB MultiChannel and an extra 2x 2.5GbE
  • Decent throughput Capable CPU
  • Great RAID Options
  • Snapshot Replication
  • BTRFS/EXT4 Support as preferred
  • A large amount of maximum memory supported at 32GB
  • M.2 SSD Bay inside for caching/storage
  • TOS 5.1 is genuinely good, if not quite as polished/evolved as it’s competitors
  • Possibly also has a PCIe 3×4 (TBC!)
  • VERY easy to install TrueNAS, UnRAID, Proxmox, OpenMediaVault, etc (and also easy to reverse)
  • Supports ECC Memory, but not included (might annoy some)
  • Software lacking in comparison to Synology DSM and QNAP QTS
  • NOT QUIET!

Click the link below to take you to your local Amazon store and where to buy the terramaster T9-450 NAS.

 

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Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] TRY CHAT Terms and Conditions
If you like this service, please consider supporting us. We use affiliate links on the blog allowing NAScompares information and advice service to be free of charge to you.Anything you purchase on the day you click on our links will generate a small commission which isused to run the website. Here is a link for Amazon and B&H.You can also get me a ☕ Ko-fi or old school Paypal. Thanks!To find out more about how to support this advice service check HEREIf you need to fix or configure a NAS, check Fiver Have you thought about helping others with your knowledge? Find Instructions Here  
 
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UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – An Installation Guide

Par : Rob Andrews
6 novembre 2023 à 18:00

How to Install UnRAID on a QNAP NAS Drive in 15mins

Of all the different Network Attached Storage software that is discussed online, one the most unsung heroes of the DiY server scene is UnRAID. It was created like many software solutions—by a software engineer who was trying to solve his own problem. In the early 2000’s, the challenge was how to store, access, and have a reliable backup for significant amounts of media – whilst maintaining a low system resource overhead! At the time, RAID technology was available, but it came with a lot of restrictions that were untenable for consumers and huge resource use of performance requirements that made a 24×7 operation an uphill struggle. Fast forward to 2022 and although there are many, many other NAS server software applications on the market, UnRAID has a solid following of users that want a hugely flexible and customizable server system in their hands that is built the way THEY want it. UnRAID is a powerful operating system that allows sophisticated media aficionados, gamers, and other intensive data users to have ultimate control over their data, media, applications, and desktops. Best of all, Unraid allows you to use just about any combination of hardware that you wish, giving you the freedom to customize and maximize your systems to precisely fit your needs. So, where does QNAP NAS fit into this? Surely they are a turn-key NAS hardware+software solution? UnRAID is just the software? Well, many users who are less versed in the world of I.T and storage hardware, who nevertheless find the UnRAID features desirable, might not be as confident when it comes to choosing the right components and building their systems. That is why the QNAP NAS series is particularly appealing. Alongside the price point, value and scale of hardware in 2022 being one of the best in the market right now, the system also is also considerably easier to format towards new software. Although QNAP NAS arrives with QTS/QuTS (which is a solid piece of software on it’s own and included in the cost of your system), it is surprisingly straightforward to change the software it runs on from QTS/QuTS to UnRAID (with reversing this back to the 1st party software also very, VERY easy). So, today I want to walk you through how to mod your QNAP NAS to run UnRAID, what you need and ultimately help you make the most of your system. Let’s begin.

UnRAID Software on QNAP NAS Hardware – What You Need?

It is worth highlighting that having just a QNAP NAS is not quite enough and in order to get UnRAID up and running on a QNAP NAS requires a few extra checks and use of a few items you might have already in the home/office, or a quick $10 shop online at most. In order to upgrade your system to UnRAID, you will need to consider/have the following:

 

  • I recommend not using a USB larger than 32GB, due to the constraints of 1st party software to format larger than this in FAT32. Don’t be tempted to spend like $2 more for a 64GB, as the UnRAID installation will occupy the full USB space (as you will create a system-image-USB) and space is utterly irrelevant when the UnRAID installation is so small
  • A basic USB Keyboard (example HERE but really, any will do) and an HDMI Monitor (or simply any device that has an HDMI input – NOT output) such as a TV or Capture card
  • Hard Drive and/or SSD media (you should already have these, but just in case) for your storage
  • OptionalDownload Advanced IP Scanner HERE, as it is a really useful tool for analyzing your network and finding your new UnRAID NAS for remote access

That is about it. Most of these (maybe not the USB drive at that physical size) you will almost certainly already have to hand.

Can I Reverse the UnRAID Installation and go back to QNAP QTS/QuTS?

Almost certainly YES! I say ‘almost certainly’, as there is one small caveat. When you make the change from Terramster QTS/QuTS to UnRAID on the NAS hardware, the drives (HDD and/or SSD) inside are formatted to UnRAID pools and used in the new system software. This works both ways if you want to revert back to QTS/QuTS on the NAS too. So, although the act of reinitializing the NAS to its original software is very easy (simply needing you to remove the UnRAID USB, rebooting and then changing the internal BIOS options from USB to the QNAP OS SSD internally), it will mean that any data that resides on the disks inside will be formatted. So, if you are choosing to make a change from one NAS OS to another, make sure you have your data appropriately backed up elsewhere. So, let’s begin the installation of UnRAID on the QNAP NAS.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 1, Download UnRAID

Head to the UnRAID website HERE and download the latest stable release of the software to your local PC, Linux or Mac system. Make sure to remember where you downloaded it. You CAN recommend the USB creator tool and that can allow you to create a system image of the UnRAID loader, but some users have highlighted that compatibility issues with some USB sticks and capacities have been highlighted. So, that is why I recommend scrolling down and downloaded the latest stable release of UnRAID to your local PC/Mac system.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 2, Preparing the USB

Connect the small form factor USB Drive to your system (again, this is the one I used from Sandisk) and after a few seconds, it should appear as an available USB Drive. The drive MAY need formatting (you will be prompted to do so), if that is the case, then you can format it via the system prompts and by default, it will format it to FAT32 (as long as your USB is less than 32GB). If you are not presented with a system prompt to format your USB, then you can head into My PC, or My Computer via a windows computer and right-click the drive, select ‘format’ and format it that way. IMPORTANT – Make sure in the ‘volume label’ or Drive Label field, you call the drive UNRAID (all in caps and no spacing)

If you have used the USB for other things previously, there is a chance that the drive has existing partitions in place. For that, the quickest way to completely remove any partitions is to open up the bottom-left windows system menu as normal, and then just type diskpart and open the command-line GUI tool. From there, use the command list disk to show the available drives that are connected, you will see your USB (normally disk 1 or 2, but can differ depending on your system layout and can be spotted by the storage amount). From there, type select disk # (where # is the drive number that your USB is shown as) and then type clean, which which will then remove any index structure for the drive (i.e the partitions and existing format) and then you can go back to the My Computer/My PC page and format the drive to FAT 32 as normal.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 4, Creating a USB Loader Image of UnRAID

Now that your USB has been prepared for the UnRAID USB setup, the next thing you need to do is move the appropriate installation files over to it. Find the .zip UnRAID Server installation you downloaded earlier on your PC/Mac system.

Then use the 1st party extractor tool or 3rd party tools such as WinRAR, then extract the contents of the downloaded .zip to the UNRAID USB drive (DO NOT CREATE ANY ADDITIONAL FOLDER STRUCTURE)!

REMEMBER! This will completely format your USB drive and any files that are on that USB will be destroyed. The process upto this point will have turned the USB into a pure boot image tool – the USB will not be usable for traditional storage again unless you completely format it again.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Setting the UnRAID USB to be a bootable Drive for the NAS

Now that you have the files extracted onto the UNRAID USB drive, you need to go into the folder structure and right-click the .bat file ‘make_bootable’, then select ‘run as Administrator’. This will open a new cmd window.

In this new CMD window, you simply need to press any button and the bootable batch file will do it’s thing in less than a second. Press any button again to exit the CMD window. Next, we need to amend a folder to ensure the drive is picked up as a bootable drive in the QNAP mobo.

File the folder labelled ‘EFI-‘ and then rename it ‘EFI’. That’s all, there is nothing else left to change.

You can now safely remove the USB using the contextual system options on Windows/Mac systems and then prepare to install the USB inside the QNAP NAS.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 7, Connecting the USB, Keyboard and HDMI Monitor

Next, we need to connect the external means to install UnRAID on the QNAP NAS. Unlike when you set up your QNAP NAS for the first time, UnRAID cannot typically be installed via the network like QTS. UnRAID requires you to use a KVM (keyboard, Video Mouse – though you won’t need a mouse!) and go through the installation using a low-res graphical user interface. Now you will ONLY need this setup/items for the installation and initialization of your UnRAID server and after that, you will be able to use the server over the network/internet as normal. You are going to need a basic USB Keyboard (not a Bluetooth or wireless one, as these may need drivers to run and you cannot install drivers at this point) and an HDMI Monitor/TV. You CAN use a mouse, but it is not hugely necessary and 99% of the choices in the setup of UnRAID can/will be via keyboard input. Also, I would also recommend connecting the NAS to the network during setup as this will allow the system to assume certain network values during setup that will save a tonne of time later. Once that is all connected, do NOT turn the NAS on yet – there is one small and slightly time-sensitive thing to do.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 8, Accessing the BIOS Menu of your QNAP NAS

Now that your QNAP NAS is all connected and you are ready at your keyboard/Monitor, turn the NAS on and wait till you hear a beep (should take between 5-15secs depending on the QNAP NAS). As soon as your hear that noise (and likely see a flashing character or underscore on the monitor screen), you need to continuously hit the ESC / F12 / F2 and/or DEL keys (not at the same time, just back and forth). One of these will result in the system displaying the blue BIOS menu (it changes between motherboards and QNAP uses a mixture of mobos in their Intel and AMD-powered systems). You need to be quick, as you only have about 3 seconds to do this before the QNAP will automatically boot from the small internal 4GB/5GB flash OS module that boots into QNAP.

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 9, Booting from the New UnRAID Installer USB

When you are in the bios menu, tap right until you reach the ‘Boot’ menu. From here, you need to change the boot priority order and ensure that the USB Drive is in Boot Priority #1. This is because UnRAID loads and runs from the USB drive. Normally, the QNAP NAS will boot from the internal 4GB/5GB SSD that contains the QNAP QTS/QuTS OS by default. Note – if in future you want to reverse the UnRAID process back to QNAP QTS/QuTS, just change the boot priority #1 back to the QNAP OS SSD/Flash drive. When you are done, head into the ‘Exit’ tab using right and select save and exit. This should result in the system rebooting and you will be greeted with the UnRAID initialization page.

 

UnRAID on a QNAP NAS – Step 7, Accessing the HDMI Port and Keyboard Control

Next, you need to start getting the system ready for Initialization and Setup. I would strongly recommend running the first-time installation via a direct interface with the QNAP NAS over KVM locally connected. You will need to connect an HDMI Monitor/TV/Capture Card to the HDMI port of the NAS, a Keyboard (and/or mouse) to an available USB port) and then connect the power/network connections to the NAS and boot the device up.

After this method of connection (as it allows you to check everything is working), you can switch back to accessing the system over the network in future.

You have two options with how to access the configuration and controls.

You can use the HDMI+Keyboard if you choose for console/command level access. Alternatively (much more recommended), use a program such as Advanced IP Scanner, which is free and VERY useful anyway, or even network command prompt) to scan your local area network and find where the QNAP with UnRAID is located (i.e it’s IP).

This IP (eg 192.168.1.113) is what you put into the URL bar of your web browser and it will load into the login GUI for UnRAID. From here you will need to use the username ‘root’ in combination with the password that you created during initialization.

And that is about it. You now have UnRAID installed as the default OS of your QNAP NAS. Now, it is worth remembering that UnRAID does require the use of a licence key in order to use all of the storage features. The type of licence you will need will be largely based on the scale of your storage (in terms of # of drives). However, you CAN go ahead and register for a free 30 day trial of UnRAID from within the GUI and get started.

From here you can do anything and everything that his highly regarded and exceptionally low resource-consuming server software offers. Head into the Storage area and start creating pools, as well as areas for caching and lots more features.

UnRAID was recently updated to ver.6.10.3 in a stable release of the massively portable format The first thing you are going to need to do when setting up your UnRAID > QNAP NAS server is set up your storage. Do this by heading into the storage tab and following the handy steps on the screen. After that, you can pretty much do anything on your new lightweight NAS server!


Thanks for reading! I hope you found this helpful and that it really helped you to make the most of your storage. Want to help me continue to make more guides, reviews and tutorials on the subject of NAS? Then you can do so in a few different ways (any of which I will be eternally grateful for if you choose to!). You can visit the ‘Support NAS Passion’ page HERE and see a few different ways that you can help us keep the lights on. Alternatively, you can use one of the links below to shop for your hardware today or in future (visiting those sites via the link below ensures that we get a mall commission on absolutely anything you purchase – and doesn’t cost you anything extra). Finally, if you want to support us in spirit rather than financially, recommend our blog to a friend or professional colleague or share a link on your social media site of choice. Thank you for reading and have a fantastic week!


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Need Advice on Data Storage from an Expert?

Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] TRY CHAT Terms and Conditions
If you like this service, please consider supporting us. We use affiliate links on the blog allowing NAScompares information and advice service to be free of charge to you.Anything you purchase on the day you click on our links will generate a small commission which isused to run the website. Here is a link for Amazon and B&H.You can also get me a ☕ Ko-fi or old school Paypal. Thanks!To find out more about how to support this advice service check HEREIf you need to fix or configure a NAS, check Fiver Have you thought about helping others with your knowledge? Find Instructions Here  
 
Or support us by using our affiliate links on Amazon UK and Amazon US
    
 
Alternatively, why not ask me on the ASK NASCompares forum, by clicking the button below. This is a community hub that serves as a place that I can answer your question, chew the fat, share new release information and even get corrections posted. I will always get around to answering ALL queries, but as a one-man operation, I cannot promise speed! So by sharing your query in the ASK NASCompares section below, you can get a better range of solutions and suggestions, alongside my own.

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The ZimaCube NAS Kickstarter – The 10 Most Common Questions Answered

Par : Rob Andrews
25 octobre 2023 à 18:05

Update to the ZimaCube NAS Drive – User Questions Answered

UPDATE – We received a Zimacube NAS Prototype unit for evaluation in Nov 2023. You can read the FULL Zimacube NAS teardown and prototype review HERE, or you can watch it HERE on YouTube

Earlier this month, we discussed a rather impressive NAS from the familiar brand Ice Whale (the company behind the Zimaboard and Zimablade) called the ZimaCube, a 6-Bay desktop NAS, with 2-4 M.2 NVMes, 2.5GbE, PCIe upgradability, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity and arriving with it’s own NAS operating system called Casa OS. Normally we would not get so intrigued by NAS devices that enter Kickstarter as crowdfunded NAS have been a ‘thing’ for more than a decade (read our History of Kickstarter NAS here or watch the video HERE), but the ZimaCube has several things in it’s favour that many of the crowdfunded server devices discussed here on the channel lack. The company already has one completed campaign under it’s belt and a 2nd that is nearly completion with numerous review units already praised highly online, which instills a decent amount of confidence. Equally, they have been very frank and quick to answer users questions (something that always tends to be a downfall of many other crowdfunded tech projects eventually). When my initial news video on the Zimacube went live a little under 2 weeks ago, users were quick to ask vital questions about the hardware, the software, gaps in the specs and ultimately asked a lot of ‘Q’s that needed A’s! So, I took those questions and put them forward to IceWhale, and below is the answers to those questions.

The Zimacube NAS Kickstarter Project is now LIVE and you can find out about it HERE

Note – This article serves as a straight Question/Answer format to present these questions in full. If you head over to YouTube and watch the video version of the ZimaCube Q&A, I dissect these replies in much greater detail, highlighting both positives AND negatives in what these can/do mean, so watch that if you want much more information on these answers!

Are there any indications of Pricing for the Kickstarter campaign (even early approx numbers)?

IceWhale: The introductory price for the basic version will be around $500, while the professional version will be around $1000.

Are there any plans or considerations for ECC memory? As a day 1 inclusion or additional purchase

(eg as accessories/bundles were provided on the Zimablade crowdsupply campaign)?

IceWhale: Your consideration is noted. We are currently in the process of finalizing the arrangements for KS add-ons and bundles internally.

Are there any particular essential accessories that you would highly recommend? We can discuss and consider them together.

Will / ls the Thunderbolt 4 Support on the Octa/Pro version only for use with TB storage drives and supported peripherals?

or are there plans to accommodate point-to-point Thunderbolt connectivity between a client and the Zimacube

(i.e IP-over-Thunderbolt etc)?

IceWhale: The ZimaCube client will indeed support seamless network switching upon Thunderbolt connection, providing a streamlined connectivity solution.

Now we know that the 2x/4xM.2 are on a tray-mounted PCB, in the Zimacube Octa/Pro, what are the lane speeds/gen of those 4x M.2 NVMe Slots?

IceWhale: PCIe 4.0

Will the use of 3rd party OS’ (TrueNAS, UnRAID, etc) be supported?

IceWhale: We have successfully conducted tests to ensure the smooth installation and operation of TRUE NAS.

As for Unraid, it is still undergoing testing to ensure its compatibility and performance.

Can you elaborate/explain more about the cooling systems in the Zimacube? There appear to be two rear fans, but are there any further active cooling systems in place?

(eg the i5 Pro version CPU FAN/HS) And how noisy will those fans be?

IceWhale: We place great emphasis on the cooling module, and from a thermal performance perspective, the overall space and CPU cooling are deemed more than sufficient.
Our development team will now shift their focus towards noise control and airflow optimization.
For further details, you can stay updated through official updates from our Ks platform and third-party reviews shared by prominent influencers.

Was the absence of 10GbE as standard a limitation of the boards being used, restrictions on the architecture/lanes available, or simply a matter of cost/pricing?

IceWhale: The 10GbE (10 Gigabit Ethernet) technology has gained significant traction among the community and early adopters.
We are actively working on developing corresponding product solutions to meet this demand.
You will soon witness its integration into our product lineup.
As a team rooted in the community, Zima is committed to actively addressing and responding to the feedback we receive from our users.

Is the case a completely unique ‘in-house’ design and creation,

or are you partnering/working with a 3rd party such as Jonsbo to create the Zimacube case?

IceWhale: The casing is an in-house design. Do you have any further ideas or concerns regarding this aspect?

What made you opt for an external PSU, rather than a typical SFX/Flex PSU?

IceWhale: We have taken various factors into careful consideration, including the noise level of the power supply, heat dissipation capabilities, overall weight, and power requirements.
Every aspect has been meticulously evaluated in our design process.
The goal was to create a harmonious balance between these elements ensuring optimal performance.

What is the maximum PCle Card Height/Depth/Width supported on the PCle ×16 slot?

IceWhale: The casing adheres to the standard dimensions of a half-height graphics card, measuring 169.5 x 68.9mm.

When Will the ZimaCube launch on Kickstarter?

IceWhale: We are targeting early-mid November. You can register your interest HERE


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The ZimaCube NAS – New Kickstarter NAS

Par : Rob Andrews
13 octobre 2023 à 15:00

The Zimacube NAS, a Crowdfunded Beast of a NAS

UPDATE – Since this video was first published, I was able to send over most of the questions below in the comments directly to the creators, IceWhale, about the Zimacube (covering PCIe, 10GbE, ECC Memory, Price and more). You can watch the Q&A video HERE or read them in full HERE )

The Zimacube NAS Kickstarter Project is now LIVE and you can find out about it HERE

With the ever-growing market between turnkey solutions and complete DIY home service growing even larger, the expanding number of pre-built server solutions arriving in the market has become noticeably vast in 2023/2024. For a significant period, expensive and comparatively underpowered solutions from brands like Synology have faced competition from new players entering the private server scene. These newcomers are offering pre-built, server-grade solutions to consumers and small businesses, complete with software flexibility. We’ve discussed many of these in the past 12 months here on NAS compares. Today, however, I want to discuss possibly the most intriguing of all: the ZimaCube from IceWhale. Slated for launch on Kickstarter later this year, the ZimaCube follows the successful campaigns of the Zimaboard and Zimablade hackable solutions, both of which received considerable praise across various platforms. The ZimaCube dramatically enhances architecture, hardware, scalability, and power, promising potentially one of the most fully equipped pre-built solutions on the market. IceWhale mentions that this system will debut in two versions: the Zimablade quad and the Zimablade octa, targeting different users, budgets, and deployments. This approach ensures varied targeting but means that the campaign is managing two distinct products—something that has occasionally been challenging for other campaigns. We are discussing a crowdfunded NAS server, so expectations should remain grounded. However, this turnkey NAS solution (with its proprietary OS and support for open-source third-party systems) makes some incredibly ambitious claims. Let’s delve into the hardware and capabilities of the ZimaCube and assess whether this future Kickstarter NAS is worth your data.

The Zimacube NAS Chassis Design

The first thing to note about this crowdfunded device is that the ZimaCube bears a striking resemblance in its hardware design to the popular Jonsbo N2 and N3 enclosures. This isn’t necessarily negative, as compact server cases have been a topic of interest over the past five years. Many would concur that Jonsbo has earned a formidable reputation in the NAS market for its enclosures. From the placement of individual SATA storage bays to the modular design of the ITX motherboard and port placement, there’s a clear similarity between the ZimaCube and Jonsbo N2 and N3 enclosures.

Psst.. Watch my Jonsbo N2 NAS Build Video HERE and my Jonsbo N3 Hardware Review HERE.

However, we should give IceWhale and the ZimaCube their due credit. Notable layout changes are evident. For instance, this system features six SATA storage bays, each accessible via a click-and-load tray, contrasting with Jonsbo’s slightly quirky and sometimes annoying rubber handles and plugs. Along with the six storage bays, there’s an added m.2 NVMe module that seemingly occupies what might have been a standard storage slot. Current designs don’t clarify whether these m.2 NVMe slots are accessible via the front panel or only through a removable side panel, linked to the motherboard’s underside via a subsidiary board. (UPDATE – IceWhale have confirmed that the M.2s are injected via a 2x/4x PCB that is loaded into a U.2/U.3 slot on the backplane, which can be removed to add/remove M.2 SSDs as needed). Still, in essence, you’re observing 10 mixed media storage bays. Depending on the device’s configuration, the architecture of those m.2 NVMe modules will likely differ based on the CPU and lanes allotted to the quad and octa versions. Both systems also seem to feature two additional m.2 NVMe bays on the main controller board, though their exact usage—whether occupied by SATA adapters or an OS drive for Casa OS—remains unconfirmed. With the extra PCI lanes the ZimaCube octa offers, there’s a good chance this model will support gen 4 compatibility, providing increased bandwidth for those m.2 NVMe modules.

Like the Jonsbo case, the ZimaCube boasts extensive ventilation—and it certainly requires it. The system showcases a double ventilated front panel, ventilation on both sides, and 80% ventilation on the case’s rear. Information on active cooling with fans and their sizes isn’t confirmed yet, but there will undoubtedly be at least two fans on the case’s back. However, space seems limited for extra fans at the top rear panel. Considering the high-end CPU and hardware in this device, the choice of CPU fan will be debated. There’s ample hardware packed into this device. Given its relatively compact size, the heat it will generate is a concern. For instance, it wouldn’t be shocking if the four m.2 NVMe modules in such a tight space were limited to x1 or x2 speed, given the potential heat generation. We should reserve final judgment until we have a physical unit, but the substantial hardware within a limited space means that efficient cooling, both active and passive, will be crucial. It’s challenging to find flaws in the ZimaCube promotional materials. Although we don’t have the physical device, the case appears exceptionally well-designed. However, there’s a lot of hardware packed inside. Let’s dive deeper into the known hardware with which the ZimaCube will be equipped

The Zimacube Hardware Specifications

Right off the bat, credit must be given to IceWhale for how they’ve presented the two available options proposed for the ZimaCube NAS. They offer a home and very small business option powered by the Alder Lake Intel N100 processor. Alongside this, they’re presenting a powerhouse option with a comparable 12th generation i5 version of the hardware. Dubbed the ZimaCube Quad and ZimaCube Octa, these systems will likely come with different price tags to reflect their distinct hardware architectures. While we’re discussing a crowdfunded NAS project still in development, it’s commendable that IceWhale recognizes the appeal of a powerhouse system for some users, while others may prioritize power efficiency and a more modest setup. However, this means we’re looking at a campaign promoting a single product in two different versions, and it’s crucial not to confuse the hardware capabilities of one with the other. It is still very early to make any kind of judgement on this system’s 24×7 operation, but (especially in the case of the Zimacube Octa) there is ALOT of hardware getting crammed into this comparatively small case and how this si going to be managing ventilation and cooling on the 4 (technically 6) M.2 NVMe SSD slots is going to be CRUCIAL! Here’s a brief overview of the specifications known so far:

Model Zimacube Quad

Zimacube Octa

CPU Intel N100 Intel i5-1235U
Cores 4 Core 10 Core (2P + 8E)
Threads 4 Threads 12 Threads
Clock Speed 1.0-3.4Ghz 0.9-4.4Ghz
Integrated Gfx Intel UHD Graphics, 750Mhx Max Intel Iris Xe Graphics eligible, 1.2Ghz Max
 
Memory 8/16GB* 64GB
Memory Type DDR4 DDR5
SATA slots 6x 3.5”/2.5” 6x 3.5”/2.5”
M.2 NVMe Slots 4+2 4+2
PCIe Slots 1x Gen3x4 1x Gen4x16
Network Ports 2x 2.5GbE 4x 2.5GbE
Thunderbolt No Yes, 2x Type-C
USB Type A 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 6x USB 3.2 Gen 1
USB Type C 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 2x (TB4)
USB 2.0 2X 0
Visual Output HDMI 2.0 and Display 1.4 HDMI 2.0 and Display 1.4
Chassis Size 240 x 221 x 220mm 240 x 221 x 220mm
Power External 220W 19V PSU* External 220W 19V PSU*

The specifications are genuinely impressive, with some aspects unique in the current NAS market. Comparisons will likely be drawn to the ongoing StoreAccess Kickstarter NAS project that has been active throughout 2023. This project also promoted a unique mixed storage media build, with capabilities extending beyond a traditional NAS, encompassing a prosumer server, video editing station, and network management solution. Let’s delve into the highlights of these specifications. First and foremost, the network connectivity has both strong points and areas for improvement. The ZimaCube Octa, being the more potent system with a more capable CPU, provides more internal lanes and bandwidths and comes with more network interface ports. The ZimaCube Quad boasts two 2.5G network ports, and the Octa has four 2.5G ports. As promising as this sounds, some users eyeing the advanced specs of the Octa might feel the lack of 10GbE. However, this system allows for a 10GbE upgrade via a PCIe card, which isn’t unusual. There are also potential 10GbE to USB-C adapters to consider. Still, given the Octa’s robust hardware, it’s somewhat surprising that it didn’t include 10 gigabit ethernet out of the box.

What genuinely stands out in these specs is the inclusion of Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. Given that the ZimaCube NAS is built on a more standard PC builder architecture, it’s unlikely to offer Thunderbolt NAS technology comparable to the QNAP Thunderbolt NAS series. QNAP has dominated this niche, allowing users to connect via ethernet and directly interface with the system over Thunderbolt. It’s doubtful the ZimaCube will provide this type of connectivity; more likely, these Thunderbolt ports are designed with the ZimaCube as the host, making them as usable as Thunderbolt ports on a typical PC or Mac system. If accurate, this means you could potentially connect expanded storage to this system at 40 gigabits per second bandwidth when needed. Additionally, external GPU cards via Thunderbolt expansion chassis and even Thunderbolt to 10GbE adapters might be supported, provided the necessary drivers can be integrated into the OS or the open-source operating system of choice. A Thunderbolt 4 NAS is rare outside of QNAP and their IP over Thunderbolt architecture, so this feature could make the ZimaCube NAS particularly appealing for some editors.

In terms of long-term expandability, the ZimaCube Octa sets its sights higher. Though both systems have a PCIe upgrade slot, they differ significantly in bandwidth and speed. Largely due to the CPU distinctions, the ZimaCube Quad comes with a Gen 3 x4 speed slot. This will permit moderate PCIe card upgrades for network performance and lighter storage cards, but the x4 speed could be limiting for more robust cards. On the other hand, the ZimaCube Octa features a Gen 4 x16 slot, offering a significant performance potential. Such a PCIe slot could be utilized for extensive M.2 NVMe storage upgrade cards, combination cards with vast gigabit network interfaces, or even high-end graphics cards. The height and length of supported cards within this chassis remain to be confirmed, but both systems offer substantial upgrade potential.

Given the system’s modular PC builder architecture, it’s unsurprising that it includes visual output. Both systems come with a 4K 60 frames per second HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 interface, facilitating local direct output for tasks like surveillance, multimedia, or even a local PC. Whether you’re configuring VMs or using tools like Proxmox to run multiple VMs, this system not only provides direct interfacing for daily tasks but also has the potential to run these operations alongside 24/7 storage when necessary. However, the output capabilities will largely depend on the chosen operating system. Still, having these options is always a boon. One aspect not yet confirmed is the power supply. All images of the ZimaCube NAS indicate the need for an external PSU. It’s possible that the system uses a front-loaded internal PSU, but the external power jack suggests the system might either use an internal extension or rely on a sizable external power brick. The ZimaCube won’t be unique in requiring an external PSU—many similar-sized NAS devices from established brands have external PSUs. Given the ZimaCube’s hardware architecture, an external PSU would need to be substantial. Instead of a small power brick, a heftier external power block, usually seen with high-end gaming laptops and Thunderbolt docking stations, would be required to maintain the high power input. Until full details emerge, the method and location of delivering the 220-watt power supply remain somewhat mysterious, potentially still in development by IceWhale during this Kickstarter NAS campaign’s early stages. All of these features result in a remarkably powerful NAS system that could challenge current expectations of NAS value. 2023 has seen numerous NAS devices bridge the gap between turnkey solutions and full DIY server building, ensuring users can utilize open-source software without the hands-on hassle. Given the global economic recession, the appeal of these hardware-optimized and budget-friendly solutions is likely to grow, with or without crowdfunding platforms facilitating their creation.

The Zimacube Casa OS Software

The landscape of personal cloud solutions is rife with options, each offering unique selling points. The Zimablade, entering this highly competitive space, packages its offering with CasaOS – a solution poised to redefine the relationship between hardware and software in the NAS ecosystem. But how does CasaOS fare, especially when set against stalwarts like Synology DSM, TrueNAS, and UnRAID? It’s tough to say at this stage. Objectively, it is always going to be a plus that a pre-build NAS solution arrives with it’s own first-party software (therefore making it truly Turnkey, as this device should work straight out the box), plus IceWhale state that the Zimacube will arrive with an improved version of CasaOS to better harness the hardware in this newer and more powerful system (as opposed to the comparatively light version of CasaOS included with the more modest Zimablade and Zimaboard). This updated firmware revision, is scheduled to roll out on ZimaOS-ready devices from late October/Nov 2023 and will have many of the same features as CasaOS, but it will also have remote backups, Thunderbolt optimization, RAID support and GPT AI-powered chat functions.

We were able to test a great deal of the features of CASA Os in our Zimablade review, as well as covering them more ‘bullet-point’ style in our before you buy video HERE, but some highlights came from the simplicity of container deployment and ease/speed of accessing the GUI, as well as switching to command level SSH when needed. (the following comes from our Zimablade review)

  • Digital Privacy at the Forefront: CasaOS, developed by the visionary team at IceWhale Technology, centers its design philosophy around safeguarding family data. Offering tools for encrypted communications, centralized multimedia storage, and smart home device management, CasaOS prioritizes digital safety in an age where data breaches are commonplace.
  • Unrivalled Compatibility: One of CasaOS’s crowning attributes is its adaptability. The system integrates effortlessly across a multitude of hardware platforms, from x86 PCs to Raspberry Pi. With support for leading OS platforms, CasaOS promises a smooth experience, regardless of the tech ecosystem in which it operates.
  • Expansive Application Universe: With over 20 pre-installed docker-based apps and 50+ community-verified ones, CasaOS provides users with a veritable buffet of digital tools. Whether you’re into home entertainment, require VPN solutions, or are seeking quality streaming apps, CasaOS has you covered.
  • Holistic Data Management: CasaOS consolidates data storage, eliminating the need to juggle between platforms like Dropbox or Google Drive. With a promise of rapid 10x syncing speed and no associated data traffic or subscription fees, CasaOS champions efficient data management.
  • Comparative Lightness: While CasaOS supports a plethora of container applications, when benchmarked against established players like Synology DSM, TrueNAS, and UnRAID, it does come across as lite. Features such as ZFS support and 1st party mobile applications are conspicuous by their absence, leading to a heavier reliance on 3rd party container/docker apps.
  • Gradual Transition to More Established Platforms: CasaOS, while robust in its offering, might be seen by many as a nascent stage in their NAS journey. As users grow accustomed to the intricacies of NAS operations, there’s a likelihood they may transition to a more comprehensive NAS OS. Platforms like UnRAID, with similar ease in container deployment but richer in 1st party features, often appear more attractive in the long run.

  • Value Proposition: The inclusion of CasaOS with the Zimablade, zimaboard and now Zimacube, especially at its introductory price range during its crowdfunding launch, is commendable. The synergy of hardware and software at this price point offers exceptional value for beginners. However, seasoned NAS enthusiasts might crave the depth found in mature OS offerings in the market. That said, it does allow for both local easy GUI access in a web browser AND terminal level  access easily:

The Zimablade, paired with CasaOS, makes a compelling entry into the personal cloud solution domain. CasaOS, with its focus on user-centric design, data privacy, and a wide array of applications, sets a solid foundation. However, as with many products in their infancy, there’s potential room for evolution and growth. Users looking for a lite, budget-friendly introduction to the world of NAS will find Zimablade and CasaOS an excellent starting point. Yet, as their needs expand and mature, migration to more established platforms might be on the horizon. Still, better to have a great ‘out-the-box’ OS included for day 1, than not!

Also, the Casa OS will immediately boot on day 1, so no need to muck around with Bios with a visual output+Keyboard+mouse on day 1, as it will immediately appear on the network on your first boot in a few mins and be accessible via your web browser. All in all, especially at this price point, incredibly impressive, if a little lite. If you want to test out the CasaOS software before you purchase a system to run it on (Zimablade or otherwise), you can use the link below to test the software out in your web browser:

Click Below to access Casa OS Software Demo in your web browser

When Is the Zimacube NAS Being Released?

As of now, the ZimaCube Kickstarter campaign hasn’t started, but you can register your interest via the email box on the product’s official page. Pricing remains unconfirmed, but if the Zimaboard and Zimablade crowdfunding campaigns run by the company in the past 18 months are any indication, we can expect competitive pricing for both systems. While IceWhale doesn’t employ a loss leader strategy, they’ve successfully offered early access to their last two releases at incredibly affordable rates (recall the Zimablade priced at just $64?). Thus, it’s anticipated that these systems will be priced just slightly above the cost of individually sourced components, at least during the crowdfunding phase. The timeline for product delivery, inherent to many crowdfunded NAS systems, can be somewhat ambiguous, often adopting a “done when it’s done” approach. However, given IceWhale’s past success in crowdfunding, it’s reasonable to anticipate an early to mid-2024 launch for the ZimaCube. Be sure to register your interest on the official page to stay informed about the Kickstarter’s launch. We’re eager to review the ZimaCube on NAS Compares when it becomes available!

(The Kickstarter link below will open in a new Tab and direct you to the ZimaCube Official Page)


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Finally, for free advice about your setup, just leave a message in the comments below here at NASCompares.com and we will get back to you. Need Help? Where possible (and where appropriate) please provide as much information about your requirements, as then I can arrange the best answer and solution to your needs. Do not worry about your e-mail address being required, it will NOT be used in a mailing list and will NOT be used in any way other than to respond to your enquiry. [contact-form-7] TRY CHAT Terms and Conditions
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Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Suuuuuper Budget?

Par : Rob Andrews
27 septembre 2023 à 18:00

Review of the Terramaster F2-212 NAS Drive

This year has seen all the big players in the world of network-attached storage bring their latest solutions to market! Maybe it’s because people’s concerns over their data have never been higher, perhaps it’s the growing affordability of a number of key components, or simply that the advances in what we can do with our data have grown so fast that NAS brands are running to keep up! Whatever the reason, the Terramaster F2-212 NAS really does give you a phenomenal bang for your buck. Arriving with an RRP of £169 and likely regularly on sale at key promotional events, this might be the most affordable tool by now that I’ve ever discussed here on the channel! But what corners did they have to cut to keep it this cheap? Can you trust this device to hold onto your data long-term, and ultimately can something be too cheap? Let’s find out.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Quick Conclusion

The Terramaster F2-212 is a solid entry-level NAS for the price. It provides a good balance of hardware, software, and features, though some may find its 1GB of memory and single 1G network connection limiting. However, given its target market—those transitioning from cloud storage or seeking their first NAS—this model offers excellent value for money. What makes the F2-212 stand out is its flexibility. Its support for USB to 2.5G network adapters provides an affordable way to upgrade the system’s network connectivity. Additionally, its modern ARM CPU, improved software, and a variety of features tailored for beginners make it an attractive option for those new to the NAS world. For experienced NAS users or those seeking more advanced features, the F2-212 might feel underwhelming. But for its price, it’s hard to argue against its value proposition. In conclusion, the Terramaster F2-212 provides a reliable entry point for those new to the NAS world. While it may have its limitations, it offers commendable features for its price range. Those who prioritize affordability without sacrificing essential features should consider this model.

SOFTWARE - 6/10
HARDWARE - 6/10
PERFORMANCE - 5/10
PRICE - 10/10
VALUE - 8/10


7.0
PROS
👍🏻Affordable price.
👍🏻ARM-based CPU ensures energy efficiency and reliable performance.
👍🏻TOS 5.1 software has seen significant improvements, bringing it closer to industry standards.
👍🏻Flexible upgrade options with USB to 2.5G network adapters.
👍🏻TRAID Flexible RAID is great stuff!
👍🏻Good CPU for the Price Point
👍🏻Supports Current 22TB HDDs from WD and Seagate
👍🏻Snapshot Replication
👍🏻BTRFS Support if preferred
👍🏻4K Video natively
CONS
👎🏻Limited 1GB of non-upgradable memory.
👎🏻Only a single 1G network connection.
👎🏻Lacks M.2 SSD ports and PCIe upgrade options.
👎🏻Although TOS 5 has seen some big improvements and more AAA+ apps and services added, it is still not as polished as DSM or QTS from their competitors

Where to Buy a Product
amzamexmaestrovisamaster 24Hfree delreturn VISIT RETAILER ➤ 
amzamexmaestrovisamaster 24Hfree delreturn VISIT RETAILER ➤

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Packaging and Retail Kit

The retail packaging for the Terramaster F2-212 is fairly standard stuff and isn’t really going to blow you away. It arrives in a combination of recyclable and non-recyclable packaging combo. The external box is plain but adorned with the brand logo, and a rigid foam internal structure protects the device in transit.

Alongside the F2-212 NAS, the retail kit includes an external power adapter that is a straight-to-plug mini adapter, details on the 2-year hardware warranty, additional screws for SSDs, construction manual, and cat 6 Ethernet LAN cable.

Again, not exactly hair-raising stuff. I will add though that given the low price point of this device, one area I would have assumed a brand would cut corners in would be the retail packaging in terms of protection and range of included accessories. There is none of that here, and although it may seem a little drab, everything you need (with the exception of storage media) is here for your first-time setup.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Design

Of all the brands that I talk about here on the channel, few have been more underwhelming in terms of the design of their devices than Terramaster. Although they have made minor tweaks to the chassis design on their desktop devices in the last few years, these have been rather minor. All that has changed with this new F2-212 NAS system, arriving in a largely completely new chassis design than any other 2-bay from the brand.

I think it would be charitable to say that they have looked at the chassis design choices of competitors like Synology and QNAP, and been inspired by them. It might be fair to say that they have emulated a number of the design choices of those brands and combined them into their new chassis for the F2.

For a start, they have clearly emulated the rounded edges featured on recent QNAP desktop releases. The old chassis design was always a bit silver, shiny, and blocky – feeling dated. However, this new chassis design seems a great deal more sleek and will blend in much better with other hardware on your desktop setup. They have also looked at the matte black finish and branded logos featured on Synology desktop hardware and incorporated this into the new F2-212 chassis design prominently. This added level of passive ventilation, while still appearing very modern and brand-aware, has always been beneficial for Synology and, if inspired by them, is a smart move to replicate here. Passive ventilation, especially on more economical ARM CPU systems, is crucial for a system running 24/7 at its best, so the more ventilation, the better!

The system also features two removable 3.5-inch SATA bays. This is particularly commendable when you realize most other NAS brands producing value series devices at a similar price point do not support this feature. The system runs on a single drive if you choose, but thanks to its support of numerous different RAID configurations that also include their flexible T-RAID system, you have a decent level of base storage to set up on day one.

The main storage bays are ejected by pressing the top panel and pulling each tray out. There’s a spring-loaded element to each of the handles, and while each bay cannot be locked, they do support click and load installation, meaning that you can install 3.5-inch SATA drives exceedingly quickly. This, combined with the support of hot-swapping, is exceedingly convenient.

Additionally, it’s worth highlighting that Terramaster has one of the most extensive lists of compatible hard drives on their support lists, supporting up to the recently released 22 TB hard drive capacity from both Seagate and WD. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the relative similarity all SATA hard drives have. However, in recent years we’ve seen some brands be more selective about the range of hard drives they list on their compatibility pages, so it’s reassuring to know there are virtually no limits to the drives you can use in the F2.

Sadly, the system does not feature a front-mounted USB port, as found in the majority of other NAS brand systems of this scale. It’s a minor detail, especially when there are two more USB ports on the rear of the device, but the convenience of a front-mounted USB for ad hoc drag and drop backups and creating a customized local USB backup routine for smaller user groups is notable. I’ve always been surprised that Terramaster hasn’t embraced this feature.

The F2-212 also features LED lights to denote system and drive activity when in operation, as opposed to an LCD panel. This is fairly standard these days in NAS systems of this scale.

Overall, I quite like the new chassis design that Terramaster has opted for here. The previous chassis design’s ventilation was a bit lackluster compared to some competitors, and this change of casing certainly improves the visual appeal of their range. Next, let’s discuss the ports and connectivity, as this is where the limited price point of value series devices like this one starts to become evident.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Ports and Connections

Let’s not mince words; the ports and connections that the F2-212 comes with are fairly standard. This isn’t a huge insult by any means, as the system is designed to be an exceptionally affordable entry-level NAS. What you get here will certainly meet initial requirements. However, if you’ve been looking at the more advanced ports and connections in recent releases from Terramaster, including enhanced bandwidth options, faster USB, and an affordable gateway into 10G… you won’t find them here!

The system has two USB Type-A ports. While the USB 2.0 port feels outdated and somewhat unnecessary on a system that would traditionally pair these with an HDMI output, the USB 3 port (5Gb/s) offers much greater functionality and compatibility with the F2.

Besides the expected support for USB external storage drives and office peripherals (printers, scanners, UPS, etc.), the USB port also supports Terramaster’s direct-attached storage devices (available in both RAID-enabled and JBOD forms). Intriguingly, the F2-212 also supports USB to 2.5G network adapters, enabling users to boost the system’s network bandwidth to approximately 269 megabytes per second with a simple $15 upgrade on the NAS side (potentially on the client side too).

This upgrade will enhance the Terramaster F2’s network connectivity from a single 1G connection to an additional 2.5G. This improvement will extend the system’s lifespan as your data storage needs increase. The existing one gigabit Ethernet connection does seem outdated in 2023, but this could be a result of prioritizing affordability. Currently, no systems on the market offer 2.5 gigabit Ethernet at this price point, so its absence isn’t a significant drawback.

Even so, this affordable ARM processor and a typical starter hard drive might overwhelm this network connection, potentially restricting external connectivity. If this is your first NAS system and you’ve solely relied on cloud services, you’ll likely see this as a major upgrade. However, those accustomed to using gigabit servers in their homes or businesses might find it lacking. The system lacks internal M.2 SSD ports, commonly found in pricier Terramaster systems, and doesn’t support PCIe upgrades that enhance network connectivity. However, regarding external hardware, you have a functional yet well-constructed affordable NAS. Let’s delve deeper into its internal hardware and other features.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Internal Hardware

There’s an ongoing debate among PC enthusiasts regarding the basic hardware in most NAS systems. Many users argue that entry-level NAS systems are underpowered and overpriced compared to traditional PCs. Nonetheless, NAS systems are designed for continuous operation—days, weeks, even years at a time. Hence, they require energy-efficient components durable enough for this always-on environment. This explains the growing trend of entry-level NAS systems equipped with ARM-based CPUs—processors typically found in phones, netbooks, and tablets. These CPUs deliver considerable processing power while maintaining a low energy footprint. The Terramaster F2-212 follows this trend, boasting an efficient yet modern ARM processor architecture.

Processor Model Realtek 1619B
Processor Architecture ARM V8.2 Cortex-A55 64-bit
Processor Frequency Quad Core 1.7 GHz
CPU Single-Core Score /
Hardware Encryption Engine
Hardware Transcoding Engine /
Memory
System Memory 1GB
Pre-installed Memory module /
Total Memory Slot Number /
Maximum Supported Memory 1 GB

The CPU inside the Terramaster F2-212 is the Realtek RTD1619b. We’ve seen this CPU in slightly pricier QNAP and Synology systems in 2023, so it’s unsurprising that Terramaster adopted it. It strikes a balance between handling the NAS’s daily operations and managing ad-hoc requests from users. While it lacks the advanced capabilities of x86 AMD or Intel processors, it also doesn’t have their higher price tags or energy consumption. Being ARM-based, this CPU compresses commands to use less power, and with ongoing advancements in software, ARM processors have become increasingly effective in NAS systems.

The Realtek RTD 1619b processor, a quad-core CPU with a 1.7 GHz clock speed, is impressive for a NAS priced just over $150. This CPU supports both BTRFS and EXT4 file systems, snapshot functionality, and even Docker applications. However, it does have limitations, particularly with complex commands and some multimedia formats. Furthermore, while light container deployment is possible, traditional virtualization is not. The fluctuating cost of NAND Flash has impacted the pricing of many NAS systems. Despite this model’s affordability, its default 1GB of non-upgradable memory may soon prove limiting. For light multimedia use and a few backups, 1GB of memory combined with this CPU will suffice. Beyond that, however, users might find memory consistently operating at around 70-80% capacity due to the system’s basic operational requirements.

Many entry-level, ARM-powered NAS systems come with 1GB of memory—a standard for nearly five years. However, the demands on NAS systems have grown significantly during that time. Considering this system comes with the same memory as 2016 models, it’s somewhat disappointing. For true entry-level users transitioning from the cloud, 1GB of memory will suffice. Those aiming to expand their system’s usage, however, will encounter its limitations. Next, we’ll discuss the TOS system software accompanying the F2.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Software

Historically, one area where Terramaster NAS has fallen short is its software. Roughly 18 months ago, their software, TOS, was considered inferior compared to industry counterparts. Past security issues and a perceived lack of features, especially when compared to platforms like DSM and QTS, didn’t help their reputation. However, TOS 5.1 represents a significant improvement, being more responsive, visually consistent, and packed with premium apps even for their basic models. This software overhaul, combined with additional features unique to the F2, has significantly improved the system’s appeal.

The addition of new apps, faster execution, and support for popular third-party software means that TOS 5.1 is rapidly gaining ground against its more well-established competitors. Its interface, while still a bit behind in terms of polish, is functional and intuitive. Regarding safety, Terramaster has made security a priority, with multiple layers of encryption, including AES-256. Additionally, their two-step verification process has now become more refined, further improving security. The software now supports snapshots, providing added insurance against potential data loss. Key Software and NAS tasks that are supported are:

  • Apple Time Machine Backup
  • Cloud Migration and Synchronization
  • NAS to NAS Rsync Support
  • Plex Media Server
  • Docker
  • Mail Server
  • Web Server
  • DLNA Media Server
  • WordPress Server
  • Download Server
  • Snapshot Support

TOS 5.1 has several features supporting advanced surveillance, an aspect often neglected in budget-friendly NAS options. IP camera support, motion detection, and email notifications help transform the F2-212 into a comprehensive surveillance solution for small businesses and homeowners. With BTRFS support, file self-healing, and instant snapshots, Terramaster ensures the F2-212 is a reliable, long-term data storage solution. For beginners, TOS offers user-friendly guides and tool tips, making the software accessible even to those unfamiliar with NAS systems. In TOS 5, not only have the storage structure and data interaction mode been reconstructed but also, compared with the previous generation, it adds more than 50 features and 600 improvements. The new features meet more business requirements, as well as significantly improve response speed, security, and ease of use.

Browser Access to TOS is Now 3x Times Faster

TOS 5 adopts progressive JavaScript language and a lightweight framework with a faster loading speed. TOS 5 features bidirectional data binding, easier data manipulation, and automatic synchronous response to data changes in the page; UI, data, and structure separation make it easier to change data without the need to modify logic codes. Using progressive JavaScript language, TOS 5 has a more lightweight framework. In addition, through two-way binding of data, the view, data and structure are separated. When the page is operated, it automatically responds to changes in data, which makes the system “lighter” and achieves a faster loading speed.

New caching technology avoids network round trips between the server and the database, bypasses the calculation that occupies resources, saves server resources, and improves response time and waiting time, so TOS 5 has the fastest response time in the current TOS family. Compared with the last generation, the TOS 5 response speed has increased by 300%! Use WASM to optimize the calculation method and execute the back-end complex calculations on the front-end, thereby reducing the calculation pressure on the server. In addition, TOS 5 uses the most popular back-end language at the moment, which can support high concurrent requests. Compared with traditional interpreted languages, the compilation speed is faster.

Improved Resource Monitor in TOS 5

The new iconic resource monitor board allows you to grasp the operating status of your TNAS comprehensively and intuitively in real-time; at-a-glance visibility of system load, CPU and memory usage, network traffic, disk I/O, device temperature, storage, processes, online users, listening ports, and system resource occupancy. Historical records of up to 30 days can be easily traced back.

Full One Button System Isolation Mode Available in TOS 5

TerraMaster’s unique security isolation mode completely isolates your TNAS device from the external network through network isolation, digital signature, and file format restriction, providing a safer operating environment and effective protection against virus and ransomware attacks.

Improved Storage, Backup & Sync Features in Terramaster TOS 5

TOS 5 features optimized storage architecture to reduce the system space occupation. The file deduplication system, file system compression, TRAID elastic array, and other functions also save you up to 40% of storage space

Single Portal Folder Level Backup for Home and SMB Users

Reduce complexity and embrace simplicity. All backup needs can be completed through a single portal, providing one-stop backup solutions including Central Backup, TerraSync, Duple Backup, Snapshot, USB Copy, CloudSync, and other comprehensive backup tools. This meets your clients’ disaster recovery and restoration requirements, as well as backup policies and destinations.

New Flexible RAID Support in TRAID in TOS 5

By optimizing the traditional RAID mode, TerraMaster RAID (TRAID) gives you flexible disk array configuration, flexible online migration, capacity expansion, and redundancy policies. As well as improving disk space utilization, it also provides solutions and security protection for storage space changes caused by new business requirements. Much like Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) in that you can mix drive capacities for improved storage after the RAID redundancy calculation. I reached out to Terramaster directly on this and they confirm that this function is supported in TOS 5.

Multiple Client Sync with TerraSync in TOS 5

TerraSync, a TerraMaster self-developed synchronization tool, realizes data synchronization between multiple users and multiple devices. It efficiently implements data sharing among branch offices and data synchronization between individuals on multiple devices and platforms, which assists employees in collaborative work and improves work efficiency.

New CloudSync Application for Bare Metal-to-Cloud Live Sync in TOS 5

The new CloudSync app integrates multiple cloud drives and syncs them into one application, including Google Drive, One Drive, Amazon S3, Backblaze, Box, Dropbox, Koofr, OpenDrive, pCloud, Yandex disk, and Aliyun. This allows users to centralize the management of multiple synchronization tasks and add a variety of cloud disk synchronization options including Aliyun and Rackspace. A more flexible, stable, and efficient solution for data synchronization between your TNAS and cloud drives is facilitated by your choice of customized synchronization strategies, such as traffic control, scheduled tasks, and encryption.

Docker Added to Existing Container Tools in TOS 5

Combined with docker-compose and portainer, the new Docker Manager features an optimized operation interface, with multiple new features which provide visual management that meets all your requirements for container customization and flexible configuration.

With a good range of applications to choose from, as well as the support of modern NAS applications in the mix, the TerraMaster F2-212 does give you a good base with which to start your NAS journey, though it may feel a little streamlined for those with greater NAS experience and the baseline hardware on offer in this more affordable NAS certainly limits the overall scope.

Terramaster F2-212 NAS Review – Conclusion and Verdict

If you look at the Terramaster F2-212 in the wrong light, you aren’t really going to appreciate what has been crafted here. If you expect this device to perform as well as devices two to three times its price in the marketplace, you’re bound to be disappointed! While this might be the lowest-priced, fully-featured NAS I’ve reviewed here, it’s indisputable that compromises had to be made to achieve this price point. This is not a NAS for someone wanting everything done instantly for them and 50 of their friends. The Terramaster F2-212 offers an affordable entry point into the world of NAS for those transitioning from third-party clouds to self-hosted remote storage. In that context, if you’re only going to use baseline applications for small groups of users and services, this system will excel. However, if you’re seeking more advanced applications, business or enterprise-level services, or lack patience when the system requires time to manage its memory cache for the long-term, this might not be the system for you.

Above all, small enhancements to the Terramaster F2’s hardware configuration could have made a significant difference. The default and non-upgradable 1GB of memory is a limiting factor, with a significant portion consumed by the standard operation of TOS in the background. An additional $10 or $20 to bolster the base memory could have truly made an impact. Likewise, many of Terramaster’s notable advancements to their platform may not be fully realized on this modest 2-bay system due to its physical scale or architecture. Features like RAID, AI photo recognition, and Docker might seem out of reach. But that’s not the point; this is an entry-level system. Concerns about expandability and adapting storage to multi-client setups are primarily for users who might consider investing more in their NAS solutions. If you recognize the Terramaster F2-212 for the budget, entry-level NAS it’s designed to be, it offers solid value for its cost. However, remember it comes with inherent limitations right out of the box.

PROS of the Terramaster F2-212 CONS of the Terramaster F2-212
  • Affordable price.
  • ARM-based CPU ensures energy efficiency and reliable performance.
  • TOS 5.1 software has seen significant improvements, bringing it closer to industry standards.
  • Flexible upgrade options with USB to 2.5G network adapters.
  • TRAID Flexible RAID is great stuff!
  • Good CPU for the Price Point
  • Supports Current 22TB HDDs from WD and Seagate
  • Snapshot Replication
  • BTRFS Support if preferred
  • 4K Video natively
  • Limited 1GB of non-upgradable memory.
  • Only a single 1G network connection.
  • Lacks M.2 SSD ports and PCIe upgrade options.
  • Although TOS 5 has seen some big improvements and more AAA+ apps and services added, it is still not as polished as DSM or QTS from their competitors

Click the link below to take you to your local Amazon store and where to buy the terramaster F2-212 NAS.

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