Synology DiskStation 216+
A smart NAS drive that bends – but doesn’t break – the bank
£273 FROM Synology, synology.com features Celeron N3050 1.6GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 2x SATA II/III HD bays (max 16TB)
The Synology DiskStation range is aimed at people looking for a network hard drive that does more than provide a convenient place for everyone to back up their files to. You do have to factor in the cost of supplying your own hard drives, but in return you get a NAS that’s more of a mini computer than a simple hard drive.
Synology’s rather large range is split into four, and the DS216+ sits at the bottom of its second tier, the Plus Series. It’s aimed at demanding home users and small offices, with a price tag to match. The drive itself is black, rounded and sleek, and made from toughened plastic. A solitary front-mounted USB 3.0 port is joined by a power button and handy ‘C’ button for one-click copying from any attached drive. Around the back there are two additional USB 2.0 ports and a single eSATA port for attaching additional drives and other supported peripherals, such as printers and security cameras. The cleverly designed plastic front plate pulls away for you to slide out the plastic drive enclosures. It’s simple – just like the set-up process.
The DS216+ uses Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM) software, which works in a similar way to a Windows PC’s desktop, with shortcut icons, a Control Panel for basic administration and a Package Manager for extending the drive’s capabilities. Here you’ll find over 70 packages covering a range of server and online uses. DSM 6.0 has just been released, and because it’s used across the entire Synology range, you can be confident that it’ll be well supported and developed for a long time to come.
The premium you pay is money well spent: the dual-core Intel Celeron CPU and 1GB RAM outclass all of the cheaper drives we reviewed back in MF294’ s group test. You have a choice of Apple File Protocol (AFP), NFS and SMB connections, but you’ll want to restrict AFP to Time Machine use only, as QuickBench benchmarks reveal far superior SMB performance. When connected via SMB, QuickBench recorded 54MB/s and 45MB/s for standard read/write transfers (compared to just 23 and 21MB/s over AFP), plus consistent read/write speeds of 106MB/s and 109MB/s in the large and extended tests.
Plex Media stress test
We like to stress test NAS drives by installing Plex Media Server, and while the DS216+ was understandably less responsive than our quad-core Mac mini media server, it’s a definite step up from budget drives, capable of transcoding HD streams as well as being nippy and responsive when accessing media.
The drive hum is noticeable, and it’s a shame the rear USB ports aren’t USB 3.0. The flashing LED lights can be distracting too, but you can easily rectify this via the Control Panel. The price tag feels a little steep given the Zyxel NSA520 offers 1GB RAM and a dual-core processor for around half the price, but the Intel Celeron CPU is a definite step up.
Ultimately, the DS216+ has found a niche: it may be pricey, but it’s smart, agile and powerful enough to fulfil your network storage and server needs for years to come.
The Synology DiskStation DS216+ is proof that sometimes you really do get what you pay for – in a good way.