This article first appeared in HWM Jun 2011.
As a NAS brand, Synology’s been going from strength to strength. With a regularly-updated product line that gets faster as better hardware comes along for less money, there’s no better time than now to pick up a NAS for your home or small office. The manufacturer has also put tremendous effort into the software that runs on its NAS boxes, as its DiskStation Manager software (or DSM for short), is now deep into revision 3 territory, being one of the main reasons why Synology products have been accepted so well with consumers.
The DiskStation DS411j is one of its more budget-friendly NAS solutions designed for the masses, with a 1.2GHz processor and 128MB of RAM powering the box. You get four drive bays of storage, enabling a theoretical top end of 12TB in total with a quartet of 3TB hard disk drives. Adding and replacing the drives requires removing the chassis cover; not exactly very user-friendly, but at least the drives simply slide right in or out of the racks (after mounted onto plastic trays that support both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch drives), and are kept in place with handy thumbscrews.
Physically, the DS411j is rather plain, with loads of plastic all around. At the front you’ll find a series of status LEDs and the power button, while the rear end hosts a pair of exhaust fans, a power inlet, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and the Gigabit Ethernet jack. Interestingly enough, the DS411j also supports USB wireless dongles as an additional connectivity option. Though the compatibility list is a little short, having your NAS connect wirelessly to your network is a rather cool idea.
Performance-wise, despite having just 128MB of RAM and a relatively slow 1.2GHz processor, the DS411j did rather splendidly in our benchmark tests with the Intel NAS Performance Toolkit. Configured in RAID 5, HD Video playback and record scored 45.5MB/s and 26MB/s respectively, while content creation and office productivity scored 3.2MB/s and 17.1MB/s each. File copies to and from the DS411j also averaged 26MB/s and 36.1MB/s respectively, while directory copies to and fro averaged 7.2MB/s and 10.5MB/s respectively. You’ll find that the DS411j compares very favorably in performance to other NAS boxes with faster processors and more RAM.
For a multi-bay NAS box, the DS411j presents a very appealing overall package, given the price of S$660. It obviously isn’t a very fast NAS, as the middling processor and meager RAM will attest, but something faster for the same number of bays would likely cost somewhere around the four digit mark. What’s more, thanks to Synology’s wonderfully-designed DSM software, managing just about any of its NAS solutions is made really easy. Now, if only Synology would do something about the rather boring white plastic design of its lower-end NAS boxes.