The QNAP TS-453mini is not your typical SOHO NAS. For starters, it doesn’t look grimly utilitarian. Instead we have a glossy black vertical design with a cute magnetic top cover. It sports an HDMI output, inviting you to plumb it into an AV system like any other source. It also overflows with media serving options. If you’re after powerful Network Attached Storage that your connected TV will look up to, it’s a compelling proposition.

Installation is straightforward. The lid pops off to reveal four HDD bays. These pull out easily and use a tool-less design; snap-on rails hold 3.5in drives in place. The system ships sans hard drives. For this audition I used Western Digital RED NAS HDDs, the recommended choice of QNAP HQ. Smaller 2.5in drives can be screwed in if required. All drives are hot-swappable.

The NAS is powered by a Quad Core Intel Celeron 2GHz processor, and sells in a 2GB (£380) or 8GB (£490) RAM configuration. Buy the former and you can upgrade the memory at a later date.

The TS-453mini is more than up to office work. If you're predisposed, you can run different Windows, Linux/UNIX and Android virtual machines (which is a bit amazing). It can even be used as part of a surveillance system, offering compatibility with a wide variety of IP cameras. But it’s as an HDMI source that it piques our interest.

Like any NAS, you can sit the TS-453mini anywhere on your network, but it's handy to connect directly. Playback isn’t subject to network congestion. That said, I streamed both locally and across a LAN glitch-free.

During setup you'll need to download the HD Station app from the QTS dashboard in order for the HDMI output to function. This isn't clear in any documentation and had me foxed for a bit. Once initiated, this will also download a suite of apps which can be driven via the simple remote: Spotify, YouTube, TuneIn Radio, Kodi (formerly XBMC) and an HD file player. The QTS operating system is icon-heavy and a bit oblique.

Popular content server Plex is another free download from QNAP’s store. Access this via a device (Amazon Fire in my case) and your media immediately benefits from a slick UI. The mini also supports Chromecast and Apple AirPlay via the QAirplay app, and the sheer ease of use when it comes to setting up various media serving software is downright seductive. Kodi, Plex, Twonky…click, click, click, done. There’s something wonderfully empowering about knowing you can pretty much play anything you have, wherever it is on your network.

In use, the TS-453mini proves extremely quiet. Canny heat management means this NAS could easily sit unnoticed in your room. Storage capacity shouldn’t be an issue, either. For most music and movie fans, four 2TB drives running with RAID redundancy should more than suffice. 

High-capacity NAS drives are often ugly, while style solutions skimp on storage space and versatility. This is a potent mix – a pro-grade NAS you’ll actually want to live with.