Synology DS220+ NAS Review

ld13

Honorary Master
Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
12,371
Initially this review contained bad pictures and were centered around finding out if the Synology DS220+ was more suitable than a DIY NAS solution, in the form of my old HP N54L. Then 2 things happened:
  1. @bwana inspired me to retake my pics - but they are only marginally better now, so forgive me for that.
  2. I got my hands on a Gizzu DC to DC mini UPS, and since the Synology is a 12V unit, it made sense to see if the Synology was power efficient enough to make it Loadshedding-proof.
Unboxing the DS220+ there ain’t much that I can share:

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While I was expecting some form of foam protection, I guess the carton inserts were enough to avoid damage during shipping. All the extra goodies one would expect to come with a NAS like this was protected by bubble wrap and neatly hidden away in a separate compartment at the top. These included the Synology branded 60W 12V 5A power brick, a few harddrive screws and two moulded Cat5e 26AWG LAN cables – given the DS220+’s two x gigabit ethernet ports, this made sense. Removing the DS220+ encased in its white protective sleeve, revealed a small printed quick start guide, that was promptly ignored.


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The DS220+ is a 2 bay NAS, powered by a Dualcore Intel Celeron J4025, boasting 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 2GB DDR4 onboard that is expandable up to 6 GB officially. Some has had limited success with installing 16GB of extra RAM.

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I sat down, and after a bit of to and fro, managed to install a WD Green 5400rpm 2.5” 1TB drive. If I had not ignored the install guide, it would've gone a few minutes faster - turns out there is no need to reinstall the fastening panels after removing them!
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After a quick polarity test, I plugged in the Gizzu into the Synology and fired it all up. Following the advice of the install guide, I browsed to find.synology.com where it promptly complained about Chrome:

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After opening find.quickconnect.to, and following the on-screen instructions, I was subjected to a rather stressful '10 minutes', with the blue power light of the Synology constantly flashing, indicating a motherboard/power issue. Turns out I was simply not patient enough:

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From here on out things went rather smoothly, and the Synology started up with green lights all over:

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I played around with the interface a bit and was surprised by how things have improved in the NAS space. Managed to install Docker, opening the door to install Home Assistant down the line, and Download Station, a download manager of sorts that can download files and torrents directly on the NAS itself - so no more leaving PCs on overnight for downloads etc.

I then happened upon Synology's Active Backup for Office 365. Within a matter of minutes I had the DS220+ pulling in a full backup of our whole organization's Office 365 data. Exactly what the HP N54L was initially earmarked for, albeit in a much more manual fashion, where each user would've had to manually backup their data - now being done automagically, even including emails and site data!

About 3 hours later, everything was still whirring along, quite nicely, and I was able to view and restore emails and data without issues. Round about this time, with over 4 hours of runtime, the Gizzu reported a 50% state of charge, officially making the Synology load-shedding proof.

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What I liked:
  • Low power draw - making it easy to protect against loadshedding.
  • External power brick, making it easy to replace, if needed.
  • Standardized 12V feed, and not some 'proprietary' or unfamiliar voltage.
  • Ease of setup - Within about an hour the unit was up and running and already backing up our office data.
  • 2 NICs - with provision to connect via PPPOE (untested) - can simply be dropped in place at an off-site location, connected directly to a fibre ONT without the need for a router even.
  • The unit is dead silent - I was scared that it was going to be quite noisy.
What I disliked:
  • Only two HDD bays - the 4 bay units suddenly seem so much more attractive!
  • Limited RAM options. The onboard 2GB RAM on the DS220+ is also soldered, while the DS218+ had its RAM sitting in slot, at least opening up the possibility of even RAM upgrading. It feels wrong to be adding 4GB (or 8GB ;))to a 2GB RAM setup. I do not understand their reasoning for doing it like this - it would've been nice if they could explain these seemingly arbitrary limitations.
  • The 2-core 2.0 GHz will have its limits down the line, especially with x265 video formats becoming the norm.
What I would have done differently:
It would've been nice if they included a beefier CPU or even added a second DDR4 RAM slot. A sturdier HDD tray would also have been nice. But any of these changes would've increased the power draw and also the noise factor, so I have to tip my hat to Synology's executive decision to balance things out and make the DS220+ what it is.

At the end of it all I would like to thank Synology and Mybroadband for giving me the chance to test the DS220+. I was pleasantly surprised to see how power efficient the unit is, how easy it was to setup a complete office backup, and how silent the unit operates under normal loads.
 
Last edited:

ld13

Honorary Master
Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
12,371
With a few more weeks of usage behind me, I am happy to report that the unit is still going strong. Our business data is being backed up, granularly - even during loadshedding now.

After my initial review, I started playing with Docker and quickly realized that the 2GB internal memory would simply not do. I ordered a ADATA 8GB DDR4 memory stick (AD4S266638G19-S) and initially had no luck with the RAM. Today, after a week+ of to and fro, I found a hot tip on reddit, actually aimed at the DS218+ that suggests that one should simply un-tick the checkbox below in the control panel of the Synology and reboot the unit:

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Result:
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Low and behold, I finally had success! Had 10GB showing in the control panel and had the same in the resource monitor - no errors or notifications about using non-Synology RAM!

The only thing that I was 'worried' about, to some extent, was the multiple opinions on the internet about how adding anything more than an extra 4GB of RAM to the DS220+, would be a waste, as the unit only officially supports a maximum of 6GB of RAM, and even if you managed to get more ram working, you would be limited by the Intel J4025 CPU that can only address 8GB of RAM in total.

Throwing caution to the wind, and not knowing how else to test the RAM properly, I fired up a few instances of Home Assistant. But that was not enough.

Turns out there are more resource intensive options available, like Jenkins - an open source automation server of sorts. It ate up at least a gig per instance and 20 minutes later I was hitting 90-91% utilization:

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At this stage all the instances were still fully reactive and responsive and I could not see any errors or warnings in any of the available logs. I even tried running a few more instances, but the unit simply diverted ram away from the other running instances and did not go above 91% of RAM utilization.

It would seem, to my untrained eye, as if the DS220+ is happy with the extra ram and claims to consume 9GB of the available 10GB of RAM, even though the CPU is only supposed to be able to address 8GB. I cannot explain this as of yet and would appreciate it if anyone could shine some light on the matter. The Resource Monitor might be reporting the wrong values for all that I know or there might even be a better way to properly test the RAM - @anyone please feel free to show this n00b the errors of his ways.

I have yet to compare the performance of the DS220+ with and without the extra ram, but that is a test for another day. Right now, I could not notice a difference.
 
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