Choosing the Best 2-Bay Synology NAS Drive
Choosing the best NAS drive for your needs can often be a difficult or imposing job. Network Attached Storage has evolved a lot over the years to a point now where they are less like basic storage devices and more like fully functioning computers, with operating systems, applications and a complete graphical user interface. Synology NAS has been in the business of producing NAS solutions for a number of years and in the field of desktop 2 drive (hard drive or solid-state drive) NAS systems, they are pretty well established as a reliable, user-friendly and fully featured brand provider. With an impressive selection of 2-Bay NAS solutions currently available in their 2018-2020 range of devices, it can often be difficult to choose the best 2-Bay NAS for your needs, as each NAS in the Standard, J, Play and Plus series are designed with different strengths. Never fear, below is a quick and easy guide to the best NAS for Plex Media Server, Backups, Media Streaming, Surveillance, Office work or all of them together! Before you go ahead, what do ALL Synology 2-Bay NAS provide:
- Support of over 100 Applications that can be installed on the Synology DSM user interface
- Access from over the network or anywhere in the world (with encryption) via Windows, Mac, Android and iOS systems
- Many client applications for Mobile and Desktop Computer systems for tailored access
- DLNA Media streaming support to Smart TVs, Consoles, Audio to Amazon Alexa, FireStick Streaming and more
- Plex Media Server Support
- Apple Time Machine Support
- Synology Drive, Office, Chat and Calendar Support
- Sync and Backup options with 3rd party cloud services
- Supporting multiple users and multiple security credentials at once
- Business-class Surveillance software (Surveillance Station) and 2 cameras licences with every NAS 2-Bay
- Backup Software for USB, Cloud, NAS-to-NAS and general file servers with Hyper Backup
- iTunes Media Server
So, there is ALOT that you can do with any of the Synology 2-Bay solutions that I want to discuss today, however, some of them are better at some tasks than others and with limitations ranging from the amount of memory they have, the proficiency of the CPU and design choices along the way, let’s take a look at the currently available 2 Bay NAS you can buy from Synology.
What Synology 2-Bay NAS Are Currently Available to Buy?
The range of Synology 2-Bay solutions will often change every 2 or so years, with around 5 different product families that are designed to target a different end-user. In the existing Synology two drive NAS series, we currently have:
Synology DS218 NAS – Realtek Quad-Core RTD1296 1.4hz CPU, 2GB DDR4 – $220+
Often overlooked, as it isn’t really shouted about, this is the standard 2-Bay NAS from Synology. It will provide support and functionality for all of the standard day to day tasks you need from a NAS server in the home or office. It may not exactly specialize in any one task, but for a first time NAS, it is hard to argue with. Arriving with support of Plex Media Server (without transcoding), BTRFS as a file platform and access to the collaboration suite of tools from Synology, it is a great choice for those new to NAS that still want good features on day 1.
Synology DS220j NAS – Realtek Quad-Core RTD1296 1.4hz CPU, 512MB DDR4 – $150+
The newest generation of the cost-effective 2-Bay Synology NAS for 2020. With modest specifications and a noticeably lower price-tag, it is often the firm favourite for those needing a low powered DLNA media server for the home, 3-5 cameras or a simple backup library. Released at the start of the year, this device is for those that are looking for access to the Synology DSM NAS platform, at a much more affordable price point – remember though that this will impact the top-end performance.
Synology DS218play NAS – Realtek Quad-CoreRTD1296 1.4hz CPU, 1GB DDR4 – $190+
The Synology PLAY series is one of the ranges inside the Synology Portfolio that has always had a keen following for multimedia users. The latest release in the Synology PLAY multimedia series and possibly the best value yet, featuring 4k Transcoding and Playback. It also supports many other standard NAS tasks and applications, however as the unit features an ARM CPU, it will action them to a lesser degree than the PLUS series of NAS. With a Synology Play model, you can stream your videos on your mobile even if you are not at home or in a local network. Video can be transcoded up to 1080p Full HD video format if necessary. It will save your mobile data usage and stream video quicker if the stream is transcoded. Overall it is the perfect middle ground NAS in terms of price and power.
Synology DS220+ NAS – Intel Celeron Dual Core J3355 2.0-2.5Ghz CPU, 1GB DDR4 – $TBC
For those looking for access to the heavily marketed advantages of the Synology NAS platform, the DS220+ serves as a great balance between price and functionality. It will provide all of the same functionality as the above budget units, but to a higher degree- with faster access times and enabling multiple users to work at once. People often choose this model as a home media center, Backup network location, office station, surveillance and more. However the DS220+ and it’s intel based CPU give you a whole bunch more functionality and along with 1080p and 4K transcoding, it also allows access to the next tier of Synology applications, along with much more fluid and fast use of BTRFS, Synology Hybrid RAID and more.
Synology DS720+ NAS – Intel Celeron Quad-Core J3455 1.5-2.3Ghz CPU, 1GB DDR4 – $TBC
If you are looking to purchase the very best two-bay NAS device that Synology has produced, then look no further than the DS720+, as it largely offers EVERYTHING that Synology provide in their entire DSM application range. The premium, flagship NAS 2-Bay, by far the most powerful and expandable NAS two Hard Drive on offer, supporting the DX517 to make it upto 7 HDD/SSD in size, it’s got alot of potential. If you want to do EVERYTHING that Synology can provide, this is the network-attached storage device to choose. Supporting everything from Virtual Machine Support, Apple Time Machine, 4K Playback and transcoding, Plex Media Server NAS transcoding, BTRFS support and more. This is the top of the line NAS server. It’s the best you can get from Synologyat this capacity and although the most expensive, there is no real rival in terms of power from this brand.
What is the Best Synology 2-Bay NAS for Performance?
The performance of a NAS can be judged by more than just ‘how powerful the CPU is’. It comes down to how well it performs at the task you have in mind. A CPU can be 2-3Ghz and in multiple cores, but if it is inefficiently designed or not supportive of certain applications demands, then it will either gets too hot and not perform, or just incompatible. Performance is often judged by the TYPE of CPU. Most NAS CPU are ARM or x86 Based. For those looking for excellent file-based performance at the lowest power use, then an ARM processor such as one found in the DS220J, DS218J, DS218PLAY, and DS218 is ideal, though that last one also covered 4K media playback too. If you have larger and more graphical tasks in mind that could push the CPU more, then an x86 Intel CPU such as ones found in the DS220+ and DS720+ will perform significantly better.
Synology DS720+ NAS
Synology DS220+ NAS
Synology DS218 NAS
|Best CPU, Most Memory =
|Great CPU + Decent Memory =
|Good Price vs Hardware =
Good Value Speed Option
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS has the Best Features and Functionality?
All of the Synology -Bay series of devices arrive with Synology DSM software, that includes lots of applications and functionality for your data to take advantage of. Alongside this, there are lots of client apps for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android that allow easy sync and backup options between you and your data. However, the extent to which you can use this functionality will change depending on the power of the NAS you choose, with CPU and Memory being two of the BIGGEST factors. In short, the more/better of each you have, the more you can do! Synology will often remove some DSM apps that will not perform to their high standard from lower-end devices, so that means that often the more budget end of the 2-Bay Synology range features fewer apps!
In terms of what the NAS can do, both in terms of hardware and software, you will always find the more expensive the NAS 2-Bay from Synology, the more the DSM 6.2 software can do. With the budget end of the spectrum arriving with the DSM software, but in a much more limited way on the DS220J. However, as soon as you spend more in £30-40 increments, you immediately have more options open to you. Once again this comes down to that CPU and then after that, the individual cores and clock speed in GHz of the processor in question. Ultimately you get what you pay for and you need to factor things in like future-proofing and long term application expandability when buying your first Synology 2-Bay NAS.
Which Synology 2-Bay has the Best Ports and Connections?
Connectivity between you and your NAS solution is paramount as a consideration when thinking about how it is going to fit into your hardware environment. Though all Synology NAS support 1Gbe RJ45 LAN connections (standard in the 2-Bay range), it is worth noting that after that, you find lots of key differences inside each range as you spend a little more. Maybe it is the inclusion of multiple ports or variations of a connection type, but you will see that the internal hardware and external speed possible are well complimented. Connectivity is fairly universal when it comes to all Synology NAS DSM software applications (with the higher performance CPU NAS enabling more tasks and individual connected activities. However, in terms of physical connections, the Synology 2-Bay NAS series does scale very well. As you can see below, which each fraction that you pay for the next model, the more USB ports, faster port, network ports (RJ45) and eSATA expansion ports you get.
Synology DS720+ NAS
Synology DS220+ NAS
Synology DS220J NAS
|2 LAN, 2 USB 3.0, eSATA Expansion, NVMe SSD Cache =
Everything you will need!
|2 LAN, 2 USB 3.0 =
More than enough for Standard User!
|2x USB 3.0, 1 LAN =
Good Starter Option
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS Delivers to Best Speed and Access?
Although it would be easy to just say that the sped of a NAS is purely dictated by the CPU and Memory again, there is a little more to it than that. Yes, they play a big part, but it is the efficiency of the CPU and how well the DSM software utilizes that ability that makes all the difference. As you can see from the devices listed below, in some cases the maximum number of tasks and the read and write between them (despite having a good £50 price difference in some places and very differing CPU) is almost identical. That comes down to the software and its collaboration with that CPU. However, it comes as no surprise that the fastest NAS in terms of read and write is the DS720+ NAS. Although largely supported by all Synology 2-Bay NAS, sharing folders and files with people on your NAS improves in quantity with each NAS level you go up. So if you are using the NAS for a business, or many family members, spend a little bit more and start your Synology 2-Bay NAS buying considerations at the DS218+ and DS220+ and go from there upwards. This will provide you with a much broader and stable access platform for you and your users.
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS is the Best for a Plex Media Server?
Plex Media Server, or simply PLEX, is one of the most popular ways that users choose to access their own digital media. It arrives with the slick and user-friend graphical user interface (GUI) that you would find on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as the metadata inclusion of background information on your media and the imagery, but all using your OWN media. Hosting a Plex Media Server on a NAS is a very popular choice and something heavily supported by Synology (even including a comprehensive and official Plex App for free in their App center). Almost all Synology 2-Bay NAS from the DS218+ and the DS220+ upwards can host a Plex media server. However when you need to access large media files, or want to playback awkward codecs (such as .MOV and .MKV) to smaller, portable devices such as iPhones and Tablets that you need a NAS that can transcode media in Plex. Only Intel-based Synology NAS can support Plex Media Server transcoding. So remember that when buying your first Plex Media Server NAS. Practically all 2-Bay NAS from Synology can be used as a NAS Plex Media Server and if you intend to stream HD media to other HD Media enabled Network Attached Storage Devices like Smart TVs and PC’s throughout the home, then you can afford to be choosy (with any additional spending mainly just increasing thumbnail, image and manipulate speeds. However, if you want to access 1080p HD media on your NAS Plex PMS, but want to stream it to your NAS devices with lower screen resolutions, less space to store media on the fly or NAS items that cannot play the original file format (eg .MKV or .m4b), then you have to think about Plex Media Server Transcoding on your NAS, much different to that of native transcoding that does not involve plex, you will need to look at Intel-based NAS only!
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS is the Best to Expand of Upgrade?
On the subject of connections, we can talk about WHY there is still an eSATA port on a number of these NAS devices. Though the physical chassis and build of each Synology 2-Bay NAS server seem nearly identical on te face of it, it is on the subject of long term expandability options where you see an improvement at each level up. The cost-effective DS220j DS218and DS218play cannot be expanded in terms of memory/RAM or Hard Drives. Whereas at the other end of the scale, you have the likes of the DS220+ and DS720+ that can have an extra 4GB of DDR3L memory if needed and the addition of 5 extra HDD/SSD-Bays with the DX517 Synology NAS Expansion attached. 2 Bays of storage may seem like loads, but if you are thinking long, long term, then the ability to expand your storage by adding more hard drives with ease might well be a good consideration early on.
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS is the Lowest Noise and Power Consumption?
The Synology 2-Bay NAS server series is generally considered by many for their NAS buy of choice thanks to the low power use and low noise produced by such a modest and petite-sized device in the home or office. However, as you can see below in the comparison, factors such as the chassis material (plastic in some cases, 50/50 metal and Plastic or 100% metal) and the quality of the internal cooling will play their part on both noise and heat/electricity dissipation. The lower-priced devices feature those ARM CPU that use less power, plastic cheaper build cases and smaller fans – the result is low noise and noticeably less power use. Whereas at the top of the table we can see a massive difference with the Intel 4 Core CPU in the modified 2020 DS720+ 2-bay. In terms of Power output Vs Noise/Power Input, the DS218 is the middle ground NAS.
Which Synology 2-Bay NAS is the Best for Surveillance Station?
All Synology NAS servers arrive with the Surveillance NAS software ‘Surveillance Station’ and this lets you connect multiple IP cameras to your NAS and monitors/record from them live. As well as enabling features (camera dependent) like motion tracking, Night Vision, facial recognition, time management movement and heat detection. However, choosing which NAS to buy for your NAS based CCTV Surveillance should be based on three factors. 1, The maximum number of cameras supported by the device at once (starting at 6 reasonably for the DS220j and all the way up to x40 on the DS720+). 2, The maximum resolution of the cameras recording supported (as low as 720p and all the way up to 4K high density). 3, The frames per second (FPS) of all the cameras when in operation, the better the NAS, the higher you will get for all these factors. See in the comparison table.
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