Which Budget NAS deserves your data? The DS220j or the DS218j?
With Network Attached Storage (NAS) being so popular these days, it is completely understandable that in order for everyone to buy one, some more affordable NAS solutions need to be developed. As much as you want a NAS that can do EVERYTHING, it can be rather disheartening to look at a price tag that is literally in the thousands of pounds and realise it is vastly outside your budget. So the next time to look at what you can afford and that is where the Synology J series comes into play. As already discussed in previous NASCompares articles, the Synology J series is designed to be cost-effective (not cheap – very important). That means that the hardware you are buying, though comparatively lower than those in the bigger Intel-based, DDR4 and 10GBe ranges, still arrives with standard specifications that will get smaller NAS tasks done. Until this month, the current cost-effective J series NAS 2-Bay that Synology had available was the £135+ ex.VAT DS218j (released in late 2017) and it proved to be very popular indeed, with a price point that meant that it and a 2TB Seagate Ironwolf NAS Hard drive came in at around a £200 spend. The newly available Synology DS220j NAS is the very latest cost-effective unit to be released and many people are wondering how it compares with the 2+ years older model, it is worth an upgrade given if you purchased the DS218j at launch, you are out of warranty? Is the Synology J series still relevant in 2020? So let’s compare the DS220j and DS218j from Synology.
What can you do with a cost-effective NAS? Does budget NAS mean budget results?
It is completely understandable that many would be nervous buying such low price NAS devices as the DS218j and DS220j. They have been designed to be incredibly affordable and all too often we worry that something is too cheap. I referenced the comedian Dave Gorman a while back with he talked about cheap and too-cheap. For example, you see a ticket from the UK to the U.S. for £180 and you “oooooh..that’s a bargain, I will buy that”. If you see the same ticket buy for £9.99, you think “that is TOO cheap, the plane must be made of paper, it will never come back!”. In essence, people doubt that they can’t possibly afford to go that low and still provide the service promised. So what exactly can you do with a Synology DS220j and DS218j NAS? Before we compare what is better or worse about these NAS server devices, let us look at what is the same:
DSM 6.2 on an Intel Powered NAS vs DSM 6.2 on an ARM Powered NAS
- Both NAS arrive with low power use ARM processors (but this is something we will touch on more later) and White plastic compact chassis, the result is reduced power consumption, noise and low temperatures
- Both units arrive with 512MB of memory (DDR3 in the DS218j and DDR4 in the DS220j) which will support the running of DSM on the NAS and a few other applications at once
- Both units can stream media over the network and internet upto 1080p. However, you cannot transcode (transcoding means you change the file size, format, resolution and more so it is better suited to the destination device, such as an iPhone or Android tablet)
- Both NAS devices are DLNA certified, meaning you can access and browse the NAS via your Smart TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PS4, Xbox One and many other network available media devices
- Both are two-bay NAS devices that support JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1 and SHR, as well as supporting the very latest SATA based 10TB and 16TB NAS Hard Drives from brands like WD, Seagate and Toshiba
- Both devices arrive with the Synology DSM 6.2 software that arrives free, however, it is a more scaled-down use version of the software when compared with the likes of the DS718+ and DS218+ NAS (due to the hardware being less powerful and Synology removing applications and functions that the DS220j and DS218j just cannot support), Though there are still lots of apps, access everywhere solutions, easy functionality and an intuitively designed user interface at your fingertips
- Both the DS220j and DS218j can be accessed by a multitude of iOS, Android mobile applications such as DS File, DS Video, DS Photo and DS Music, all available free, as well as desktop client applications for Windows and Mac OSX
- Both DS220j and DS218j arrive with access to the application ‘surveillance station’ (with the FREE Synology surveillance software – Review here) to set up your own surveillance set up at home, a shop or a busy office. They both arrive with two camera licences and providing live, worldwide, permission and encryption-based access
- Both arrive ready to go (just add one or two Hard Drives) and compatible with Windows, Android and Mac systems, as well as acting as a bring between them as needed
- Both can host an easy to set up iTunes server (just install the free app in the App center) to stream media to your audio devices over to DLNA devices in the network
- Both units can be used as mail and business servers, as well as providing CRM and CMS systems via apps in the app centre such as SugarCRM
- Both units can be set up as standalone download servers, allowing you to set up tasks and schedules for downloading files and in BT, NZB, HTTP, FTP and RSS as you need. Never miss a Podcast or Broadcast ever again
Why should you buy the 2017/18 Release DS218j 2-Bay NAS from Synology?
DESIGN – Simple and compact, this white plastic chassis has been around for a while. That said this newest release does feel the tiniest bit different in texture. That said, it is still very much designed with cost-effective construction in mind and is completely plastic externally. This does result in a lower noise level and ventilation is excellent thanks to the Synology logo being fully ventilated, the rear fan being fully controllable and the CPU being a low power usage, low heat processor
FEATURES – If you are looking for a NAS to conduct basic, but reliable network file exchanges, stream media over the network or over the internet using the first party applications on mobile and desktop, this will be more than enough. Same with other 3rd party applications such as Apple TIme machine and migrating data between cloud services back and forth. Lastly, if you want a low-level DLNA media server for streaming to your smart TV, Sonos or Bose sound system, iPad, PS4 or XBOX one – this will do the trick. Just do not expect miracles
PERFORMANCE – For what you are paying, this device performs well. Slow and steady, as long as you are not conducting higher level or dense file write operations, this will give you a solid 90-100MB/s for your needs.
VALUE – Without a doubt, the lowest priced NAS 2-Bay from Synology and if this is your first tentative steps into the world of NAS, then this is surely a great start. RAID, DLNA support, the DSM software, USB 3.0 throughout and arriving with a competent CPU, this is easily the most cost-effective NAS I have ever seen.
DESIGN – Yes, it is a low price NAS server, but there is no denying that the chassis does look and feel a bit cheap. Plus the lack of trays and internal HDD installation means that hot swapping is not an option. NOt a huge problem, but will be a bit annoying if/when introducing new, replacement or RAID replacement drives
FEATURES – You can forget features and functionality like 4K, transcoding, Plex Media Server stability. This NAS is designed for low-level access and use and if you work outside of that area, you are gonna have a bad time
PERFORMANCE – Again, the performance will not exactly blow your mind and can be easily outmatched by almost all other Synology two-bay NAS devices. The CPU in a NAS in this price range is understandable, but the 512MB of memory feels a little underwhelming
VALUE – Fantastic price, but you cannot complain if you feel it’s limitations a bit early and wish you had spent more on day one.
Why should you buy the 2020 Release DS220j 2-Bay NAS from Synology?
DESIGN – Very simple Plastic design but still very much befitting of a NAS and more appropriately Mac environment in shape and look. Plus the unit will not generate enough heat for the plastic to be a problem as also keeps production costs low enough to keep this NAS at around £200-300 including 4TB NAS drives.
FEATURES – The Synology DS220j may well be low on the NAS hardware front but it can perform and provide most of the standard file-based tasks that other NAS units can do outside of the J series. You can forget about the likes of Plex Media Server transcoding, but you will have excellent native video streaming locally as well as Synology DSM NAS OS abilities to create download tasks, backup images, RAID storage, and DLNA media distribution.
PERFORMANCE – Don’t expect the ground to shake with its awesome power! But again, it performs solidly and comfortably at those low-end file-based tasks and is definitely the NAS server of choice for those looking for Mac Backup images with the likes of Apple Time Machine.
VALUE – For the cost, the Synology DS220j is an excellent NAS that is is one for the first time network Attached Storage user or those with simple, small file tasks. I would recommend this NAS with a couple of Large Hard drives like the WD 4TB Red or for those on a low budget, skip NAS drives entirely and go for the Seagate Archive Derives in a RAID 1 (which you can do because these non-RAID drives are ok for simple mirroring).
DESIGN – NAS Hard Drives are installed internally (no trays on the Synology DS220j) so a tiny (and I really do mean tiny) amount of physical installation is required.
Should you buy the Synology DS220j or the DS218j NAS? – Specifications Comparison
Ultimately these two NAS devices are near enough on hardware that it is all too easy to just pick the cheaper of the two, however, I urge you to take an extra second to focus on that increased frequency on each CPU core, the architecture of the processor (32bit vs 64bit) and the frequency of that memory (DDR3 vs DDR4). Likewise, even though both units arrive with 2 years of the manufacturer’s warranty, I would advise buying the newer unit to ensure that parts that may be needed for repair are more readily available. That said, if you see the Synology DS218j NAS in a special offer, for more than £20 less, then go for it. It is a greater started NAS and will help you learn the ways to really maximize your private cloud storage later.
Below are the specifications for the DS220j and DS218j from Synology. I have highlighted the superior values in green:
|Synology Model||Synology DS218j NAS||
Synology DS220j NAS
|CPU Model||Marvell Armada 385 88F6820||Realtek RTD1296|
|CPU Frequency||Dual Core 1.3 GHz||Quad Core 1.4 GHz|
|Hardware Encryption Engine||YES||YES|
|System Memory||512 MB DDR3||512 MB DDR4|
|Compatible Drive Type||
|Maximum Internal Raw Capacity||32 TB (16 TB drive x 2) (Capacity may vary by RAID types)||32 TB (16 TB drive x 2) (Capacity may vary by RAID types)|
|Hot Swappable Drive||NO||NO|
|RJ-45 1GbE LAN Port||1||1|
|USB 3.0 Port||2||2|
|Size (Height x Width x Depth)||165 mm x 108 mm x 233.2 mm||165 mm x 108 mm x 233.2 mm|
|Weight||1.3 kg||1.3 kg|
|System Fan||92 mm x 92 mm x 1 pcs||92 mm x 92 mm x 1 pcs|
|Fan Speed Mode||
|Noise Level*||18 dB(A)||18 dB(A)|
|Scheduled Power On/Off||YES||YES|
|Wake on LAN/WAN||YES||YES|
|Power Supply Unit / Adapter||60W||60W|
|Warranty||2 Years||2 Years|
|Supported RAID Type||
|Maximum IP cam (Licenses required)||16 (including 2 Free License)||12 (including 2 Free License)|
|Environment & Packaging|
|Environment||RoHS Compliant||RoHS Compliant|