When it comes to NAS servers, I've always recommended Synology. But once in a while, it's worth checking out other brands. So here goes: The TerraMaster F2-223.
This new server is TerraMaster's major release in its entry-level 2-bay lineup, now with native support for Multi-Gig and the latest TerraMaster Operating System (TOS) version 5.
It has much to offer over the previous releases and proved much faster than the Synology DS220+ counterpart in my testing. But it's far from perfect.
Here's the bottom line: If you're looking for an affordable Multi-Gig-ready server with a fast raw performance at the current street price of $299.99 (disk-less), the F2-223 will make an excellent first NAS device for those wanting to dabble into the world of serious network storage.
If you want deep functionality and a more refined experience, I'd still recommend the similarly-priced but Gigabit-only DS220+ or a higher-end Synology server.
TerraMaster F2-223: A major hardware upgrade in a familiar design
As mentioned above, the F2-223 is the latest in TerraMaster's 2-bay product line. It natively runs TerraMaster Operating System (TOS) version 5 and is the first with two Multi-Gig 2.5Gbps ports. Previous models, the F2-221, F2-220, and original F2-210, all use Gigabit.
All previous models use TOS 4 and can be upgraded to TOS 5, except the F2-210, which is stuck at TOS 4.1.32.
On top of that, the new server also features USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) instead of USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps).
So hardware-wise, the TerraMaster F2-223 is significant. The Synology DS220+ and most Synology servers have Gigabit by default, and only some allow for Ethernet upgrade.
A tad bulky, now with the tool-less drive bay design
The TerraMaster F2-223 NAS server shares the same hardware design as previous models. It looks identical to the F2-210, as shown in the photos above.
As such, it's a bit bulky for a dual-bay server -- much larger than two standard 3.5-inch hard drives put together -- with a protruding back to hold the ventilation fan.
Besides the Multi-Gig ports, the F2-223 also has two USB 3.0 ports to host extra storage and an HDMI port for direct media streaming -- it's more of a gimmick (often found in QNAP servers) than a helpful feature.
Unlike the F2-210, which requires a screwdriver for hard drive installation, the F2-223 comes with drive trays with latches that allow for toolless hard drive (HDD) installation and removal. You only need to use a screwdriver when installing 2.5-inch (laptop) HDDs or solid-state drives (SSDs).
Once you've assembled a drive onto its tray, push the tray into the server, and it will stay put. Note, though, that each tray has no security lock against accidental out-pulling -- don't leave your server within your minor children's reach.
Installing the drives is the only hard work in getting the new server up and running. After that, plug the server into the network, power it on, and you're almost ready.
TerraMaster F2-223: Hardware specifications
|CPU||Intel Celeron N4505 64-bit|
Dual-core 2.0 GHz
(Max burst up to 2.9 GHz)
|Hardware encryption engine||Yes|
(Upgradeable to 32GB via two slots)
|Compatible drive type||2 x 3.5" or 2.5” SATA HDDs/SSDs |
(drives not included)
|External port||2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps)|
|Size (HxWxD)||8.93 x 4.68 x 5.23 in |
(227 x 119 x 133 mm)
|Weight||5.2 lbs (2.4 kg)|
|Network Ports||2 x 2.5GbE (Multi-Gig)|
|Wake on LAN/WAN||Yes|
|Scheduled power on/off||Yes|
|AC Input||100V to 240V AC|
(per 24 hours)
|≈ 490 Wh|
(as tested with two hard drives)
|Maximum storage capacity||40TB (2 x 20TB drives)|
|Maximum local user accounts||2048|
|Maximum share folders||512|
|Supported RAID type||Single, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, TRAID|
|Suggested retail price (disk-less)||$300|
Simple OS setup process
To make a TerraMaster server work, you'd first need to install the operating system, TOS 5, which is a simple process.
First, download and install the TNAS PC software -- there are Windows, macOS, and Linux versions -- on a computer and run it.
After a few seconds, the software will find the server in the network, as shown in the screenshots above. Now you can use its IP address on a browser or click on the software's login button, to launch the web-based setup wizard.
The wizard will work through a few self-explanatory steps to install the OS -- directly from TerraMaster's server or via a local file -- and everything else, including picking the RAID configurations, file format (BTRFS or EXT4), and the first user account.
You can start using a server with a single drive. But to use any RAID, you must have two or more. Generally, the setup process only allows for creating a single storage pool. To have more pools, when applicable, you need to use the Storage Manager -- part of the Control Panel -- once the server is up and running.
Depending on your Internet speed, the process will take between five to 30 minutes. And then, you can log in to the server's web interface -- via the same IP address -- to further customize it.
Robust web interface, flexible TRAID, and LDAP support
Unlike the clunky TOS 4.x, TerraMaster's TOS 5 is robust, similar to Synology DSM, and has a web-based user interface resembling a native operating system.
You can run multiple apps simultaneously and use the Control Panel to configure the router. Most importantly, there's the app store, called App Center, that allows for installing more apps on the server.
TRAID allows for mixing drives of different capacities, easy storage scale-up, and automatic RAID function -- you automatically get something similar to RAID 1 when using two drives, RAID-5 with three or more, etc. -- with a slight performance sacrifice.
In any case, the support for TRAID shortens the gap that TerraMaster trails behind Synology considerably in terms of storage management.
Another noteworthy feature is TOS 5 now supports domain/LDAP integration, allowing the server to work as part of a business environment with a domain controller. This feature is a must-have if TerraMaster wants to break into the business environment.
Few useful apps
Apps are where a server shows its power, and it's the area TOS is still much behind DSM.
First, it's the quantity. There are only 55 apps (44 if you take out the Betas -- the numbers will change over time). Among these, only a few are useful. The rest are largely irrelevant to general users, and there are no real apps for business users.
For comparison, Synology has over a hundred well-designed apps for all business and home categories.
That said, I found the following apps significant compared to the previous version of TOS.
- Snapshot: Similar to Snapshot and Replication of Synology, TerraMaster's Snapshot -- available only when you use the BTRFS file system -- enables the keeping of versions in shared folders to fight against accidental deletions or alterations. It also supports a replication feature to keep a copy of a shared folder in real time.
- Transmission: An app for download, similar to the Download Station of Synology. This app allows users to download BitTorrent files without having to have a PC on, but unfortunately, it has no search function, which is a huge shortcoming, and it doesn't work with other types of downloads, such as FPT or HTTP.
- Multimedia Server: A server app for streaming content hosted on a TerraMaster server, similar to the Media Station of Synology. TerraMaster doesn't have playback apps on the front end, but Multimedia Server supports standard streaming protocols -- you can use third-party streamers with it. On top of that, the server also has a beta version of Plex and Emby -- two popular streaming platforms.
- TerraSync: including Server and Client apps, TerraSync is a copy of Synology Drive that allows syncing and baking data of multiple clients.
None has the same level of in-depth customization for functionality as the Synology counterparts. On top of that, some apps are impossible to use.
For example, the VirtualBox app, supposedly a virtual machine manager, doesn't work at all.
The way software works, there's hope that things will get better in future updates and releases.
For now, TOS 5 works great for first-time users. If you have used a Synology server before, you'll find it sorely lacking. I did.
But, also for first-time users, what the TerraMaster F2-223 lacks in the app front, it more than makes up for in performance. But first, let's out how it looks.
TerraMaster F2-223: Detal photos
TerraMaster F2-223: Fast performance
I used the TerraMaster F2-223 for over a week, and the server worked well at all times with no hiccups. And its performance was excellent.
For throughput performance, I tested it with two 8TB hard drives and two 500GB SSDs, in RAID 1 and RAID 0. (It's important to note that you should use the server in RAID 1 or TRAID since RAID 0 offers no data protection.)
Thanks to the 2.5Gbe ports, the TerraMaster F2-223 excelled in my testing. It generally maxed out the speed of the test wired connection, be it 2.5Gbps or Gigabit, as shown in the charts above.
On top of that, the server remained cool and quiet, even when it used hard drives on the inside -- unlike the case of the F2-210, the F2-223's metal chassis didn't work as an echo chamber that amplified the sound made by the hard drives.
On top of that, the server's fan, which worked most of the time, didn't produce more than a low humming sound.
TerraMaster F2-223 2-Bay NAS Server's Rating
Two built-in 2.5Gbps Multi-gig ports; fast performance
TOS 5 with lots of improvement, including domain/LDAP integration, robust interface, TRAID, Snapshot, and more
Affordable and quiet
TOS 5 and most apps seem not mature enough
No IP camera support
Thanks to the new operating system and two 2.5Gbps ports, the TerraMaster F2-223 is an excellent buy for those wanting an affordable yet fast NAS server. Just make sure you have a Multi-gig switch for it.
While TerraMaster doesn't offer a similar level of depth in its software as Synology, the new F2-223 has enough to excite newbies and get the job done for advanced users.
Speaking of advanced users, it's important to note that it doesn't have everything. For example, if you want your NAS server to also be the controller of an IP camera system, you're out of luck.
(You'd need to use a Synology server to take advantage of the Surveillance Station.)
But potentially, things will only get better with the TerraMaster with future updates.
Most importantly, this server is the only sub-$300 option that gives you Mult-Gig performance right out of the box. And that alone will make a lot of folks happy. So get one today!