Synology DiskStation DS212j review
We’ve looked at several of Synology’s twin-disk NAS enclosures before and the DiskStation DS212j is the latest in a line of highly successful products. It has a sleeker, less complicated look compared to its predecessor, the Synology DiskStation DS211j, with the most obvious change the lack of a front USB port. Sadly, USB3 hasn’t found its way to Synology’s cheaper NAS enclosures yet but USB2 is still useful for copying files from USB sticks or memory card readers at the touch of a button. You now have to reach round the NAS and use one of the two rear ports for the same function.
You can buy the NAS as just an enclosure and provide your own disks, or you can buy it with disks ready-fitted; this is a more expensive option, though. Installing disks is simple - you just have to remove the outer shell and slide the disks into place, and there's no need to connect any fiddly cables. One of the biggest changes to the DS212j over previous models is the addition of a large 92mm fan, which is much quieter than those found on other models.
Setting up the DS212j is simple, although you’ll have to wait ten minutes or so for it to format your disks. Synology’s DSM interface is blissfully easy to use, too – it looks like a Linux desktop, with an icon-driven interface and the ability to open numerous windows at once, so setting up features such as RAID, shared folders and media streaming servers is completely hassle-free. You can even search for features if you’re unable to locate them in the menus.
In fact, all the DS212j’s features require a minimum of tweaking to get them working; tools such as the Download Center software, which is able to download files over FTP and BitTorrent independently from a PC, require just a few mouse clicks to get working.
The DS212j doesn’t have a vastly superior specification to its predecessor, with a 1.2GHz processor and 256MB of RAM, both of which are modest compared to Synology’s premium models. However, the DSM interface was snappy and lag free, even when carrying out several tasks at the same time. When reading and writing large files to the NAS, having our disks configured as RAID 0 proved to be much faster than RAID 1, averaging 62MB/sec compared to a little over 40MB/sec. Of course, in a RAID 0 configuration you'll lose all your data if one disk fails, whereas RAID 1 gives you the security of a full backup on the second disk. The NAS was slower when writing small files, though, where it managed 11MB/sec in RAID 0 and a little under 10MB/sec in RAID 1.
Overall, the disk is much faster than its predecessor, the DS211j, when reading and writing large files, but is 3MB/s slower when dealing with small files. Overall, though, you should see a performance improvement, and even the small files performance is almost enough to max out a 100Mbit/s Ethernet connection.
Delving into its features a little further, we were able to share folders, printers and external storage drives across networks with ease. The DS212j also supports iSCSI, which can be employed to map shared volumes as local disks - useful for certain programs such as Windows Media Center which can have problems with shared folders on networks. DLNA and UPnP media streaming support is present and works well, and the NAS can act as an iTunes server.
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