2 disk bays, N/A storage supplied, 1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
The DS210j is a two-bay version of the excellent DS110j network attached storage (NAS) enclosure we looked at earlier this year. The extra disk means you also get RAID support for improved performance and data protection.
Installing a pair of 3.5in hard disks was a simple matter of sliding the case apart and slotting them in, securing them in place with a few screws. Installing more than one disk defaults to Synology Hybrid RAID mode; which can combine multiple disks of different sizes and provides some data protection - though not against disk failure of the largest disk. Alternatively, you can manually specify either RAID 1 or 0.
The setup software located the unit and mounted it to Windows with one click. Downloading and installing the firmware took some time, but adding users and formatting disks was done in a matter of minutes. Disk Station Manager goes well beyond what you’d usually describe as a web interface. The attractive graphical front-end acts like a second desktop within your web browser, letting you run several in-built applications at once. Everything is in a logical place, with the control panel hiding the more technical settings. Shortcuts can be added to the virtual desktop for the most frequently accessed programs.
Over a Gigabit Ethernet connection, file transfers on the DS210J were quick. With two disks in RAID 0, large files were read at 36.6MB/s and written at 29.7MB/s. Smaller files were copied at 17MB/s and read at 11MB/s. In RAID 1 mode transfer speeds were only marginally slower, so performance is very good regardless of your choice of RAID.
Aside from network storage, the DS210j has a lot of other useful applications. Both UPnP and DLNA media streaming worked out of the box. The unit can also be used as an iTunes music server. A download client will manage BitTorrent downloads in lieu of a PC, and we had no problem attaching a network printer. The three USB ports allow the contents of a flash drive to be shared over a network, with one-touch backup to the internal hard disks. You can also access your content from outside the house using several excellent iPhone apps. They grab photos, music and even the video feeds from IP cameras over Wi-fi or 3G.
To make it easier to remotely access files on the DS210j, there’s an option to configure it based on the model of router it’s connected to. The list of supported routers is large, which simplifies tasks such as port forwarding and IP addresses that can be difficult to set up for inexperienced users. Anyone comfortable with these settings can still configure everything manually.
Even having to factor in the added cost of buying hard disks, the DS210j is a great buy. It’s £40 more than the single-bay DS110j (see What’s New, Shopper 256), but we highly recommend two-bay NAS devices like this one, with RAID 1 protecting you against either disk failing. Many of the features available here can only be found in far more expensive devices, and even if you don't delve into its extra features, the easy setup and great performance make it an attractive option.