QNAP has released the QNAP TS-h973AX, a QuTS Hero based OS. What is this NAS all about? What connections does this beast have? In this review I’ll get to the bottom of it!
QNAP has a quite complete video about its options and capabilities. If you have the time, take a look!
CPU: AMD Ryzen™ Embedded V1500B 4-core/8-thread 2.2 GHz processor
CPU Architecture: 64-bit x86
Floating Point Unit: Yes
Encryption Engine: (AES-NI)
System Memory: 8 GB SO-DIMM DDR4 (1 x 8 GB)
Maximum Memory: 64 GB (2 x 32 GB)
Memory Slot: 2 x SO-DIMM DDR4
Support optional ECC memory: Yes
For dual-DIMM configuration, you must use a pair of identical DDR4 modules.
Flash Memory: 5GB (Dual boot OS protection)
Drive Bay: 5 x 3.5-inch + 4 x 2.5-inch
3.5-inch SATA hard disk drives
2.5-inch SATA hard disk drives
2.5-inch SATA solid state drives
2.5-inch SATA hard disk drives
2.5-inch SATA solid state drives
2.5-inch U.2 NVMe PCIe Gen3 x4 solid state drives (2.5-inch Bay #1 & #2)
SSD Cache Acceleration Support: Yes
2.5 Gigabit Ethernet Port (2.5G/1G/100M): 2
5 Gigabit Ethernet Port (5G/2.5G/1G/100M): Optional via the QNA-UC5G1T USB to 5GbE network adapter
10 Gigabit Ethernet Port: 1 x 10GBASE-T (10G/5G/2.5G/1G/100M)
Wake on LAN (WOL): Yes
Jumbo Frame: Yes
USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) Port:
1 x Type-C USB 3.2 Gen 2
3 x Type-A USB 3.2 Gen 2
Form Factor: Tower
LED Indicators: HDD 1-5, SSD 1-4, Power/Status, LAN, USB
Buttons: Power, Reset, USB Copy
Dimensions (HxWxD): 7.19 × 8.84 × 8.82 inch
Weight (Net): 7.76 lbs
Weight (Gross): 11.29 lbs
Operating temperature: 0 – 40 °C (32°F – 104°F)
Storage Temperature: -20 – 70°C (-4°F – 158°F)
Relative Humidity: 5-95% RH non-condensing, wet bulb: 27˚C (80.6˚F)
Power Supply Unit: External, 120 W, AC 100 to 240 V
Power Consumption: HDD Sleep Mode: 41.2 W
Power Consumption: Operating Mode, Typical: 55.41 W
Fan: 1 x 140mm, 12VDC
Sound Level: 22.9 db(A)
System Warning: Buzzer
Kensington Security Slot: Yes
Max. Number of Concurrent Connections (CIFS) – with Max. Memory: 2000
Time to reveal the TS-h973AX from its shell!
What is delivered with the 973AX?
– Screws to affix the HDDs and SSDs in their bays,
– A key to tighten the bays or lock them,
– Adapter and power cable,
– One network cable
The TS-h973AX is equipped with 5 HDD slots and four SSD slots. It doesn’t have any NVMe slots, however, it does have 2 NVMe U.2 slots. The U.2 slots can also be used for regular SSD’s. On the bottom left a USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 connection can be found. The button that’s around it, will ensure that any USB stick or drive.
The sides are left blank, no logos or anything else going on here.
The back of the h973AX isn’t very exciting. There’s a big fan that nearly takes up all of the back. On the top you can find a USB-C 10G connection for an extra bay, below that two USB 3.2 Type-A ports. And below that, two 2.5GbE (rj45) network connections. The 10GbE (rj45) network connection can be found under that. Bottom right you can find a connection for an adapter and top right a reset button, left of that, the Kensington connection.
The inside of the NAS is just as exciting. The SSD slots look different for regular SSDs (on the right) as opposed to the left of the U.2. You can still use regular SSD’s in these slots, all slots to be precise. The CPU is cooled passively.
On the left we can find the memory. In this config a single SO-DIMM bar of 8GB is being supplied. You can also order a 16GB variant separately, which contains 2 bars. Initially, 8GB is quite enough. If you want to use RAID5, you will get a notification that you need more memory. And that’s quite unique.
In this review I’ve used the following:
– 5x WD Red 6TB HDDs
– 4x Kingston KC600 1TB SSDs
By slotting in the SSD and HDD in the bay, they are precisely affixed in a way that the connectors link up with the storage.
Time to turn it on.
The h973AX has LEDS on the left. Not too much though. If the LEDS do bother you, you can always disable it through the menu. (system, hardware etc.).
Installing the TS-h886 is child’s play.
You can choose to install QuTS Hero, or use QTS normally.
Whilst installing, you are prompted to update to the newest firmware.
Our little QNAP can be named, and is learning to take its first steps. This time I’m not naming it ANAS, but I’m leaving it default to; NAS55AEC0, rolls of the tongue. Password is safe and secure, making it ‘qwerty’.
If you have an NTP server in your organization you can select it, or add it manually of course!
It’s just as important to give the NAS a static or dynamic IP. Leaving it on dynamic, the display will show you what it became.
You can also configure what transfer services have to be enabled.
Resume whatever you’ve done. Apply and you’re prompted if you want to clean the storage. The NAS will stew on it, and a few minutes later you’ve successfully installed QuTS Hero.
The login screen of QuTS Hero looks like the following image. The login screen is configurable, even giving you the option to add your own messages.
Let’s kick off with creating a storage/partition and share. QuTS Hero will bombard you with info screens which I will save you the trouble of. (this review is lengthy enough).
In this case, the four SSD’s are configured in RAID 5 storage.
You could select to use ‘over-provisioning’. This caps out your SSD’s to be utilized for 90% for example. SSD’s never should reach 100%, which also increases its lifespan. QNAP thinks with us.
There’s also an option to enable a guaranteed snapshot storage. Meaning that 20% for example can be reserved for snapshots. Using the two options above 30% is reserved, letting a total of (snapshots included) 90% of the SSD’s be utilized.
QTS and QuTS Hero have an ability to have an alert on all datapools. If the threshold is reached, a mail/beep/notification will be shown on the screen.
A short summary of your configurations.
Storage & Snapshots are summarized as well.
In the meantime, all 5 Kingston SSD’s are being added to a storage pool.
QTS normally requires you to make a volume, with folders within that.. The QuTS Hero does it differently. From the pool you can make a shared folder. From here the storage pool can be selected, whether it’s thick or thin.
For the interested reader; thick means that the space you’ve determined beforehand will be allocated in its reserved space. Thin means that the space grows with the amount of data you possess. Thick is predetermined, thin can grow.
Storage settings can be used for compression, SSD Caching, which is possible when standard HDD’s are being used and you have spare SSD’s. SSD caching can help buffer data when the HDD isn’t fast enough to write something.
If you have multiple users, you can immediately manage who has permissions on what folder.
After configuring SSD RAID 5 storage, it’s time to configure the HDD’s. Configuring the HDD’s to RAID 5 we are met with a notification. The installed 8GB isn’t enough. At least 16GB is recommended.
Funny thing is, RAID 6 works without any issue.
The ‘Control Panel’ is quite complete making the NAS configurable to your wishes. The only negative about this is that a few tabs open new panels for their respective settings(Check NL Zin).
If you press on Storage and Snapshots for instance, whilst you’re in the control panel, a new panel opens. And that feels a bit clumsy. I’d much prefer a button to ‘click here to open storage and Snapshots’.
If you are searching for something else in the Control Panel, you’ll be busy clicking away panels left and right like a Yahoo search in the early 2000’s.
All the options in the Control Panel can be found more in-depth in my review of the QNAP TVS-872XT. [url=https://tweakers.net/productreview/238146/qnap-tvs-872xt.html#part_4
]Which you can read here – in Dutch!/url]
The QuTS desktop looks dreary, but is fully customizable.
QNAP also has an active community meaning there’s a load of applications to install. Furthermore, 3rd party apps can be installed as well.
The standard ‘App Center’ already has a good amount of apps.
QNAP’s boon is the option to install apps on different volumes. Let’s say you have a volume with SSD’s and a volume with HDD’s. You can easily choose to reallocate the app on a different volume. If there’s an app you want on the SSD, you can make it happen in no time at all.
The current apps are displayed in the ‘App Center’ below ‘My Apps’.
And of course you are able to install Ubuntu on the QNAP (Outside of the ‘Container Station’ and Virtualization Station’). When you affix a GPU in the TS-h886 (I’ve heard you can easily get a 3080 nowadays…), you can use hardware and a monitor to control Ubuntu Desktop.
QNAP uses QManager to control your NAS.
In the start-up screen, you need to add your NAS, insert your IP-address, account info, and press connect. The first overview will display the ‘health status’ of the NAS. Here’s a piece of my previous review of the TS-h886 showing off the app in-depth. The app is a neat addition.
The app has a lot of options. Using the App Center, updates can be pushed and software can be installed.
The resource monitor displays info like temperatures, system usage etc.
In the bottom, tabs showing CPU, RAM, storage, bandwidth, processes and users can be viewed and managed.
The tab ‘processes’ obviously displays all you need to know with what’s running. Under ‘users’ you can see who’s connected to the NAS with what service. Like Samba, HTTPS etc.
Background processes can also be monitored through the menu. It can even show if the RAID is busy with a scrub.
The Privilege-settings are for user management. A tab further you can manage user groups and shared folders.
The great thing about the app is the ability to enable/disable any service. If you don’t want a FTP or SSH to be open, you can disable it whenever you want on the app.
The app can also be used to manage the App Center. Such as currently installed apps, and the ability to install more applications.
You could of course choose to be kept up to date by push notifications or e-mail, but you could also choose to check the logs through the app. (I’ll spare you my logs ;)..)
Event logs can be checked to see who uses what on the NAS.
And yes, you can even backup using the app.
Through the app you can use the download station to get your daily fix of Ubuntu installations… ahum..
System tools controls external devices. One tab further, users on the ban list can be managed.
The last tab allows you to reboot or update the NAS.
It’s a good app in my opinion, there’s plenty of options for the NAS to be configured and monitored.
Before starting my review of the TVS-872XT I really had to get used to QTS. Having been accustomed to DSM from Synology. But admittedly, if you keep playing with QTS, you’ll get used to it. It’s like switching to a different OS. A lot the same, yet different. Both work in their own way, which makes it interesting for me.
QuTS Hero in my opinion is an upgrade to QTS.
A good OS if I may say so myself. 🙂
Testing the QNAP TS-h973AX I’ve tried different ways. The HDD’s and SSD’s.
The system looks like this: From a computer using PCI-e (WD Black) and 10GbE adapter on the motherboard (ASRock x570 Creator) through the QNAP Qhora-301W router to the 10GbE PCI-e slot in the TS-h973AX.
These tests are tailored to the SSD’s – Just to see the max capacity of the NAS.
From the PC to the TS-h973AX a file of ~45gb reaches a speed of 805 MB/s.
From the TS-h973AX back to the PC the same file is being written at 1 GB/s, well done. The NAS has the power to keep going.
In this test we try transferring data from the PC to the HDD’s on the TS-h973AX.
This test varies between 100 and 250 MB/s. The SSD’s are RAID 5. These HDD’s are RAID 6. RAID 5 didn’t want to cooperate with 8GB. Which is quite a limitation in my opinion.
From the NAS to the PC it reaches 290 MB/s on average, with spikes to 409 MB/s.
And then I stop testing so I can continue to write. And I thought to myself, the previous tests were done with thin provisioning. But the system has to increase the pool all the time. Let’s try it with thick provisioning and allocate a few hundreds GB. What will happen then?
Instead of the 100/250MB/s we’re up to the 300/400 MB/s.
Using the HDD’s with thick provisioning to the PC is between 500 and 677 MB/s. Previous tests were between 290 to 409 MB/s. Big difference!
Mainly I think it’s due to the 8GB of memory that plays a bigger role than you might suspect. Thin provisioning needs to be edited continually. It grows with its environment. When there is a predetermined pool, the NAS doesn’t have to be active with it. So it seems atleast..
After quite a few tests we can conclude that the SSD’s can utilize the whole 10GbE. The HDD’s logically, perform less. Besides the simple reasoning that SSD’s are faster than HDD’s, there’s more reasons for that. Besides, HDD’s with SSD caching and different RAID types the storage can be tuned. In conclusion, the speeds can be cranked up even more in my opinion. Sadly I don’t have another stick at hand to see what it can do at 16GB.
What I noticed once again, is that the QuTS Hero operates easier than the QTS itself. Even configuring a shared folder, partitions/datapools are easier as opposed to the QTS. In my opinion, do this for the QTS as well.
The tests and benchmarks of this NAS have created a load of storage pools, and shares below it.
QNAP is a step ahead in the market of netwerk storage devices. Most of the newer systems have 10GbE connections, USB-C 10GbE, NVMe M.2 slots etc. And that’s a great addition. By stuffing these future proof options in these systems, you have more choice and room. And that is very noticeable. The QNAP TS-h973AX is not an exception. The four SSD’s and five HDD’s allow enough freedom and data storage. The processor is fast enough to run whatever you throw at it. You could run Plex, iTunes, Roon without a single problem and more. Your own Docker, it’s possible with this little beast! Of course there are limits, when the CPU hits 100% you’ll notice, but that’s universal.
The NAS has been in my possession for about 5 months and I haven’t encountered a single problem. No, it’s not a 20 core processor allowing you to run all apps at the same time that you got from the store. But.. Who needs/does that? Rent a serverpark in that case. 🙂
Jokes aside; The 973AX is incredibly stable. The AMD Ryzen CPU works well, without any problems. Encoding movies goes without a hitch too.
The 8GB NAS is a good start. Especially for people who aren’t particularly interested in the 16GB version which is obviously more money. Great move by QNAP letting people decide if they even want to throw in 32 GB or more themselves.
During testing I noticed that RAID 5 both for the SSD’s and HDD’s wasn’t working. By configuring the SSD’s on RAID 6 , or even the HDD’s, the problem got solved. An extra stick of memory would have solved it all together.
QuTS Hero utilizes ZFS, normally QTS uses EXT4.
Personally I find QuTS Hero working slightly better and more fluid than QTS.
The QNAP TS-h973AX is being sold for around 1500 Euros. And price/quality wise, I think that’s fair for this powerhouse beaming with options. It works great, it has enough options in the OS and a plethora of connections on it, with options to expand as well.
The QNAP TS-h973AX rightfully earns 5 out of 5 stars.