Synology DS1513+ review

Synology’s DS1513+ is a 5-bay NAS drive, and in overall specification it is closer to the company’s 8-bay DS1813+. These models are based on a broad matt black chassis and sport a plethora of USB, ethernet and eSATA connectors.

Read more: Best NAS for Mac

From the front the unit looks relatively clean and simple. There are no USB ports, nor even an LCD to provide feedback on operation. Each disk tray has a triangular LED at top to denote access, and lines of lights above the disk bays indicate traffic on each of four LAN ports.

Synology changed the disk tray mechanisms with the previous DSx12+ revision, and this unit also has these tool-less snap-on clips to secure each disk in its tray. It may save a few minutes in the initial setup but they don’t feel as secure as the screws once offered.

On the rear are the four gigabit ethernet ports, configurable for link aggregation or multiple failover. You could also dedicate one LAN port to iSCSI use, for example. Expansion is easy – not just from the usual addition of USB hard drives, but Synology’s own expansion racks of five more RAID’d disks, using an eSATA port on each side to potentially swell capacity to 60 TB unformatted space, using two more DX513 expansion boxes.

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In small NAS terms, the DS1513+ runs a powerful processor, a dual-core 2.13 GHz Intel Atom. That’s the same chip as the previous DS1512+; differences in the latest 5-bay revision are small, with 2 GB memory instead of 1 GB and four network ports replacing two.

Keeping the unit cool yet relatively quiet is a pair of 80 mm fans at the rear. There’s no additional cooling for the processor and motherboard, as these are ventilated by the main disk fans.

Synology DS1513+ review: Interface

This Synology is the first on which we have tried Synology’s latest operating sytem, DSM 5.0. This is both a comprehensive aesthetic overhaul of the lauded DSM 4.3 interface, with several revised features too.

The look is entirely inspired by changes made in Windows 8 and in iOS 7. So in place of a layered, three-dimensional graphical interface is a flatter rendering, mixing pastels with lurid colours. Window boxes are all sharply square-cornered.

In its favour, typography is a readable mix of upper and lower case characters rather than shouty all-caps. And there is a hint of drop shadow to show some relief. Ultimately we found the new look cheap and childish, if not quite as Fisher Price as either of its inspirations.

We did find the new Resource Monitor grid a useful way to graph all the main NAS functions at once. Other changes, such as the Synology ‘Start Menu’ at top left, which takes over the entire screen when clicked, show poor judgement in slavishly imitating one of Windows 8‘s human-interface failures.

Below the skin, though, DSM 5.0 is every bit as powerful as the previous DSM 4.3, and some. One of the vaunted changes that should appeal to Mac users is improved performance with Apple's own network protocol, AFP. And the lab tests indeed show some changes here...

Synology DS1513+ review: Performance

One of DSM 5.0’s new features is SSD cache for read and write operations. To use this, you’d install a 2.5in SATA SSD into one of the usual drive bays in place of a 3.5in disk. We haven’t tried this yet, and instead tested the DS1513+ with the same four 3 TB WD Red disks as the Asustor NAS, leaving the fifth bay empty. But Synology does make some claims for improved AFP network performance, which may have helped this unit along to deliver the best performance in every bench test we tried.

For flat-out sequential transfers the Synology was approaching the gigabit network’s end stops, both reading and writing – recording 111 and 109 MB/s respectively with Blackmagic.

In QuickBench, similar sequential figures seen, now up to 112 and 110 MB/s; but where the Synology really distinguished itself was in its handling of smaller files. For random file reads between 4 and 1024 kB, it averaged 60 MB/s. But writing such files was where this NAS really pulled ahead, able to write at an average of 50 MB/s – an order of magnitude faster than the next-fastest NAS drive in this group.

OUR VERDICT

While the new DSM 5.0 software interface falls victim to the opinion-dividing but painfully trendy and jarring Windows 8 look, the essential performance and feature set of this Synology NAS drive lift it clear of all competitors. It is the most expensive on test here, but your money buys an extra bay, and a reliable storage solution that won’t waste your time in negotiating arcane menus. Its performance in serving files is second to none, which really lets it earn its keep.

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