Synology’s range of network-attached storage (NAS) devices cover a wide variety of use cases — from reliable data backups for your small business to a home media server.
That is why, when MyBroadband recently received a batch of Synology DiskStation DS220j NAS units, we decided to give them to tech-savvy MyBroadband forum members to review.
This way we were able to get many different perspectives from people who used the devices in distinct ways, rather than just the views of a single journalist.
The MyBroadband members sent us their reviews after a few days of using the NAS and told us what they liked and didn’t like about it.
Matthew – Director
For my review, I set the unit up as a media server. I tested 3 different apps: DS Video, Plex Media Server, and Emby Media Server.
For testing purposes, I installed a 3TB Western Digital Red NAS Hard Drive.
DS Video often encountered issues with codecs, so I immediately dumped that because no point in troubleshooting something when there are apps natively supported that do not encounter this. Emby Server worked well and I really enjoyed the look of the application, however I ended up dropping it as it was memory hungry and causing hangs. Finally, I settled on old faithful, Plex.
Setting up for the first time is quick and painless with the exception of the power socket. The power socket used is, what appears to be, a CEE 7/7 plug with grounding terminals on the side. These terminals affect the depth of the slots so fitting it into a normal round socket won’t be possible without cutting away at the “guides/wings” in the socket.
Personally I would prefer a three-prong plug, but for the sake of international standards, you can’t blame them for using these (even my PC power supply uses these plugs). If you can find a socket that supports these grounding terminals then buy those for compliance, otherwise just trim the guides.
With everything set up, it was time to test streaming. I tested two video files: one in HD and another in 4K. The HD file ran without any issues, however, the 4K video just would not play and got stuck on loading.
After some searching, I found out that 4K, more often than not, is said to not work due to memory limitations. There are suggestions to disable transcoding and use Direct Play, but this is where my test stopped. Overall I was suitably happy with the performance given that this unit is an entry-level device.
I also tested VPN Server, which is a nifty app for those that want to set this device up at their small office as a remote gateway whilst working from home. In my instance, I used OpenVPN which was a breeze to get working.
Unfortunately, given time limitations, it would be impossible to test all the use cases of this device but just off the bat, I can comfortably say that you would not have any issues running this as a:
- Web server
- Backup server
- NVR using Surveillance Station (I think this is a paid-for feature)
- Mail server
Overall, I am very happy with this device and would recommend this to anyone looking at setting up even a home media server, albeit not for 4K use.
For the price you pay, you will be hard-pressed to find anything that comes close with regards to the endless abilities that this unit has, given Synology’s DiskStation Manager.
|Affordability given use cases||Memory limitations – Only 512MB non-upgradeable|
|User-friendly UI (Great for beginners)||No Docker support|
|Sleek design||4K playback problematic|
|Low noise — Almost silent|
|Extensive app and community support for troubleshooting|
Ivan – System Administrator
The unit was neatly packaged, easily removed, with no silly stickers holding everything closed. Provided manual covered in detail the opening of the unit (not that one needs it). A nice touch was a small bracket for using 2.5-inch drives. My biggest gripe was the supplied round two-pin plug.
Separating the two halves reveals the SATA connectors for the drives. A very organized enclosure, well ventilated with a single fan and ventilation.
Next was the configuration. Very easy-to-follow steps — a far cry from what I am used to working with (in a good way).
Everything I tested was easy to configure, from the features such as the mail station, file syncing, and right down to hosting a WordPress site. For a small site of fewer than ten users, I’m toying with the idea of getting a bigger unit to replace our old SBS server.
Being able to create a link to my old NAS was a bonus, and made moving data between the two seamless.
|Small footprint||The round 2 pin plug – it’s a pet peeve|
|Silent||The iOS apps I found a bit hit and miss. It doesn’t connect each time (put in the same password multiple times to connect)|
|Easy setup||No unified mobile app. You have to install an app for each part you wish to use|
|Access from anywhere, easily|
Johann – IT Consultant
Installing drives into the NAS is very simple. You do not need any expertise to do it and even inexperienced computer users will be able to.
The only things you will need that are not included in the box are:
- Suitably sized Philips screwdriver.
- Adapters for 2.5-inch drives, if that is your preference.
Synology makes locating the device on the network easy and I found the unit immediately with my phone and desktop PC.
For no good reason, maybe just because it is easier to do screenshots, I decided to set the unit up using my phone.
The installation and update of the Synology Operating System onto the installed disks is quite simple and it automatically defaults to Raid 1 when you have installed two hard disks.
If you have only one disk it obviously uses Raid 0. It will automatically set up Raid 1 if you install a second disk.
To change a two-disk installation to Raid 0 is not trivial. You have to do the normal Raid 1 installation, then:
- Uninstall several apps: Audio Station, Video Station, Moments, and Synology Drive Manager.
- Go to the Storage Manager and delete the Storage Pool and Volume.
- Recreate the Storage Pool as Raid 0, and create a new Volume.
- Re-install Apps as required.
The Synology DS220j provided good performance under test conditions.
This first performance test has the DS220j with two 2TB Western Digital Green Drives in Raid 1 mode:
Now a performance test with the DS220j with two 2TB Western Digital Green Drives in Raid 0 mode:
The Raid 0 and Raid 1 tests give similar results, with the Raid 0 read tests being slightly faster.
Copy and Paste of a large video file (6GB) resulted in read/write speeds of 92.4/36.8 MB/s.
This is a good value-for-money NAS and it is easy to set up and use.
The operating system is quite sophisticated and, once you get into the apps and what they can do, this could be a very useful tool indeed. However, the 512MB RAM could become a limitation if you get too enthusiastic with the use of apps.
The QuickConnect feature, which allows you to set up the DS220j as a cloud storage device, could be invaluable for users that require this feature.
I think the Synology DS220j would be valuable as a home server for important files and also for media and photo storage.
However, as many of us are now using larger and faster hard drives for storage, I would tend to recommend that the typical MyBroadband power user should rather get the Synology DS220+ (or better) NAS.
Something small that bugged me is the positioning of the power plug with respect to the USB ports. I was unable to use my 128GB fast USB3 stick because it is a bit wider than usual and I can’t plug into either one of the USB ports while the power is on.
I am sure that there will be similar issues with other USB devices. This can be avoided by using some type of USB extension, but a better design would have obviated this problem.
Annie – Scientist
Having never owned a NAS before, the most I knew about it was what the acronym stood for, and that it was like having a hard drive connected to the internet. It is a very cool and useful gift, so I decided to see how easy (or hard) it would be for a total NAS newbie to set up and use without any assistance.
Step 1: Installing the hard drive into the DS220j NAS
The install guide included in the box is very basic. The guide did not explain which of the three sets of screws included in the box I should use, nor what the steel plate was for. After puzzling over the plate, I gave up and turned to Google for assistance. I found a far more detailed instruction manual on the Synology website. The plate is used when your 3.5″ drive only has 2 mounting spots instead of 3.
From there it turned out to be surprisingly easy to slide the HDD into the bracket and screw it into place. You will need a small Philips screwdriver.
Step 2: Connect the NAS to power and network
The network connection went smoothly – I simply plugged the NAS into a free spot on my existing home router. The power setup was a bit trickier – I simply could not get the Schuko 2-point plug to fit into any of my multi-plugs. Fortunately, the DS220j power supply uses a standard kettle plug, so I dug out a spare 3-point kettle plug cable and used that instead. I powered on the NAS and then used my laptop (on the same network) to navigate to the URL provided in the installation guide.
Step 3: Setting up the NAS
The FIND URL is an intelligent tool which searches the network for Synology devices. It turns out that the network I am on already has another Synology NAS on it, and it was able to ID the different models and display an accurate picture of what my NAS and the other NAS looked like so that I could select my NAS. I clicked Connect and it started the process.
Step 4: Using the NAS
The Synology NAS interface had helpful tooltips for my first visit to guide me through the various features. You get so much more than I expected! I thought it was just a networked hard drive, but it can do so many things! I learnt that I was able to install applications on my NAS from their package centre. There is a control panel for all the settings, and a NAS health status indicator and resource monitor.
The File Station notified me that there was no shared folder available on my NAS and that in order to create it, I first needed to create a volume on the drive. I used the built-in help feature and the volume creation wizard to get going. This process also erases all the data on the drive (except the Synology NAS software). This step took quite some time (several hours) because it ran a bunch of drive checks. I was able to continue using the drive while this was done.
There are free and paid apps available, by both Synology developers (40 apps at the time of writing) and third-party developers (43 apps). To purchase paid apps, you will need a Synology account. The Package Center has its own EULA and privacy statement.
With the volume created, I added my first shared folder using the wizard. I had the option to encrypt the folder for additional security. I was able to configure the read/write permissions for the folder for all users currently registered on the NAS: regular admin, my admin account, and a guest account (disabled by default). Advanced permissions allow you to restrict access by specific platforms, like iOS or Windows.
Step 5: Accessing the NAS from other devices
I then needed to access my NAS shared folder from my computer itself to transfer files. While I could initially see the NAS, I could not actually access the files. So I turned to the Synology knowledgebase, their online help, which had a tutorial. It was slightly outdated but showed me enough that I was able to map a network drive to my computer.
Next, I wanted to try to access the NAS from my cellphone. With some googling, I discovered DS File, an app for Android by Synology themselves. I installed it and it was quickly able to detect the NAS on the network. I entered my credentials and it was done.
The app also gives me the option to automatically backup all my photos from my phone to the NAS, including all future photos, as long as my phone is on the home network. A useful feature!
Lastly, I logged onto my old desktop computer and added the network folders there as well, then I ran a backup of some random files to the NAS. The copy speeds were fast, whether I was using a physical network cable or on the Wi-Fi.
What I liked most about the Synology NAS:
- Setting up the software was a lot easier than I expected thanks to the step-by-step guides and the various wizards and help features.
- The DS220j NAS has so much functionality! I didn’t expect an antivirus, or so many apps to choose from.
- I loved DS File for Android, and how easy it is to access my NAS from my cellphone.
- The auto-photo backup feature from my cellphone to the NAS is very cool as well.
- It was more compact than I expected a NAS to be, and I still have a second slot open for another drive.
- The Synology website has a lot of information, tutorials, and detailed hardware guides. I feel I can do just about anything, on my own, by using the resources they provide.
To request more information about the Synology DiskStation DS220j NAS, please visit the following page on the Synology website: Contact the Synology team.