Recently Browsing 0 members
No registered users viewing this page.
The Synology DS720+: Incremental update to a great platform
by Christopher White
If you've read one of my NAS reviews in the past, you'll know that I'm a big fan of managing your own data. Cloud services are great and definitely have their place in the world, but I prefer to be in control of my own files and use cloud services more as a second backup or a way to quickly share pictures with friends and family.
Today I'm going to take a look at the latest offering by Synology, the DS720+, a two-bay NAS device that can be expanded with the Synology DX517 to a seven bay unit.
Upon initial inspection, the DS720+ looks like all of the other 2-bay NAS devices Synology has released over the past few years. One of the big differences is the fact that they included two NVMe slots on the bottom, to be used as a read or read/write cache. If you're interested in the results, you can scroll directly down to the Cache Performance section.
Synology always packs the most powerful hardware in the + line, and the DS720+ is no exception. The device sports a quad-core 2.0 GHz (2.7 GHz burst) Intel Celeron J4125 processor with on-chip AES-NI encryption and 2GB of DDR4 RAM (upgradeable to 6GB). The processor was released at the end of 2019, and you can see the details on Intel's website.
There's a single 92mm system fan in the back to keep the DS720+ cool, and it's very quiet so it won't be distracting in a home office setting.
CPU Intel Celeron J4125, quad core, 64-bit, 2.0Ghz with AES-NI encryption Memory 2 GB DDR4 non-ECC, one empty slot (6GB total)
Disk Capacity 32 TB (16 TB drive x 2) without expansion, 112 TB (32 TB + 16 TB drive x 5 with DX517) (hot swappable)
Network 2xGbE (with link aggregation/failover) USB Ports 1xUSB3 (back), 1xUSB3 (front) NVMe Slots 2 (bottom) Size (H/W/D) 6.5 in x 4.2 in x 8.8in (166 mm x 106 mm x 223 mm)
Weight 3.3 lbs / 1.51kg From a connectivity perspective, there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back that can be aggregated into one to improve performance. Note that you can't double your throughput from a single stream, but rather the aggregation can be used as either failover in case a switch port dies, or can be used to improve bandwidth on multiple streams.
The DS720+ has two USB 3.0 ports, one on the front and one on the back, although the "copy to NAS" button has been removed from recent Synology models.
If, in the future, you decide you need more than two drive bays, there's an eSATA port that allows you to add storage space via a Synology expansion unit. You can also secure the DS720+ with a Kensington lock if you're concerned about the physical security of the device.
The device also supports up to two M.2 NVMe SSD chips, accessible via the bottom of the device. If installed, these are used purely for caching and can't be added to your overall storage usage.
If you're looking for something that's plug and play, you can't go wrong with Synology devices. To get them up and running, simply connect the disks to the sleds, and plug them into the front drive bays. Then plug in an Ethernet cable, plug the power cable in, and then turn the device on. The system will boot up, obtain an address via DHCP, and you can connect to begin the installation process.
If you want to build the cache, installing the NVMe drives is as easy as turning the DS720+ over, opening the drive bays, and sliding the chip into place. I didn't put a heat sink on the Western Digital Black drive, and while temperatures were about 7ºF/4ºC higher than the internal drives, there were no thermal performance issues, even under load.
Initial Setup and Installation
Setting up the Synology DS720+, or any Synology NAS device for that matter, is as easy as clicking a few buttons and can be done in only a few minutes.
If this is your first Synology device, I would recommend downloading the Synology Assistant for the initial setup. Install this tool on your desktop and it identifies all of the Synology devices on your network so that you can just click on them to connect. While you could look at your DHCP server to find out what IP address it assigned, this just makes life easier.
When you first connect to the Synology DS720+ from your browser, you're presented with the Web Assistant page that begins the setup process.
After that, you're given a screen that begins the installation of Synology DiskStation Manager (DSM) onto the NAS device.
As is typical for any destructive process, the system warns you that all data on the hard drives will be destroyed, and you must acknowledge this before you may proceed.
The installation then begins. Although the process says it takes approximately ten minutes, if you have a fast Internet connection, it shouldn't take quite that long.
Once DSM is installed, it's time to setup the actual operating system. The system prompts you to give the NAS device a name, and to create a username/password combination that will act as the admin account on the DS720+.
Next, you're asked if you want to setup QuickConnect, a feature that gives you access to your NAS device from the Internet, in essence providing you with a public cloud. If you want the best security, you can skip this feature. If you want easy access to your files from the Internet, you can enable QuickConnect, just make sure you turn automatic updates on to help limit damage from attacks against your device.
On the next screen, you're given the option to share the device's network location so that you can identify it on the Internet.
That's it, your Synology DS720+ is now configured and ready to use. However just because the operating system is installed, doesn't mean you can actually do anything with the device yet, since you haven't actually configured the storage. This is one area where I think Synology could improve the initial setup. If you have a storage background, the rest of the setup is straight forward, but for those who don't, it may not initially make sense.
Initially, Storage Manager will show that you have a healthy system, but that you have no volumes or pools, only two drives. The configuration steps are simple: Create a Storage Pool, a Volume, and then finally Shared Folders.
Let's start by creating the Storage Pool. Think of this as a conglomeration of all of your disks into one big blob, and is where you configure what type of disk protection you'll have to survive disk failures. Select the "Quick" installation, since with only two disks in the NAS, there's little reason to go for the Custom configuration.
Next, give the pool a descriptive name and select the RAID type; for a two-bay NAS, I'd always recommend SHR, as that gives you protection from a single disk failure. If you select RAID-0, you'll have twice the storage space, but when a single disk dies, you'll lose the data from both disks, so it's only recommended for special circumstances.
Creating a new volume destroys the data on the drives, so you'll be prompted to confirm the procedure, before being asked to select a filesystem type. There are two choices, Btrfs and ext4. Unless you have a need to remove the disks and mount them on a Linux server or an older Synology NAS device in the future, I'd recommend sticking with the default of Btrfs.
Once the volume and filesystem are created, it'll take many hours, depending on the size of the disks, to run an integrity check against the disks. You're still able to use the DS720+ while this is happening, but performance will be degraded.
Now all that's left to do is create whatever Shared Folders you want on the system. These are used to create different characteristics for different shares that you'll be accessing on other machines in the environment. For example, you might have one share that has disk-level encryption enabled, while another has data integrity enabled, and a third has the concept of a Recycle Bin turned on.
Start by loading File Station, and you'll be prompted that there are no Shared Folders available. Click "OK" to go to the Shared Folder Creation Wizard.
You're then taken to first menu of options. You'll need to give the folder a name, and then decide if you want it hidden from "My Network Places" on the network, whether you want to hide sub-folders and files if users don't have permissions to access them, and whether you want a Recycle Bin enabled.
The next screen asks whether you want to encrypt the folder. Doing so will add security to the data, but whenever the DS720+ reboots, you'll have to manually use the key to mount it, or use the Key Manager tool. Key management is a topic I'll look to address in a future article.
Your last decisions are whether you want to enable data checksums to improve data integrity, if you want file compression enabled (only if checksum is enabled) to reduce storage at the cost of performance, and if you want to enable a quota on the folder. I'll cover this in the Performance section, but during my tests, CrystalDiskMark write performance doubled in the Random 4k Q32T16 test, and the other tests were the same, so there appears to be little reason to disable the checksum option.
Once created, you'll be able to mount the disks onto whatever other systems you want on your network.
If you want to mount storage on only a single device, you might want to look into creating an iSCSI LUN to share. This is especially useful if you're using the Synology DS720+ as storage for a VMware or Hyper-V system.
As with all of my NAS reviews, in order to test performance and bypass the PC as much as possible, I used OSFMount to create a 4GB RAM disk and then used Robocopy to test throughput between my desktop and the DS720+. The volume on the NAS was created as SHR using the Btrfs filesystem. This is similar to a RAID-1, since there's only two drives. In addition to the above method, I also used CrystalDiskMark 7.0.0 x64 to run some tests to confirm that the performance matched what I was seeing with the manual tests, which they did.
For my test, I created five separate shared folders, each one configured slightly differently in order to see how certain features would impact performance. The tests included:
A regular filesystem A filesystem with integrity enabled A filesystem with integrity and compression enabled A filesystem with encryption enabled A filesystem with encryption and integrity enabled As you'll see from the results, performance was consistently at or near gigabit Ethernet speeds when sending large files, but when reading and writing smaller files, the performance changed quite a bit depending on the filesystem.
The first thing I noticed during my tests was that performance was nearly the same between a regular filesystem and one with integrity checking enabled, except for one test: the RND4K Q32T16 write test performance was nearly double with integrity enabled. I'm not sure how real-world a queue depth of 32 is on the 4K block test, but since everything else is nearly the same, there appears to be no reason to leave integrity disabled on the filesystem.
The piece that surprised me a bit was that performance remained relatively unchanged when integrity and compression were both enabled; I would've expected there to be a slight performance hit with the compression from a read perspective, but the DS720+ experienced no slowdowns both with the CrystalDiskMark test, and with real-world file copy tests. While you should certainly do your own tests to make sure there's no impact with your workflow, it seems like there's no reason to not enable both filesystem integrity and compression for normal workloads.
Next, I tested a filesystem with encryption enabled and one with integrity and encryption enabled. I saw the same performance boost in the RND 4K Q32T16 write test, going from 33 MB/s without integrity enabled to 67.98 MB/s with integrity enabled. While this value was slightly lower than the filesystem with only integrity enabled, it wasn't too big of a hit.
However the pain came for both the reading and writing of random 4K blocks with a queue depth of only one: As you can see above, the read rate plummeted to only 8 MB/s, compared to 16 MB/s without encryption. Even worse, the random 4K blocks with a queue depth of 32 nosedived from gigabit Ethernet speeds (116 MB/s) down to a paltry 12.5 MB/s. Although the DS720+ has hardware encryption built in, if you care about performance over security, this is not a feature I recommend taking advantage of on the filesystem.
The DS720+ has two empty NVMe slots at the bottom of the device if you want to use cache to improve performance. Using one drive will improve the read cache, while installing two will improve both the read and write cache. One thing to note is that every 1GB of cache will use 416KB of memory. Installing my Western Digital Black 512GB chip utilizes 188.9MB of memory, or roughly 10% of the total system memory of my test unit.
I installed a single Western Digital SN750 500GB Black drive into one of the NVMe slots in order to test the performance of the system's read cache. Installation was simple, taking no more than a couple minutes to complete.
After the installation, boot up the DS720+, open up Storage Manager, and click the SSD Cache Advisor at the top see information on recently accessed files and what the recommended cache size should be for your system.
Creating the cache is simple. To start, click the Create button at the top of the SSD Cache section of Storage Manager, then select whether you want a read-only cache or a read-write cache. Note that in order to create the latter, you need to install two NVMe drives into the system.
Next, you're asked to select which SSD you want to use for the cache. With only one drive installed, the selection options are pretty straight forward.
Finally, you're asked how much space on the drive you want to allocate to the cache. If you're going through the trouble of creating a cache, you should probably select all of it, unless you're really short on memory.
Now whenever you're on the SSD Cache tab of Storage Manager, you're presented with a cache usage monitor that displays the hit rate over the past day, week, and month, as well as how much of the cache is being utilized.
While setting up the cache is simple, I can't recommend it for normal home users. Running a CrystalDiskMark test on a filesystem with integrity enabled showed no change in performance with the cache. Thinking it was due to the random nature of the data being written, I began copying the same files to multiple different filesystems and again noticed no difference. While caching might improve performance in a small business environment with multiple people using it consistently on a daily basis, if you're using it for a home setup, it doesn't seem like it makes sense.
The DS720+ is a great device, but recommending it will depend on the individual's use case. If you're in the market for a small NAS device to backup your files, and that has the ability to grow, the DS720+ is a great device to purchase. It provides great performance, takes up little space, and is on the whole, very quiet. If, down the road, you need more space, you could always purchase a DX517 expansion module, but that can be an expensive option.
On the other hand, if you think you might need more storage space in the future, you probably want to look at the DS420+, which has four bays, and costs only $100 more. Running in RAID-5 or SHR configuration, you would have three drives worth of storage space, as opposed to just one in the DS720+ (assuming mirroring). If you need video transcoding in addition to more space, at this point the older DS1019+ might also be a better option.
The two NVMe slots for caching are a nice feature, but during my tests, offered little in the way of performance in a small home setup, so that shouldn't factor into your decision.
Considering the maturity of both the Synology hardware devices and the DiskStation Manager operating system, if you're in the market for a two bay NAS device, it's easy recommend the Synology DS720+.
Synology changes from in-person workshops to virtual, so sign up if you're interested
by Christopher White
If you're sitting home in quarantine and have nothing to do, you might want to think about signing up for a free Synology workshop. The company, which makes great NAS devices, had 23 separate workshops scheduled throughout the United States, starting in Baton Rouge, LA on March 31st, and culminating in Reston, VA on May 7th. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 outbreak, travel is restricted and social distancing is the norm, so in-person trainings don't really work in the world right now.
Instead of postponing or outright canceling the workshops, Synology has instead decided to host them online. This means that while you're stuck in your house, you can fire up your computer and attend the sessions virtually. Each session appears to be about two hours long and will cover the following topics:
Note that registration is currently closed for all of the workshops scheduled before April 1st, but there are still 17 other "cities" you can register for. Although it appears the workshops are targeted at enterprise customers, the updated hardware information might be interesting for a wider audience.
Synology, Plex, and HDHomeRun: How to cut the cord forever
by Christopher White
It's no secret that the price of cable and satellite is increasing every year, forcing many people to wonder if it makes sense to keep paying the likes of DirecTV and Comcast for the service. In the past, the convenience factor alone may have been worth it, but nowadays there are many easy-to-use software packages that, paired with an antenna, can be a worthwhile replacement for the monthly bills, and while some shows can't be seen for free, you can still pair it with a subscription service or two to fill in the gaps. Today I'll take a look at one such solution: A Synology NAS device, running Plex, and connected to a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect Quatro.
If you want to cut the cord and control your own media, the first thing you'll need is a server. Everything I discuss can be done on practically any hardware, but for my money, I want something that has low power usage (it'll be running 24x7), is easy to setup, and works with minimal input from me. The Synology DS1019+ is a great choice as it has five drive bays and hardware transcoding, but if you don't care about transcoding, the DS1618+ might be a better option due to its six drive bays. Alternatively, you can use a PC as well. Although it will cost more in terms of electricity requirements, and also requires more care and feeding from a maintenance perspective, there's no question that it's more powerful, something that's important if you're going to be sharing your media with many people at the same time. For this deep dive, I used the Synology DS1019+.
There are multiple software packages that do similar work from a cord-cutting perspective, but Plex is arguably the most popular, with Kodi not far behind.
Installation of Plex is as simple as downloading it from the Package Center, with the caveat that you won't be at the most recent version. Once it's installed though, Plex conveniently provides a link to download the most recent version and informs you when a new version is released, making upgrades very straight forward.
After installing the package, either through Package Manager or manually, you can connect to your new Plex server. Doing so opens up a new web browser (or tab) connecting to (the default set) port 32400, and you're greeted with an introduction page, then asked to create or login to your account.
The first issue I ran into, and it appears to be a common piece of confusion because there were many articles about it online, was "where do I go to upload video files to Plex?" I was able to see a volume labeled Plex within the control panel, but couldn't find any shared folders to be able to mount on my Windows host so that I could copy files across. It turns out that, by default, nobody has access to view the volume. So make sure you go in and edit the shared folder permissions to open up permissions to the proper users. You'll have to do this change with every update, so make sure to document it!
Plex organizes media by what it calls "Libraries." Each library can have different permissions, and you can have any number of libraries that you want. A common configuration is to have one for movies, one for TV shows, and one for home videos. When setting up your libraries, it's important to note that you can share them with other users, so if you have things you don't want them to see, create a separate library that isn't shared.
In my testing, I created a few different libraries to help organize my content. In addition to the standard "Movies," "TV Shows," and "Home Videos," I also created a playlist called "4k UHD Movies" to put my UHD rips, and "Concerts" to put the Blu-ray videos of actual concerts and music videos.
When creating a library, you select what folder on the server will house the data, and then you can tweak the settings for the library to meet your needs. There are many features, allowing you to choose where you get information such as cast, ratings, and plot summaries. This is also where you select which agent will be used to identify the content. For personal movies, select "Personal Media," but for movies, you have your choice of Plex Movie or The Movie Database. I didn't notice much of a difference between the two, and Plex recommends not using it.
When importing movies, you'll invariably find issues in either detection or, more likely, naming. For example, when importing the movie 12 Monkeys, Plex decided to name it Twelve Monkeys. Luckily, the software anticipated these types of issues so allows you to change either the sort title or the actual name.
There's also the concept of Collections, allowing you to group together similar movies to make them easier to find. For example, I created a Collection called "Marvel Cinematic Universe" so that I could label all of the movies. Plex automatically creates a conglomerate movie poster consisting of the posters of four of the films in the collection. By default, it orders them by release date, but you can change that to alphabetical order instead if you prefer.
Plex does more than just manage your own media, as it has links to online video content, organized into News and Web Shows. In News, you're able to customize what topics you want to see across ten different categories from Arts & Entertainment to World News. While you won't be able to watch talking heads from CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News, you will be able to see informational videos from the likes of the Associated Press, Reuters, and The Guardian, as well as other lesser-known feeds.
In the Web Shows section, there's a lot to choose from, and it is a nice way to curate a lot of online content into a single pane of glass. If you're into podcasts, Plex has you covered as well, allowing you to browse various offerings and even download them onto your mobile device for offline listening.
Plex also supports libraries specific to music and photos. Finally, if you love music but don't want to manage your own collection, Plex integrates directly into the TIDAL service, and you can try a 30-day demo to see how much you like it. Since these features aren't related to cutting the cord, they're left to a future article.
SiliconDust's HDHomeRun Quatro
Until now, all I've shown was that Plex makes a great media streamer, but while that's a good foundation, it doesn't allow people to cut the cord. That's where the HDHomeRun series by SiliconDust comes in. The device is a little larger than a deck of cards and receives a signal from an antenna or CableCard, then saves the resulting data to a storage device.
The company has several models to choose from. Three of the models (the Duo, Quatro, and Extend) are able to receive over-the-air (OTA) signals from an antenna, while two of the models (Prime and Prime 6) use CableCard, allowing you to replace your cable TV set-top box. There are no solutions for DirecTV or Dish Network.
For my deep dive, I tested the Quatro ($120), which allows you to record up to four shows at the same time. The Duo ($100) and Extend ($180), on the other hand, have two tuners. The Extend also has built-in hardware transcoding, but since we're saving to the Synology NAS, it's not really necessary.
One thing to note is that although these devices allow you to stream, you'll need to purchase a Plex Pass subscription ($5/mo, $40/year, or $120/lifetime) if you want to integrate it with Plex. If you don't care about DVR functionality, you can use the HDHomeRun on its own, but Plex really opens up the ease of use.
Setting up the HDHomeRun Quatro is as easy as connecting an antenna via an F-connector (standard barrel connector), connecting the device to your network via Ethernet, and then connecting the power adapter. After this is done, log in to Plex and it should be automatically detected and ready to integrate.
From here, just following a simple configuration wizard. After selecting the device and clicking next, Plex scans for what channels it can see. Here was my first surprise: Not only did I receive the local ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox channels, I also received the subchannels, something I don't have with DirecTV. These channels broadcast a lot of older movies and shows and tapped into my nostalgia of 80s TV sitcoms.
After confirming the channels that are available, you're asked to enter your zip code so that Plex can download a guide to know what shows are being aired at what time. You're also able to deselect any channels that you're not interested in, although I don't see any benefit to putting blinders on in this case.
That's all there is to it! Plex takes you to a guide that looks similar to cable and satellite providers, allowing you to see exactly what shows are on what channels and at what time. If you see something interesting, you can click on it to get more information, to watch live, or to record the episode for future view.
If you want to bypass Plex, you can always download the HDHomeRun app and watch live TV from anywhere in the world.
Aside from easy access, one of the big selling points to streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are the fact that they're commercial free. I had this functionality built into my VCR in the late 90s, but the networks and studios have constantly sued DVR manufacturers that try to include this feature.
For now, at least, this functionality is included in Plex DVR. If you look under the DVR Settings, you'll see an option to "Remove Commercials." Instead of just skipping them, Plex will actually analyze the recording and cut the commercials out of your recordings. Not only is this a great time saver, it also reduces the size of the files on your NAS device, so is a good feature to use. In my testing, it seemed to work great on the major networks, but not quite as good on the aforementioned subchannels. On the bright side, the feature seems to err on the side of caution, as I never lost more than a couple of seconds of a show, although the risk is there.
In addition to removing commercials, there are other features you can enable. You can choose whether you want to only record HD, in which case Plex will skip all non-HD content. There's also the option to automatically replace any SD items in your library with an HD version, as well as whether you want to allow partial recordings in case weather impacts your antenna signal. Finally, there's the option to start recording a certain number of minutes before and after the program is scheduled to run.
While not strictly related to just the Plex DVR feature, the search feature in the interface is extremely useful for finding content to record. Instead of having to try to find the content on the guide, simply type it into the search window, and you're presented with content, whether it's an upcoming episode or series you'd like to record, an episode already recorded on your Synology NAS device, or music and movies you may already have stored. The search box also looks at online content from TIDAL, as well as podcasts and Web Shows that match the term, and the results are broken down based on where the content is located; "Live TV & DVR" means it's not on your device but can be recorded, whereas things in your "Library" are available to consume immediately. Finally, you can also search for actors or musicians by name and see the same type of results: A search for "Fillion" will bring up the TV shows Castle, The Rookie, and Firefly, as well as the movies Monster University, Serenity, and Blast from the Past.
A typical one hour TV show in standard definition takes just over 1Gb of storage, while a show in HD will take nearly 5Gb of storage (with commercials removed), if using the standard settings. If you're worried about storage space, you can configure Plex DVR to automatically delete a show either one day or one week after watching it, but since I'm hesistant to automatically delete content, I'd personally leave it off and just do it manually.
How do I watch it?
So now that you have your SiliconDust HDHomeRun saving shows to your Synology NAS device, how do you actually watch the shows? The answer is simple: The same way you'd watch anything on your Plex server. Plex has apps for practically any platform, from mobile devices, to gaming consoles, to Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and even Oculus VR. The Nvidia Shield is supposed to make a good Plex client as well. Some of these platforms have a fee associated, but if you have Plex Pass (which you need to use the DVR functionality anyway), they're all free. This makes watching as easy as using your cable box.
You can also share your content with friends and family. Doing so is as simple as sending an invitation and selecting which libraries you want to share. Once the person accepts the invitation, they'll have full access to stream to their own devices.
While I didn't cancel my DirecTV subscription, I did use the combination of Plex and HDHomeRun for a couple of months, and found very little to complain about. I never missed a recording, the picture quality was just as good as my satellite, and it was easy enough for my wife and daughter to use. Being able to watch TV from anywhere, like my daughter's dance lessons, was a great way to pass the time, and recording old 80's sitcoms that I enjoyed as a kid was the cherry on top.
This process also made me analyze our TV watching behaviors. One thing that surprised me was the fact that most of the shows we watch are actually on local TV. There are some, like AMC's The Walking Dead, that aren't, but it seems that much of this content can be replaced with a few streaming services that will still end up being cheaper than our current monthly bill, so it is something we'll have to explore as a family.
If you're looking for a way to cut the cord, the combination of Plex and HDHomeRun sitting on a NAS device like the DS1019+ is a great way to meet your goal. Instead of paying over $100/month on cable or satellite, you can pay $240 for a lifetime Plex Pass subscription and an HDHomeRun Quatro, install Plex on an existing NAS device or a server and have access to all of the local channels, including those you may not have known were even available.
If you don't care about cutting the cord, but instead want a flexible interface that lets you watch your cable (but not satellite) programming anywhere in the world and also provides far more storage than your cable company provides, the HDHomeRun Prime and Prime 6 options sound like they will fit the bill, although I haven't had a chance to test them.
Do you have any cord-cutting recommendations? Share them with us in the comments!
Review of the Synology DS1019+, a storage workhorse and a Plex beast
by Christopher White
While it's convenient to let someone else manage the storage of your data, that convenience carries a certain amount of risk. You're trusting someone else to secure your personal information, and this isn't always the safest course of action. Although you can't keep all of your personal information out of the hands of bad guys, many people would prefer to keep their private photos, videos, and documents within their own home as opposed to trusting a third party to provide proper security controls.
To that end, today I'll take a look at the Synology DS1019+, a five-bay NAS device that has strong video capabilities.
The DS1019+ is part of Synology's "plus" line, meaning it's built for power. As such, it includes an Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core CPU running at 1.5 GHz with bursts to 2.3 GHz and includes both AES-NI to improve encryption performance and the HD500 video chip to allow dual-channel H.264/265 4K video transcoding on the fly. The system runs the latest version of DiskStation Manager (DSM), currently 6.2 update 4, and retails for $649.99.
The model I was sent came with 8GB of RAM, although the base model comes with only 4GB.
There are five drive bays on the DS1019+, providing capacity up to 60TB in a JBOD setup. Most people will configure the box with either RAID-5/SHR or RAID-6/SHR2, which utilizes either one or two disks for redundancy, leaving you with between 36-48TB of storage.
Intel Celeron J3455, 64-bit, 1.5Ghz with AES-NI encryption Memory 4GB - 8GB DDR3L-1866 RAM, depending on configuration Disk Capacity 60TB (12TB x 5) native; 180TB with expansion units Network 2xGbE (with link aggregation/failover) USB Ports 1xUSB3 (back), 1xUSB3 (front) Size (H/W/D) (6.5in x 9.1in x 8.8in) / (166 mm x 230 mm x 223 mm) Weight 5.6 lbs / 2.54kg
From a connectivity perspective, there are two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the back that can be aggregated into one to improve performance. Note that you can't double your throughput from a single stream, but rather the aggregation can be used as either failover in case a switch port dies, or can be used to improve bandwidth on multiple streams.
The DS1019+ has two USB 3.0 ports, one on the front and one on the back, although the "copy to NAS" button has been removed from recent Synology models.
In case you want more than five drives for your NAS, there's an eSATA port that allows you to add storage space via a Synology expansion unit. You can also secure the DS1019+ wtih a Kensington lock if you're concerned about the physical security of the device.
One interesting thing to note is that the DS1019+ has an entirely plastic chassis. This makes the device feel cheaper overall, but being as it will be sitting in a closet somewhere, probably isn't a big deal.
The device also supports up to two M.2 NVMe SSD chips, accessible via the bottom of the device. If installed, these are used purely for caching and can't be added to your overall storage usage. Using one SSD will improve the read cache, while installing two will improve both the read and write cache. I haven't had the opportunity to test this functionality, but according to the documentation, every 1GB of cache will use 416KB of memory, meaning 256GB of cache will require at least 104 MB of system memory.
The product line used to be easy to decode by simply looking at the name, but things have become more complex in recent years. The DS1019+ has an Intel Celeron J3455 processor to support better video transcoding, but the DS1618+ has a quad-core 2.1GHz Intel Atom C3538 processor with on-chip AES-IN encryption. In performance tests, the Atom usually beats out the Celeron, but according to Synology engineers,
Read another way, the DS1019+ was made for video, while the DS1618+ was made for for small and medium businesses (or home power users) who want more drives, RAM, Ethernet ports, PCIe slots, and the like. Synology has apparently abandoned the "play" line and uses the "+" line for both video and high performance devices.
There's still a way to decode the product based on the name. The first two letters tell you if it's a standalone device (DS), a rack-mountable device (RS), or an expansion bay (DX or RX). The second two numbers indicate the maximum number of drives that the device supports; in our case, the DS1019+ supports 10, the five built-in drives and a five-bay expansion unit. The next two numbers indicate the year the device was released, and the last piece tells you what the device specializes in.
The whole point of a NAS device versus building your own is in its simplicity, and the DS1019+ delivers. Simply plug in the power cable, connect an Ethernet cable, turn the box on, and you're done.
Connecting drives to the DS1019+ is as easy as the other Synology NAS devices I've reviewed in the past. Place the 3.5" disk in the sled, click the two side pieces into place, and the disk pack is ready to insert into the NAS device. It's a great design, although I'm a little concerned that if the plastic clips on the side break you'll be out of luck and will have to contact Synology for a replacement. That said, I've swapped drives in quite a bit during my tests and I've never run into an issue.
The sleds also support 2.5" drives, such as SSD, but in order to mount those into the sleds you'll need to screw it into the bottom of the sled with the included screws.
I did find one minor quibble with the drive sleds. Other Synology models I've reviewed are spring loaded, where you press bottom of the insert, it clicks out, and then you pull the drive out. The DS1019+, on the other hand, is not: To get drives out, you simply put your finger under the bottom of the insert and pull out. It works fine, but to me, lacks the premium feel of previous devices.
If you want to lock the drives into place to stop someone from simply ejecting it from the enclosure, you can use the enclosed keys to do so, just keep in mind that the locks do not appear very difficult to bypass. I suspect it's not there for hard core security as much as to prevent a passerby from pulling the tray out.
Initial Setup and Installation
There's really not much to say about this that hasn't already been said in previous reviews. Once you turn the DS1019+ on, use the Synology Assistant to locate the device on your network, point your web browser to the interface, and click ok a few times. When the OS installation is complete, create an account, decide if you want to create a QuickConnect ID so you can easily access the device remotely, and you're dropped into the interface.
From here, create a disk group, a volume, and then put shared folders on top of that. The whole process can be completed in under 10 minutes, although the device performs parity checking in the background that, with five large disks, can take hours to complete.
Since the DSM operating system controls the interface and overall ease of use, there's not much difference between models. Performance, on the other hand, is dependent on the actual hardware so there are always differences between the different releases. Although I'll dig into the specifics below, I'm happy to say that the DS1019+ has the best disk performance of any NAS device I've tested, outside of the Thecus N7710-G utilizing a 10GBe card.
As with all of my NAS reviews, in order to test performance and bypass the PC as much as possible, I used OSFMount to create a 4GB RAM disk and then used Robocopy to test throughput between my desktop and the DS1019+. The volume on the Synology DS1019+ was created as a SHR using the Btrfs filesystem. This is similar to a RAID-5 configuration, whereby one disk is used for redundancy.
My first test is copying large, 3GB files to and from the NAS device. Copying a large file is easier for a disk because the drive can read and write sequentially, so performance is always better with these types of tests. The DS1019+ was able to both read and write at an impressive 113 MB/s, which is pretty close to the theoretical maximum speed of Gigabit Ethernet.
Where things became a little more surprising was in the small file test. Here, I copied roughly 3GB of small MP3 files to and from the NAS device. Generally performance in this test is significantly slower, with only the previously mentioned Thecus N7710-G even keeping close to the large file performance. In this case, the DS1019+ managed to absolutely destroy the competition, giving us speeds of 108MB/s when reading from the NAS and a still-dominant 99 MB/s when writing to the device.
Synology devices also have the ability to do link aggregation to provide more throughput to multiple streams (as opposed to doubling a single stream), assuming your switch supports this.
While I don't have a lab capable of officially testing this, I did setup link aggregation and ran a real-world test. Using Plex (which will be discussed later), I attempted to stream Incredibles 2 in HD to the Xbox One, Venom, transcoded from HD to 480p to an Essential PH-1 phone, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in standard 480p to my Windows desktop, and copy roughly 400GB worth of files from my Windows desktop to the NAS. Although this work taxed the CPU, everything ran perfectly with no buffering issues on the three videos and with acceptable performance on the copy. Benchmarks are one thing, but real world tests like this show that the DS1019+ has some good power behind it.
When things are setup and working smoothly, Synology devices are great, but what happens if there's a disk failure? Luckily, DSM handles this type of issue extremely well.
For my test, I started with five disks of different sizes (two 4TB drives, two 6TB drives, and one 8TB drive) in a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) configuration.
In order to simulate a disk failure, I pulled one of the 4TB drives from the array to see what would happen. As expected, the DS1019+ started beeping loudly and an error message displayed on the DSM interface. At this point, my volume was in danger because another disk failure would corrupt the entire array; if I were using SHR2, I would have protection from a double disk failure.
I then inserted another 8TB drive to replace the "failed" drive, opened Storage Manager, selected the pool, and clicked the "Repair" button. I was presented with a short wizard that displayed the new drive and, after clicking next, warned me that all of the data on the drive would be destroyed if added to the pool.
After acknowledging the data destruction, the new drive was put into the pool and a consistency check was performed. Although this process can take hours, you can still use the NAS device with a minimal performance impact.
Finally, to make use of the extra space, I selected the volume and expanded the action tab. One of the options on the menu is to use the maximum amount of storage available and with the click of a button, the volume was extended.
I should note that this process is documented on the Synology website. Overall, I've found the Synology online knowledgebase to be extremely useful, as are the public forums. For example, the company has a RAID calculator that allows you to select what drives you want to use in a NAS device, what protection level you want (SHR, RAID-6, etc), and the tool tells you how much usable space, wasted space, and protected space your array will have.
Plex Configuration and Utilization
Sure, you could just use your Synology NAS as centralized storage, but then you'd be missing out on a lot of other features that it has. We've looked at some of them in the past, such as using it to store video from your security cameras with the Synology Surveillance Station application. We've also explored office tools as well as photo management with Office and Moments, and backup capabilities with Hyper Backup and the C2 cloud platform. Today we'll dig into the ever popular media management tool, Plex.
You can download Plex from the Package Manager within Synology, but I found that the version there was a little behind the most recent. In most cases, this is probably fine, but for my testing, I went to the Plex website and downloaded the Synology package directly from the source. It's important to note that although I ran my tests on Synology, I suspect you'll see similar results from any similar NAS device, and that Plex has pre-made packages for all of the major NAS players like QNAP, Thecus, and TerraMaster.
After installing the package, either through Package Manager or manually, you can connect to your new Plex server. Doing so opens up a new web browser (or tab) connecting to (the default set) port 32400, and you're greeted with an introduction page, then asked to create or login to your account.
The first issue I ran into, and it appears to be a common piece of confusion because there were many articles about it online, was "where do I go to upload video files to Plex?" I was able to see a volume labeled Plex within the control panel, but couldn't find any shared folders to be able to mount on my Windows host so that I could copy files across. It turns out that, by default, nobody has access to view the volume. So make sure you go in and edit the shared folder permissions to open up permissions to the proper users.
Plex organizes media by what they call "Libraries." Each library can have different permissions, and you can have any number of libraries that you want. A common configuration is to have one for movies, one for TV shows, and one for home videos. Plex also supports music and pictures, but I didn't try either of those this time around as I really like Synology's own Moments and don't need the ability to stream music.
Each library can have different agents applied to them, a setup that determines where on the Internet to look for things like trailers, descriptions, photos, and the like. A movie library might look for details at IMDB, while a TV library might look at TheTVDB instead.
Each library has a specific naming convention, and that process can be a little confusing. To start with, all media should be put in a folder with the name of the video followed by the year in parenthesis. From there, you have a few different options. Movies support the following different types of special features: behind the scenes, deleted scenes, featurettes, interviews, scenes, shorts, and trailers. You can either put these special features in the same folder as the main movie and append the feature type to the filename, or you can create subdirectories for each type of feature and drop named files in there. In either case, you have to name them yourself.
TV shows are even pickier in their naming requirements. Each season of a show has to be placed in its own folder, and follow the naming standard, "[Series Name] - s##e## - [Episode Name]" where s## is the season number and e## is the episode number. Things get more confusing when it comes to special features for a season, and there's some disagreement online about how they should be named. Some people suggest putting all special features in a folder named "Season 00" whereas others suggest starting the labeling at episode 101 for the season. I tried both, and preferred the latter because it helped group the features with the season. Sadly, the display only shows "Episode 101" instead of the filename, so you have to look at that manually.
Aside from the naming process, the fact that Plex automatically pulls pictures, descriptions, ratings, and more from the Internet, giving you your own Netflix-like experience, is pretty cool.
While sharing media within your own house is great, Plex takes it one step further and allows you to stream the same media outside your house, as well as with friends and family. By default, video quality shared outside the home was set to be fairly low. When streaming a Blu-ray movie to an external device, the quality was acceptable but looked to be more like DVD-quality. You're able to modify the quality for both external and internal streams, and once I changed the setting to allow up to 10 Mbps to the Internet, both the picture and audio quality were great, even on a projector.
There are clients for practically any platform you want to connect to the Plex server, from PC to Android to Xbox One and everything in between. Most clients are free, with the exception of Android, iOS, Windows, and even Windows Phone. Although you can provide a PIN number to secure your Plex account when streaming from a device, when doing so on a console, everyone in the room can see what you're typing. It'd be nice if Plex adopted the same method for inputting the code as the Xbox does: mapping each number to a controller button.
Finally, Plex also offers a paid version of the service. Dubbed "Plex Pass," it gives you extra features such as automatically finding movie trailers and other extra features on the Internet, applying lyrics to music, and allowing you to record live TV. The cost is $4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $119.99 for a lifetime subscription, and it lets you use the mobile and Windows apps for free.
There's plenty of other features I haven't even looked at available with Plex, and I may conduct a deep dive on the application in the future if our readers have an interest in it. Everything I attempted to run on the Synology DS1019+ ran great and the overall experience was smooth and flawless.
I've reviewed a lot of NAS devices over the years, but I was surprised at how much I loved the Synology DS1019+. First off, the performance really surprised me as it was, by far, the fastest device I've tested that didn't come with a 10GbE interface. That performance didn't stop at simple file transfers either, as I was able to easily stream three videos and copy files at the same time without any loss of performance. Combine that with the fact that DSM is not only rock solid, but also smooth as butter and easy to use gives Synology a winning combination.
That said, I have a few minor issues. For the price, I would have preferred to see a metal case over the plastic one. Sure, it probably doesn't mean much, but the metal gives the device a more premium feel. I also much prefer the drive sleds with springs on other Synology models compared to the basic ones that come with the DS1019+. Finally, while five drive bays are great, for a device made for media, I would've liked to have seen six for a similar price, although you can always add an expansion unit if you need more drives.
These are all extremely minor issues though, and have no impact on the day-to-day use of the NAS device. If you have the money and are looking for a top notch device to stream video as well as handle other chores in your house, you can't go wrong with the Synology DS1019+. If you don't have any need for a lot of video transcoding, you might opt for the 6-bay DS1618+ instead, which might not be able to stream as many Plex videos simultaneously, but is still a powerhouse in its own right.
Three big Synology announcements: MR2200ac mesh router, Active Backup, and 24/7 phone support
by Christopher White
Synology holds an annual event where they announce new products and services. Today, in New York City, the Synology 2019 event is underway and the company has made three big announcements.
The first, and arguably most exciting, announcement is that Synology is releasing the MR2200ac, the company's first mesh router. Running the latest version of the OS, SRM 1.2, the MR2200ac can be run by itself, be used with the RT2600ac router (but apparently not the RT1900ac that we reviewed), or paired with other MR2200ac devices. The device has a Qualcomm IPQ4019 quad-core CPU, and tri-band Wi-Fi, but no word on how much RAM it has. The MR2200ac also has Google Safe Browsing and DNS/IP threat intelligence built in, meaning you can turn on (per connected device) filtering, blocking both questionable websites, as well as YouTube videos that may not be kid-friendly.
The second announcement at the event is that all Synology NAS owners now have free access to the Active Backup suite of tools. This suite allows you to perform full backups of your Windows hosts, VMware virtual machines, and file servers, and gives you the ability to restore single files or entire computers. In addition to hosts, the suite also allows you to backup Office 365 and Google G Suite instances, giving administrators the ability to consolidate their data backups from both on-prem and the cloud onto Synology NAS devices.
Finally, Synology also made an announcement that both home and business customers will have access to 24/7 phone support in North America.