Home Lab NAS with Terramaster F5-221, Part 1: Intro and Specs
For a family member, Tom sets up the Terramaster and tests it for suitability as a NAS for his own home VMware lab.
Last year I set up and reviewed a QNAP TS-431K after having a catastrophic failure on an ESXi server in my lab that caused me to permanently lose a dozen virtual machines (VMs) because I had not backed them up. At the same time, I was looking for a replacement for Dropbox and a a streaming server for my home entertainment media. After thinking about it for a while I came up with three options:
- I could repurpose an older, unused Dell server that I had
- I could buy a newer used server
- I could buy a new purpose-built, standalone NAS
In the end, I ended up going with a standalone server, the TS-431K, that I got on sale for $250. Over the last year it has proven to be rock solid and require no maintenance.
A few weeks ago a family member asked me about helping them set up a home storage server. Initially looking for another QNAP, I couldn't find one on sale, but I did see a five-bay Terramaster on sale for $330 -- the same as the list price as my four bay QNAP. I agreed to set up the Terramaster with the understanding that I could do some testing on it for its suitability as a NAS for my home VMware lab.
At first blush it seems like a stretch to use a low-priced NAS for a home lab, but after mulling it over in my mind for a bit I figured it was worth a shot and it would give me a chance to spend some time with the Terramaster NAS.
In this series of articles, I will give you an overview of the Terramaster F5-221's specifications, design and build quality, and a summary of the testing that I carried out on it. I will then lay out the key findings from those tests and provide my thoughts about using the device for shared storage for my home lab.
Terramaster F5-221 Specifications
Terramaster is a Chinese company that has been around since 2010 and specializes in low-cost network-attached storage (NAS) appliances that competes with Taiwanese companies such as Synology and QNAP. They offer a wide range of storage appliances, from a dual-disk home user appliance (F2-210) powered by an ARM processor with a single 1Gb NIC to an small/medium-class 24 bay powered by a Intel Xeon E-2224G processor with 64GB or RAM and support for 10Gb NICs NAS (ES2486dc).
The F5-221 is classified by Terramaster as a small business NAS.
The F5-221 has five SATA drive slots, boasts read speed reaching 119 MB/s and a write speed reaching up to 118 MB/s, and can do 4K H.264 live transcoding and has an option for cloud storage.
Below are the Terramaster F5-221's specifications:
- Manufacturer: Terramaster
- Model: F5-221-US
- Part #: 52400-QG3800-00-RS
- MSRP: $379 USD (sale price $327)
- Form factor: mini tower (five bay)
- OS: TOS
- Supported network protocols: iSCSI, SMB/AFP/NFS/FTP/SFTP/WebDAV
- CPU: Intel Celeron J3355
- Dual core
- 2GHz burst 2.5 GHz
- 64 bit -core
- GPU: N/A (no video port on the device)
- Memory: 2GB DR3
- Storage: 5 x 3.5-inch SATA (drives not included)
- Power: 90W, 100-240V external power adapter
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.0 port
- Video Port: HDMI
- Network connectivity: 2 x 1GbE RJ45
- Physical size: 227 x 225 x 136 mm
- Physical weight: 3.6 kg
- Color: silver
- Power consumption: HDD Sleep Mode = 15W
- Power consumption: Operating Mode = typically 45W
- Sound level: N/A
- Compliance standards: NA
- Package contents: F5-221, power adapter, ethernet cable, warranty, and quick installation guide
- Warranty: 2-year limited warranty
- Expandability: The USB ports can be used to add additional 1- or 5-Gbe NICs, USB drives, or a Terramaster expansion enclosure
Unboxing and Physical Description
The device came in a putty-colored cardboard box and was nestled between two white foam blocks and wrapped in a plastic bag. The power supply was in its own cardboard box along with a warranty, quick setup guide, CAT 5 cable, a bag of screws and a sheet of stickers for labeling the hard drives.
On the front of the device are the five drive carriers and the power/reset button. It has LEDs that show the power and the status of the LAN and the drives.
On the back of the device are two USB 1 ports, two RJ45 ports, HDMI and power connectors and vents for the devices two fans.
The case is made of silver plastic with ventilation slots on the bottom. Overall, it is well-made and should hold up in an office or home environment.
The Quick Installation Guide has a QBR code and address for the actual guide (htps://start.terra-master.com/). A separate guide consists of illustrations on how to add drives to the system.
In this article, I described why I decided to use the F5-221, and then outlined the specifications and the unboxing of it. In the next article on this device, I will walk you through the process of setting it up, after which I will discuss using it for my home lab.
Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 30 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He currently works as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He previously worked at VMware in Staff and Senior level positions. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on X @vDoppler.