TerraMaster F2-221 Budget NAS: It Even Runs Plex
A great NAS, with a mountain of features. It's quiet and powerful, but expensive compared to similarly specced competitors.
TerraMaster’s F2-221 2-bay NAS is capable of transcoding 4K Ultra HD video and serving it over your home network. With support for Plex, along with a multitude of other server applications, join us as we take a closer look at this budget NAS.
Thanks to TerraMaster, we have an F2-221 to giveaway to one lucky reader. Enter the giveaway at the end of this review to be in with a chance to win!
The F2-221 is a sleek little unit. Priced at $269, and measuring 9 x 4.5 x 5 inches, it’s small enough to fit almost anywhere. Inside, you’ll find two removable drive bays (more on those later), and the following specs:
- 1 x Intel Apollo J3355 dual-core 2.0 GHz CPU
- 2GB DDR4 RAM
- 200MB/s read speed
- 190MB/s write speed
- Support for AES hardware encryption
- Support for 4K video transcoding
This may not sound like a great deal, but that’s a decent feature set for such a little NAS. The processor is a reasonably modern unit, and the DDR4 RAM will help to keep things ticking along nicely. This is user upgradeable to a maximum of 4GB.
On the back, you’ll find two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a full-size HDMI output, DC power in, and two USB Type-A host ports. You’ll also find the giant fan located here. This helps to keep the drives cool, and it’s exceptionally quiet. Even on full power, you’ll struggle to hear it at all, and from any distance, the status lights are the only indicator that it’s even running.
Inside the box, you’ll find the NAS alongside a power supply, Ethernet cable, quick start guide, and drive labeling stickers. You’ll need to provide your own drives, but if you’ve used a TerraMaster storage system in the past, you’ll recognize these bays. Able to mount a 3.5 HDD or 2.5 SSD without adapters, these plastic bays install with a simple locking mechanism. They only fit one way up and are strong enough to withstand any shake, jolt, or impact you’re likely to encounter with a NAS.
The build quality is excellent, with a contrasting silver plastic and metal combination. The front of the unit houses the main power switch and status LEDs. We’ve reviewed several TerraMaster storage systems in the past, and the F2-221 continues the high standard of quality we’ve come to expect.
Using the TerraMaster Operating System
While this NAS is a brilliant piece of hardware, it’s no use without the TerraMaster Operating System or TOS for short. TOS runs on the NAS itself and turns it into a mini computer. You can even change the background and empty the recycling bin. Even so, the F2-221 is not a replacement for your desktop computer.
You get started by installing the TNAS desktop app, which lets you manage a small army of NAS units. This allows you to initialize TOS on the box. You’ll need to download, install, and then configure TOS, through this. Quite why it’s not installed out the box is baffling, but the process is fairly painless.
Once configured, you enter TOS itself. This is version 4.0 and is far more polished than previous versions, even if it’s mostly the same product. It’s secure, easy to use, and nestles itself into your home network with almost no configuration—although you can dive deep into the settings if you’d like to.
Strangely, our unit connected to the network just fine but had a problem accessing the internet. The TOS advised us to configure the network adapter settings—something which worked, but is a little involved, and contrasts with the ease of use in nearly every other area.
TOS/F2-221 runs its filesystem on BTRFS by default. This is a stable Linux distribution designed for excellent data resilience. While it may use more storage than alternative file systems, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. All files are regularly cloned, or “snapshotted”, meaning you can go back and retrieve an older version in case of emergency. However, this is no substitute for good backups.
TOS provides a staggering number of features, settings, and configurations. While there are far too many to list, here are some of the best:
- Automatic scheduled backups
- Cloud backups
- Encryption in rest and in transit
- Permission management
- Support for multiple raid types
- Resource monitoring
- System logs
In every aspect, the F2-221 has grown up from the previous generation F2-220. It can backup to another NAS, cloud storage, USB storage device, or RSYNC server. It can also act as an RSYNC server, and Apple Time Machine server. If you’re into your media, you can run an iTunes server, Plex, or countless other multimedia apps.
The TOS interface lets you quickly and easily configure settings. You can create new users and define folder-based permissions, change network settings, and install apps. You can monitor RAID health, configure sleep schedules, configure SSH, configure Telnet, configure FTP, or run a web server. The F2-221 can do far more than these few tasks listed, and it really is that good.
In addition to all that, the F2-221 works with the TerraMaster app store. Through this, you can install a wide variety of different apps to augment your experience. If you’re a tech person, you can install Java, PHP, Apache, WordPress, Docker, or a whole host of database engines or other development tools.
Multimedia apps such as Plex (or anything else) are the most popular uses for this NAS, and this is where the Intel Apollo J3355 really shines. This is a dual-core CPU running at 2GHz and is a step up from the processors usually found in a NAS. With HEVC/H.265 hardware decoding on board, this CPU is able to decode 4K UHD video fast enough to stream over a home network. The Gigabit Ethernet port easily handles this and more, so you won’t need to worry about slowing down other users when streaming video—provided your home network can handle it.
NAS Speed Test
We used the Blackmagic Design Disk Speed Test to assess the read and write speeds of the F2-221. For our testing, we installed two Kingston 480Gb UV500 SSDs. We used these SSDs in our TerraMaster Thunderbolt D5 review, and they strike an excellent balance between speed, reliability, and price.
While an unusual choice for a NAS, SSDs help test the maximum speed a device can handle. We configured these two in a RAID 0 stripe. We’re aiming for maximum theoretical speeds here, but your use may require the redundancy provided by other RAID levels.
With SSDs and a Gigabit network connection, we achieved an average of 100 MB/s read and write speeds. To be clear, this is saturating a single network connection: the stated 200 MB/s read, and 190 MB/s write speeds are a combined total when both ports are being used. It’s a reasonable speed, and more than fast enough to stream 4K video. While traditional spinning hard drives are slower, in theory, a traditional workload is unlikely to notice any slowdowns. Connecting USB drives directly to the USB host port does provide a noticeable speed increase, but this is a very narrow use case.
Decode All the Videos
The F2-221 is something of a mixed bag. It’s well built, quiet, and has a huge number of features. The TerraMaster Operating System is very powerful and allows you to configure a huge number of settings. Unfortunately, this NAS failed to live up to its legacy. It’s slower than we’d expect, and while it still offers reasonable performance, it’s expensive at $250 without drives. It’s by no means a bad system, but you’re essentially paying a premium for the operating system.
Win a TerraMaster F2-221!
Thanks to TerraMaster, we have an F2-221 NAS to giveaway to one lucky reader! Set up your own home server by entering the competition below.
Enter the Competition!TerraMaster F2-221 NAS Giveaway
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