Review: Synology DS411j, 4-bay Network Attached Storage

by Guest Author on October 28, 2011

in Guest Posts, Hardware, Reviews

Having just recently purchased on these little fancy NAS boxes I’ve decided to write a brief review of it.

I’ve only had it for a few days, nevertheless, being a techie I’ve already clicked just about every button I could find. Here are my observations so far:

The NAS itself, which is named Synology DS411j, is a tight packed little thing, not the most stylish of sorts though. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ugly, but it won’t be winning any design awards either. Although it’s not without its charm.

The case itself is white plastic, with an aluminum cover on top.

On the front we find a large power button and LED indicators for LAN, Status and hard drives. They work perfectly as intended and give a pretty good indication of current activity on the DS411j. The front also features air vents both on top and below.

On the back we find all connection options and dual 70mm fans.
From left to right we have: DC power, Gigabit LAN, 2 x USB 2.0 ports and a reset button. Also provided are MAC and serial numbers, I guess they’re there for support.

To get to all the good stuff you have to open the DS411j from behind, the back flips open after you remove 4 finger screws. It’s pretty easy and it saves space compared to the hot-swap drive bays others use. Inside we find a plastic rack with 4x plastic HDD frames, supporting 2.5” and 3.5” sata II drives.

Drive insertion is as easy as pulling one of the frames out, screwing the harddrive in place and pushing it back in. No hassle whatsoever. Once done, flip the back up again and screw it tight.

Personally, I’ve fitted it with 1x2TB drive and 2x1TB drive. Made a mistake there but that’s on me, more on that later.

The DS411j comes with the ‘Synology DSM’ operating system, and I have to say, it’s pretty damn sweet. It’s a multitasking OS that, considering the wide array of functionality in DS411j, is extremely intuitive and functional. Basically it resembles what most of us know from our OS, a desktop, a start menu and a control panel. I was truly amazed to see that, despite actually doing some fairly complex tasks, everything seems to just… work!

Let me mention a few of my “oh hey cool” moments:

  • Configuring disks
    After having inserted my first disk I was prompted to initialize it (translated: format it and choose a raid type). I followed the on-screen guide and selected “Synology SHR” sort of an on-the-fly raid selection method synology developed. Contrary to common raid types, it allows me to combine (and fully utilize) different disks sizes and even change the raid type later on.
  • Configuring my router and port forwards
    The DS411j uses quite a lot of ports, depending of course on the amount of services activated. Normally you would have to find out which ports are used and setup port forwarding in your ISP router. I could mention quite a few people that would find this a daunting task.
    Synology DSM has an option of setting up port forwards for me, through UPnP in my router. I wasn’t expecting much but I decided to try it out. Took a few minutes and wouldn’t you know it – IT WORKED!
    No fiddling with my router, no finding port numbers – just click and play.
  • Enabling server services
    I knew in advance that I needed photo sharing, file sharing and a web server. And it needed to be easy enough so that my wife would use it. Again, not a problem. Find the services in the control panel and hit enable. That’s it. Where necessary a guide will take you through the task and you’re good to go. I’ve yet to see any of these services fail or otherwise mystify me.

The Synology DSM also allows for multiple simultaneous users (in the OS). For me it’s not exactly the number one attractive feature, but given that the OS has a pretty neat audio player I’m sure that both my wife and I will eventually be using this option at the same time.

Before purchasing this NAS I was quite worried whether or not it would have sufficient power for my use.

There are a lot of features I appreciate, but I require these:

  • Ability to stream HD (mkv around 8GB) to 3-4 devices at once.
  • DDNS integration.
  • Download manager, or the option of installing one (e.g. Sabnzbd+) and power to decompress while still streaming HD to clients.
  • Web server.
  • Photo sharing.
  • Remote (internet) file management (FTP and webDAV).
  • Ability to expand my raid as I get larger disks.

It does it all, and I’m growing quite fond of the OS audio player (and Spotify, but that’s a different story).

Give the OS a try for yourself: demo.synology.com
User: admin   /   Password: synology

In regards to transfer speeds my hopes weren’t too high, and while not blazingly fast it certainly gets the job done. I’ve transferred roughly 2TB of data to it with an even 40MB/s or 320Mbps. Transferring data from the DS411j results in around 70-80MB/s or 560Mbps. Everything wired over gigabit and cat 6 cables.

In comparison you would need around 12 Megabit/s to stream an 8GB HD movie.
Quadruple that (4 ‘viewers’) and you end up with 48 Megabit/s – easy cake for the DS411j.

To sum it all up

Pros:

  • Quiet.
  • Superb OS.
  • Easy to active services.
  • Discreet design (albeit a bit boring).
  • Low power consumption (max 20w w. no disks).
  • Plenty fast.
  • 4 bays and SHR for ever expanding raid size.

Cons:

  • No hot-swap option.
  • No external connection of decent speed (USB3, Firewire, eSata etc.).
  • Guides for disk configuration could be a bit more self-explanatory.

Stuff I learned:

  • If you intend to start out with just 1 disk in SHR and intend to expand the raid later with other disks, make sure this first disk is SMALLER or equal in size to the other disks.
  • Having a home-built 80w server + disks = overkill.

This guest article was written by Martin, a regular reader of TechPatio – thanks for submitting it!

Comments & Leave a Comment

comments

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Veronica Cervera October 29, 2011 at 06:42

Thanks for the review. Now, I’m fully convince to purchase this product. I was having second thoughts back then but you made me realize that this product is worth its price. Thank you once again.

Reply

James Moralde October 29, 2011 at 10:46

I’m not that much of a techie but seeing how cool this Synology thingy works after logging into the demo page makes me think of researching further about this especially since the price seems quite affordable.

Can you perhaps post a non-techie version of this post about what this gadget does or perhaps point me to a post you may have written earlier about it? 🙂
James Moralde recently posted… Macro Close Up Photography: Cheaper Alternative to Macro Photography

Reply

Martin October 29, 2011 at 15:35

Hi, James. Actually, I’ve never written a review of any kind before. I just thought this little guy deserved it. It might be a bit on the techie side, but I think to sum it all up in non-techie term it would be easiet to post what it can do for you. Or at least, what is does for me.

It streams HD, mkv files mostly, to my TV (through a WD TV live box)
It allows me to share photos with friends and family without the photos ever leaving my home network
It acts a iTunes server and pops up in any itunes connected to our network, password protected if you want. Makes is a breeze to listen and download music to any iTunes enabled device.
It keeps all my data absolutely safe in case of disk crash, just take out the old sucky disk and insert a new, all your data will be unharmed. (SHR/Raid 5)
It allows me to stream and listen to my music anywhere, as long as I’m on the internet
I’ve redirected my “my documents” folder to the NAS (windows user) and as such I can have access to all my files from anywhere
And again, most important for me, it can keep up with several TV streaming HD content at the same time.

That’s some of the more basic things it does for me, I guess you could say it ties all my data in the house together. Making it more accessible.

Reply

Istvan Szucs December 9, 2011 at 17:28

You wrote:

“I’ve redirected my “my documents” folder to the NAS (windows user) and as such I can have access to all my files from anywhere”

How do you have access to this from anywhere (meaning outside your local network)? I assume you don’t mean FTP, or web based, but a folder that you can map. Am I right? I thought separation makes that impossible. I would appreciate if you could help.

Reply

Martin December 11, 2011 at 20:00

well, yes .. and no. On your local network it’s easy peasy of course, moving my documents to the NAS. no problems in that. It’s when you get outside your own network the “fun” begins, as you say.

Theres actually a bunch of options, one of them being mapping it directly through windows as any other network drive but that requires you opening your router for NETBIOS traffic from and too the internet, but I surely can’t recommend that. It is by no means a safe protocol. So actually, just forget I said that 🙂

DS411j supports a bunch of access ways from the internet:
– FTP
– Webdav
– Web interface file manager

Personally I tend to use FTP when I’m not at home, if you want you can even use “netdrive” to map it like a normal drive. It’s pretty cool.
http://www.netdrive.net/

From what I know windows has native support for webdav as a drive, which allows you to use “map network drive” and point it directly your webdav share. However, the windows implementation seems buggy (win 7 for me), or maybe I’m just not doing it right. I’ve never used it before so I’m practically just clicking and guessing as I go.

Reply

Istvan Szucs May 7, 2012 at 18:17

Thanks very much!

Reply

Marty October 29, 2011 at 21:03

Great review for a quality product
Marty recently posted… How to Fix Android Forced Reboot Issue

Reply

Benjamin Kerensa October 30, 2011 at 06:35

That is a pretty cool storage appliance… I have been thinking about building my own 🙂
Benjamin Kerensa recently posted… Canonical and Redhat Release Joint “Secure Boot” Whitepaper

Reply

sabrina clements November 7, 2011 at 06:20

Thanks for the valuable information. I am expecting this kind of 4-bay Network Attached Storage… Really good….

Reply

Kate Brown Wilson November 10, 2011 at 08:36

At first I was thinking that this latest gadget you have represented is a router, well I am wrong because its a storage device. I think that once you have your own computer shop this is one gadget we should never forget.

Reply

Alan Smith November 14, 2011 at 09:45

Amazing creativity.Hope it consumes less electricity.

Reply

Jakk @ Technology Blogged November 18, 2011 at 14:20

Great review!

Reply

Cun November 26, 2011 at 01:52

Id only disagree with you on one thing, I think its a pretty good looking piece of kit

Reply

Rojish November 26, 2011 at 07:00

Pretty cool product, OS is superb.
Thanks for the review 🙂
Rojish recently posted… How to convert .sis.dm/.dm files to .sis files

Reply

tom Nardone May 28, 2012 at 00:45

When i try to play mkv files it says file type not supported can anyone help me with that. it does this on all my blu ray payers and my sony nmp 100 dlna box

Reply

Thomas Nardone June 1, 2012 at 09:54

as far as i can tell it is not supported

Reply

Filip June 11, 2012 at 12:54

Thanks for a great review and thanks in particular for the “Ability to stream HD (mkv around 8GB) to 3-4 devices at once”-part which was something that I really needed answer to before I bought it, but couldn’t find put so straight-forward in any other reveiws.
Like you I want to stream mkv-files to my xbmc-box but also have the possibility to stream movies to my daughters macbook and (possibly) an ipad at the same time, and wheter or not it would manage that was my biggest pre-purchase concern. Just placed an order for this and 2 3tb-drives. Thanks

Reply

 

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: