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Synology NAS Buyer's Guide: How to pick the best NAS for you

Synology DS218+
Synology DS218+ (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

After shopping around for Network Attached Storage (NAS) units, you may have decided on Synology as a brand. That's only the first step, as the company offers an extensive collection of NAS boxes, depending on what you need.

I'm going to run you through a few things to make choosing the right model that little bit easier.

Breaking down the numbers

Synology DS420+

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Synology, like other vendors, uses model numbers to differentiate between the various options. The DS prefix is always present, which stands for DiskStation. After that, you have a number that usually indicates how many drive bays are present. The last two numbers are tied to each generation (representing the year of release). For example, the 2016 DS216 has two drive bays but is likely to be slower than the newer DS218 from 2018. It keeps it simple.

Some units from Synology may have a suffix at the end that shows a unique or more capable system. Here are a few examples such suffixes:

  • se - Budget-friendly option.
  • j - Affordable option for home use.
  • play - Usually has a more powerful processor for better transcoding.
  • + - Sports an Intel processor.
  • +II - The same model as the "+" but with a newer processor.

A DS218+II would be a DiskStation NAS with a newer generation of Intel processor. The DS218j, on the other hand, would contain less powerful internals but command a more affordable price.

Comparing models

Synology DS420+

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

Here's a comparison table with a few of the latest models from Synology.

CategoryDS218+DS420+DS1019+DS220j
CPUIntel Celeron J3355
Dual-core 2.0GHz
Intel Celeron J4025
Dual-core 2.0GHz
Intel Celeron J3455
Quad-core 1.5GHz
Realtek RTD1296
Quad-core 1.4GHz
RAM2GB DDR3L (6GB max)2GB DDR4 (6GB max)8GB DDR3L (8GB max)512MB DDR4
Drive bays24102
Capacity32TB
2 x 16TB
64TB
4 x 16TB
160TB
10 x 16TB
32TB
2 x 16TB
TranscodingH.264 (AVC)
H.265 (HEVC)
MPEG-2
VC-1
4K 30 FPS
H.264 (AVC)
H.265 (HEVC)
MPEG-2
VC-1
4K 60 FPS
H.264 (AVC)
H.265 (HEVC)
MPEG-2
VC-1
4K 30 FPS
-
Ports1x Gb LAN
3x USB 3.0
1x eSATA
2x Gb LAN
2x USB 3.0
2x Gb LAN
2x USB 3.0
1x eSATA
1x Gb LAN
2x USB 3.0
WarrantyTwo yearsTwo yearsTwo yearsTwo years
Price$250 (opens in new tab)$500 (opens in new tab)$650 (opens in new tab)$170 (opens in new tab)

The more affordable options like the j models will not be very good at transcoding video and other intensive tasks but can be used to store music and other files and stream them to connected devices. The more expensive options will be better suited and cost a little extra. The base (DS218) and Intel-powered + models are an ideal middle ground. And the DS218+ won the Windows Central Choice Award.

Then you have the DS420+, which is part of the 2020 catalog. Unless stated otherwise, NAS listings usually do not come with hard drives. So you'll need to factor purchasing these into the final price. We've got a few guides available on choosing the best hard drives for a NAS.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

4 Comments
  • Is having an Intel processor really a perk nowadays?
  • Actually it is. I have a DS418, and cannot run Plex Server on it due to the processor.
  • I have both a ds214+ and ds716+ and they are great. I had a ds213j, that while cannot transcode, if you have files in a format that your devices can handle, then it's not an issue. Example: 1080P video saved as mpg4 (H.264) would play on every device that has a 1080P screen and up that can decode mpg4. As an MKV, some devices would refuse. 720P and lower screens would refuse as well. My DS716+ has been able to transcode almost everything I have tossed at it (including 4k video) with no issues, granted, I did upgrade the ram to 8GB from the stock 1GB. The ds214+? It struggles above 1080P.
  • I still use a DS207 today with the very old DSM 3.x and everything is working fine (until a few weeks ago because the FTP and P2P modules aren't working anymore). Even if not stated by Synology, it performs perfectly on 1080p and 1080p 3D files if it's less than 10GB for 1h30/2h. Don't try 4K, the transcoding is not fluent.
    MKV, MP4 and whatever other file formats are supported thanks to VLC on Xbox or the internal video player of Windows 10. Even the subtitles and other audio languages are available. Anyway, I'm planning to change it soon because the transfer rate is really slow. I'm on 15Mb/s and want something faster.
    Anyone can give me some advice ? The J model is already banned but which one will be the best to last long in the DS2xx series ?