Synology DiskStation DS214 review - Upgraded network storage enclosure that pushes design limitations

Same box, speedier storage. The Synology DiskStation range has had an upgrade with a faster dual-core processor and more memory. The result’s worth a look at if you’re in the market for a home NAS.

Though the DS214 looks identical to the DS213 (and 212), internal upgrades push it to the speed limit of network attached storage. 

The DS214 is Synology’s new two-bay NAS enclosure in its DiskStation range. Shipping without disks, it supports up to 8 TB of storage with a pair of 4 TB drives. We reviewed the enclosure with a pair of 1 TB hard disks from Western Digital.

The DS214 looks exactly the same as its DS213 predecessor. It shares the DS213’s textured black finish and the plastic enclosure is pleasingly robust.

The main changes are inside. Many NAS units promise easy drive installation, but few deliver as well as the DS214: we popped in both disks in a few minutes. The NAS uses a tray loading systemwith the drives secured in a tray before sliding it into the enclosure. Pop-in plastic rivets keep the drives in place, replacing fiddly screws. Read more Storage and hard drive reviews

The DS214 loses the front-facing SD Card slot of the DS213, but it keeps the previous model’s three USB extension ports. Two are USB 3.0 ports, essential for high-speed connectivity.

Setting up network-attached storage has potential for problems, often with router configuration. Taking that into account Synology makes it just about as easy to get going as it can be.

Once it’s wired to your LAN you can scan use the Synology Assistant app to find it, then use a web browser to format the drives and install the Synology operating system DiskStation Manager. The whole process took under 20 minutes – including a firmware upgrade to DSM 4.3.

?We’ve praised DSM for its ease of use before and we won’t backtrack here. It lets you easily keep an eye on your DiskStation and enable many additional functions with the help of installable apps.

More than a disk management tool, DSM turns your networked enclosure into a streaming media server, iTunes server or web host, using a mix of bespoke and open-source applications. It looks like a complete OS in a browser.

Synology’s biggest claim for the DS214 is a speed hike from the previous version, to 100 Mb/s write and 110 Mb/s read. That will be down to the use of a powerful dual-core RISC processor, running at 1.066 GHz, against the DS213’s single-core 2 GHz ARM chip.

Our real-world testing recorded a high average of 97 Mb/s read and 95 Mb/s write. Throughout testing the unit barely made a sound, and thanks to a sizable but high-quality fan in the enclosure’s back panel, it’s very quiet too.

Energy efficiency claims were confirmed in our tests too, with the unit drawing around 20 watt when active.

OUR VERDICT

Synology’s consumer NAS products continue to impress. The DS214’s good looks haven’t changed, but it delivers strong writing performance, where other lower-cost units do not. But the real draw remains the easy-to-use and configurable DSM 4.3 operating system, with mobile support and many useful apps.

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