Review of Synology DiskStation DS210j NAS


Nice looking design
3 USB 2 ports
Great software
Good overall transfer speeds
Nice price



Synology Disk Station DS210j is a fantastic NAS (Network Attached Storage) for your home with a ton of interesting features.

 

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INTRODUCTION

Synology is a company that has specialized in NAS devices and has quite an extensive catalog of products which basically covers every need on the market. Today I will be reviewing one of their newer products, the “DiskStation DS210j” which is primarily intended for use in home networks. This product really has o ton of interesting specifications which are available at their website.

 

The specifications of the DS210j are doubtless impressive but the really interesting thing about this NAS is the accompanied control software which enables all the extra features. We will go into that more extensively later in the review.

 

 

DS210j IN DETAIL

Bundled with the DS210j chassis are the following accessories: a bag with screws, an AC adapter, an installation CD and a manual.

 

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The Synology Disk Station DS210j is a quite small unit with attractive aesthetics which will not scare away even the most sensitive Apple users. The housing has room for two 3.5” or 2.5” disks.

 

 

 

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There are two buttons altogether. One to power on the system and the other executes backups of the devices that are connected to the USB ports. The LEDs in the front panel indicate the state of the system. There’s a power LED, two hard drive LEDs and a LED for the network status.

 

I like the fact that Synology has included a USB 2.0 port in the front which makes it easy to plug in units like mp3 players and USB pen drives.

 

 

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The back part of the Disk Station DS210j holds two more USB 2.0 ports; a network port and the input connector for the AC adapter. Above the AC adapter input hole is a small reset button.

 

 

The last important element is the 70mm fan which cools the hard drives. According to the manufacturer, the noise level is only 24db. The fan is manufactured by Evercool and the model number is “EC7025L12ER”. More stats from the manufacturer regarding the fan; consumption level at 1.68W; the rotation speed is 3000 rpm; the air flow is 28.2 CFM and lastly the expected life length is 40000 hours (more than 4 years when the unit is power on without interruption).

 

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The bottom of the unit has 4 rubber feet which lift the box a couple of millimeters off the ground. This allows the fan exhaust to work as efficiently as possible.

 

 

 

 

INTERIOR OF THE SYNOLOGY DISK STATION DS210J

To open the case you slide of the sides backwards, no screws are needed.

 

From the images below you can see the two drive rack where the hard drives should be installed. Each drive is connected by a SATA-2 connector (SATA300). These connectors are then connected to the control PCB through a PCI-E x1 connector.

 

 

 

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The placement of the fan is quite good although it would have been even better if there was more free space between the fan and the drives.

 

 

 

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The installation of hard disks couldn’t be easier. I just slid them into place and secured them with the screws to the rack.

 

 

 

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SOFTWARE INSTALLATION

Synology’s “Disk Station Manager” (DSM) is the software which controls the unit. At the time of this review the last stable version was 2.2. I just inserted the CD and the installation process more or less took care of itself.

 

The system is accessed through a browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc ). The first window is the “Writing-desk” which has icons for all the main applications.

 

The first thing to do is of course to format the installed drives. This is done by following a guide which carefully explains the different options available to us. One of the most important things to decide is whether to run a RAID 0 or RAID 1 configuration. For you who don’t know what that means I can tell you that RAID 0 means that the disks are run in “parallel” mode which will theoretically almost double the performance. In RAID 1 mode, the disks are “mirrored” which means that exactly the same info is stored on both drives, so if one breaks you will always have all info secured on the remaining drive.

 

Once the volume has been created, the next step is to go through all the configuration options. When I did this I noticed that there was an overall update available (DSM 2.3 beta). I didn’t hesitate to install it once I had read all the new features it included.

 

 

 

SYSTEM CONFIGURATION WITH DSM 2.3

The menu looks quite different in DSM 2.3 compared to DSM 2.2. The start icons are; Management; File Station; Audio Station; Surveillance Station; Web Station; Photo Station and Online Resources.

 

If you are interested I really urge you to check out the demo version of the DSM 2.3 software running live over at Synology’s website.

 

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When you click one of the icons, the sublevel of that icon opens up with a myriad of setting to consider. There is really an incredible amount of useful options and features. I am truly impressed with how they have managed to squeeze in so much in this program. I will only be able to present a few things that I used myself but believe me, there is much more.

 

You can turn on a log over who has been connected to the system and it even logs which actions the user took while connected. For instance, you can see which files where copied or moved from and to which location on the disk.

 

Another great feature is that you can setup the system so that it sends you a text message to your mobile phone or an email when it is triggered by an event of your choice, for instance if one of the disks is failing.

 

There are also the options to make updates of the software, reset to factory defaults, install external modules like an e-mail server, web statistics server and there’s even a small phpMyAdmin module which means you can install MySql and run this unit as a small web server with a database.

 

The installation process of any of these applications is as easy as with the basic program. All you have to do is start the process and the rest takes care of itself.

 

There is an extensive menu for setting user privileges for internet access which is great if you want to use is in an office environment.

 

DSM 2.3 enables us to create up to 512 users in a total of 128 different groups. The system is very flexible, it not only lets you set user privileges on us group level but also on different users within the same group.

 

 

Furthermore it is possible to setup up to 256 shared archives to which you can assign different user rights.

 

You can also setup the unit as a FTP server, a media server and it’s possible to connect it through SSH (putty). Note that you don’t have to choose which function to use, you may use them all at the same time.

 

Synology has also done a lot of thinking about the security. For instance, you can limit the number of simultaneous connections; limit the maximum use of total bandwidth; only allow https connections; setup firewall restrictions etc…

 

The Internet connection setup menu is especially interesting for more advanced users who want to be able to access the unit from any computer on the internet. A good way to do this is if you have a dynamic DNS which most of us normal users do, is to use the DDNS setting in conjunction with a service like dyndns.org.

 

Another very interesting addition by Synology is the option to install MySQL databases, which conjugated with phpMyAdmin gives us an excellent platform to create a small web server by also installing a CMS. Officially Synology offers compatibility with the following systems:

 

Blogs

LifeType
Nucleus
Serendipity
simplePHPblog
WordPress

Forums

Discuz!
MyBB
phpBB
PHPWind

Wiki

MediaWiki

CMS

Drupal
Joomla!
TYPO3
Xoops
Zimplit

Image galleries

Gallery

Databases

phpMyAdmin
SQL Buddy

E-commerce

OpenCart
osCommerce

E-learning

Claroline
moodle

 

 

The application menu is also very interesting since it is really here the real use of the unit comes to life. Synology has done a lot of good updates with their own systems for storing, downloading and handling media content like movies and music. They have also extended the support for third party applications.

 

In the menu there is not much to do of course but to choose from a myriad of options to activate or deactivate (again). For instance you can active the DLNA and or DMA functions which makes the unit compatible with other media units supporting those formats. I’ll get back to this further on in this never ending review…

 

I haven’t yet said much about what should be considered to be the main function of any NAS; the backup function.

 

Considering what I have written so far about this unit, it will surely not come as a surprise that Synology has integrated a lot of features for performing this task as well. It is possible to make backup of selected folders on different computers on the network, databases etc. Again the flexibility is impressive.

 

There is also a menu for making backups of selected folders on the units we have connected to the 3 USB ports.

 

 

 

 

APPLICATIONS IN DSM 2.3

As I said above the real usage with the DiskStation DS210j comes to life with its applications for music, photos, blogging, downloads, FTP, web cam surveillance etc.

 

“Audio Station” lets us organize the household’s music in one single unit, yet access it from all computers in the network and replaying it without needing to do anything else but connecting to the NAS. No external players are needed or anything. It is also possible to access music on other computer’s hard drives and replay it through the user interface of the NAS. More importantly, Synology has added the functionality to connect and listen to music from Internet radio stations like SHOUTcast.

 

“Download Station” could work as a substitute for all people who have a server running at home 24/7 downloading stuff from the Internet. It supports well know technologies like; BitTorrent, FTP, emulate, RapidShare, Megaupload etc. During my test I had no problems what so ever with “Download Station”, the interface is intuitive and it works like it’s supposed to.

 

“Photo Station” is basically a photo gallery program which enables us to organize our photographs into folders and make neat looking presentations. The only thing which I must object to here is that I couldn’t find out how to view the photos in full screen format. I don’t know if it’s at all possible, what I do know is that I couldn’t find out how to do so.

 

 

 

TESTING

So far I have only studied the software for the DS210j. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper and check out important features like the units data transfer speeds and its power consumption.

 

I tested the data transfer speed both over the USB 2 ports and over the network. Sadly, I only had access to 100Mbps hardware which must be remembered when you analyze the test results below. To be clear, this NAS unit supports gigabit LAN. I used 2 Seagate 7200.10 320GB hard drives with 16MB cache in RAID 1 mode.

 

The obtained results are illustrated in the graphs below:

 

 

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I think the results are very good indeed, especially considering that I used a 100Mbps network. The transfer rates were considerably lower when transferring many smaller archives but this is normal with mechanical hard drives.

 

I was less impressed by the numbers I reached when doing file transfers over the USB 2.0 ports. The theoretical transfer speed is around 30MB/s but I didn’t reach levels anywhere near that. I was somewhat surprised by this and redid the test but got the same result.

 

In order to test the power consumption of the Synology Disk Station DS210j, I used an ordinary watt meter. Here are the results:

 

 

 

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The medium power consumption was around 30 Watts which should be considered OK. However I think that the 7 Watts are quite high for the idle mode. This should probably be due to that the hard drives are really never completely turned off, but only set to “hibernation”. Overall I think these numbers should interest people who are running servers at their homes. Maybe it’s time to throw out the server and replace it with a NAS?

 

The noise level of the fan is not by any means disturbing although you can still hear it even when you are two or even three meters from the NAS.

 

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

Impressive. That is the word I would choose to sum up the DiskStation DS210j. It is a product of great quality, with excellent characteristics and a great functionality.

 

Some things which I would like to see improved is the detail in Photo Station that you cannot see the images in full screen mode. Secondly, an even quieter fan would have been nice. Other stuff on the wish list would be a greater USB transfer speed and lower power consumption.

 

 

The unit goes for around $200 – $250 on the internet but then it’s a diskless system which means you will have to put up some more for the disks. Considering everything it incorporates, I think it’s a bargain.

 

All in all, I will have to recommend this product to everyone looking for a NAS for your home.

 

Pros:

  • Nice looking design
  • 3 USB 2 ports
  • Great software
  • Good overall transfer speeds
  • Nice price

 

Cons:

  • Nothing serious

 

 

Synology Disk Station DS210j

Packaging and accessories

1/1

Quality and finish

2/2

Special features and characteristics

2.8/3

Performance

1.9/2

Price

1.8/2

Total

9.5/10

 

The final score is 95 out of 100 owls, and we give the “Synology DiskStation DS210j″ our Editor’s Choice Award.


 

 


TestSeek Labs Editor's Choice 2009 Award


 

 

 

Thanks goes out to Synology for letting me review this cooler.

 

 


Author: Manuel González Fernández

Translator: Vince Emiloz Sanderson


 

 




  1. syno.allen
    March 6th, 2010 at 08:01 | #1

    Hi:
    I think you can install a browser plugin called \Cooliris\ to enjoy fullscreen slideshow in Photo Station.

  2. Shedeep
    March 8th, 2010 at 04:15 | #2

    Impressive article

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