QNAP TS-253D NAS review: 2.5GbE, PCIe expansion, and HDMI output make for a kickin’ home server

QNAP’s $469 TS-253D is the second NAS box sporting dual 2.5GbE ports we’ve tested, butting heads with Asustor’s fast, easy, and surprisingly powerful $300 AS5202T. Having 2.5GbE makes a huge difference in performance, dramatically increasing the number of devices you can simultaneously stream to or back up.

You’ll immediately notice that the TS-253D is considerably pricier than its rival, but QNAP’s box features a PCIe slot for adding features such as 10GbE and NVMe SSDs, and it makes far better use of an external display attached to its HDMI port.

How so? the QNAP can play movies, run slideshows, let you browse the internet—heck, it can even function as a lightweight workstation. The Asustor simply shows an administrative command line.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best NAS boxes for media streaming and client backup, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Design and specs

The QNAP TS-253D-4G that I tested is approximately 6.6 inches deep, 4.1 inches wide, and 8.9 inches tall. It’s a two-bay, tower-orientation NAS box boasting a very attractive industrial design. There’s a latching, slide-away cover over the drive bays which feature quick-change, pressure-fit trays. The trays have tool-less snap-in rails for mounting hard drives, but you’re back to screws for installing SSDs like the ones I used for benchmarking.

There are power and quick-copy buttons on the front of the box, along with a USB port and status lights for power as well as LAN and drive activity. Dual 2.5GbE ports ports are around back, along with four more USB ports and HDMI for direct output to up to a 4K display (that’s true 4K, by the way: 4096 x 2160 pixels). You’ll also find a recessed reset button and a Kensington lock port here.

qnap ts253d rear panel QNAP

The QNAP TS-253D is outfitted with three USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports.It will support USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) with an optional expansion card.

There’s a quad-core Intel J4125 Celeron processor inside the TS-253D-4G, along with with 4GB (the 4G in the name) of DDR4 memory in one of its two SODIMM slots. There’s also the aforementioned x4 PCIe slot for expansion cards that allow you to add 10GbE, or M.2 SSDs (SATA or NVMe). QNAP sells a number of add-in cards for this slot, which you can peruse at QNAP’s Amazon storefront. Fair warning: None of these components are what most people would call inexpensive.

OS and apps

QNAP’s hardware is generally top-notch, and the company pairs it with its excellent QTS operating system—one of the first with what is now a de rigueur windowed-OS-in-a browser HTML interface. It’s impressive, if not as well-organized as some. You can experience it at this link. 

qnap qts2 IDG

QNAP’s QTS configuration interface, accessed from a browser, is elegant and generally easy to use. It’s not the best organized we’ve seen, but it’s fun to use.

The app selection is voluminous. For starters, there’s a very competent DLNA server for streaming content off of the box. Plex, with its broader and fancier media streaming support, is also available. Even TVs with poor or no in-house media players feature Plex. Roon server is available for those that who CD-quality music streamed from the box. QNAP also offers a number of its own proprietary multimedia apps for not only its NAS boxes, but also for macOS and Windows computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices.