QNAP vs. Synology vs. Asustor
Meet the possible predecessors of the future home computer. None are ready for that title yet, but, as technology evolves, the future will regard this design as a direct ancestor. These are more than network disk drives. They’re application servers that support massive disk capacities. They run 24/7 and require an almost insignificant amount of electricity. Linux transparently controls the show. In terms of difficulty, they require only a little more effort to master than the advanced functions on a microwave oven, although some of the applications might force you to Google something new in order to learn how to use them. Your browser is your terminal.
Technologically, these devices will take over when:
- High rate megabit broadband speeds are universal
- i5 / i7 or better class processors with ARM or less power requirements are commonly available
- High capacity SSD drives in the terabyte range are inexpensive
But now, today, these are still mighty useful devices.
Three manufacturers dominate the smart network drive market. There’s no way to say one is better than the others. It’s a competitive market and, if one has cornered a niche, the others will move in shortly, or so it appears. I happened to purchase a QNAP TS-120 because I wanted certain features in a one drive configuration. Had I waited a few months, another manufacturer might have offered a better model, or not.
At this time, Synology is the most well known if you only look at mass marketers for information. QNAP is regarded just as highly but is a little less well known. Asustor is the newest kid on the block.
Each has a demo site that gives you hands on experience with their operating system.
Start QNAP’s demonstration from this page.
Sign in here.
This is the main QNAP screen.
The Control Panel is used for drive operations.
Additional applications are selected below. This is only a small number of what’s available.
This page will get you into the Synology demonstration.
The first thing you see.
The Control Panel
A few additional applications.
Access the Asustor Demonstration from this page.
Sign in here.
The main screen.
Some additional applications.
Update: April, 2017: All of the Above vs. An Off-Lease Used Laptop
I wrote this page in late 2013. Most of the above is still current information. One option available today that was not available in 2013 was purchasing a used off lease laptop with a 3rd generation Intel processor and using that as a file server – media server – application server – and more. There are large numbers of used laptops available in excellent condition from both Dell and HP. They include i5 and i7 processors. eBay and Amazon are both excellent sources. If you shop well, one can be found in excellent condition for $150 to $300. In many cases, you would want to upgrade the RAM to 8GB or 16GB and possibly install a new SSD, raising the cost by perhaps another $150. An upgrade AC class wi-fi card adds another $25. Some used laptops have specs that nearly match those I just mentioned as recommended upgrades and still cost less than $300. When new, many of these laptops would have cost well over $1000. They’re solid and compare favorably to those being manufactured today. Make sure your selection has a gigabit lan port. Many laptops sold today do not. USB 3.0 was common by the time these laptops were new.
I’m using a Dell E6230 with a 256GB SSD and 12GB RAM as a media server and it will also become a file server the day my QNAP TS-120 goes off to its reward. I paid $250 for A-Stock from Dell outlet (on sale). It has an Intel i5 3380M processor. Upgrades added a bit more cost. A spare USB 3.0 drive is also plugged in for extra storage capacity. Occasionally, it serves as a laptop with an external 60 inch 4K monitor since an HDMI cable runs from the laptop to the TV. A USB mouse / keyboard and an easy chair across the room add to the comfort. Not bad for relative pocket change. Windows 10 pro is full service for this purpose and anything I decide to do later.
Not long ago, I found a HP 2170p laptop with an i5 3320M processor, 8GB RAM and a 180GB SSD for $149 on eBay. An upgraded AC wi-fi card was added. It’s a travel laptop due to its small 11.6 inch screen. I could just as easily make it the home server and carry around the Dell E6230 since it’s only a little larger. HP commonly uses display port rather than HDMI, but display port to HDMI cables are both available and inexpensive from Amazon, eBay, and others.
Options like these were not available in 2013.