QNAP TVS-h1288X Internal Overview
Getting inside the server requires removing several screws, but the lid comes off quickly. Inside, we can see that QNAP has done a lot of work customizing this system.
The power supply appears to be a fairly standard unit, but our first clue that something has been customized is that the motherboard has connectivity on both sides. Here we can see the 10Gbase-T adapter slot on the bottom side of the motherboard along with the ATX power supply input.
As we move to the other side of the system we can see why. QNAP effectively has a dual-chamber design. One chamber is for cooling the 10Gbase-T NIC and drives. The other is for the CPU, memory, NVMe SSDs, and other components. Compared to some of the other units on the market that suffer from cooling challenges, this is a great way to design the system.
Perhaps the biggest feature is the CPU. We have a massive CPU heatsink to cool the Intel Xeon W-1250 6-core/ 12-thread CPU. QNAP is not using an old embedded part. This is a current-generation Xeon W launched a few months ago. By using a more modern platform, we get features like the USB 3.2 Gen2 ports.
Underneath the two big blower fans, we have features we would normally expect on a NAS motherboard, but some surprises as well.
First, we have a DOM. This is common for NAS units. This one appears to be made by ADATA. Next to the DOM, we have a black heatsink that is cooling the Intel PCH.
In terms of memory, we have two 8GB DDR4 ECC SODIMMs. The Xeon W-1200 series only supports UDIMMs, but QNAP supports upgrades of up to 4x 32GB for 128GB total. We wish QNAP had 32GB of memory at this price point, but the larger 16-bay option has 32GB installed.
Even though this is marketed as a 12-bay NAS, those are just the hot-swap bays. There are two more internal drive spots and the highest performing ones. These two M.2 slots can handle M.2 2280 (80mm) or 22110 (110mm) NVMe drives using PCIe Gen3 x4. One technically can put 14 drives inside this 12-bay NAS. We like that QNAP is using a tool-less option here as well.
As you have probably seen, this massive cooling solution that QNAP has just for this compartment in the NAS is designed to move a lot of air while keeping the system quiet. There are a few other notable points inside as well. First, we have the four 2.5GbE NIC chips on this side of the chassis. One will notice that while the controllers are on the side with all of this cooling airflow, the RJ45 ports are on the opposite side of the motherboard. This is another impact of having a custom-designed solution.
One may have also noticed the two slots at the top of the system, and noted that they look a bit different. These slots have a specific purpose.
This NAS has a Thunderbolt 3 option for direct connectivity as well.
This is an optional feature but one can add up to two QNAP TBT3-40G2P cards to this system, each in one of these slots.
Each card has two Thunderbolt 3 ports which means while we only had a single card/ 2-ports to test, one can have up to four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
This adds to the expandability of the system significantly and offers a high-speed DAS option as well.
Something we did not know prior to the review was that this functionality on QNAP runs basically with an IP network. When one inserts a Thunderbolt cable connected to another system (we tried the Intel NUC 11 Pro, the Mac Mini M1’s, and a MacBook Pro M1) the QNAP software detects the new device. It then displays IP information on the system.
One of the interesting “tricks” one can use is that QNAP’s software can route traffic through Thunderbolt and use the 10Gbase-T NICs. In effect, one can connect a Mac Mini M1 that has only a 1GbE network port, or a notebook, and use Thunderbolt to access the higher-speed 10Gbase-T ports. That is significantly more complex than just using a Thunderbolt 10GbE adapter, but it is possible. If there were multiple video editors connected to the device via Thunderbolt, as an example, they could have a high-speed link to the DAS/NAS while also getting a high-speed link to the LAN.
Overall, the key takeaway for us is that QNAP did a great job on the hardware. It is abundantly clear that QNAP is designing hardware that differentiates it from both systems built using off-the-shelf components. It is also now far ahead of what Synology offers in this price bracket. There is no doubt QNAP is ahead on a hardware value per dollar in the QNAP v. Synology discussion.
Hardware is only part of the equation. Next, we are going to look at the QuTS hero ZFS-based software solution.