The Synology DS1618+ NAS Review – Does it deserve your data?

The Synology DS1618+ NAS is here – What do we think?

We have seen our fair share of network attached storage at NASCompares and as we rapidly approach the halfway point of 2018, we are starting to see a lot more interesting tech peek out from behind the secretive cloak that brands like to hide their new shiz behind. A few months ago we heard word of a new 6-Bay NAS called the DS1618+ and it promised to be a real successor that the DS1517+ and DS1817+ failed to be (don’t point at me, you guys said it HERE). Now we finally have our hands on the new DS1618+ diskstation and are pleased to confirm that this is definitely a more rounded NAS server, arriving at a sensible £650+ price point (don’t forget your own regional tax etc), excellent hardware and a number of impressive forward thinking hardware choices that mean this device is very much in it for the long haul.
This coupled with great things happening in the award-winning diskstation manager (DSM) software of late, mean that we are finally getting a much more Home-to-Business friendly NAS in the Synology food-chain. However, I know a number of you still have reservations about the disparity between the DS1618+ and the DS918+, are a little cooled off by the Atom-based CPU and are still on the fence about whether to pull the trigger on this NAS, So, let us delve a little deeper into this NAS server and work out what we love and hate about it.

The Synology DS1618+ NAS – Design

Unsurprisingly, the retail box is not a huge change from all the others in the Synology line up. Brown box – check! Big sticker denoting hardware and software values – check! Carry handle that I still do not quite understand the point of – check! Still a fundamentally sound box, but I do so miss the 90’s and the flare of PC Game boxes which were elaborately designed, yet only contained 2 CDs and a poorly printed instruction manual. This is my issue and not Synology’s, so I shall shhh my mouth. Once we open the box up and empty out the goodies inside, we find the following items:
  • The Synology DS1618+ (obviously – bit if a rubbish review if it didn’t)
  • 2.5″ HDD/SSD screws – 3.5″ SATA drives can be installed without screws
  • Mains power cable (the PSU of this NAS is internal)
  • 2x RJ-45 Based LAN Cables
  • Quick Installation Guide and Product details
  • Trial for the Synology C2 service
All in all what we expected and unless you have a very bespoke network setup, these parts will be more than enough to get you started. If I had one gripe, it would be that there is only 2x LAN cables, yet the DS1618+ has four LAN ports. If you are buying the DS1618+ NAS for editing big files like photo and video over the network (which you can do) using Link Aggregation, then four cables (they are like £1-2 tops!) would have been nice. But that aside, solid accessories to begin with.
If we take a good look at the front of the device, we find that that the DS1618+ Synology NAS Is using the same chassis as the DS3018xs released late last year. These are the only two 6-Bay Synology NAS available and the stark contrast in their internal and external hardware is very interesting – do check out my DS1618+ vs DS3018xs comparison later in May). This 6 Bay NAS chassis is very compact and manages to maximize the space in order for everything to (rather impressively) be both contained yet have everything well spaced on the front and back. Another factor that will split opinion is the use of a metal chassis. IT users will love it as it will assist heat dissipation and cooling, plus looks nicer and has a more enterprise feel. However plastic external chassis like those found on the DS918+ are quieter. This is more of a matter of choice.
Taking a closer look at the HDD/SSD media bays, we find that they are the popular screwless design click-n-load style that is popular in the Synology diskstation series. Traditional 3.5″ SATA hard drives can be easily loaded into each tray and installed in seconds. If you want to look at much faster solid-state drives for faster storage or SSD caching, then you will need to use the screw holes and included screws in each tray base. The DS1618+ is designed with multiple drive installation and RAID in mind, however, it will function just as well with a single HDD installed and just adding drives one by one as you need, just be sure to select SHR as your desired configuration to ensure new drives are added easily.
Although there is a lack of an LCD panel or display of real-time information on the device, there are numerous LED lights for drive health, access, system actions and network activity on the front of the device, each very clearly marked.
On the base of the device, we find a sneakily hidden USB port that is primarily devised for attaching external local USB media and either:
i) Make local storage network and internet accessible
ii) Backup the contents of the external drive to the NAS via numerous backup software means (versions, incremental, diff backup, etc)
iii) Backup the contents of the NAS, or an individual folder, to a USB drive to be kept offsite
Once again, one small complaint from me is the lack of one-touch copy button. Without it, you are forced to either action a backup via the DSM manually (poor mix of physical and the network requirement) or set a time-synced backup and ensure the drive is connected at that time. NAS that are lower in the food chain such as the DS218+ has this feature and seems an odd thing to skip. Synology even has a dedicated app in their app store for this very functionality.
One neat feature that I have long admired in modern Synology NAS is the use of ventilation in their diskstation series. I will talk more about the rear of the DS1618+ in a bit, but alongside the ventilated slits on the front on the device, the left and the right side panel is discreetly ventilated, This is done by the Synology logo on both sides having a mess ventilation design. The result is a much more easy on the eye take on passive cooling and much more modern.

The Synology DS1618+ NAS – External Hardware

The rear of the DS1618+ features some great ports, features and functionality that, although already available on the DS1517+ 5-Bay and DS1817+ 8-Bay, are good to see on this 6-Bay chassis and have not been compromised.
First, the subject of cooling. The two rear fans are metal in design and can have their rotations per minute increased or decreased automatically with internal temperature sensors or manually in the DSM control panel (I advise the former). I have had the unit running now for over a week for an upcoming video overviewing the DSM software again, as well as several comparisons and confirm that the fans made very, very low noise in the recent U.K heat (come on – we get like 4 sunny days a year).
We also find more USB 3.0 ports for adding the external storage as mentioned, but it is also worth mentioning there are several other applications and hardware that can use the USB port and I recommend UPS connected via USB (for monitoring and actionable-alerts) in the event of a power cut. Do check out the compatibility pages at Synology to see what other USB peripherals (USB Printer, Bluetooth devices, etc) are supported.
In line with it’s siblings, the DS1517+ and DS1817+, this NAS also arrives with four LAN ports (all 1Gbe RJ45) which mean that you can either connect this device via a single cable (as you would with most network devices) or you can combine upto 4 connections if you have a link aggregated (LAG) or Port Trunking enabled switch of router (such as the Netgear Nighthawk x10). This increased read and write speed is only of benefit to the device itself or network devices that are connected by multiple LAN ports too or 10Gbe into the network switch. Nevertheless, it is a nice addition and something that those that want to graduate beyond traditional network speeds can take advantage of.
As you may have gathered already, the DS1618+ 6-Bay NAS earns the ’16’ part of it’s name to the fact you can connect two official synology DX517 expansion devices. Each with let you add upto 5x HDD or SSD bays to your storage and can easily be added to your RAID array. This brings to maximum NAS available storage to 16 bays and with Hard drives now arriving in 12TB and 14TB, as well as RAID 6 and SHR-2 options to give you a safety net, it is a lovely option to have for future proofing.
Finally, on the rear of the DS1618+ NAS we find a PCIe expansion slow. Synology have several expansion cards currently available to buy and additionally the DS1618+ is compatible with several other branded cards, giving you the choice to upgrade your synology NAS in a numbers of ways, such as 10Gbe over SFP+ and 10GBASE-T, SSD Caching with the M2D17 and M2D18 cards and Intel cards that introduce 40Gbe cards too!
All in all the external hardware and design of the DS1618+ NAS from Synology is definitely worth it at this price level. But what about the internal hardware and software?

The Synology DS1618+ NAS – Software

The Synology DS1618+ arrives with an Atom C3538 CPU that is a Quad core 2.1GHz, 64bit x86 architecture chip. This is further bolstered with 4GB of DDR4 memory that can be upgraded all the way upto 16GB over two slots. I know a number of you are less than thrilled about the use of atom based CPU, but it IS in the C3000 series and is a big jump on the C2538 chip found in the DS1817+ and DS1517+.
This CPU can be used for large scale backups, VMs, PLEX and more. Still, it’s a shame they did not consider the J3455 in the DS918+ or perhaps a Pentium chip. As this pales in comparison t the beast chip in the DS3018xs. But given that the 3018XS is more than double the price of this unit, I think that can be forgiven. As the Synology DS1618+ NAS is part of the flagship plus series, it unsurprising heavily supports alot of the key features that they have become famous for:
  • Synology DSM 6.1 and DSM 6.2 included featuring regular updates
  • BTRFS and EXT 4 as the system file system (your choice)
  • Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10, RAID 50, RAID 60 and the always popular and SHR (Synology Hybrid RAID)
  • Using Synology Virtual Machine Manager, host a Virtualisation Platform – setup and run multiple VMs, supporting multiple Operating systems and enhanced by the Docker app, Container apps
  • Personal and business software applications included free like Synology Office (docs, spreadsheets, pdfs, etc), Synology LiveChat, Synology Mail, Photo Station, Video Station, Music Station, Download Station and more
  • Intuitive and User-friendly apps like Synology Drive for one-point access to ALL file types and Synology Moments for AI supported photo tagging, landscape recognition and improved photo cataloguing

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  • Can be used as a fantastic Plex Media Server and for a Native media server, supports transcoding upto 1080P
  • Serve as a cross-platform service – bridging connections and transfers of files between Mac and Windows systems over the network
  • Heavily support backups, archiving, remote replication and comprehensive snapshot technology meaning you will have an equal amount of backup options whichever you go for
  • Migration, connection and interaction with existing cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, ElephantDrive and Synology C2
  • Create a comprehensive Surveillance solution, supporting multiple IP cameras and even arriving with some licences included
  • Unique Server, Office 365 ad Microsoft active server management via a single application

The Synology DS1618+ NAS – Conclusion

Ultimately at this price tag, I am definitely impressed by the Synology DS1618+ NAS. It finds a sweet spot between home and business that means that you are amply covered if you wish to push further into either of these areas. The DS918+ (a unit that the DS1618+ will continue to be compared with) does have a better CPU and NVMe SSD slots, but this is at the expense of features like 6 storage bays, 4 LAN and that PCIe upgrade slot – which opens up the door to 10Gbe and 40Gbe, thereby removing the biggest bottleneck to your data – something the DS918+ cannot do. If you have a budget under £1K and want to get a solid NAS with future proofing, but don’t want to be restricted by your capacity limits, I definitely recommend the Synology DS1618+ NAS for 2018.

Where can I buy the Synology DS1618+ NAS and how much is it?

The stock is incoming on the Synology DS1618+ NAS and currently is priced at £650+ ex.VAT. Once again, below is all the confirmed information on this NAS. Demand is expected to be high, so maybe get your order in early:

The Synology DS1618+ NAS Specifications

  • Atom C3538 Based CPU inside, Quad core 2.1GHz
  • PCIe slot for adding the M2D17 m.2 SSD PCIe Card, the New M2D18 NVMe based SSD Cache Card or 10Gbe and 40GBe NIC card
  • 2x eSATA expansion ports for adding 2x DX517 Boxes
  • 6 bays of storage, up to a maximum 16 with expansions (6+5+5)
  • 4GB DDR4 non-ECC SODIMM, expandable up to 32GB
  • 4x 1GbE LAN ports
  • BTRFS or EXT4 FIle system
  • Mac and Windows Compatible
  • Arrives with DSM 6.1 or 6.2 (once out of beta)
  • RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 RAID 6 and SHR Support
  • 3 Years Warranty

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