Want a smaller version of the superb DS414? Synology’s answer is the DS414slim which shrinks down from four 3.5in drive bays to four 2.5in bays. This makes for a smaller and cheaper unit, but with some compromises also made with the chipset is this a mini marvel or a pale imitation of its bigger brother?
The DS414slim is meant to be a mini DS414 and for the most part it looks like it. Both use the small minimalist design with curved corners and a sturdy, matt black plastic chassis that is nicely dust and fingerprint resistant. They also share the same green, front mounted activity lights, but look closer and there are strong differences.
The most obvious is the front of the slim lacks a removable fascia like the DS414 and instead all drives are loaded from the rear. This also means instead of the dual 120mm fans in the DS414 (one for redundancy) the slim has a 60mm fan in the base.
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Needless to say, the drop from 3.5in drives to 2.5 inchers also means a significant decrease in size and weight. The DS414 measures up at 233 x 203 x 165mm and weighs 2.02Kg (unpopulated) while the slim lives up to its name coming in at a mere 120 x 105 x 142 mm and 660g. If you want something tiny and subtle, the slim looks the part.
Aside from the shift in supported drive size, the slim also makes one less welcome alteration: a downgraded chipset. This may be in order to allow the slim to run cool and quiet in its tighter chassis with a smaller, faster spinning fan but the result is the use of a Marvell Armada 370 chip with 1.2GHz CPU. We saw this in the budget Netgear ReadyNAS 102 and while read speeds remained high there was a drop off in the more processor-intensive writes.
A further cut has been made to the RAM. Whereas the DS414 has a full gigabyte, the slim halves this to 512MB of DDR3. Again this makes us wonder if the slim will have the horsepower to do justice to the increasingly quick 2.5in drives on the market. Synology remains confident though since it has fitted the slim with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports both as a failsafe and for Link Aggregation, which delivers Gigabit busting performance we wouldn’t have thought the Slim could muster.
Elsewhere the slim also shows some nice touches. Alongside the pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports are two USB 3.0 ports (one front, one back) and because 2.5in drives consume a lot of power Synology has been able to integrate the power brick into the mains plug making for a neater, more portable finish.
Lastly we have the cherries on top of every Synology drive: Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) and DiskStation Manager (DSM).
The former allows automatic volume expansion should a larger drive be inserted (like Netgear’s X-RAID and Drobo’s BeyondRAID) and is a terrific feature given the more restrictive capacities of 2.5in drives. For the old schoolers Basic, JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 and RAID 10 are also available.
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The latter meanwhile remains the best NAS software currently available. It apes the design of Mac OS, integrates natural language search for navigation and problem solving, boasts a wide array of third party apps, supports DLNA and AirPlay integration and remote media access. There are also stylish Android and iOS mobile apps. Never has using a NAS been less intimidating.