Greatest NAS for Dwelling Customers 2020

The black Synology NAS sitting by itself on a wooden desktop.
Picture: Kyle Fitzgerald

Our choose

Synology DiskStation DS218+

Straightforward to arrange and handle, this two-bay NAS options {hardware} encryption, media streaming, distant entry, helpful apps, and stable knowledge safety.

The Synology DiskStation DS218+ is the most effective two-bay house NAS for most individuals. It usually sells for lower than $350 (diskless) as of this writing, its learn and write speeds are the quickest of any NAS we examined, and it features a trendy Intel Celeron processor, hardware-level encryption, and a versatile and easy-to-understand interface with all kinds of third-party apps. The DS218+ helps media playback by its personal apps or Plex Media Server, helps RAID 1 drive mirroring, alerts you to drive failure, has three USB ports (together with one on the entrance), and helps all of the options Wirecutter readers have requested about, such because the FTP protocol, VPN server capabilities, IP cameras, UPS compatibility, and SSDs.

Most NAS units on this value vary use slower ARM-based processors from Realtek, Alpine, or Marvell, or older-generation Celeron processors. Some nonetheless ship with 1 GB of RAM or much less. The DS218+ has a contemporary dual-core 2.0 GHz Intel Celeron processor and a pair of GB of RAM, which you’ll increase to six GB. Our runner-up, the QNAP TS-251B makes use of the identical Celeron processor and a pair of GB of RAM, however the DS218+’s CPU is quicker than the processor in almost each different NAS at the moment accessible on this value vary, and also you’ll discover that velocity distinction when copying a number of recordsdata or performing a number of backups concurrently. The Linux-based DiskStation Supervisor (DSM) software program isn’t difficult; should you’ve used a Home windows or Mac laptop, you’ll be capable to discover your manner round DSM and determine the way it works fairly rapidly.

A graph comparing the file transfer speeds of the NAS devices we tested.

* signifies testing in 2018; different testing carried out in 2017. Larger numbers point out higher efficiency.

The DS218+ had the most effective efficiency of the six NAS models we examined in 2017 and 2018, with unencrypted write speeds between 97 MB/s and 109 MB/s. (You received’t see a lot increased speeds from one other NAS except you’re utilizing 10 Gigabit Ethernet or hyperlink aggregation, as a result of these speeds are proper on the restrict of Gigabit Ethernet while you take encoding into consideration.)

The QNAP TS-251B makes use of the identical Celeron CPU, and its efficiency was much like the DS218+ throughout side-by-side assessments, although the DS218+ was only a bit sooner than the TS-251B when coping with a number of small recordsdata. Each handily beat the TS-231P2, the WD My Cloud Dwelling Duo, and the Apollo Cloud 2 Duo in small-file write speeds. The taking part in area was way more stage once we examined utilizing our folder containing two giant recordsdata: The DS218+ was in a useless warmth with the TS-251B in our large-file write assessments, and the variations between most fashions we examined, apart from the Apollo Cloud 2, Duo had been minimal.

Demonstrating how the drives can be removed and replaced in the Synology NAS
When you take away the entrance panel from the DS218+, you possibly can simply come out and exchange the drives. Picture: Kyle Fitzgerald

Other than the beefier processor on this mannequin, the DS218+ (in addition to all different present Synology NAS units) makes use of a special default file system than others, known as Btrfs (most different NAS fashions, together with choices from QNAP, use the ext4 file system). The file system shouldn’t have an enormous impact on the file-transfer speeds, but it surely does introduce some options to Synology NAS models that different fashions don’t have, similar to snapshots, which may defend folders from unintended deletion by making copies of shared folders periodically. Btrfs additionally options near-instant server-side copying, knowledge integrity checks, and metadata mirroring, which supposedly helps with knowledge restoration within the case of hard-drive injury. Most NAS homeowners received’t discover the variations between the 2. Should you do desire ext4 for any cause, you possibly can arrange the DS218+ to make use of that file system as an alternative of Btrfs while you create a quantity.

  • A screenshot of the Synology's control panel software.

    The interface in DiskStation Supervisor presents an overlay for system well being in addition to easy accessibility to all of the settings you want. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

  • The dropdown quick access menu of the Synology software.

    You get fast entry to each package deal you put in with DSM’s drop-down menu. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

  • A screenshot of the package center.

    You may rapidly discover and set up new functions in Bundle Heart. Screenshot: Thorin Klosowski

The DS218+ doesn’t help quantity encryption to securely lock your complete drive, in contrast to the QNAP TS-251B, however you possibly can encrypt particular person shared folders. Even with the DS218+’s {hardware} encryption acceleration, you’ll nonetheless see a ding to read-and-write efficiency with encryption turned on. In our assessments, file switch in encrypted folders was round 60 % of the velocity of switch in non-encrypted folders. That {hardware} encryption acceleration additionally didn’t assist with SMB in-flight encryption in any respect, which slowed the file-transfer course of to round 50 % of the velocity of unencrypted transfers. In-flight encryption protects your recordsdata in the course of the switch course of, so it’s not one thing you want to fear about should you’re on your private home community the entire time.

The DS218+’s interface, DiskStation Supervisor, is among the most user-friendly working programs on any NAS machine. DSM has a toolbar on the highest the place you possibly can entry the primary menu, notifications, and login choices, seek for recordsdata, and examine on system well being. Under that toolbar, you may have a desktop the place you possibly can entry Bundle Heart (a retailer of types stuffed with add-on software program), the file browser, the management panel (which incorporates all of your settings), and a help space providing video tutorials, FAQs, and extra. Synology has a demo model of the working system accessible on-line; it’s price testing earlier than you make your buy.

Like many of the NAS working programs we examined, the DSM interface features a pop-out dashboard widget that offers an summary of the NAS’s drive well being, in addition to its processor and reminiscence utilization. You may customise the dashboard to incorporate storage, related customers, and extra. DSM additionally contains helpful options for novices. For instance, should you click on on the File Companies tab within the DSM management panel, it shows the important thing command you’ll have to entry the file share in your PC (“DS218plus”) or Mac (“smb://DS218plus”). Whereas these instructions could also be acquainted to veteran programs directors, new customers or anybody who has forgotten the server identify will welcome the embedded tip.

DSM has an non-obligatory cloud service known as Cloud Station Server that means that you can entry your recordsdata remotely. Should you don’t wish to hook up with any cloud service, you possibly can nonetheless entry your NAS remotely by a digital non-public community (VPN) hosted on the NAS itself or Dynamic DNS with port forwarding, however for most individuals Cloud Station Server is far less complicated. DSM additionally contains Cloud Station ShareSync, which lets you use your NAS to sync recordsdata throughout units, much like a service like Dropbox.

There’s additionally the confusingly named Cloud Sync package deal, which lets you sync or again up particular folders or your complete NAS to varied cloud platforms, similar to Backblaze, Google Drive, Amazon, and Dropbox, which makes creating redundant off-site backups very simple. You may set these backups to occur on a schedule and optionally encrypt them earlier than you add them to a different service.

DSM packs in quite a few safety measures. In the primary menu you’ll discover a safety adviser that alerts you to malware, improper community configurations, out-of-date functions, weak passwords, and any systemwide configuration points, although you’ll have to log in to the DSM interface frequently to see its recommendation. It helps HTTPS for distant entry, TLS or SSL safe connections, and two-factor authentication.

For higher or worse, as an alternative of getting one large app with tons of options, Synology takes a piecemeal method to its cell apps. DS Audio, DS File, DS Picture, DS Cloud, and DS Video are for accessing media. DS Finder is for monitoring the stats in your NAS, DS Get is for managing downloads, and DS Cam is for managing IP cameras. There’s additionally VPNPlus should you’re utilizing the VPN server capabilities, DS Word should you use Synology’s notes app, and MailPlus should you use your NAS as an e mail server. All of Synology’s apps can be found for Android and iOS, and so they’re on a par with these of Synology’s largest competitor, QNAP. Each firms’ cell apps are finest at school amongst NAS units—no different NAS supplier comes shut.

Like most NAS bins, the DS218+ helps multimedia streaming by Synology’s personal apps, DLNA/UPnP, and iTunes. In our assessments, the DS218+ didn’t take lengthy to scan a music and video library and make the recordsdata accessible throughout a Wi-Fi community on numerous computer systems, TVs, recreation consoles, and telephones.

A look at the ports on the back of the Synology
The DS218+ has a Gigabit Ethernet port alongside two USB 3.0 ports within the again. It additionally contains an eSATA port should you ever wish to add extra drives. Picture: Kyle Fitzgerald

The DS218+ helps on-the-fly {hardware} transcoding, supposedly all the way in which to 4K video. It does this utilizing its personal Video Station and DS File apps. Should you desire to make use of Plex, you’ll not have entry to the {hardware} transcoding options, since Plex’s transcoding is CPU-bound and NAS units on this value vary simply don’t have the horsepower to try this. With Synology’s apps, we had been capable of play a number of 1080p MKV recordsdata on numerous units over 802.11ac Wi-Fi with out challenge, however once we tried the identical with three totally different 4K film trailers, they had been all unwatchable on account of stuttering. We additionally had points with any 4K video utilizing the DTS audio codec, during which no sound would play. Some codecs, similar to M4V, wouldn’t play in any respect. Recordsdata that didn’t require any transcoding, like MP4 recordsdata, performed flawlessly on all units. On-the-fly transcoding relies on the file format, the assorted codecs, and the machine you’re watching the transcoding file on, so your mileage will fluctuate right here.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that Synology advertises the DS218+ as being able to all types of transcoding, you’ll wish to use a extra highly effective laptop than the DS218+ (or another NAS on this value vary) should you’re severe about on-the-fly media transcoding. We suggest transcoding your video recordsdata forward of time should you plan on utilizing your NAS as a media server. You are able to do this with the Offline Transcoding function in Video Station, although sadly you want to manually select particular person movies to transform. Should you’re in search of an automatic choice, QNAP’s software program means that you can arrange a selected folder that the NAS screens; the NAS then transcodes any recordsdata you drop in.

In our assessments, the DS218+’s data-protection options labored as marketed. With the DS218+ working, we pulled the drive out of the second bay and the NAS beeped at us till we acknowledged a drive-failure notification. We additionally acquired an e mail notification on the deal with we’d arrange beforehand. Logging in to DSM, we discovered one other notification in addition to directions for learn how to rebuild the drive array within the Storage Supervisor as soon as we changed it.

The entrance of the DS218+ incorporates a detachable plate that hides away the drive bays, in addition to LED indicators for basic standing, community connectivity, and the standing of every drive. You may modify the LED brightness or set it up on a schedule so the lights dim at evening. The DS218+ has three USB 3.0 ports. It additionally has an eSATA port so you possibly can increase the NAS with exterior drives utilizing considered one of Synology’s suitable enlargement models. Like each NAS we thought of for this information, the DS218+ has two drive bays. Not like different choices, the drive bays are tool-less, so that you don’t want a screwdriver to put in a drive.

A USB Copy button sits on the entrance of the DS218+, however earlier than you should use it you want to inform the NAS what the button ought to do while you press it. For instance, you possibly can set it up in order that while you join a thumb drive you’ve saved pictures on, urgent the button will copy the complete contents of that drive over to a selected folder. Or you possibly can set it to export, say, solely video recordsdata from a selected folder. It takes a bit of effort to get the button working the way you need, however Synology’s information ought to show you how to configure the function. Whereas QNAP fashions usually have a entrance USB port, most different NAS bins don’t, so it’s good to see on this Synology unit.

When it got here to energy consumption, the DS218+ consumed between 19 and 23 watts throughout file copy, barely higher than the QNAP TS-251A and TS-231P2. This Synology NAS used about 6 watts whereas in power-saving mode, in contrast with the QNAP fashions’ 10 watts. Energy-saving options received’t work should you allow any media server capabilities, as a result of the NAS must be accessible on a regular basis; you must disable media servers and a handful of different comparable companies, similar to cloud entry and the mail server, if you need the power-saving mode to work. You may as well flip the DS218+ on and off in keeping with a schedule, and it helps Wake-on-LAN and a number of fan-speed modes, the latter of which can assist scale back the general noise of the DS218+. No NAS is totally quiet, however to our ears the DS218+ was much less noticeable than the QNAP TS-251A or TS-231P2.

You may add wi-fi capabilities to the DS218+ with a Wi-Fi dongle. This unit additionally helps greater than 5,000 totally different IP cameras and has particular configuration settings for uninterruptible energy provides. The DS218+ comes with a two-year guarantee, and Synology presents numerous help choices, together with tutorials, e mail help, and browser-based textual content chat.

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