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NAS Reviews

2  Bay DiskStation NAS
At a glance
ProductSynology 2 Bay DiskStation NAS (DS218j)   [Website]
SummaryTwo bay RAID1 class entry-level NAS based on dual-core Marvell SoC with USB 3.0 and single gigabit Ethernet ports
Pros• Good valuefor the money
• Broad feature set with lots of installable apps
• Very quiet low-power operation
Cons• Disks are not hot-swappable
• Case disassembly required to install/replace drives
• No buzzer

Typical Price: $170  Buy From Amazon

2  Bay DiskStation NAS
At a glanceRAID1 NAS Performance
November 2017
ProductSynology 2 Bay DiskStation NAS (DS218play)   [Website]
SummaryTwo bay RAID1 class entry-level NAS based on quad-core Realtek SoC with USB 3.0 and single gigabit Ethernet ports
Pros• Top-of-the-chart performance
• 4K Ultra HD real-time transcoding
• Very quiet low-power operation
Cons• Requires case disassembly to mount drives
• Drives not hot-swappable
• Relatively expensive

Typical Price: $230  Buy From Amazon

Introduction

With 2018 rapidly approaching, we're continuing to see new Synology NAS models with "18" as part of the model number. Recently, I reviewed the 4-bay DS418j. The "j" indicates that it's a member of Synology's Value line. This review will focus on two new 2-bay Synology NASes: the DS218j and the DS218play.

Until recently, Synology tended to use the same processor in their 2-bay and 4-bay products with the similar product names. That appears to have changed for the DSX18 products:

  • The DS218j uses a Marvell processor
  • The DS418j uses a Realtek SoC
  • The DS218play uses a variant of the Realtek SoC used in the DS418j
  • The DS418play (not yet reviewed) uses an Intel Celeron J3355.

The chart below, generated from the NAS Finder, shows the basic differences between the DS218play and the DS218j. (Click here for the full comparison.) The DS218play features a beefier Realtek quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. The DS218j is powered by a dual-core Marvell Armada 385 processor and has 512 MB of memory. Both NASes feature two USB 3.0 ports, a single Gigabit Ethernet port and both require case disassembly to install the disks.

Synology DS218play and DS218j feature comparison

Synology DS218play and DS218j feature comparison

As noted in the introduction, installation of the disks requires case disassembly to mount your disk drives with screws into the mounting brackets. However, this is not as daunting as it sounds. Synology has streamlined the process, eliminating drive mounting brackets for most 3.5" drives. They also ship the products with the case screws packed separately. So all you need to do is slide open the case, slide in the drives and secure them with screws.

Drive installation is quick and easy

Drive installation is quick and easy

If you're using 2.5" drives, you'll need to purchase a Type C mounting bracket for each drive. At around $20 a pop, I'd stick with using 3.5" drives. You can download the 218play and 218j hardware installation guides for more details.

Synology DS218play Front & Rear panel callouts

Synology DS218play Front & Rear panel callouts

The callout chart above shows the front and rear panel layouts for the DS218play; the diagram below shows the DS218j callouts. Both have their two USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel. USB 2.0 ports are becoming a thing of the past, and neither the DS218 play nor the DS218j has them. The single Gigabit Ethernet port indicator is on the front panel and indicates only link/activity/no network.

Synology DS218j Front & Rear panel callouts

Synology DS218j Front & Rear panel callouts

Inside

The image below shows the main board for the DS218play. This board has a large heat sink thermally-coupled to an RF can top covering the processor and RAM.

Synology DS218play board

Synology DS218play board

The image below shows the main board for the DS218j. Both boards share the same physical dimensions and have similar component layouts. That's not too surprising considering that both the DS218play and the DS218j have identical case sizes of 6.5" X 3.9" X 8.9" (165mm X 100mm X 225.5 mm). Note the play has an audio buzzer, but the j does not.

Synology DS218j board

Synology DS218j board

The table below shows the key component summary for the two NASes.

  Synology DS218play Synology DS218
CPU Realtek RTD1296 quad-core @ 1.4 GHz ARM Cortex A53 Marvell Armada 385 88F6820 dual-core @ 1.3 GHz
RAM 1 GB 512MB
Flash Macronix 25L6433E 8 MB Macronix 25L6406E 8 MB
Ethernet In SoC Marvell 88E1514 Alaska Gigabit Ethernet PHY
SATA In SoC In SoC
Table 1: Key component summary

The DS218play drew 10 W with two of our stock WD Red 1 TB (WD10EFRX) spun up and 3 W in power save mode with the drives spun down. By comparison, with the same complement of installed drives, the DS218j drew slightly more power (12 W) in both the active mode and in power save mode (4 W). Fan and drive noise was rated very low for both NASes.

RAID 1 build time was < 10 minutes for parity check with bad block check skipped for both NASes.

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