Introduction

External design

Hardware

Firmware update

Web-interface

HDMI

Command line

Testing

Summary

Introduction

It's been about six months since we published a review on a QNAP NAS, TVS-463, which became the pioneering device in our partnership with the vendor. Recently our laboratory received probably the smallest QNAP model, TAS-168 NAS, with one hard disk. This model will come in handy for home users who are not looking for huge disk memory capacities or utmost reliability in data storage. QNAP TAS-168 can also perform functions of a network media player, but first things first!

External design

QNAP TAS-168 NAS comes in a white plastic case with a couple of black elements. The device weighs 560 grams and needs a 36W external power unit (included in the box) to work properly. A remote control is included in the box too, which is a really uncommon thing for NAS packages.

The front panel has LEDs indicating the correct operation of the network interface and HDD together with the infra-red receiver of the remote control located on it. Also, there are a ON/OFF button, button that answers for copying of data from external USB drives, USB 3.0 port, and slot used for connection of SD cards.

The rear side has four USB 2.0 ports, sunken Reset button, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet ports, and power socket.

The upper panel of QNAP TAS-168 NAS is not remarkable at all and there is only a LED indicating the device status located on it.

Four small rubber legs are located on the bottom panel. Apart from it, there are sticker with brief information about the device as well as a large screw that holds two parts of the case together.

Now let's have a look at the insides of the device. By the way, there is a small fan that cools down the NAS hardware and internal HDD located on one of its side panels.

Hardware

Electronic stuffing of QNAP TAS-168 NAS is one green textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. The device system is powered by a dual-core Realtek RTD1195DD SoC CPU that runs at a base frequency of 1.1 GHz.

Four 512 Mbyte Mosel Vitelic V73CAG04808RAJJ11 chips act as the device RAM, making the total device RAM size 2 Gbytes. A 4 Gbyte SK Hynix H26M31001HPR chips acts as the flash memory. Asmedia ASM1153E microchip performs functions of a USB-SATA converter. Another chip by the same vendor, ASM1074L, performs USB concentrator functions.

That is where we bring the review of QNAP TAS-168 hardware platform to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its software component.

Firmware update

Firmware update may be carried out both in manual and semi-automatic mode. The user will need to use tabs in Firmware Update menu, System Settings group in the control panel.

The whole firmware update process takes about 17 minutes and does not require any technical proficiency from the administrator.

Also, we should mention that it's possible to update the firmware using QNAP Qfinder Pro utility.

Apart from updating the system firmware, the user will be able to update third-party add-ons using App Center application. We already gave a detailed description of this procedure in one of our previous reviews, which was dedicated to QNAP TVS-463 NAS, and this is why we would like to finish this section and pass on to examining the capabilities of the device web-interface.

Web-interface

We already told our readers about the possibility to adjust QNAP NASes via web-interface in the review of TVS-463 model. We decided not to repeat the same thing for the second time but tell a few words about certain features of multimedia applications available to the users.

One can view photos located on the NAS using PhotoStation 5 application.

The user can not only view the pictures s/he likes using the browser but also can transfer them to any media player connected to the same local network. Moreover, one can share the best shots with friends.

Manage section in PhotoStation 5 application is used to create albums and sort out photos.

Music Station application is used to listen to audio files stored on TAS-168. The users can sort out their audios by artist, album, genre as well as create customized playlists.

Apart from listening to music, which is stored directly on the NAS, users can also listen to online radio stations.

Video Station application is used to watch videos, which are located on the NAS, and create video collections.

Besides those capabilities we mentioned above, Video Station app lets the user manage video content categories, automatically look for subtitles, and connect to social networks.

Yet another application we would like to talk about is Media Streaming Add-on, which is used to stream multimedia content to different devices in the local network.

The list of multimedia applications for QNAP NASes doesn't end here; apart from the official applications, there is also an array of third-party apps.

That is where we bring a brief review of QNAP TAS-168 NAS web-interface multimedia capabilities to a conclusion and pass on to reviewing connection to the HDMI interface.

HDMI

QNAP TAS-168 NAS possesses a built-in HDMI interface. As a matter of course, we couldn't help but review this port.

We will not talk about all capabilities that the NAS users can enjoy upon using HDMI interface but only turn our attention to the most interesting ones. Image displaying and processing of user commands are carried out by the built-in guest OS powered by Android, which is executed in the virtual machine that operates in the NAS.

One will need to perform easy preliminary set-up after the first connection to the HDMI port. We believe that it's worth pointing out that the time zones are specified incorrectly here. For example, Moscow is in +4 GMT time zone.

Upon completion of the preliminary set-up, the NAS owner may need to install a couple of extra software elements before s/he can start using the HDMI connection. Set-up is carried out in a semi-automatic mode.

As soon as all necessary software programs have been installed, the user will be able to start watching his/her photos and movies as well as listening to music.

Management of the device upon established HDMI connection maybe carried out both using the mouse and keyboard connected to the NAS and the remote control that is included in the box.

Naturally, QNAP TAS-168 NAS owners are not limited by the capabilities we mentioned and they can use all standard applications that can be executed on Android OS.

The guest OS may be configured not only during the preliminary set-up wizard procedure but any moment after this set-up was finished, too.

Since Chrome browser is installed on Android system by default, the users will be able to fully manage the NAS directly through HDMI interface; in other words, they will not need to get connected to the device via network from a PC or laptop.

One can change the key HDMI connection settings using Android Station menu, Applications group in the main menu of the device web-interface.

That is where we bring a brief review of HDMI interface capabilities, which are available to QNAP TAS-168 NAS owners, to a conclusion and pass on to examining capabilities of its command line.

Command line

Managing the access to the command line of the device via Telnet and SSH protocols is performed using Telnet/SSH group, Network Services menu item.

In order to access the device command line one must use the same log-on information as for the connection to the router web-interface. Firmware of the model under review is built on Linux 3.10.20 OS using Busy Box 1.01.

[/] # uname -a
Linux NASF607B5 3.10.20-al-2.5.3 #3 SMP PREEMPT Wed Dec 2 19:15:53 CST 2015 armv7l unknown
[/] # busybox
BusyBox v1.01 (2015.06.15-07:07+0000) multi-call binary
Usage: busybox [function] [arguments]...
 or: [function] [arguments]...
 BusyBox is a multi-call binary that combines many common Unix
 utilities into a single executable.  Most people will create a
 link to busybox for each function they wish to use and BusyBox
 will act like whatever it was invoked as!
Currently defined functions:
 [, addgroup, adduser, ash, awk, basename, bunzip2, busybox, bzcat,
 cat, chgrp, chmod, chown, chroot, chvt, clear, cmp, cp, crond,
 crontab, cut, date, dc, dd, deallocvt, delgroup, deluser, df,
 dirname, dmesg, dos2unix, du, echo, egrep, env, expr, false, fdisk,
 fgrep, find, free, getty, grep, gunzip, gzip, halt, head, hexdump,
 hostname, hwclock, id, ifconfig, init, insmod, install, ip, kill,
 killall, klogd, linuxrc, ln, logger, login, ls, lsmod, md5sum,
 mkdir, mknod, mktemp, modprobe, more, mount, mv, nameif, netstat,
 nslookup, openvt, passwd, pidof, ping, ping6, pivot_root, poweroff,
 ps, pwd, rdate, readlink, reboot, renice, reset, rm, rmdir, rmmod,
 route, sed, sh, sha1sum, sleep, sort, strings, swapoff, swapon,
 switch_root, sync, sysctl, syslogd, tail, tar, tee, telnet, test,
 tftp, time, top, touch, tr, traceroute, true, tty, umount, uname,
 uniq, unix2dos, unzip, uptime, usleep, vi, wc, wget, which, whoami,
 xargs, yes, zcat
[/] #

Let's see what processes are currently running using ps command. By using top utility one can obtain information on the current activity of the launched processes. We decided to present outputs of the utilities in an individual file.

We have placed the contents of /bin, /sbin, /usr/bin, and /usr/sbin catalogues into a separate file, too.

Now let's turn to /proc catalogue to view its contents and find out the system uptime, its average utilisation, information on the CPU installed, and the amount of RAM. Actually, system uptime and average system utilisation can also be learnt using uptime command.

[/] #
[/] # cd /proc/
[/proc] # ls
1/             13945/         28/            5965/          cmdline
10/            14/            2814/          60/            consoles
109/           140/           2836/          6000/          cpu/
11/            14258/         284/           6020/          cpuinfo
110/           14281/         2846/          6064/          crypto
11003/         14404/         285/           61/            device-tree/
11081/         14522/         287/           6119/          devices
111/           14523/         28778/         6140/          diskstats
11792/         14524/         297/           6178/          driver/
12/            14526/         29969/         62/            execdomains
123/           14528/         3/             6224/          fb
124/           14529/         30/            6297/          filesystems
12444/         14530/         31/            63/            flashcache/
12445/         14531/         310/           64/            fs/
12465/         14682/         311/           65/            interrupts
12466/         14746/         3144/          66/            iomem
12480/         14747/         3187/          67/            ioports
12481/         14919/         32/            68/            irq/
12482/         14942/         32292/         6850/          kallsyms
12483/         15010/         33/            69/            key-users
12484/         16/            34/            7/             kmsg
12485/         17/            3490/          71/            kpagecount
12487/         18/            35/            729/           kpageflags
12488/         1824/          36/            757/           loadavg
12489/         1897/          37/            7799/          locks
12490/         1898/          38/            783/           mdstat
12491/         19/            3870/          7931/          meminfo
12492/         1946/          39/            7958/          misc
12493/         1947/          40/            8/             modules
12494/         1973/          41/            8032/          mounts@
12495/         1975/          42/            8118/          mtd
12497/         19785/         4211/          8234/          net@
12521/         19825/         43/            8251/          pagetypeinfo
1297/          19848/         4445/          8258/          partitions
13/            2/             4463/          8261/          sched_debug
13002/         20/            4614/          8269/          scsi/
13043/         2003/          4726/          8313/          self@
13223/         2005/          4730/          8490/          slabinfo
13246/         21/            4748/          8504/          softirqs
13338/         212/           4817/          8747/          stat
13348/         213/           4860/          8758/          swaps
13356/         214/           4933/          8825/          sys/
13371/         22/            5/             8855/          sysrq-trigger
13380/         2207/          5078/          8889/          sysvipc/
13396/         2208/          5337/          8953/          timer_list
13421/         23/            5370/          8954/          tsinfo/
13451/         23002/         5419/          9/             tty/
13463/         23022/         5426/          9110/          uid_stat/
13470/         24/            5427/          9571/          uptime
13530/         2429/          5522/          9623/          version
13558/         25/            5573/          asound/        vmallocinfo
13626/         26/            5616/          buddyinfo      vmstat
13763/         262/           5766/          bus/           watchdog*
13938/         27/            58/            cgroups        zoneinfo
[/proc] # cat uptime
241998.31 468624.43
[/proc] # cat loadavg
1.29 1.28 1.30 1/784 9670
[/proc] # cat cpuinfo
processor       : 0
model name      : ARMv7 Processor rev 5 (v7l)
BogoMIPS        : 74.24
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0xc07
CPU revision    : 5
processor       : 1
model name      : ARMv7 Processor rev 5 (v7l)
BogoMIPS        : 54.00
Features        : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpv4 idiva idivt
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0xc07
CPU revision    : 5
Hardware        : phoenix
Revision        : 20000
Serial          : 0000000000000000
media_type      : emmc
[/proc] # cat meminfo
MemTotal:        1814412 kB
MemFree:          852432 kB
Buffers:           49836 kB
Cached:           522484 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:           386036 kB
Inactive:         442616 kB
Active(anon):     270464 kB
Inactive(anon):   146268 kB
Active(file):     115572 kB
Inactive(file):   296348 kB
Unevictable:          12 kB
Mlocked:              12 kB
HighTotal:        270336 kB
HighFree:           2372 kB
LowTotal:        1544076 kB
LowFree:          850060 kB
SwapTotal:        530108 kB
SwapFree:         530108 kB
Dirty:                 0 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:        256328 kB
Mapped:           126252 kB
Shmem:            160452 kB
Slab:              63084 kB
SReclaimable:      33872 kB
SUnreclaim:        29212 kB
KernelStack:        6272 kB
PageTables:        10724 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:     1437312 kB
Committed_AS:   19160708 kB
VmallocTotal:     245760 kB
VmallocUsed:       92032 kB
VmallocChunk:      30724 kB
[/proc] # uptime
 14:34:24 up 2 days, 19:13, load average: 1.39, 1.30, 1.31
[/proc] #

That's where we proceed to completion of the brief review of the command line interface capabilities and pass directly on to testing the device.

Testing

Traditionally, we started testing the device with measuring its booting speed, but this time we decided to change our standard measurement procedure. Today we would like to consider the special sound signal that the device makes as the moment of completion of the booting procedure instead of receiving the first echo-reply via ICMP (which took approximately 120 seconds). QNAP TAS-168 NAS boots in 250 seconds (just over four minutes). Also, we decided to measure the time that the device requires to get turned off, which was 150 seconds. Well, both the booting and turning off procedures aren't that quick.

The second test, which is no less traditional, was a security scanning procedure, which has been carried out using Positive Technologies XSpider 7.8 utility. On the whole, there were 25 open ports discovered. The most interesting data are presented below. We believe that the vulnerabilities discovered are not critical.

Before getting straight down to performance tests we would like to mention the key specifications of the test stand we used.

Component PC
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme
CPU Intel Core i7 6700K 4 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes
NIC Intel PRO/1000 PT
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus

We decided to begin the throughput tests with measuring user access speeds to the internal HDD. We used a HGST HDN724030ALE640 HDD, meant for operation in NASes, in order to carry out this test. Since currently not all home networks support Gigabit Ethernet standard, we decided to find out what speeds will be available to users in 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps networks and compare them.

As one can see from the diagram presented above, upon operation in Fast Ethernet networks (100 Mbps), the performance of QNAP TAS-168 NAS in most of tests will be limited by the speed of the user's network.

Since TAS-168 model has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, we decided to carry out NAS performance tests when an external drive is connected to it using the above-mentioned interfaces. The measurements were taken for these four file systems: NTFS, FAT32, EXT3, and EXT; we used our 256 GByte Transcend TS256GESD400K SSD as the external drive. Unfortunately, the NAS could not detect the SSD when it was formatted in NTFS. We notified the vendor about this and are expecting it to fix the bug in the next firmware versions.

It's a pity, but QTS 4.1 firmware for QNAP TAS-168 NAS does not have a capability allowing for connection of Wi-Fi adapters, VLAN adjustment, support of IPv6, and either a VPN server or VPN client; however, an array of VPN applications is available for installation through Android. We decided to measure the highest possible speeds one can achieve using one of the above-mentioned applications. As a matter of course, most of these VPN clients were developed for by-passing various limitations, which were put forward by Roskomnadzor, the anonymous access to the web but the standard OpenVPN client still lets users get connected to their own remote VPN servers. A wireless ASUS RT-AC88U router, which we are currently testing, was performing functions of a VPN server. Data access speeds through OpenVPN connection are presented on the diagram below.

Capabilities that we mentioned above would be barely sought-after by the common users, who are the core market for this model. However, the thing that would be really sought-after is an antivirus module. Fortunately, QNAP TAS-168 has one (ClamAV). As a matter of course, we couldn't help but review performance of the antivirus module which is being executed directly on the NAS. We chose two file packs, created using Intel NASPT utility, which we already used before. The first one is DirectoryCopyFromNAS catalog that features 2833 files, 235 MBytes. The second one is FileCopyFromNAS catalog that has only one file that occupies 1.15 GBytes of space. Naturally, we understand that the real speeds will significantly depend on the scanned files, but one still can get the picture of the AV module performance using the diagram presented below.

That's where we draw the testing chapter to a close and move on to summing it all up.

Summary

Generally, we are glad about QNAP TAS-168 NAS we tested. It has a small case where you can fit one 2.5"/3.5" HDD or SDD. The device multimedia features let us call it not only a NAS but also a multimedia player, which may come in really handy upon mounting a home cinema.

Strength areas of QNAP TAS-168 NAS are presented below.

  • A built-in client Android virtual machine
  • High access speeds to the user data
  • Presence of HDMI and USB 3.0 ports
  • Small-sized and neat design
  • Presence of a remote control
  • Ability to install auxiliary add-ons
  • Availability of an anti-virus module for scanning user data

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention certain drawbacks of the model.

  • A very long firmware update procedure
  • The fan inside of the case is too small
  • Incorrect time zone for Moscow
  • Lack of NTFS support

As of this writing, the best price for QNAP TAS-168 NAS (without disk) in German-speaking Europoe countries, according to website http://geizhals.at/, was 189.58 euro.

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