Synology DS218 review: A budget business belter
All the software features of a high-end NAS at an attractive, entry-level price
Where there used to be a gulf in capabilities between your basic, budget 2-bay NAS and the all-singing, all-dancing appliances, it's one that's being bridged by models like the Synology DS218. 250 buys you a speedy two-bay NAS with all the features of Synology's DSM operating system plus enough performance to take advantage.
The design is classic Synology, with the two tool-less bays covered by a nicely bevelled matte-black plastic chassis and the drive bays covered by a curved magnetic flap. With the drives removed you can access an additional SODIMM slot, enabling you to add a further 4GB to the 2GB of installed RAM. It's a shame that you can't connect this quiet NAS to a TV and use it as a media player, with no HDMI port: with a single USB 2.0 port at the front, a USB 3.0 port at the rear and a single Gigabit Ethernet port, connectivity is basic.
That's where the disappointments end. The web-based installation routine couldn't be much easier, and while you're left to configure RAID volumes, users and shares yourself, it's all intuitive. The setup defaults to Synology's SHR configuration, which tries to balance the capacity of a RAID0 array with the resilience of RAID1, even when using drives of different capacities. You can also encrypt your files folder by folder.
The DS218 has basic storage and backup covered, but a whole lot more besides. It works flawlessly as a media server, streaming 1080p and 4K video to a Samsung Smart TV, Android phones and Windows laptops with real-time transcoding, although frame rates were a little choppy where there wasn't a Gigabit Ethernet link the whole way through. You can run a mail server, VPN server or WordPress websites or implement Synology's Drive, Chat and Office apps. With a Realtek quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM, these aren't quite as responsive as they are on the higher-end DS918+, but they could still service a small team.
Performance in our CrystalDiskMark sequential and 4K random read tests was solid, but note that read and write speeds with larger files are fairly slow. Still, the DS218 is all about maximum features for minimal cost. It might not have the performance of a powerhouse NAS, but you'll be amazed at what this little appliance can do.
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