If you want a NAS that starts big and keeps getting bigger, it’s hard to beat Qnap’s TS-420. It starts out as a four-bay NAS, and with two USB 2 ports, two USB 3 and two eSATA ports, you can plug in a lot of extra drives. The design isn’t discrete or attractive, though it’s certainly purposeful, but on the upside it’s easy to lock disks into the slide-in caddies. We just wish it wasn’t so noisy.
Usability is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the wizard-based setup utility offers a choice of quick or detailed setups, asks for basic details and gets on with the initial configuration. On the other, many tasks seem unnecessarily fiddly, and we struggled to do basic things such as set up the media player and personal cloud services. There are too many control panels, and the system isn’t always logical. Setting up a new RAID array and updating the firmware involved tedious waits.
That said, the Qnap has so many add-on modules that there’s almost no limit to what it can do, and its cloud features are worth persevering with. The CloudLink service helps you set up remote features with minimum configuration and port forwarding, while the MyQnapcloud service allows you to stream media or browse, view, download and upload files, and you can easily send links for others to directly download.
Qsync is a fine imitation of Dropbox, right down to the ticks on icons when an item has synced. It works extremely well, too, with changes to a local file reflected on the NAS within two seconds over a LAN. The Qfile iOS and Android apps provide remote file access from smartphones and tablets, while QMobile does the same for media (although only when the device in question is hooked up to the LAN).
Speed is the TS-420’s Achilles heel. It’s noticeably slower than its Thecus, Netgear and Synology rivals; but you’re unlikely to find this a huge drawback in everyday use. If you’re prepared to put up with its quirks, it’s a good-quality four-bay alternative to the two-bay Synology DiskStation DS214play, but our winner is faster, easier to use and every bit as versatile.