QNAP HS-210 Silent & Fanless NAS
Connections: Ethernet, 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, SD Card Slot
Dimensions (H x W x D): 41.3 x 302 x 220mm
Weight: 1.56 kg
A Silent NAS is a Good NAS
The QNAP HS-210 is a two-bay fanless UPnP/DLNA compliant Network Attached Storage (NAS) device that can accept up to two 4TB drives. As a dedicated music server, especially one that may live within the confines of a listening room, the most important features for a NAS are performance, reliability, which has a lot to do with which drives you buy to populate your NAS, and noise. The last thing you want or need is a NAS with a noisy fan whirring away while you play your music. The other thing the QNAP HS-210 potentially has going for it, which is plainly obvious at a glance, is its horizontal form factor and black and brushed metal aluminum body. If these traits have you shaking your head "yes", I'd recommend reading on. If on the other hand these things mean nothing to you because your NAS sits in another room and it can make all the noise it wants, and you could care less about how it looks or the kind of space it occupies, feel free to take a pass.
QNAP is in the NAS business and has been since it was founded in 2004. They make everything from single-bay home NAS devices to industrial strength 24-bay behemoths. The HS-210 is part of their "Home & SOHO" line of products which includes your more traditional, vertically oriented fan-endowed designs.
The HS-210 houses a Marvell 1.6GHz Processor, 512MB RAM, and 16MB of Flash Memory. Its dual drive bays can accommodate two 3.5” or two 2.5” SSD or NAS Hard Drives. Around back are the Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, SD card slot, and power inlet. The HS-210 OS is Linux-based and QNAP calls their user interface software QTS and the current version is 4.0. Before we get into all of the things you can do with your QNAP HS-210 NAS, lets talk about setting one up.
QNAP provides a list of compatible hard drives (see the list). I decided to go with two Western Digital Red 2TB NAS drives (WD20EFRX) which I purchased from Amazon for $98/each. I opted to set these up as a single drive instead of a RAID array because I have essentially four working backups of my music library at any given moment and I plan to buy a lot of music. If you plan to have a single NAS with a single backup, I would recommend setting up your HS-210 as a RAID array (RAID Level 1) as an added measure of fault tolerance. Let's remember, a RAID array is not a backup. It is implemented to provide uninterrupted performance in the event of a single disk failure. RAID Level 1, also called disk mirroring, essentially writes the same data to both hard drives simultaneously. So if you have two 2TB drives, your total available storage will be about 1.8TB (accounting for the RAID array, OS and QTS).
The HS-210's dual drive bays are easily accessible from the units front panel once you remove the wrap around plastic cover which snaps into place magnetically. Just press in on the locking tab, slide out the bay, put your hard drive into the tray, screw it down with the provided screws, and slide it back into that slot. Repeat for bay 2, slap that cover back on and you're done.
Software: QNAP QTS & iTunes
Once you've installed your hard drives, you need to connect your HS-210 to your network with an Ethernet cable, plug it in, and power it up. QNAP provides a web-based installation guide which makes setting up your HS-210 a snap. Just go to start.qnap.com select your NAS and follow the step by step instructions. This entire process, including installing the drives, took all of 15 or so minutes. The most time consuming task is formatting your drives (which doesn't require you to do anything but wait).
The HS-210 is automatically configured to include a Multimedia folder which is a good place to keep your music files but you can put them anywhere you'd like. I connected one of my backup drives that contains my iTunes music library in AIFF format to the HS-210's USB 2.0 input. Then using the QTS Backup Station utility, I had it copy the contents of the external hard drive to the HS-210's Multimedia folder. I set this to run overnight but the process of copying roughly 1,000 albums took about 10 hours. Remember, this was a USB 2.0 drive and my initial backup to a USB 3.0 drive cut that time in less than half.
Once my iTunes AIFF library was loaded onto the HS-210, I went to my MacBook Pro which functions as my music server and connected to the HS-210 (Finder > Go > Connect to Server > enter its IP address). Since I mainly use Pure Music and Audirvana +, and these apps use iTunes as their library manager, I then had to tell iTunes to use my new HS-210-based music library. Holding down the Option key while launching iTunes brings up a window that includes the option "Choose Library". Simply browse to your library and click "Open".
In terms of playing music, you're all done.
That's how long the QNAP Software User Manual is. 750 pages. If we begin on page one....Just kidding. Of course you can do a heck of lot more with your HS-210 than simply store music on it but since that's our focus, I'm not going to cover much else. If you're interested in an intro, click here. Some of the more useful features included with the QNAP QTS include the Backup Station and Alert Notifications. The Backup Station is where you set up your automated backups. I leave a USB 3.0 drive connected to the HS-210 and I've scheduled a backup of my entire iTunes library to take place every Monday morning beginning at 2:00AM. The alert notifications will automatically send you an email or text message (your choice) if the QTS system encounters an error or generates a system warning.
QNAP's Music Station app allows you to access your NAS-based music from a web browser so you can listen to your music library from anywhere you have an internet connection. Nice. Also included in the App package are Twonky Media Server and Logitech Media Server if you'd prefer pairing your network player or Squeezebox streamer with one of these DLNA-compliant UPnP server software packages. I paired up the review Moon MiND with my HS-210 music library using Twonky Media Server and it worked like a charm with the MIND HD remote app. While not included in the preloaded app package, you can also install MinimServer on the HS-210 if you want to stream DSD files over DLNA to your DSD-capable network player.
Once the HS-210 is set up, there's really nothing to think about in terms of using it. I have dbPoweramp configured to save my new CD rips to the "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder on the HS-210 as well as XLD which I use to convert FLAC downloads to AIFF.
If you are using the HS-210 as a DLNA/UPnP server with a network player, you can have the NAS' Multimedia Manager automatically rescan your library when you add new music, set up a scheduled scan, or run a manual scan. These settings are accessed through the QTS software Control Panel.
I've been using the QNAP HS-210 for about a month and I'm happy to report it is nearly silent. I can sometimes hear the hard drives when there's no music playing but this is at such a low level its not an issue. I also appreciate its visual silence due to a lack of status lights as found on the blinky Synology DS212. The HS-210 runs ever so slightly warm to the touch but no warmer than the Western Digital MyBook Live NAS which is also a fanless design.
The Price of Beauty
Compared to other non-fanless, vertically oriented dual-bay NAS devices, you can get equal or better performing units for less money than the HS-210. For example, the Synology DS213j is about $90 less (also diskless) than the HS-210 while offering better on-paper performance and QNAP's own TS-212P offers similar specs while coming in at $189 (diskless/Amazon pricing).
While there's certainly a price to be paid for the HS-210's not tall, yet nonetheless dark, and handsome horizontal good looks, if you want to have your NAS live near your hi-fi, the HS-210's fanless near-silent running will be a welcome non-issue.
Also on hand and in use during the HS-210 review; Synology DS-212