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Synology DiskStation DS414: Setup, Performance & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Synology DiskStation DS414

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Synology DiskStation DS414 – Setup

Just a few years ago setting up most NAS was an exercise in frustration, but while many have improved Synology has developed arguably the smoothest and most user friendly experience on the market. Connect the DS414 to your network and, like many modern routers, you can access it via its IP address in your browser.

The company’s downloadable ‘Web Assistant’ will also provide you with a walk through setup wizard that configures everything from the DS414’s network name to its RAID type.

Once up and running DSM comes into its own. Operating systems may be headed towards a finger friendly future, but DSM’s Mac OS X inspired desktop remains the benchmark for NAS operation. Settings are represented as programs that open their own windows and each has its own help files and setup wizard so you don’t mix up what does what.

DSM also runs widgets showing your NAS health, CPU and RAM usage, log files and connected devices. The WD My Cloud may have given us a glimpse of the future for consumer friendly NAS, but for advanced users and businesses DSM remains the full fat UI of choice.

Synology DiskStation DS414 – Performance

So everything sounds good in theory, but the kicker is the DS414 also far outperformed our expectations in practice. Using our test setup of a pair of NAS-focused WD Red 4TB HDDs over Gigabit Ethernet the DS414 posted ballistic read and write times of 112MBps (896Mbps) and 97.3MBps (778.4Mbps) using SHR. This was across a range of file sizes from 180MB to 4.5GBs with rock steady accuracy as the graphs below display. Impressively, we also found switching to RAID5 and RAID0 didn't alter these speeds with any consistency.

Compared to rivals these speeds are significantly faster than we’ve seen from any other consumer/SME NAS and even outstrip the jaw droppingly quick WD My Cloud. That said the figures also expose Gigabit Ethernet for the first time as a bottleneck for this category of NAS. This is a problem as 10GE (10 Gigabit Ethernet), despite being around since 2007, remains prohibitively expensive for this product segment and is also shunned by motherboard manufacturers.

DS414 Ethernet 2To get around this Synology has equipped the DS414 with ‘Link Aggregation’, which harnesses the speed of both the DS414’s Gigabit Ethernet ports to potentially double the bandwidth. With this setup complete Synology claims the DS414 can produce 200MBps reads and 135MBps writes, showing the potential of the new Marvell chipset.

The problem is this also outstrips the speed of most HDDs, making them the next bottleneck and SSDs a wildly expensive option to address it. Furthermore, setting up Link Aggregation is impractical for most. No routers currently support it meaning you’ll need a managed switch and a PCI Link Aggregation card for your desktop PC as even most dual Gigabit sporting motherboards are incompatible. The total cost is more than the DS414 itself and laptops cannot be catered for either.

LA equipment is rare and no networking maker we reached out to could provide us with the equipment to test this, which only emphasises the magnitude of the problem. As such NAS could begin to plateau at the limit of Gigabit Ethernet unless progress can be made with the price of 10GE. The flip side is in hitting the limits of Gigabit Ethernet NAS is something only the most data intensive of users is likely to find a problem.

Despite this great credit goes to the DS414 in hitting these speeds while keeping its composure. Fan noise was minimal with operation staying under 20dB(A). Of course much will depend on the type and amount of hard drives you add, but our WD Reds remained eerily silent making such a setup viable for a study or living room.

DS414 3

Should I buy the Synology DiskStation DS414?

All of which brings us to price and with an official RRP of £342 (unpopulated) plus a two-year warranty we have a drive that not only outperforms its rivals, but undercuts them as well. For example the four bay QNAP TS-469L retails for just under £500 and with significantly slower performance it shows Synology’s latest NAS has set the standard for others to catch.

An oddity is no retailer we can find is listing the DS414 for under £375 (hence the price at the top of the review), but Synology assures us £342 is correct so it could be worth waiting to see if list prices drop.

Is the DS414 perfect? Not quite. It needs USB 3.0 on the front for quick file copies, we’d like to see it (and rivals) integrate 802.11ac wireless and Synology needs to make a single do-it-all smartphone app, but make no mistake this is a landmark product.

Verdict

It may look like its predecessor, but with the DS414 Synology has broken through price and performance barriers to create a category of NAS now only held back by the limits of Gigabit Ethernet. Beyond this the DS414 is compact and quiet, it packs bucket loads of functionality and industry leading usability. A new standard for entry level four bay NAS has been set.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 8
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 10
  • Usability 9
  • Value 10

bla

October 30, 2013, 10:52 pm

Is this just an expensive hard drive for putting music on?

Gordon Kelly

November 1, 2013, 1:39 am

No. But reading it will tell you that much ;)

Andy Race

November 1, 2013, 7:13 am

No, it cooks, cleans, drives you to work and does, other things.

d7851

November 1, 2013, 8:44 am

Is the speed relevant when eg streaming an ISO movie file to Windows 7 MCE or XBMC using the SMB protocol ? I currently use WD My Book Live drives. Can anyone shed light on this question ?

Mark B

November 2, 2013, 3:43 pm

Nope, far more than that. You get built-in schemes for data redundancy (that's what RAID is), data / drive management software, and warnings about failing drives before they go completely.

And they're cheap enough to buy two, to use the second one for backing up the first.

They're not perfect, but will protect you from most data loss failures. And they look more reliable than Drobo, based on reviews of the DS412+ and DS413. I've had two Drobo 5N boxes fail in the 4 months since I bought the first one. Not going there again.

Ghost26

November 2, 2013, 9:39 pm

"LA equipment is rare and no networking maker we reached out to could provide us with the equipment to test this, "
Lol. Any Cisco managed switch support 802.3ad for dynamic link aggregation. SG300 small business switches and 2960s manage the 802.3ad.
You certainly not search very far....

Gordon Kelly

November 5, 2013, 12:57 am

It's not that the equipment is not available - though we were unable to get test equipment - the biggest question is the practicality of cost.

MikkaMakkaMoo

November 7, 2013, 11:16 am

No the speed isn't relevant for streaming video. The review benchmark achieved 896Mbps (megabits/second) which far exceeds even Blu-ray's maximum bitrate of 54Mbps.

Having said that, I'm not sure the benchmark simulates multiple clients reading from different parts of the disk(s). But I suspect this machine is powerful to cope with most home users' needs more than adequately. Perhaps you could ask on the Synology support forums?

Cisco Guy

December 1, 2013, 3:49 pm

Look at the market. SMB fits and many would use a 2960. The ability to have faster access for an entire office is welcome. Heck, even in the home for the work at home parent and streaming media to the TV. It's only a 300 us dollar switch!

Jason

January 1, 2014, 7:56 pm

What does the lack of "on chip transcoding" mean? How will it affect a home user that may want to stream videos from a NAS box to a smart TV or to a tablet or other computers??

Jay bee

January 29, 2014, 3:58 pm

The really great thing that sets Synology apart from the rest is their tech support which is head of the pack. If it was not for this, then Netgear would be pushing them off their top spot, as Netgear make some top kit at significantly better prices, and their own tech support is no slouch either. Unfortunately Netgear limit their support and just seeing a limit puts me off. I guess i only ever called their tech support once in the three years i was using their kit anyway, which was outside their limit and that time they were pretty cool about it.

I have just bought 4 x DS513+'s so fingers crossed and i hope Synology live up to their reputation.

Søren Holte

August 2, 2014, 6:04 am

You need 10Gbe if you want to go beyond Gigabit speed between server and one single host. What you write about LInk Aggregation is not correct and simply not possible

rodpedja

September 2, 2014, 2:38 pm

More than 65 people reported defective units. Check this thread in the Synology forums http://forum.synology.com/enu/... . Synology has not acknowledged this problem yet.

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