QNAP has built NAS units for years and we are finally getting to take a look at a NAS unit from a category we have not covered for the company. Specifically, while we have looked at both rackmount and low-end desktop NAS units from QNAP, the QNAP TVS-h1288X we are reviewing here is best described as a mix of many different concepts. It is bigger than the company’s 2-bay, 4-bay, and similar units, but it is still a desktop form factor. It has twelve drive bays, and that is before one gets to the internal storage options. It is a QNAP NAS, but that now includes ZFS.
Realistically, the overarching thought is that QNAP has built the edge server many STH readers have been trying to build for over a decade. That is a bit of a bold statement, but upon reflecting on what you will soon read, it will make a lot of sense if one starts to read this review with that contextual model.
QNAP TVS-h1288X Hardware Overview
We are going to split the article into internal and external hardware overviews. This is simply due to the detail and is the same as we do with servers. Unlike some of the smaller NAS units, this unit has a lot going on warranting a more thorough look. We are going to mix our external overview a bit and show some of the parts that span both the internal and external domains. It still made sense to split.
Since this is a long article, and that is a longer video, we recommend opening the video on YouTube.
QNAP TVS-h1288X External Overview
The unit itself is 9.24 × 14.56 × 12.59 inches and is designed to be a large desktop chassis. While there are some NASes on the market designed to be compact 2-4 bay models and others that are designed to be rack-mounted, this is firmly a unit designed to be used in a SMB/ home office setting. There are simple features such as a LCD status display and a front USB port to make data importing easier that we often do not see on rackmount units.
For drives, we quickly wanted to mention that we are using the Seagate Exos X12 12TB drives as well as the IronWolf Pro 125 NAS SSDs here. Seagate sent these so we could use a matching set of drives for this review.
One of the nice features here is that the unit has tool-less vibration mitigating drive trays. When we reviewed the QNAP GM-1002 3U Dual ZFS NAS, we noted how drives with screws take longer to service. Here, we have drive trays that use simple snap-in pegs to secure drives. There is a recommended option for adding screws for shipping security as well. One can see the blue vibration dampeners that help further isolate vibrations to and from the drives.
The 2.5″ drive trays are far simpler. Here one simply just snaps drives into place and four pegs in the tray keep the SSDs secure. For SSDs, we do not have moving parts, so there is not the same level of vibration dampening.
The main 3.5″ drive bay has 8x locking hot-swap drive slots. This is important as many desktop units do not actually have hot-swap bays. A prime example of this is the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus that some online do not discuss while recommending that system. In a NAS, one wants hot-swap bays, especially in a larger unit designed for more users.
The locking 2.5 bays sit above the 3.5″ bays. The reason we had elongated 2.5″ drive trays is so that the PCB plane for the 2.5″ bays can match the 3.5″ bays below.
One item that you may not immediately notice is that QNAP has a system of vents around the drives to keep cool air flowing. This is a small touch, but it is one that we sometimes see self-build chassis lack. Between the venting and the front/ rear airflow, this keeps drives cool.
We did want to show the LCD display and one other key feature. QNAP has LED status lights that are green for functioning drives and red for drives with errors. Here we have two drives that are marked as having errors to let us show this. One can also see the status screen. This has the basic status that the system is shutting down, but can also show alerts for drive failures, IP addresses, and other important information.
Apologies for that image. As one can tell, it took some time to figure out how to get the drives in failure mode to show this. To us, being able to reliably present which drives need to be serviced is a big deal.
This is one of those features that separates this NAS from lower-end units and many self-built offerings. The motherboard has specific headers to drive the LCD and QNAP’s QuTS hero software helps display relevant information.
Moving to the rear of the unit, we see ports and ventilation holes.
First, there are three large fans that pull air through the chassis and exhaust out of the rear. The primary function of these is to keep the drive bays cool, although they also expel hot air from the 10Gbase-T NIC.
These fans are also oriented just above the power supply which we can see on an internal view here:
One item we really like is that the power supply has an on/off switch in addition to the front power button. This may seem like a small feature, but it is nice to have here.
The rear I/O has a lot going on. There are two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A and two Type-C ports. This offers quite a bit of extra connectivity, especially with a more modern 10Gbps USB standard. There is a HDMI port that can be used to drive a display as well.
Perhaps the biggest rear feature is around the networking. There are four RJ45 ports that are common in this class of NAS. Instead of these being 1GbE ports as companies like Synology generally use, QNAP has four 2.5GbE ports that can run at the lower 1GbE speeds as well. We are seeing more 2.5GbE gear so it is nice that QNAP is using a more modern standard. Not everyone will use this, but it only adds a few dollars to a BOM cost and offers 2.5x the performance of the older standards.
Those four ports are not the only network ports though. This unit also has a dual 10Gbase-T option. This is provided through a PCIe card in the top slot.
We use a lot of SFP+ and know many of our readers do as well. Still, one can use a SFP+ to 10Gbase-T Adapter Module and convert the interfaces. Also as a PCIe card, it seems like this is something that QNAP could offer a different option on very easily. In this class of NAS, we are just thankful that QNAP added a higher-speed network option. The Synology DiskStation DS3617xs is perhaps this unit’s closest competitor at the same price point and only has 4x 1GbE while QNAP is offering 2x 10GbE and 4x 2.5GbE. There is a massive delta on the networking side.
Next, we are going to take a look at the internals of the system.