TerraMaster F2-210 full review
It’s a simplification, but the NAS drive market has stratified into two tiers’ Synology, and everyone else. That said, even the cheapest Synology devices aren’t inexpensive, and there are plenty of alternatives that perform well and cost much less. Like the F2-210 by TerraMaster.
This business is well known for using current chip technology combined with a Linux-based OS to deliver flexible solutions that most users can afford. If you need a small NAS box for home or business, should you consider the new TerraMaster F2-210 or save your cash for something bigger and better?
With a greater research effort than merely asking Alexa, it should be possible to find this hardware for £10 or $10 less from other suppliers like Box.co.uk.
The equivalent Synology box is the DS218Play. With the same processor and RAM configuration, it costs at least 40% more than the F2-210. Another NAS box that uses the same CPU is the QNAP TS-328 is even more expensive at almost double the price, although it has three bays and double the RAM.
Check out out chart of the best NAS drives.
Design & Build
We should say from the outset that TerraMaster has a relatively simple style to their NAS box designs and seems in no great hurry to enhance or change it. Therefore, the F2-210 is practically identical from the outside to another dozen or more TerraMaster units that are all built to the same model, an aluminium tube capped with plastic ends.
The notion of sticking with concepts that are proven isn’t unique to TerraMaster, as even Synology rarely alters its chassis styling. And, to our minds, simplicity is the key to reliability, an aspect that NAS technology needs above all else.
The front of the F2-210 has a single power button on the left, with four indicator LEDs, and on the right are the two drive trays that can accept either 2.5- or 3.5-inch drives.
The trays used a hinged door mechanism for access, and drives are held with screws included in the box. We prefer tool-less bays, but mounting drives isn’t something that will often happen, so we can rationalise why TerraMaster didn’t bother to design them this way. And, a screwdriver is in the box, in case you don’t have one to hand.
More of an issue is that there isn’t any lock on them, enabling the irresistibly curious to pull a drive out while it is in use. And, should a drive fail, there isn’t an LED indicator in the tray to tell you which is the one you need to pull or conversely leave in place.
These features are available in more expensive NAS designs, but you’ll need to double check what you are doing in the event of a drive failure. And, you need to be mindful to keep impulsive fingers away from the unit.
At the back is the power inlet for the small laptop-style PSU, a single Gigabit LAN port and two USB 3.0 ports.
With two drives and the bandwidth of a single Gigabit LAN, the F2-210 is ideal for either home use or a small office deployment, where the number of users is likely to be less than ten users, and the amount of drive space is 20TB or less.
It’s been built to fit in the same niche as many small NAS boxes that ape Synology, where the software components are the critical parts, and the hardware is just a means to those ends.
Specs & Features
The outside might be a hangover from previous designs, but the internal hardware of the F2-210 is more concurrent. It is built around 2017 released the Realtek RTD1296 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz processor. The same chip that Synology used in the DS118, DS218play, DS418, and DS418j. Also used by QNAP to power the TS-328, among others.
This SoC is cheap, cheerful and includes plenty of desirable features. It uses a modern ARM 64-bit architecture with connectivity to DDR4L memory, and in this model, it comes with 1GB of RAM pre-installed that you can’t upgrade.
The only known downside to this technology is that when it was first released, it wasn’t supported by Plex. This issue has now been addressed, but even with Plex working this chip isn’t powerful enough to transcode 4K in real time, and the next level TerraMaster F2-221 is better specified for that task.
For driving two internal drives, and possibly two external USB 3.0 connected ones, this represents plenty of power and provides enough extra performance that can be utilised by installable apps.
With only two internal drive bays, the RAID storage options are limited to a stripe (RAID 0) configuration for maximum speed, mirroring (RAID 1) for redundancy or individual (JBOD) drive modes.
With a single gigabit Ethernet LAN port, the maximum speed is likely to be around 115MB/s, so striping provides only a simpler way to organise the two drives into a single volume. And, unless you have an external USB drive that you will do nightly backups to, we’d recommend the mirror mode for maximum resilience.
In our performance testing the weakness of this unit is that its performance goes down if it is required to encrypt contents as it is stored, but when this feature isn’t active it runs as quickly as those NAS boxes they use more powerful platforms, as the bottleneck to overall speed is typically the LAN port.
If you use encryption, then it might be worth considering a more powerful NAS box, like others by TerraMaster, that use the Intel J1800 or Intel Celeron J3355 processors instead.
A very pleasant surprise that greeted us from the last TerraMaster unit we covered was how much the Linux-based OS, called TOS, has evolved since. It’s now easily as slick as anything other NAS makers are offering, and the number of available apps has expanded.
However, the thirty apps on the system still have some way to go to reach the 100+ that Synology lists, even if there are significant overlaps.
The software options are divided between general use, such as multimedia tools, iTunes and Plex, those for business use, and others for software creators. Developers can use this device to run Python, phpBB, MySQL server, Docker, Git, Joomla, SVN Server and Java Virtual Machine development.
For those with the right technical knowledge, it is also possible to manually upload compatible binaries. Our impression is that the app selection is a ‘something for everyone’ deal, and we’d like to see even more added soon to rival the Synology collection.
One very useful tool that is currently in Beta is a Cloud Sync tool that has been designed to sync cloud storage to the F2-210. Sadly, the software only supports Dropbox currently, and it needs Microsoft and Google support to be more useful.
While TOS 4.0 looks great, there is still some work still to be done with the application and increasing the number available, but TerraMaster is making progress on that front.
What it is difficult to ignore about TerraMaster gear is that it offers significantly better value than Synology while retaining much of the flexibility and performance.
The F2-210 provides a simple to deploy platform that can be enhanced with software installations to perform a very wide range of functions, and TerraMaster has given it enough power and memory to achieve lots.
Our only reservation is that having only two internal drive bays does limit the options should you want to expand the system and puts a lower cap on overall capacity - plus limits RAID modes in a way that a four or five drive box wouldn’t.
It is therefore worth spending some time thinking about how much space you might want in the future, and investing in a bigger, F2-410 perhaps, design now. Because having a drive bay unoccupied in a NAS box is less of a problem than needing an extra unavailable one.
Where the F2-210 is a no-brainer, if for a home or small office user that wants basic file serving, backup and management in an inexpensive package. The cost of this box and a couple of hard drives isn’t high, and you can be operational remarkably quickly with relatively little fuss.
The unit is robustly made, generally very quiet and does everything that TerraMaster claims for it. It might not be the fastest system if you insist on using encrypted storage, but for those that need basic functionality on a budget, this is an excellent choice.
TerraMaster F2-210: Specs
- Processor: Realtek RTD1296 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz
- Memory: 1GB of DDR3L
- Drives: 2x 3.5in or 2.5in hard drives or SSDs
- Raid Modes: Single, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1
- Maximum capacity: 28TB (2x 14TB)
- Maximum Single Volume: 108TB
- Internal drive formats: EXT4, BTRFS
- External drive formats: EXT3, EXT4, NTFS, FAT32, HFS+
- Networking: 1x 1GbE LAN port
- Networking Protocols: CIFS/SAMBA, NFS, FTP, TFTP, HTTPS, SSH, iSCSI, SNMP, SMTP
- USB ports: 2x USB 3.0 Type A
- OS: TOS 4.0
- OS Languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Magyar, Chinese, Japanese, Korean
- Size (H*W*D): 227 x 119 x 133mm