Front of the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro.

TerraMaster F4-424 Pro review: Watch out, Synology

TerraMaster has come a long way over the recent years. The company was always known as the bargain basement of NAS enclosures and while its servers remain among the best value options, the quality of the hardware and software has improved. Today, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts after spending a solid week testing the all-new 4-bay TerraMaster F4-424 Pro.

The TerraMaster F4-424 Pro is a NAS from the brand with a new sleek black look, following the F2-212. Some may prefer this approach to server design while others may feel nostalgic about TerraMaster’s aluminum cases of old. They at least stood out from the crowd. This F4-424 looks similar to other four-bay enclosures and that’s likely the intended result.

TerraMaster is all grown up and this NAS boasts some impressive specifications. Inside the chassis is an Intel processor, support for 32 GB of DDR5 RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, 2.5GbE networking, and even the ability to install an OS of your choosing. The best part is the price, as I’ll expand upon in my review. Could this be the next best NAS?

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TerraMaster provided NAS Master with an F4-424 Pro sample for this review, but the company had no input into the contents.

TerraMaster F4-424 Pro

A different breed of TerraMaster

TerraMasater F4-424
TerraMasater F4-424. (Source: TerraMaster)

I was shocked to learn just how much TerraMaster is looking to charge for the F4-424 with its impressive specifications and the ability to quickly swap out the TOS for an aftermarket software solution. This is one impressive NAS.

CPUIntel i3-N300
(4-core, 3.8 GHz)
GPUIntel UHD Graphics
RAM32 GB DDR5
(max 32 GB)
Bays4 (SSD/HDD)
Expansion2x M.2 SSD
Cooling1x 120 mm
Ports2x 2.5GbE
2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2×1
1x HDMI
Power draw~33 W
Dimensions222 x 179 x 154 mm
Weight3.4 kg
  • Seriously impressive specs
  • Offers excellent value
  • Ability to install custom OS
  • Better value than competitors
  • A single DDR5 SODIMM slot
  • Two-year warranty

Price and availability

The TerraMaster F4-424 Pro costs $600 at MSRP. I’ve often found the company’s NAS to be discounted for promotions such as Amazon Prime Day and I doubt the F4-424 will be exempt from such sales. This NAS is part of a three-enclosure launch, the other models being the non-pro F4-424 and F2-424.

Two major differences between this NAS and the Pro version are the RAM with the non-pro version coming with “just” 8 GB of DDR5, a slightly slower Intel N95 processor, and costing $100 less. The F2-424 is a two-bay enclosure with identical specifications to the F4-424. For the specifications on offer, all three enclosures are priced well.

Design and features

TerraMaster F4-424 Pro packaging.
TerraMaster F4-424 Pro packaging.

The TerraMaster F4-424 Pro is packaged securely inside a rather plain box, but this should be expected with a cheaper brand, and really, who cares about NAS server packaging? The company does include an RJ45 cable, external power supply, 2.5-inch drive mounting screws, stickers, and a screwdriver with the F4-424 Pro, which is a nice touch.

The design of TerraMaster NAS has also come a long way and the F4-424 looks great. It’s very similar to what’s offered by competing brands and there have been some notable improvements made compared to the previous four-bay TerraMaster NAS. Firstly, there’s better ventilation for the rear fan to cool the NAS, and accessing internal areas is much easier.

The four hot-swappable drive bays, some status indicator LEDs, and the model sticker are upfront. Interestingly, TerraMaster is moving the power button to the rear of the enclosure, which may be an issue for those who have restricted access to behind the F4-424. A single 120mm fan keeps everything inside the F4-424 cool and happy.

The sides of the TerraMaster F4-424 have company branding that doubles up as ventilation. The top and bottom panels are bare and the rear has two 2.5GbE ports, two USB-A 3.2 ports, a DC input, and an HDMI output. This HDMI port cannot be used for media playback, but it can be used for video out for entering the BIOS and installing other NAS operating systems.

Software

TerraMaster TOS 5.0 desktop.
TerraMaster TOS 5.0 desktop. (Source: NM)

TerraMaster NAS servers run a version of Linux using the company’s TOS developed exclusively for its branded enclosures. It’s not the best OS available for NAS and often falls behind Synology and QNAP counterparts in server reviews. The F4-424 and Pro both run the latest version of TOS 5, which brings with it notable improvements to the user interface and experience.

Installing TOS 5 on the F4-424 is a painless process and a similar experience to other NAS enclosures. Once a drive has been inserted, the NAS will be able to download and install the latest version of the OS, should a network connection be live. Once up and running, a significantly smaller collection of apps is available for use on a TerraMaster NAS.

Managing the drives, volumes, and pools is straightforward, and so is configuring the NAS. The TOS UI isn’t the flashiest or most well-designed, but it gets the job done, especially if you’ll infrequently log into the web admin and primarily connect to the NAS via apps and other devices. If you’re moving to a TerraMaster NAS from Synology, you’ll notice a difference with the available first-party support.

TerraMaster continues to work on its apps and services, as well as pushing what’s available through its community, but for now, it’s still in a Microsoft and Windows Phone situation. Apps, apps, apps! This is somewhat alleviated if you load up another OS, which is possible on the F4-424.

Performance

Opening the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro up.
Opening the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro up. (Source: NM)

The performance of a NAS varies immensely with the processor, RAM, and type of drives installed. For most of our testing here at NAS Master, we make use of mechanical NAS drives where possible, resorting to M.2 SSDs if the enclosure has insufficient 3.5-inch slots. Inside the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro is an Intel Core i3-N300 processor, 32 GB of DDR5 RAM, and two available M.2 PCIe slots.

This processor has eight physical cores with a maximum speed of 3.8 GHz. Interestingly, Intel states the chip can only support up to 16 GB of RAM, though TerraMaster installs 32 GB, using the single DIMM slot (the CPU can only support one channel). The N300 has Intel’s UHD Graphics with 32 execution units, resulting in one capable little 7W processor.

For system memory, TerraMaster uses its own branded modules. Pulling apart the NAS enclosure is a straightforward process, requiring the removal of just two Philips screws on the rear panel. The side then slides off and you’re greeted by the single DIMM slot and two M.2 slots. The main PCB can be extracted through the removal of four additional Philips screws, which provide access to the OS USB drive.

The two M.2 slots can be used to install NVMe M.2 SSDs with speeds up to PCIe 3.0. Like other NAS manufacturers, TerraMAster allows these M.2 drives to be used for data caching, the TOS (or other operating system), or a storage pool. These SSDs will run at PCIe 3.0 x2 instead of x4 as many SSDs will be rated for, which is due to the limited number of PCI lanes offered by the CPU.

This is also why we’re not seeing a 10GbE port for networking or at least some form of PCI expansion support. For the price, however, this would have been a tall order. Running Plex and several apps was no issue on the TerraMaster F4-424. This is a rapid NAS and the Core i3-N300 processor from Intel is perfect for this type of work. You’ll have no trouble running an aftermarket OS either, especially with 32GB of RAM.

Competition

Synology DiskStation DS923+
Synology DiskStation DS923+. (Source: NM)

The fiercest competition between brands is in the two and four-bay NAS enclosure segments. This TerraMaster F4-424 Pro is going up against models from Synology, QNAP, ASUSTOR, and others. Looking at Synology’s line-up, the company doesn’t have an answer for the specifications inside the TerraMaster F4-424 Pro. The closest we could get is the Synology DiskStation DS923+ with an AMD Ryzen R1600 chip.

QNAP is a different story and almost specializes in more advanced NAS servers with desktop-class processors. You’ll find specs on some QNAP enclosures that rival DIY NAS builds. The QNAP TVS-472XT-i3 has an Intel Core i3-8100T with four physical cores and threads. The N300 inside the F4-424 Pro has eight cores and threads and a faster clock speed.

There’s also DDR5 RAM support (though a maximum of 16GB) with the N300 and more recent integrated graphics, though it has fewer PCI lanes. Lastly, there’s a considerable reduction in power with its TDP being just 7W compared to 35W with the 8100T. What’s startling are the prices with the QNAP NAS costing a full $800 more (without drives!).

Is the TerraMaster F4-424 good for Plex?

TerraMaster F4-424 Pro.
TerraMaster F4-424 Pro. (Source: NM)

Whether a network-attached storage device is good for Plex depends largely on the RAM and CPU. System memory is less important as it largely determines how much data can be stored by the OS and apps before the device needs to use file swap, if available. The processor is where all the magic takes place, particularly transcoding, which can be handy for streaming incompatible content.

For instance, should you wish to view a 4K movie on a device that doesn’t natively support the format or resolution, the server (or recipient device) will need to transcode the file on the fly. Usually, this will be tasked to the NAS, where the processor comes into play. Most Intel CPUs have integrated graphics that can help with this process.

The Intel Core i3 processor inside the TerraMaster F4-424 is an excellent choice for transcoding media and running other intensive tasks on the NAS. You’ll be able to enjoy at least one 4K transcoded stream on this server, making it a good choice for creating a media server with the four available drive bays.

Should you buy the TerraMaster F4-424?

TerraMasater F4-424.
TerraMasater F4-424. (Source: TerraMaster)

In short, yes I believe you should strongly consider buying the TerraMaster F4-424. whether you should go with the F4-424 or F4-424 Pro depends on whether you need more than 8 GB of DDR5 RAM and the Intel Core i3 chip. TOS has also come a long way to match the hardware, but it’s still not quite as good as Synology’s DSM or alternative NAS OS.

That’s where the TerraMaster F4-424 shines. The company understands that some customers will want to use their own OS and this is possible with the F4-424 by removing an internal USB drive, which holds the TOS software. An OS of your choosing can then be loaded up on a replacement USB or an SSD, using one of the two available M.2 slots.

It’s not a perfect enclosure, however. The TOS system is a little rough still and TerraMaster still has some way to go with its first-party (and third-party) app support. The lack of any 10GbE support or expansion could prove troublesome for business usage whereby 2.5GbE connections simply won’t do.

For $600, it’s difficult to grumble with the specs on offer and this is easily one of the best NAS TerraMaster has launched to date.

TerraMaster F4-424

TerraMasater F4-424
TerraMasater F4-424. (Source: TerraMaster)

If you’re going to buy the TerraMaster F4-424, you’ll have a great time. It’s a very powerful NAS enclosure with excellent specs and upgrade paths. You can even install a custom OS, making this a DIY dream.

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