Synology DS920+ NAS – Five Reasons Why You Should/Shouldn’t Buy It
Of all the Synology NAS Drives that the company has ever produced, the 4-Bay series of expandable solutions in their ever-evolving diskstation range is generally considered to be their most popular item. Kinda their Reebok Classic, their Peanut M&M, it is a staple part of their product portfolio and the new DS920+ NAS Drive (follow up to the popular DS916+ and DS918+) has now been officially released worldwide – so should you be considering it for your next NAS purchase? It’s an interesting question, as it is definitely a very solid solution from one of the biggest names in network-attached storage (as discussed in my DS920+ hardware review back in May) but is it enough for you? Does it provide enough of an upgrade over it’s predecessors and most important of all – does it deserve your money? Today I want to discuss FIVE reasons why you SHOULD buy the new Synology DS920+ NAS, as well as FIVE reasons that you SHOULD NOT. So, let’s get to it!
The DS920+ NAS Review Here – https://nascompares.com/2020/05/21/synology-ds920-nas-drive-hardware-review
Why You SHOULD Buy the Synology DS920+ NAS
Synology is a good brand, with DSM (their software, applications and GUI) and the DS920+ brings alot of functionality for home and business users. Here are 5 reasons why you should consider buying the DS920+ NAS in 2020.
1. The Price of the DS920+
The Synology arrives at around £460-560 Visit our Deal-Finder here to see the current price and that is pretty much the going rate for a 4-Bay pro-sumer (professional consumer) and SMB (small-medium business) desktop solution. In fact, despite the fact that the Synology DS916+ came out in early summer 2016, the DS918+ in late 2017 and now the DS920+ in 2020 – the price tag has hardly changed at all! In fact, the price has only changed around £20-30 on average and in that time the hardware has got better, the chassis design has been upgrading, features have been added and new functionality available in ports and support. Despite their lofty apple-like vibe sometimes, Synology has NOT adopted the Apple approach of ramping up those prices noticeably at each gen.
2. The DS920+ is a Complete Hardware and Software Package
As mentioned, the Synology DS920+ is not just a hardware solution. Sure you can use it in conjunction with your 3rdparty PC/Mac software and hardware in your home or office environment, but the real beauty of the DS920+ is that it arrives with a HUGE degree of software included. Such as:
- Synology Office (Docs, xls, PDF, etc – ALternative to Google Docs)
- Synology Chat (Alternative to Skype for internal User Conversation/Collaboration + mobile app)
- Synology Drive (Alternative to DropBox/Google Drive with 1-point access to all file types for Mobile and Desktop, as well as intelligent localized sync)
- Synology Moments (Photo Sorting and Tagging system with Deep Learning)
- Synology Calendar (Smart Calendar App, can be used in conjunction with other apps)
- Synology Active Backup (Manage Multiple Server/PC backups via a single control point)
- Synology Surveillance Station
- Synology Virtual Machine Manager (setup and manage multiple VMs on your NAS)
- Synology High Availability (for Syncing Synology NAS and having instant failover support to ensure constant connectivity)
- Synology Cloud Station
- Synology Multimedia Apps (Video Station, Photo Station, Music Station, File Station, etc)
- MANY more
This does not include the desktop client applications for PC/Mac/Linux systems, mobile apps for iOS and Android AND a large number of 3rd party applications that can be downloaded free in their app center (such as Plex, Docker, iTunes, etc). The price you are paying is not just for the DS920+server hardware, but also for the DS920+ software.
3. The DS920+ NVMe SSD Bays Increase Performance When Needed
Originally premiered in the DS918+ before it, the new DS920+ continues the almost completely exclusive inclusion of NVMe SSD bays (alongside the 4x SATA bays) that allow you to add SSD drives to the device and improve internal operation speeds via the use of intelligent caching. Allowing you to add 1 or 2 super-fast PCIe NVMe SSDs and set read-only/read-write caching, then it will attach itself to your HDD RAID array and after a period of analyzing the available storage and data inside, will then create cached copies of important/frequently access data, as well as changing over time and adjusting to your own changing data needs. It’s a lovely upgrade option for day 1 or day 1000 that allows you to raise any glass ceiling on your DS920+s lifespan.
4. The DS920+ is READY for DSM 7.0
Because DSM is so popular in the world of NAS (think fit as an entire operating system with incredibly similar functionality of Windows Server, OSX or Android) they make quite a grand show of their system and big, BIG system updates are treated with a similar reverence of a new version of Android/Windows, which massive graphic updates, features, functionality and ever-evolving changes in the user experience for the better, as the way people use their systems change. The newest version of this software is DSM 7.0 (currently DSM6.2) which has been previewed and slowly revealed over the last 2 years at their launch events and FINALLY seeing release at the end of 2020. Of course, the new GUI/OS will be a big, big jump in terms of features and software and with it, there is always the likelihood that your hardware needs t use it to it’s fullest will change too. Luckily the DS920+ has pretty much everything in the hardware department to be sure that you can use DSM 7.0 to its full extent when it arrives. So, if you have followed the change in DSM and want to make sure you have everything needed for DSM 7.0, the DS920+ has you covered.
5. Synology Hybrid RAID and BTRFS are Included in the DS920+
The Synology DS920+ arrives with a whole bunch of unique Synology-Only features (as well as some that other brands have adopted in recent years, but Synology have had and refined first) and two of the biggest that is included in the Synology DS920+ are the Synology Hybrid RAID fluid drive configuration and BTRFS as a choice of file system during setup. SHR is a choice that at a casual glance appears near identical to traditional RAID (the means of combining individual storage drives across multiple bays for advantages of capacity, speed, redundancy or all three together). However, once you go a little further, you discover that SHR has the ability to let you mix and match drives in your RAID. Traditional RAID (RAID 1, 5, 6, etc) insist that you should use identical size/brand drives in a single RAID and if you add mixed capacity drives, it will class ALL drives as the same capacity as the smallest drive e.g. 2TB+6TB+6TB+6TB = 6TB in RAID 5. No one would mix drives on day 1 of their NAS use, but years down the line you might start introducing larger hard drives or replace existing drives with bigger ones as your data grows. SHR allows you to add mixed drives and the SHR config will adjust accordingly e.g. 2TB+6TB+6TB+6TB = 14TB in SHR.
BTRFS (or butterfs etc) is a relatively new file system (compared with the ancient EXT3/4) that bring with it a bunch of background advantages that add to smoother user experience. Features such as less resource impactful snapshot creation (backup images of data that can be reverted too) that in EXT4 would use more CPU/Memory when being generated all the time. Then there is file self-healing, that will create checks of file transmission at the start and end, comparing them and then repairing files if an error is recognized by using the first checked version (much like ECC memory). Finally, there is much, much faster-shared folder duplication/cloning/handling that allows you to create a more efficient file sharing environment on the fly. Synology was the first commercial brand to introduce BTRFS on their NAS systems (rackmount and desktop) and now other brands are following suit. BTRFS is still a choice (with other file systems available to select at setup) but a great addition at this hardware/price tier.
Why You SHOULD NOT Buy the Synology DS920+ NAS
As much as I like the Synology DS920+ NAS, it is not the perfect NAS (I have still never found the perfect NAS even after all these years) and there are a few reasons why it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Below are the 5 reasons you should NOT buy the Synology DS920+ NAS in 2020.
1. Only 1Gbe Network Ports on the DS920+
One area that users grumbled a fair bit about when the DS920+ was revealed way back in April 2020 was that it (along with the other DSx20+ range for summer 2020) is 1Gbe (100MBs) in connectivity. It has 2 LAN ports, which support LAG/Trunking, so 2Gbe (200MBs) is possible, but with many other brand releasing affordable 2.5Gbe (250MB/s), 5Gbe (500MB/s) and 10Gbe (1000MB/s) solutions right now, 1Gbe jsut seems like a bottleneck. Additionally, with affordable 2.5/10Gbe switches appearing on the market at prices not far off from 1Gbe, routers arriving with WiFi 6 and 2.5Gbe network ports AND internet speeds in many regions EXCEEDING 100MB/s, the idea that your NAS is the bottleneck on your network environment is something some users might not be a fan of.
2. Only 1 Official Upgradable Memory Bay in the DS920+
This is a point that is more for the experimental NAS user to factor into their NAS purchase. The SynologyDS920+ arrives with an Intel J4125 CPU (a good mid-range processor for 2020) and 4GBof DDR4 2666Mhz memory by default. Synology (and indeed Intel)state that this CPU can support up to 8GB of DDR4 memory and this is presented on the DS920+ with the default 4GB of memory being present as soldered memory onto the controller board (see below) and a single SODIMM upgrade slot to add an official 4GB Memory module to get the 8GB. Now, this ruffles up users for two separate reasons. The first is that users are to keen on being restricted to the official Synology memory, as it is generally a good degree more expensive for 4GB than the likes of Crucial, Kingston and Samsung. The second reason is that although the official support is 8GB, you can install an 8GB or 16GB SODIMM DDR4 slot in the DS920+ (double/dual-rank/DR modules!!!!!) and the system will see it. This is something Synology has been very clear is not a good thing as far as they’re concerned, highlighting that it makes providing technical support on these non-supported configurations very difficult/impossible. However, the DS916+ and DS918+ than came before it arrived with all memory bays being available (2 SODIMM slots) and the limitations on memory support are relatively new in the Synology NAS portfolio. So, these restrictions might put you off.
3. The DS920+ is Not a Big Upgrade from the DS918+ NAS
Although this is not strictly a negative for a first-time buyer, if you are an existing DS918+ or DS718+ owner, the upgrade in terms of hardware between them and the DS920+/DS720+ is quite light. Yes, the CPU and Memory are improved in almost every way, but this is more about the extent and range of how much you can use the DSM software (multiple users and apps at once) and if you are not going to push this device to a heavy degree, you will see little or no performance improvement between these devices). Many users hoped for that 2.5Gbe inclusion, or a Pentium CPU (as found in the DS916+) and given the relative similarity of the prices between the DS918+ and DS920+, there is an argument on Synology’s behalf why these units are still so similar. But still, this might put some potential buyers off.
4. The DS920+ is Not the Best for Plex Media Server Compared with Pentium/i3/i5/i7 Systems
Many users are drawn to the Synology DS920+ NAS for use as a plex media server in the home. It makes sense, you want to access the movies and boxsets you own over the network or internet, on your big TV, your console, your firestick or jsut on your mobile whilst outside of the home. Plex and it’s functionality to give you the slick GUI and functionality of Netflix and Prime Video, but with YOUR own media, is something that is very desirable. However, the DS920+ is not the best NAS for plex. It is certainly a very affordable and well-performing plex media server at its price point, but with much better multimedia performance in Synology Video Station (the included and subscription-free application the system arrives with) in 4K and 1080P transcoding (file size/resolution/format changing on the fly) if you are looking for a truly future poof Plex Media Server NAS, I recommend choosing a Pentium or Intel Core NAS (with better GPU support) as the DS920+ is a great NAS for 1080p media in plex, but 4K and the handling of H.265 t 8/10bit is not the best.
5. The DS920+ NVMe SSD Bays Cannot Be Used for RAW Storage
This is, again, a debatable point, as it will not affect a vast number of users – but it is not something that is highlighted enough on most review sites. The NVMe bays on the DS920+ NAS are a great addition and excellent future-proofing, but it is worth mentioning that they can ONLY be used for caching in conjunction with your HDD RAID array. Though this is not a big, big loss, given the 1Gbe connectivity externally, there is still no avoiding that the internal performance of data handling would be greatly improved if you could use those NVMe bays for RAW storage. The Synology DS920+ lets you use SATA SSDs in the regular SATA bays for raw storage pools/volumes if you want but does not allow the use of the NVMe bays for raw storage at all. Some enterprising users online have managed to hack the system a little and allow NVMe’s to be used for storage, but that is pretty unofficial and can potentially lead to an unstable/unsupported system configuration (see unofficial memory!). Ultimately, only higher-end users would miss this as a possible user feature, but it is still something that is worth remembering about the NVMe storage bays.
Synology DS920+ NAS – Quick Conclusion
The DS920+ NAS is something that Synology should be proud of. It is a great entry into their already impressive range of Diskstation NAS devices. If you are looking for a brand new NAS to consolidate your home media, to support your relative as the ‘IT whizz’ of the family, or move your business away from Google Drives and DropBox’ onto something safer, more scalable and dependable – then the DS920+ has alot to offer you. It gives you a great base to start using the DSM platform, as well as a good means to upgrade your storage internally at a later date (expansions in memory, expansions in storage, expansion in NVMe). If you are an existing DS918+ or DS916+ owner, this might not seem like the jump you were waiting for.
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