NAS devices are great for storing your digital movies, music, photos, and more. But they’re also expensive—you can easily spend over $600! TerraMaster’s F2-221 NAS bucks that trend by going for $250. But cheap does come at a price.
If you want remote access to a large number of files without the cloud, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device will meet that need. They work by holding multiple hard drives that are linked together. You can either mirror drives for backup or connect the disks, which treats them as one large disk. If you have enough hard drive bays, you can even do both at once.
The TerraMaster F2-221 is a simple 2-bay NAS with a powerful enough processor to handle most basic tasks. The company hopes you’ll choose its NAS over the more well-known brands like QNAP or Synology because of the slightly lower price. And if the cost is a significant factor in your NAS purchasing decision, it’s worth a look.
A Pretty Looking NAS that’s Easy to Tuck Away
Fresh out of the box it’s hard not to admire the F2-221. The shell is an aluminum-alloy that feels cool to the touch and just enough texture to keep things interesting. It’s understated and easy on the eyes. Most NAS devices are dull black affairs, but in fairness to them, you usually want to tuck them away where no one will ever see them.
Because this NAS only supports two hard drives, it’s relatively small and will fit in nearly any corner you decide to relegate it too. The entire unit is about the size of two stacked loaves of bread. That’s the best of worlds, easy to slip away in some unseen corner but not obnoxious if you have no place to hide it.
But It’s Annoying to Set Up
Once you have everything unpacked, you’ll want to insert some hard drives into the thing. Like most NAS devices, you have them to buy them separately. Unlike most NAS devices, the process for mounting the drives is somewhat tedious. Rather than use quick snap connectors, you have to attach your hard drives to the drive trays with screws and a screwdriver. TerraMaster did at least include the screwdriver, and it’s not an overly complicated process, just mildly tedious.
But don’t make the mistake of using hard drives with any data on them, pushing them in and turning on the NAS. That prevents the NAS unit from booting correctly (at least until they’re properly formatted); a fact that I discovered after thirty minutes of troubleshooting. If you want to reuse drives, wait two minutes after pressing the power button to insert them.
Once the NAS properly boots, you have to download software from TerraMaster’s website. That software detects your NAS and prompts you to download the Operating System for the NAS. Then you load the OS, get it configured, and format your drives.
None of this overly tricky. It’s just tedious. I don’t particularly understand why the NAS arrives without an OS already on it.
The NAS Works Fine
So the real question is, did TerraMaster create good hardware that can meet most users’ needs? Yeah, honestly it did—as long as you as keep your expectations in check.
The F2-221 has two bays for hard drives, which means you can either mirror your data for retention (what’s on one hard drive is also on the other) or join them together as one large hard drive.
The latter option is somewhat disconcerting; if you lose a hard drive, you will lose data. And without a separate backup scheme, you may not be able to recover that lost data. So like any other two-bay NAS, you shouldn’t depend on this hardware to back up your data, this type of NAS simply isn’t intended for data backup purposes. You should use external drives with version backup options, instead.
What it’s meant for, and does a good job of, is data retrieval. While the Operating System doesn’t have the polish or the same number of apps as Synology or QNAP, it’s serviceable. The NAS works well for remote access of your files from your computer, or even from your phone or tablet. And it has Plex, iTunes, and other multimedia server options.
Speaking of Plex, I set this unit up as a Plex server and threw a challenging multi-gig movie at it. The intel processor supports 4K transcoding, but only barely. That means while I was able to play the movie directly from the NAS, I wasn’t able to skip around. Any attempt to jump to the middle of the movie resulted in a never-ending spinning load icon.
I use my Nvidia Shield TV as a Plex server, and it can handle this movie just fine, including skipping around. So I’d probably recommend using the NAS for holding your movie files and another solution (like the Nvidia Shield TV) to handle your Plex Server.
You’ll Save a Few Dollars for Something Nearly as Good
At $250, the TerraMaster F2-221 is one of the cheapest two-bay NAS devices you can purchase. Synology’s closest option is the DS218+, and you typically find it priced in the $300 area. At first, $50 might not seem like much of a difference but remember: with either device you’ll need to provide hard drives. If you don’t already have them, that’s $50 you put towards that purchase.
Hard drives are, in some ways, the most important part of a NAS purchase. If you don’t buy reliable hard drives meant for intensive use, they’ll wear out and fail sooner. An extra $50 might help you buy better drives.
Overall the TerraMaster is fine. It does the job of a NAS, even if it is a little tedious to get there. If you have the extra money to spend, you might be happier with Synology’s set up process and OS. But if you want to save a few dollars, the TerraMaster will do.
Here’s What We Like
- Cheaper than some NAS devices
- Aluminum case looks nice
- Will work for Plex
And What We Don't
- Tedious to set up
- $50 savings isn't a lot