QNAP TS-269L: A User’s Tale (Book 3)

Ok, so you’ve gone through the previous steps and configured everything for your network environment.  Now time to press on and see what makes this more than just a hard drive in a box.

STOP PRESS: as at this instant (4th Jan) it appears that a new version of the software (4.1) is in Beta and the online manual has already been updated to reflect some of the changes which directly impact some of the applications.  This update also appear to address the fact that the Time Machine backup facility no longer works with the latest version of OS X so hopefully I’ll be able to test that now.  As such, I’ll hold off going into any more detail for the moment until this is officially released.

The two applications I had already written about below don’t appear to have changed so check them out.

Applications

All the following applications can be enabled (and in some cases downloaded first) to allow your files to be accessed in various alternate ways, and also reveal some powerful new features.

Station Manager

QNAP provides the concept of ‘Stations’ which are a dedicated interface to manage different media or functions.

Photo Station

Ok, I must admit I haven’t tried this yet.  I have an Apple TV and use that for viewing photos from my iPhone, but I have hundreds of photos which are locked away on my laptop and when I get a chance I will look at moving them to the QNAP and enabling this feature.

Having said that though, these ‘stations’ tend to provide two things: a web interface to view photos/play music/play videos etc, and a remote API so mobile apps can also access those files.
What they do not provide is something that you can view and interact with via your television – for that you require XBMC (which QNAP includes under the ‘HD Station’ banner which is described later on).

Thus, there seems little point enabling this feature for photos for example since the photos are already accessible as a network share which I could browse using any existing software such as ACDsee.  And I have no burning desire to squint at my photos on a mobile device (although if you wished to re-purpose an old tablet as a digital photo frame this would be ideal).

However, if you wish to make your photos available to the outside world, then this will allow you to do that, and has facilities to create slide shows, albums and even has some photo editing capabilities.

Music Station

Same deal as Photo Station but for music.  The web interface allows you to browse your music and play it within any browser – no extra software required.  If you open it up to the outside world then you could listen to your entire collection of music at work for example.

QNAP Music Station

Enabling this station will allow you to use the Qmusic mobile app that provides a similar feature set but on a mobile device.

Qmusic Interface

The Qmusic app does have an interesting feature: it allows you to download the music to your device so it is available offline.  Thus it could allow you to sync music to your phone without requiring iTunes.  There are at least 134 reasons why that is a good thing, but the number one for me is simply the fact that iTunes doesn’t stay in sync with my music – it doesn’t automatically recognise when I add new files to the NAS while this software does – as you will see later on there are options to ‘watch’ your files and make sure they are added to the library automatically.  Using the NAS as an iTunes server will mitigate that somewhat but iTunes is still painfully slow with large collections and I’m not sure if I can sync files from a shared iTunes library to my phone – I haven’t tried that yet.

Finally, for iPhone users, you can play files from this app via AirPlay so if you have Apple TV, you can play music to your hifi without needing to:

  1. Turn the TV on to navigate through your files
  2. Physically connect the NAS to your hifi

That works pretty well, and the software will handle playback of formats that the iPhone/Apple TV can’t handle natively (i.e. FLAC).  Of course, the ridiculous hardware limitations of the current Apple TV mean you are stuck with 16 bit/48Khz playback, so no HD audio.

One final thing: the Qmusic app has a glaring omission (at least as far as I know).  As it is designed for a range of QNAP devices, it doesn’t know about the HDMI output on the TS-269L.  Thus there is no option to tell it to play your music through the HDMI connector!  It downloads/streams it via the app first and then you listen to it on your phone, or send it back to your hifi via AirPlay.

Clearly that is very silly and hopefully will be addressed at some point (or someone please tell me where to find this feature).  Luckily there is another way to achieve this result as you will see later.

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6 comments on “QNAP TS-269L: A User’s Tale (Book 3)

  1. husker1970 says:

    So, since you ended with Book 3, how was the video and video streaming? Does it provide 1080p through the HDMI to your TV?

  2. husker1970 says:

    Ok, so how did the QNAP do in terms of video and audio? Did you get 1080p through the HDMI? How was streaming video/audio? I didn’t see anything after Book 3, so don’t know if you got to test things out or not. Was thinking of buying this NAS myself. Would love to know more details if you got ‘em!

    • patrickdubby says:

      Hi, yes, I’ve been a bit slack with finishing this off. Embarrassingly though, I’ve not actually tried playing full 1080p video! I don’t actually have any high-definition movie files lying around, only audio files and standard definition TV episodes and music videos.
      The bottom of this page lays out some of the specs: http://www.qnap.com/hdstation/
      I’ll look at ripping a blu-ray and see how that goes.
      As far as audio is concerned it seems to output 24bits but is capped by the audio driver at 48khz. Apparently you can increase this by editing a configuration file but I have not been successful yet. For a ripped blu-ray for example, I presume it just outputs whatever the original audio format is (DTS-Master Audio etc) and the lets the amplifier deal with it.

      Thanks for the comment – it’ll motivate me to finish this off.

      • husker1970 says:

        I’m glad I can motivate someone! : ) I googled information the other day on this QNAP model and the review said it can only play 720p through it’s video software, however, I believe the guy was streaming video to his TV. I can’t believe that it wouldn’t play true HD if you have it physically attached to the TV. Thanks for the reply, I look forward to hearing how ripping those blu-ray movies go, Along with my own research (which led me to your blog), all this will help me decide which NAS is for me!

  3. patrickdubby says:

    Well, here is what I have found so far. I ripped a blu-ray using the latest version of MakeMVV (http://www.makemkv.com/) with no conversion or re-compression (as far as I know. I think it basically just decrypts the data so it can be played outside of an authorised hardware device but I could be totally wrong).

    I used ‘Baraka’ as my test which has excellent video quality and also a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.

    XMBC played the file fine, but at the time I was doing a bunch of file copying so it struggled to read and decode it smoothly. I also had not changed the sound output settings from the default so I think it was just down-mixed to 2 channels.

    After fiddling with the sound settings (based on settings described near the bottom of this page: http://www.qnap.com/en/index.php?sn=8254) I got it to output DTS, but not DTS-HD Master Audio. I have no idea whether this is due to sound settings or because the ripped file no longer had that data.
    Also, I had one glaring issue: the sound would consistently cut out after about 5 seconds :-(
    Going back to default settings work fine, but was just 2 channels.
    There is an option to setup ‘Passthrough Audio’, which sounds like exactly what I want because the amplifier does the decoding, but the document referred previously says this option is not available on the TS-x69 series.

    Once the file copying at finished, video playback was smooth and according to my television was full 1080p. There was the occasional ‘quiver’ in the video playback, but it was never jerky. It was every bit as good as what you get from Apple TV if you have ever seen that.

    So in conclusion, 1080p playback via HDMI works perfectly if you are prepared to compromise on sound (there are numerous combinations of sound setting available, but most don’t work at all, so I’m reasonably confident I got it as good as it could be, and you may get different results depending on your ripped copy).

    I would suggest however getting the RAM upgrade to 2Gb, or being diligent with disabling services you don’t need. If anyone else in your household is reading files off it at the same time for example then it might struggle occasionally to playback full HD files.

    I think full 1080p video playback is the toughest thing you can get a device like this to do, and if you don’t need the other features (like the RAID hard drives and comprehensive network sharing options) then you may be better of with something specifically designed for media playback.
    I guess a way of looking at it is that this is a standard QNAP NAS that happens to have a HDMI port and XBMC grafted on and I think it feels a little like a ‘Version 1.0′ product in that respect, and you may need to spend some time tweaking it to get the most out of it.

    If you have some more cash to spare, the TS-470 Pro sounds like a killer option – it supports passthrough audio to your amplifier and has version 12 of XMBC (the x69 is stuck at version 11 by the looks). Plus it has more memory and more powerful processor, although there doesn’t seem to be a 2 drive bay option so it has much larger footprint.

    Please let me know if you have any more questions :-)

    One last thing – the settings in that document fixed the issue I had with the sample rate being fixed at 48khz. I was very happy to see that my small collection of 192Khz HD flacs were being output at their full bitrate. Why these same settings consistently failed whenever I tried to play a movie after a few seconds is a mystery, but I’m sure it is fixable.

    • husker1970 says:

      Very cool, thank you for that! It feels like I sometimes want a device to “do it all.” I do want something to store files, serve as my own private cloud, and hold my music and movies as well as play/stream them to other devices. As you suggest, I may want to look at something more powerful. I am disappointed about the sound issue. Let me know if those kinks work out. Thanks again!

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