The QNap TS-212-E is a basic two-bay NAS targeted at home users. The unit we tested came without hard disks installed, but it is also sold with various hard disks sizes, the cheapest of which contains a pair of 1TB disks.
The two disks lie side-by-side, with one slotting neatly into SATA power and data connectors. The other disk requires two separate SATA data and power connectors (supplied in the box) to be connected to the device's motherboard. While this wasn't a great technical challenge, we were bamboozled by the total lack of instructions for our device; the only on-paper guidance provided told us to "install the hard drives" without any explanation of how to do so.
Observing the TS-212-E after assembly, it's not the most attractive NAS we've seen, and its shiny white plastic shell looks and feels cheap not least because the two halves of the chassis don't quite fit together snugly. At least there is a front-facing USB2 port and a dedicated button for one-touch backups as well as a further two USB3 ports on the rear. A single Gigabit Ethernet port gives you enough speed for a home network.
Once the device has been configured and the QNap software installed, you can gain access to the TS-212-E's user interface, which is accessible via your web browser. The QTS 4.0 operating system behaves like a proper desktop OS, running in your browser. This makes the QNap TS-212-E easy to understand and configure.
It comes pre-loaded with lots of media apps, including Photo Station, Music Station and Media Station, which let you listen or view photos, music and videos stored on the NAS via your web browser. They're clunky and slow, though, so you're better off using media streaming from the NAS.
Fortunately, a media server is built-in, so any files copied into the Multimedia folder are discoverable by Windows, iTunes and other DLNA-compatible devices. You can also create your own folders and add them to the media server, if you'd rather use your own directory structure.
You can plug two USB TV tuners into the NAS and, using the pre-installed TV Station app, you can schedule recordings and watch programs simultaneously. We're not convinced that this is particularly useful and a proper PVR will work better for most people.
The TS-212-E can also be used as a print server: connect a printer to one of the USB ports on the device and it will show up as a network printer with no fuss. Printing is speedy, too - just a few seconds elapsed between us hitting the print button and paper emerging glistening with ink.
Smartphone and tablet apps have become an increasingly valuable part of NAS packages, and QNap's are among the best we've seen. The Qfile file management application is fast and simple and also allows for the uploading of files as well as downloading. The Qmanager app lets you keep an eye on the status of various functions of your NAS, including CPU, file sharing functions and activity logging. Other apps are available for music streaming, managing downloads and monitoring your security camera network. These apps are only available for iOS and Android devices, so if you have a Windows Phone or BlackBerry you won't be able to use these.
The TS-212-E is only capable of average file transfer speeds. Setup in RAID 1 with a pair of 4TB WD Red hard disks installed, it was able to write large files at 49.2MB/s and read them at 43MB/s. Writing and reading small files was a trifle slower at 10.9MB/s and 10.7MB/s respectively. It's certainly not slow, but it does fall some way short of some other NAS drives.
The QNAP TS-212-E is an effective and inexpensive NAS and an excellent buy for first-time NAS owners on a budget. It has an excellent range of software and mobile apps, and an easy-to-use GUI. Our only quibbles with the device are its build quality and data transfer speeds. If you want the better performance, the Asustor AS202-TE is a better choice.