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Synology DiskStation DS218 Review

Synology’s DS218 2-bay desktop NAS appliance aims to offer busy home users and SOHOs a big boost in storage performance and features. Whereas its predecessor, the DS216, has a lowly dual-core 1.3GHz Marvell Armada 32-bit CPU, the DS218 is endowed with a more powerful quad-core 1.4GHz Realtek RTD1296 64-bit chip.

There’s more as it comes with a decent 2GB of DDR4 memory – the DS216 only has a miserly 512MB of DDR3 memory. The DS218 is also geared up better for entertainment as it’s optimized for 10-bit 4K H.265 video transcoding – the only glitch is the Plex Media Streaming app doesn’t currently support this CPU architecture.

The port count hasn’t changed over the DS216 as you still get one Gigabit and dual USB 3 at the rear along with a USB 2 port at the front that teams up with the quick copy button above. Both chassis are the same size but the front drive bay cover on the DS218 has been redesigned slightly.

Some users may be looking at saving $20 and getting the DS218play which has the same CPU. However, this model lacks the USB 2 port and quick copy button, has a smaller 1GB of non-upgradeable DDR4 memory and doesn’t have hot-swap drive carriers either.

Swift installation

For testing, we loaded up a pair of 4TB Seagate NAS drives in the hot-swap tool-free carriers. On the DS218play, you have to remove the cover and screw the drives into its fixed metal mounting plates.

NAS novices will find installation a breeze as Synology’s discovery web portal locates the appliance on the network, installs the DSM software and secures administrative access. The DS218 is quiet as well as we recorded only 35.7dB at one meter in front.

From the Storage Manager app, we created a RAID1 mirrored array with our two drives. It does cost you the capacity of one drive but it’s the only sensible choice as it protects against one drive failure.

It was just as well we did this as the next day, the appliance starting beeping and a check in the DSM Storage Manager showed one of our drives was missing. Fortunately, we just had to remove and re-seat it after which the array was rebuilt with no loss of data – had we chosen a RAID0 stripe we’d have lost everything.

DSM 6.2 beta and snapshots

The DSM 6.2 beta introduces plenty of new apps and features

Prior to creating volumes in the appliance’s storage pool, we upgraded to the DSM 6.2 beta to give you the lowdown on what to expect. A key new feature is it enables BTRFS volumes for the DS218 which support manual and scheduled NAS and IP SAN point-in-time snapshots.

Synology has been pushing out BTRFS support to a wide range of its appliances – we upgraded our elderly DS1813+ to DSM 6.2 and were able to create new BTRFS volumes on it. One thing to remember is you can’t convert EXT4 volumes to BTRFS so you’ll have to back up all your data, remove the volume, create a new one and restore everything back to it.

DSM 6.2 streamlines storage options as the confusing Disk Groups and RAID Groups are replaced with Storage Pools. The Storage Manager interface also provides a new dashboard with more information about hard disks, pools and volumes.

IP SAN operations are now handled by the iSCSI Manager app which provides a dedicated dashboard with more detail on targets, initiator connections and LUNs. The new Package Center app makes it easier to browse Synology’s app store while the Security Advisor app offers a geolocation service.

 Great performance

The DSM 6.2 software allows the DS218 to support snapshots and replication

For performance testing, we used a Window 10 PC equipped with a 3.5GHz Core i7-5930K CPU and 16GB of DDR4 memory. The DS218 delivered the goods with a share mapped to the PC over Gigabit returning Iometer raw read and write speeds both of 112MB/sec.

Real world speeds were equally good with drag and drop copies of a 25GB test file delivering sustained read and write speeds of 111MB/sec and 110MB/sec. It also handled our backup test well as a 22.4GB folder with 10,500 small files was secured to the share at a speedy 78MB/sec.

Encryption performance was also impressive. Copying our 25GB test file to an encrypted share returned an average of 111MB/sec with the DSM Resource Monitor app recording a CPU utilization of around 46%.

The DS218 also delivers excellent IP SAN speeds. With our test PC logged on to a 500GB iSCSI target, we saw Iometer return top raw sequential speeds of 112MB/sec for both read and write operations.

Multimedia and backup

Synology provides a good range of multimedia apps for photos, music and videos

Synology offers a good selection of free multimedia apps which include its Video, Audio and Photo Stations. We’re big fans of the Audio Station as we use the DS Audio iOS app on our iPad to remotely access our music store on the NAS appliance.

The Video Station provides streaming services plus a media library to help organise all your movies while the Photo Station offers a complete online gallery along with facilities for sharing your pictures. You’ll want to protect your prized pictures and Synology provides plenty of backup facilities.

Desktop backup and folder syncing is handled by the Cloud Station Server app which works with the free Backup and Drive Windows clients. The Hyper Backup app looks after your local and remote appliance backup tasks while the Cloud Sync app helps get your data secured to offsite cloud locations such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

Conclusion

Synology’s DS218 is a good choice for home users and SOHOs that want an affordable storage repository for file sharing, PC backup and multimedia services. It’s a great little performer too, and we think it’s a better bet than the DS218play as for a few dollars more, you get hot-swap drive bays and double the memory.

8.5 Total Score

Synology’s DS218 is a good choice for home users and SOHOs that want an affordable storage repository for file sharing, PC backup and multimedia services. It’s a great little performer too, and we think it’s a better bet than the DS218play as for a few dollars more, you get hot-swap drive bays and double the memory.

Performance
9
Features
7.5
Build quality
8.5
Usability
9
Value
8.5
PROS
  • Great performance
  • Very quiet
  • Hot-swap drives
  • Good multimedia apps
  • Backup and cloud apps
CONS
  • Memory not upgradeable
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