You want to buy a NAS (Network Attached Storage) from Synology, but you know exactly what the differences are? We’ll explain it to you.
First, let’s understand the structure of the Synology product names. Let’s take for example the DS218+. The “DS” stands for Disk Station, the devices that you just set up and that don’t end up in a server rack. The “2” indicates that the device can hold two hard drives and the “18” stands for the year 2018, in which the device came onto the market. The letter or the plus behind it indicates the performance. If there’s nothing behind it, it’s the standard version, “j” are the cheaper, less performant devices, “+” are the faster ones.
This scheme is no longer used for the larger disk stations (the DS718+, for example, only has two slots), but it is at least a rough guide.
Synology NAS with space for one hard disk
A Synology NAS with one hard drive slot can be a good choice. You may lose a possible RAID function, but you can connect an external hard drive to any device via USB to make an additional backup, so no problem. It also doesn’t matter if the Synology itself acts as a backup medium, i.e. the original data is stored on the Mac, for example.
The DS119j, which we tested here and compared to the older DS115j, is clearly simple in terms of hardware. It has a double core processor, but only 256 MB RAM. The otherwise technical identical DS120j has 512 MB RAM.
- well suited for simple storage tasks
- nothing for video transcoding
Therefore it is suitable either as a pure data storage or as a cloud solution for SFTP backup, but less to run many software packages and not to transcode video at all. It is an ideal device to bring storage space to the network, as long as you don’t do much else.
The DS118 is much better suited for this purpose. It comes with a much more powerful quad-core processor, which also handles video transcoding in H.265 format and a gigabyte of RAM.
- most powerful one-bay model
- well suited for 4K video transcoding
This means that there are virtually no limits to the application. The DS118 is the ideal computing device if you only need or want to use one hard drive and want to connect everything else (if necessary) externally.
Synology NAS with space for two hard disks
If you want to use the RAID function, i.e. mirroring your data to another hard disk, you will have Synologys in mind that can take two disks.
The entry-level model here is DS218j. In contrast to the DS119j it comes with a 400 MHz faster dual core processor and 512 MB RAM. So it is not quite so weak-chested and can sometimes run the one or other software package more.
- most favorable two-bay solution
- for simple tasks sufficient performance
Again, you should be careful with the tasks that you expect Disk Station to perform at the same time. A good choice, if you just want to have a lot of storage on the network, but also want to use the RAID function.
For more challenging scenarios, Synology offers three models of the DS218: the DS218, DS218play and DS218+. All are not slow, but have slightly different focal points.
- good computing power and cheap
- housing to close with screws, no Btrfs
Furthermore, it does not support the Btrfs hard disk format – therefore no snapshots, i.e. images of the current storage state, are not possible. Last but not least, the case is constructed in the same way as the DS218: to change the hard disks, the case has to be unscrewed. However, the DS218play is well positioned in terms of computing power: it can transcode 4K videos in real time.
- more RAM
- hard disk slots accessible from the front
The processor power is the same, so you can use a lot of desired functions. Another advantage is the hot-swap capability for the hard disks: instead of screwing on the case, you can remove the front cover and remove the hard disks on carriages – very convenient.
- expandable working memory
- designed for many simultaneous accesses
The RAM is 2 GB, but can be expanded up to 6 GB. This enables it to manage up to 1500 connections, seven and a half times as many as the other two models. So the DS 218+ is the workhorse that can manage many accesses.
- very much power
- can be expanded with external hard disk modules
This model can also be equipped with an external expansion module for additional hard disks. So if you need a lot of power now and maybe more storage in the future, this DiskStation is worth considering.
Synology NAS with space for four hard disks
If you need more memory, a Synology with four hard disk spaces might be the right choice for you.
- most economical Synology NAS for four hard disks
- suitable for large video collections and home use
So the DS418j is simply suitable for large data storage at home. However, the videos should already be in the correct format: real-time transcoding is not possible. The technical data ensures a quick reaction, but is not designed for many simultaneous accesses or professional tasks.
- real time 4K video encoding at 60fps
- for large video collections in various formats
Less efficient is relative and rather delimits the use to the professional environment. Even the DS418 comes with 2GB RAM, quad-core processor for 4K video encoding (60fps) and a simultaneous number of users of up to 500 people. It is ideal for demanding home users or small offices.
- for professional use
- a lot of working memory possible for many users
It is well suited for the professional environment, and due to the larger main memory it is more powerful in important application areas despite the dual-core processor. The only point where it has to lag behind the DS418 is video transcoding: the DS418play in 4K can only do this at 30fps.
For those who want everything and the highest performance in every area, Synology’s models with four hard drive bays are available with DS918+. You get a quad-core processor, 4 GB RAM and optionally even 8 GB. Furthermore you can add M.2 NVMe SSDs in addition to the mechanical 3.5″ hard disks. The DS918+ is therefore the most professional of the four hard drive models.
- 4K Video transcoding of two streams simultaneously
- internal NVMe SSDs and external hard disk extensions possible
The high performance even allows you to transcode two video streams simultaneously. Furthermore, the DS918+ can manage up to five additional hard drives with an additional case. The maximum number of users is 1500.
Synology NAS with space for five and six hard disks
The DS1019+ supports up to five hard drives, the DS3018xs six. Both devices have 8GB of memory and are designed to hold approximately one million hosted files. Both can also manage up to 1000 client connections simultaneously. Both also upgrade to NVMe SSDs (the DS3018xs via adapter card). The DS1019+ is also suitable for 4K video transcoding.
- DS1019+ for performance and video transcoding
- DS3018xs as entry into the world of professional NAS systems
If a lot of storage space is required, but a little less power is sufficient, then you can choose the DS1618+. In its basic configuration it comes with only 4 GB RAM and a little less power than the models mentioned, but it can also hold six hard disks. It falls behind the DS1019+ in terms of video performance, but is on a par with DS3018xs in other areas. It’s a good choice if you want to use the device in an office environment, need a lot of storage space and still need to keep an eye on your budget.
- very much memory
- upgradable, for many files and users
If you need even more storage space, you’ll definitely enter the world of professional Synology NAS systems. Synology offers models for 8, 10, 12, 16 and 24 slots, plus 10 GbE ports for fast transfer speeds. A selection of such devices can be found here*.
If you want to connect your Mac to a 10 Gigabit network (or for a small price maybe only 5 Gigabit speed), then we have listed the appropriate adapters for you here.