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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

TerraMaster F2-221 NAS Review: A Decent Affordable NAS with Some Pain Points

The front right side of the TerraMaster F2-221 NAS
Josh Hendrickson

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

The TerraMaster F2-221, with the ports on the back showing.
The backside has 1 HDMI, 2 USB 3.0 Ports, and 2 gigabit Ethernet ports. Josh Hendrickson

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

an OS Install dialog, with an upside down 44% and progress circle.
For some reason, you have to load the OS… and yes the percentage was upside down. That’s another area the software lacks polish.

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

the TerraMaster NAS OS, showing applications, file manager, and NAS status.
The OS is serviceable, if not simple and lacking polish. It’s certainly not terrible.

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