It’s 2019 and everyone is talking about the cloud. Why should you have your file stored locally when you can have it in the cloud, securely and safety? There are many arguments for and against that, and not something we will talk about today. But there is no getting around that the cloud can’t replace a NAS fully yet.
My recommended NAS is the QNAP TS-251b (link to Amazon). It’s a well-priced NAS that support two hard drives. But there is more to the eye with this NAS, as there is an expansion slot that allows you to expand the feature list. This is the NAS to get if you want a wireless NAS or a 10Gbit NIC, just to mention a few.
But there is more than just that with the TS-251b. And it better be. In these modern times, buying a NAS is not as cool as it once was. I think that QNAP has made a good product as it’s on the lower end of the market, but still offers a lot more other than just two drive bays.
Also, if you are not familiar with what a NAS is, you can read my post What is a NAS here.
Not long ago, I came in contact with this NAS for the first time. It was a friend of mine that had purchased it (he works in IT as well, so he needed no recommendation from me) and I was allowed to play around with it. Based on that experience, I can comfortably recommend the QNAP TS-251b to everyone else and this is why.
This is what makes the TS-251B my choice of NAS (if I hadn’t built my own). The NAS has a PCI-E port and thus, can expand the feature list of the NAS. For example, you can buy a PCI-E card that allows you to install up to two M.2 SSDs, a 10Gbit NIC (Network Interface Card) or a Wireless card. It’s a really simple way to get more storage or to connect a NAS to a mesh network, where LAN ports can be very limited.
· Ports on the Back
On the back of the TS-251b, you can find more ports than usual. Of course, you have the mandatory LAN port and some USB ports, but you also have an HDMI 1.4 and sound ports. Essentially, you can have this next to your TV, with the TV connected directly to the NAS. You can also hook up some speakers directly to it and play music from your local library (if you have that) or just stream from the internet.
· Great Support for 3rd Party Apps
While I think that Synology has better software than QNAP, QNAP has a great variation of 3rd party apps for their products. There is a TON of apps that you can download to make your life easier. Simple backup apps, home automation apps, surveillance apps or a simple web browser, what you need is probably in the app center. You can browse the app center here to see all the apps that are offered.
· Great as Media Server
If you have a NAS at home with some movies or music on, you should use PLEX. It’s as simple as that. The problem is that much cheaper NAS can’t playback movies, especially 4K movies. The TS-251b, on the other hand, has the CPU needed to support 4K movies. While the processor wouldn’t look like much in a computer, it’s plenty of power for this NAS.
· The Pricing
This is one of the cheaper NAS that QNAP is offering. But it still feels like a good unit. With the ports on the back, the expansion possibility and supported RAM (up to 8GB), it’s a steal. Synology DS218+ is around the same price but offer nothing of that. It has better software, but you can only get so far with that. QNAP has the hardware and with the big selection of apps from the app center, the software is covered.
Click here to check out the QNAP TS-251b on Amazon
I feel that we need to talk more about the expansion slot on the TS-251b. It’s a unique feature that hasn’t been available for those of us that doesn’t get the biggest NAS for our home. Being able to mount two SSDs inside a NAS that already fits 2 3,5 HDDs will be a lot of storage on a very small surface.
These cards come in many variations, functions, and sizes. It seems like QNAP is doing nothing else other than coming up with new cards. For example, there are extension cards with M.2 slots, NVMe slots, 1, 2 or 4 slots and even a card with both M.2 and 10Gbit network, and that is just for some of the storage options, don’t get me started on the network options.
The card that I would recommend getting is the card with 2 M.2 NVMe slots. It has good pricing and with NVMe, you will not be limited by the speed of the SSDs. You can click here to find the card on Amazon.
There are also cards with SPF+ ports if that is necessary but the most interesting network card, at least to me, is the 10Gbit network card. It’s a simple card with a network port that supports 10Gbit. I should mention that to be able to use that kind of speed, the hardware on the other end must support it as well, and most computers don’t. On top of that, you need to have a network cable that is CAT 6a. You can click here to find the card on Amazon.
A very interesting card that opens up the possibilities of a NAS is the wireless card. There is not many NAS on the market that can brag with that, making the TS-251b even more interesting. The card has four antennas on an external mount so that you can place them on top of the NAS, for example. The card supports 4x4 MU-MIMO which gives great speed and stability between the client and the NAS. The card can also be used as an access point and of course, it supports 802.11ac. click here to find the card on Amazon.
The QNAP TS-251b comes in two versions, a 2G model and a 4G model. The numbers indicate the amount of RAM in the NAS. While more RAM is often very good, it will not be necessary with more than 2GB most of the time. If you need more, it’s cheaper to buy a new RAM-stick than getting the 4G version anyway.
Taking Plex, for example, a very popular media server app, will often not need more than 2GB, or even less. I have 2GB on my VM (virtual machine) that is running Plex and it is working fine (Linux-based, just like the NAS). So, if you have no other plans than running Plex and maybe use the NAS as a file share, 2GB is enough and you save some money for more storage.
But if you are going to use it for more, like hosting VMs on it, you will, of course, want more than 2GB of RAM. You can, of course, purchase the 4G version but another thing you can do is to buy RAM-sticks on the side and then upgrade the NAS with the new sticks. This is often a cheaper option instead of getting a more expensive product with more RAM.
The TS-251b supports up to 8GB, which is what I recommend if you will be running VMs. You just need to make sure that you get RAM that is supported for the NAS or it will not work. For the QNAP TS-251b, you can buy this Crucial 8GB kit from Amazon. There are also 2GB and 4GB sticks if you prefer that.
While it may be that having a NAS in your home is not as popular as before, the needs are still there, and they will not go away soon. Having your own NAS has multiple benefits, many of them have I previously listed in this blog post.
The QNAP TS-251b is a NAS that I have played around with and I find its hardware to be great. It’s very flexible, with easy upgrading of RAM or expanding with the extension card. Also, the fact that there is an HDMI on the back, giving you the possibility to connect your TV directly to the NAS, eliminating any potential network issue, is a great feature.
After all, we just want a NAS that is working. It should just be there and not be noticed. The TS-251b is great for that and that is why I recommend it.
Enjoy your new NAS!