Review Price £153.99
Where recent Synology products have excelled is their DiskStaton Manager user interface. Now at v3.2 DSM this browser based UI provides an experience more akin to an operating system featuring a desktop where icons can be dragged and dropped, windows (with a Mac OS X influenced design) and multitasking. Consequently setup is as simple as clicking the 'Quick Start' icon and following the prompts to allocate storage and create user profiles. DSM is universal to Synology NAS devices so while the DS211j can't solely take the credit, it does gain significant advantage.
On the physical side things are less slick. Where Synology has cut expense is in the build quality and the DS211j is constructed almost entirely from cheap plastics. Thankfully metal is used for the rear grill (housing the fan and connections) and for the drive mounts, but opening the DS211j is no more sophisticated than sliding off its fairly stiff side. More positively mounting the drives is simple with Synology using a combined SATA connector for each (2.5in or 3.5in) drive so they can just slot in. Operation is quiet, but depends on the noise levels of the drives you use to fill it. Power consumption is also reasonable using 23W when active and 11W idle.
As mentioned previously Synology NAS devices support the common JBOD, RAID 0 and RAID 1 arrays while RAID 5, RAID 5 Spare, RAID 6 and RAID 10 are also compatible. Despite this arguably their best feature is Synology Hybrid RAID. Much like Netgear's X-RAID, SHR allows for disks to be dynamically swapped for larger volumes without powering down the device. Once the larger drive is inserted the array is then rebuilt automatically and all content is available throughout the upgrade process. With the DS211j firmware supporting drive sizes up to 3TB its means even two drive slots can pack in some serious storage.
So what about performance? Here the DS211j is competent rather than spectacular. The 1.2GHz CPU is 400MHz up on the DSx10j series, but the 128MB RAM is still something of a bottleneck. This is most obvious when copying small files to the NAS which averaged 18.1MB/s with read times hitting 19.9MB/s. Large files perform better: with a 4GB file read/write times averaged 34.4MB/s and 24.6MB/s respectively. That said, as with the DS411j, its dedicated hardware means encrypting data doesn't have a significant speed impact.
The Synology DS211j isn't the best looking NAS you'll see, but the sector is hardly famed for its good looks. Instead the focus has been on delivering a fully featured and intuitive device at a price tag that has the potential to tempt mainstream adoption. Build quality and performance could be improved, but neither is enough of a hindrance to take the shine off what is a breakthrough product.
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