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Synology DiskStation DS220j and DS220+ Review

It’s been a busy year so far for Synology as it has released an extensive range of NAS appliances aimed squarely at home and small office users. Its entry-level 2-bay models receive a welcome update and in this review we compare the DS220j and DS220+ to help you choose the right one.

The DS220j targets home users that want a central storage location for consolidating data, keeping their photos backed up, watching their videos and providing private cloud services. The DS220+ is a more powerful option aimed at demanding home users and small offices and provides a number of extra features you won’t find in the DS220j.

Hardware updates

Taking over from the DS118j, the DS220j replaces its predecessor’s 1.3GHz dual-core Marvell Armada CPU with a much more powerful 1.4GHz quad-core Realtek RTD1296 model. The base 512MB of embedded, non-upgradeable memory doesn’t see an increase but the DS220j gets the benefit of faster DDR4.

Both appliance have access to an impressive range of multimedia services including the Video Station and Moments app

The DS220j employs the same sleek white chassis and also offers a single Gigabit port and dual USB 3 ports. Hard disk installation hasn’t changed either as you separate the two case halves and fit your drives in the fixed metal cage which is also designed to accommodate SSDs.

The DS220+ replaces the DS218+ and elbows out the old 2GHz dual-core Celeron J3355 CPU with the same 2GHz dual-core Celeron J4025 as found in the new DS420+. Memory is boosted to the DDR4 variety and the base 2GB can be upgraded to 6GB using the single SO-DIMM slot hidden behind the right-hand drive bay.

The charcoal-black chassis has a magnetic front cover and behind this are tool-free hot-swap carriers so drive installation will be much quicker than for the DS220j. You also get twice as many Gigabit ports plus the obligatory dual USB 3 ports and we found the single cooling fans employed by both appliances were exceedingly quiet.

Performance comparisons

For testing, we fitted two high-capacity 16TB Seagate IronWolf NAS drives in each appliance and used the DSM Storage Manager app to create RAID1 mirrored arrays. Overall performance for both appliances was very good although we did see some interesting variations.

The DSM Drive app suite provides a wealth of file syncing and collaboration tools

With a NAS share mapped over a Gigabit connection to our Dell PowerEdge T640 Windows host server, we recorded Iometer sequential read and write rates both of 113MB/sec for the DS220j and 113MB/sec and 108MB/sec for the DS220+. Clearly, the quad CPU cores in the DS220j handled disk writes slightly more efficiently.

Both appliances delivered almost identical results in our real world test with our 25GB file copies averaging read and write rates of 113MB/sec. They also handled our backup test well with a 22.4GB folder containing 10,500 small files secured to the share at 80MB/sec.

The DS220+ is the better bet if you’re planning on using secure encrypted shares. Copying our 25GB file across from the host server saw the DS220j average 111MB/sec with a 50% CPU utilization while the DS220+ returned 113MB/sec at a cost of only 36% CPU utilization.

If you’re tempted by IP SANs, neither appliance will disappoint as both delivered read and write rates for a 500GB iSCSI target of 113MB/sec and 107MB/sec although CPU usage for the DS220+ was half that of the DS220j. The DS220+ and its dual Gigabit ports handled an MPIO link well with Iometer reporting fast read and write speeds of 226MB/sec and 198MB/sec.

DSM app comparison

DSM data backup apps are in abundance but there are significant differences between these two appliances you need to be aware of. Their CPUs may both be the 64-bit variety but only the DS220+ supports BTRFS volumes plus the Snapshot Replication and Replication Service apps which allow you to run manual and scheduled point-in-time snapshot backups of NAS shares and iSCSI LUNs.

Both will run Synology’s standard Hyper Backup app but if you want the Active Backup Suite, you should choose the DS220+. The star player in this suite is the Active Backup for Business (ABB) app which provides backup, restore and disaster recovery services for Windows servers and PCs along with Hyper-V, VMware vCentre and ESXi hypervisors.

Other backup apps missing on the DS220j are those that support third-party cloud providers such as iDrive and Data Deposit Box. We suggest investigating the package download support web page for each appliance to see all the apps that are available for them.

Multimedia and private backup clouds

The DSM Drive app suite provides a wealth of file syncing and collaboration tools

The DS220j is geared up from the get go for multimedia duties as the Video, Audio and Photo Stations plus the Media Server and Moments apps are preinstalled during the DSM setup routine (these can all be manually added to the DS220+). We use the Audio and Video Stations a lot as we can link the DS Audio and DS Video iOS apps on our iPad to them and remotely access our music and films.

The Photo Station keeps all your prized pictures neatly organised while the Moments app adds useful features such as image recognition techniques to sort them into categories such as people, subjects and places. Load the Moments app on your mobile or tablet and it will automatically back up all your photos to the appliance and send new ones to it when they are taken.

Both appliances can run the Drive app which provides a range of cloudy Dropbox-like synchronization services for collaboration and file sharing. Users simply download the Drive agent for two-way folder syncing on Windows workstations or iOS and Android mobiles.

All management is carried out from the separate Drive Admin Console app where you can view logged in Drive users, browse a connection audit log and create Team folders for sharing content between multiple users. With the Drive Server app loaded on the DS220+, we logged into it using the Drive ShareSync app on the DS220j and automatically synced all our Team folders between them.

 Conclusion

The DS220j is ideal for home users that want a compact NAS solution for backing up their PCs and mobiles, storing photos and accessing a wide range of multimedia services. Its low memory capacity means there are limitations on the number of supported apps but at around $169 for a diskless model, it’s great value and delivers an impressive performance making it a worthy recipient of a Simply.Reviews Recommended award.

More demanding home users and small offices will prefer the DS220+ as it has no restrictions on available apps making it much more flexible than the DS220j. It delivers excellent performance across the board, its base 2GB of memory can be upgraded to 6GB and with a diskless model costing $299, is another winner for value – a Top 10 award goes to Synology.

7.8Expert Score
Synology DS220j+

The DS220j is ideal for home users that want a compact NAS solution for backing up their PCs and mobiles, storing photos and accessing a wide range of multimedia services.

Performance
8.5
Features
6.5
Build quality
8
Usability
7
Value
9
PROS
  • Top value
  • Quad-core CPU
  • Good performance
  • Very quiet
  • Extensive multimedia apps
CONS
  • Only 512MB of non-upgradeable memory
  • Backup app limitations
8.7Expert Score
Synology DS220+

More demanding home users and small offices will prefer the DS220+ as it has no restrictions on available apps making it much more flexible than the DS220j.

Performance
8.5
Features
9
Build quality
9
Usability
9
Value
8
PROS
  • Good value
  • Fine performance
  • Upgradeable memory
  • Tool-free drive carriers
  • Dual Gigabit ports
  • No app restrictions
CONS
  • Nothing of note

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