PCs

Synology's NAS will please new users and experts

The DS216j's plastic chassis feels somewhat flimsy and it lacks front-facing storage bays, but it is easy enough for novices to use.
The DS216j's plastic chassis feels somewhat flimsy and it lacks front-facing storage bays, but it is easy enough for novices to use.PHOTO: SYNOLOGY

The DiskStation 216j is the latest entry-level network-attached storage (NAS) from Taiwanese storage firm Synology.

Designed primarily for home users, this NAS supports two SATA storage drives. In addition to serving as a storage hub for your home computing devices, it is also perfect for media streaming with its support for the DLNA standard used by practically all TVs.

Synology says the DS216j is able to display photo thumbnails quickly because of its specialised hardware.

Given its budget slant, it is not surprising that the NAS plastic chassis feels flimsy. Unlike more expensive models, the DS216j does not have front-facing storage bays that let users easily swop out hard drives without shutting down the NAS. In fact, you have to unscrew the DS216j's enclosure to get to its storage bays.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $250 (drives not included)

    PROCESSOR: Marvell Armada 385 1GHz dual-core

    MEMORY: 512MB

    SUPPORTED DRIVES: 2 x 2.5-inch (with optional drive holder) or 3.5-inch SATA hard drives/solid-state drives

    MAXIMUM DISK CAPACITY: 16TB (2 x 8TB HDD)

    WEIGHT: 880g (alone)

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The DS216j's desktop-like interface looks sleeker than before. It is easy for novices to use, but expert users will be pleased at the ability to tweak the NAS extensively via its settings.

Its two USB 3.0 ports are located at the back which can be a slight inconvenience. There is also no USB copy button to start copying data from the NAS to an attached USB drive like in the higher-end DS216.

The front LED indicators can be dimmed or turned off entirely. This, along with a slightly faster processor, appear to be the major upgrades from the previous DS215j model.

The DS216j comes with the new DiskStation Manager 6.0 operating system that powers all Synology NAS devices. Its desktop-like interface looks sleeker than before. It is easy for novices to use, but expert users will be pleased by the ability to tweak the NAS extensively via its settings.

Synology uses an app store model for its NAS. You enable a specific functionality by downloading the right app, called a package. Once you finish setting up the NAS, the DiskStation Manager recommends installing a number of these packages to enable features such as streaming media, and syncing files between the NAS and cloud services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

Synology allows third-party developers to build these packages, so you will also find packages for content management systems and security tools.

My favourite feature is QuickConnect, which lets users access their NAS over the Internet without requiring them to configure their routers. Other NAS should have this feature too.

The DS216j appears to perform as fast as the DS213j that I tested over two years ago. It took around 4.5 minutes to transfer an 8GB folder from my laptop to the NAS via Wi-Fi.

The NAS was tested with two Seagate NAS 4TB hard drives configured in Raid 1 with data mirrored on both drives.

Streaming a video from the NAS to my PlayStation 4 was smooth with no lag.

Vincent Chang

• Synology's excellent software makes the DS216j a good starting point for those looking to try a NAS solution.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 06, 2016, with the headline 'Synology's NAS will please new users and experts PCs'. Print Edition | Subscribe