Should You Buy the Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS Drive
So, comparing the Synology DS920+ vs Terramaster F4-423 NAS is easier said than done – we are talking about two brands that have very different priorities when it comes to the solutions they provide. But, I am getting ahead of myself. If you have just made the decision to switch from public cloud services (Google Dive, DropBox, etc) towards your own private NAS server, then chances are you might have been a little surprised by the price tag of the average NAS. Because subscription services are months subscription-based that are spread over years and years, requiring little-to-no extra physical hardware on the client side (you!), a fully deployed NAS server with HDDs and/or SSDs can seem quite the investment up from for a small home or business user. Thankfully, the NAS market has evolved quite alot over it’s 20+ years of commercial availability, resulting in scaled solutions/brands that do a reasonable job of fulfilling their portfolio with NAS drives that allow you to make more targeted purchases (i.e you pay for the things you want to use and save on the bits you don’t). Now, in the world of private servers, the big brand that everyone recommends as your entry point into NAS is Synology. This brand has an extensive portfolio of solutions, trades more on it’s 1st party software than hardware and despite its ‘generally higher than most pricetag’ is considered the top brand in NAS. However, that higher price point and prioritising software over hardware has always been something of an annoyance to some of the more DiY or technically-versed buyers. These are users that want to adapt a solution themselves, want value for money and don’t want to be locked in too much to a single ecosystem. Into this debate, arrives Terramaster. Terramaster is a smaller company, that trades more on it’s hardware than its software – whilst still keeping things affordable. Changes are you came to this article because you have been comparing the Synology DS920+ from 2020 and the Terramaster F4-423 from 2022, trying to figure out how a Synology that is 2.5yrs old with lesser hardware is STILL more expensive than the 3 months old Terramaster with pretty current Prosumer hardware on board. So, that is the purpose of today’s comparison, to lay out how they differ, and how they are the same and ultimately help you decide which solution is best for you and your data in 2022/2023!
Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS – Internal Hardware
Now, the hardware inside the Terramaster F4-423 is definitely the more modern (unsurprisingly given the 2+ year release difference) and, frankly, in terms of the traditional hardware available in the default model of each, the Synology is certainly showing its age a tiny bit. Both of these are 4-Bay SATA 3.5/2.5″ drive systems that support multiple RAID systems (RAID 0.1.5.6) and an internal Fluid/Flexible RAID (SHR or TRAID respectively) for better scaling of storage over time. As well as traditional storage, the also feature two M.2 NVMe 2280 SSD bays. Now, after this, the comparisons get a little all over the place! For a start, the M.2 NVMes on the Synology can only be used for read/write caching performance benefits, whereas the slots on the Terramaster can be used for caching AND raw storage pools (i.e to store data the same as the HDD bays). Both systems support the choice of BTRFS or EXT4 as the file system at initialization – though traditional file system performance (regardless of the hardware difference) seems better on the Synology NAS. They both arrive with 4GB of memory by DDR4 memory by default, but the Synology DS920+ can only be upgraded to 8GB (CPU/Brand recommendation), whereas the Terramaster F4-423 can be upgraded to 16GB. Before we dip into the main CPU differences, here are the internal specifications side-by-side:
|Model||Synology DS920+ NAS
|| Terramaster F4-423 NAS
|Number of SATA Bays||x4||x4|
|Supported RAID||RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and SHR (Flexible)||RAID 0, 1, 5, 6 and TRAID (Flexible)|
|Number of M.2 NVMe Bays (Gen)||2x NVMe M.2 2280 Gen 2 x4||2x NVMe M.2 2280 Gen 3×1|
|M.2 NVMe Deployment?||Caching Only||Caching and/or Storage Pools|
|CPU||Intel Celeron J4125 CPU||Intel Celeron N5105 CPU|
|Default Memory||4GB DDR4 SODIMM (Fixed)||4GB DDR4 SODIMM|
|Max Memory||8GB SODIMM – 1 SLOTS||16GB SODIMM – 2 SLOTS|
|Storage Expandability||Yes, eSATA connected DX517||No, but external USB RAID is Supported|
The CPU inside the Synology DS920+ NAS is an Intel J4125, released at the end of 2019 and although was a very popular CPU at the time (with many brand, including Terramaster featuring it in their systems), it has now seen a couple of newer generation quad-core Celeron’s for servers released in that time – the N5105 and J6412. Now the pandemic and its effect on the supply chains through 2020/2021 did make things rather messy in the Celeron family (at one point the N5105/N5095/N5095A were all running at the hardware/OEM level), but things have levelled out now and in terms of this scale of storage, most other brand have moved onto the N5105 or J6412 CPU. As you can see in the chart below (N5105 highlighted in particular, as it is the best of the three), in the release time between the Intel J4125 and N5105, there have been multiple improvements in architecture, efficiency and scalability of the CPU inside the Terramaster NAS.
Now, this margin of difference between the DS920+ and F4-423 NAS’ CPU is NOT Synology’s fault – we ARE comparing two devices that were commercially released two years apart! However, with the recent news that the next-gen DS923+ NAS is arriving with an AMD Embedded Ryzen Dual Core R1600 CPU (no integrated graphics, half the cores, higher TDP/Power use potential – but the same threads and higher clock speed), right now the DS920+ is still the go-to NAS for Prosumers/Plex Media users wanting a 4-Bay Synology NAS with an integrated graphics CPU for things like transcoding and conversion of HEVC/H.265 media on the server side. So, in THAT context, the hardware in the DS920+ still needs to be compared against that of the F4-423 and, sadly, is found a little lacking 2.5yrs on. The general hardware, performance and throughput of the Synology DS923+ NAS is still excellent, but if you are considering a NAS server for it’s hardware so you can run 3rd party processes and want value for money, the Terramaster F4-423 NAS is the hardware favourite here!
Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS – Design
This is going to be a real area of contention for some users who are either in close proximity to the NAS they buy or are a little more sensitive to noise. I say this because the Terramaster F4-423 NAS has great hardware, but the design is a little less impressive. The chassis (arriving in a combination of plastic and metal internal structure) is a little more dated in design than the Synology DS920+. This is further underlined when you see that the F4 series used the same chassis as the F5 5-Bay (it just removes the additional SATA Bay and bay, but maintains the same width_. The result is a NAS that is a bit wider than the DS920+. Additionally, the chassis feels a little more cost-effective/budget on the Terramster than the Synology. Synology has been using this 4-Bay chassis since around 2017 in this product series and it still looks pretty modern by comparison.
The rear of these two chassis reveals that they both arrive with two active cooling fans. These fans are designed to maintain the best possible internal running temperature, as NAS servers of this scale rarely have CPU fans and rely on well-placed heatsinks and strategically placed airflow throughout the system to keep the components running at the most efficient temperature 24×7. The fans on the Synology are a little more subtle, but are also a fraction larger (92cm sq each on the Synology vs 80cm sq on the Terramaster). You might think this means that the Synology is the noisier of the two. However, in reality, the Terramaster is the tiniest pinch louder in ambient noise when in operation. This is due to several factors. The first is that the fans are part of a larger external block on the rear of the device (as opposed to being contained within the larger casing). The other reason is that the Terramaster NAS chassis contains more metal (on the base and a much more structured use of aluminium internally by comparison to the Synology which features alot more plastic in it’s framework and external. The noise difference is very, VERY small, but will be increased a pinch more when using more industrially designed HDDs above 10TB (that have more platters thanks to helium-sealed drive technology, dedicated 7200RPM) because of the increased vibration and resulting hum, clicks and whirrs. It’s a very small difference, but the particular noise sensitive will notice this.
The final thing to discuss in the chassis design of the Synology DS920+ and Terramaster F4-423 is velitation and passive cooling. Both of these NAS drive’s have ventilation places around their casing to work in conjunction with those active cooling fans. The Synology arguably does a better job of things on this too, as not only do the sides of the casing have the familiar brand logo in a vented design, but the M.2 slots have ventilated covers on the base and even the trays have a bit more airflow between the drives. The Terramaster has a small amount of ventilation on the front between the bays, but the bulk of the passive ventilation on the F4-423 is on the base of the chassis (under the storage bays). Although the overall impact of these passive ventilation methods is still going to be heavily dependent on the fans and internal heatsinks, the design of the Synology DS920+ chassis just seems a little more thought out.
Overall, the SYNOLOGY design wins overall, thanks to its better middle ground design between airflow, chassis size and noise compared with the Terramaster F4-423. Although neither brand provides its solutions in a variety of colours, the Black and largely square Diskstation chassis will blend in better in most environments too. Next, let’s discuss network connectivity.
Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS – Ports and Connections
The connections that a NAS arrives with will heavily dictate the access speed and performance between it and your client devices. This becomes especially true when your NAS is going to be accessed by a large number of users/tasks at any given time, as the result is the bandwidth (the maximum potential connection speed) being shared between them all. Now the 2020 released DS920+ arrives with arguably very dated connectivity. This is especially true when compared with the 2022 released F4-423. Here is how they compare off the bat:
|Model||Synology DS920+ NAS
|| Terramaster F4-423 NAS
|Default Network Connections||2x 1GbE||2x 2.5GbE|
|Network Upgrade / PCIe Slot||No||No|
|USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10G)||0||2x|
|USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5G)||2x||0|
|HDMI||No||1x HDMI 2.0 (Command Interface ONLY, no GUI)|
So, alot of difference here to unpack. Some things are quite brand specific, such as the Synology DS920+ featuring an eSATA port that is used for the DX517 JBOD expansion 5-Bay. The same goes for the Terramaster F4-423 having an HDMI port for local (command level) access with a USB Keyboard, something Synology have never provided outside of very specific Surveillance solutions. Bt the areas we CAN compare are the USB connectivity and the network connectivity. The USB ports on the Synology are USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) and have limited support in the system software (DSM), but are largely used for external storage drives and UPS devices, that’s about it (you can assign them to a VM). The USB ports on the Terraamster on the other hand are USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb/s), so twice as higher bandwidth than the Synology, as well as supporting a larger number of USB devices (so storage and UPS’ like the Synology, but also devices such as printers, scanners, network adapters and WiFi dongles). The next big difference is that the Synology arrives with two 1GbE Network ports (these can be combined via LAG/Port-Trunking to 2GbE with a smart switch) and the Terramaster has 2x 2.5GbE ports (which can also be combined too). This means the Terramster has a significantly higher external network bandwidth available. You will still need to be using a greater than Gigabit Router or Switch in order to take advantage of these speeds, but given that now you can get USB-to-2.5GbE adapters for as little as £20, this is getting easier to take utilize. If you are in a pure 1GbE network environment and have zero intention to upgrade to 2.5G or 10G in the next few years, you can largely ignore this advantage, but given that an increasing number of day-to-day devices are arriving with 2.5G at the same price as 1G (ISP Routers with WiFi 6, Prosumer routers, Switches, PC Motherboards, etc), its tough to overlook that extra external connectivity that the F4-423 provides here.
Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS – Software
On the subject of NAS software, this is where the Synology NAS is exceedingly strong! Although the Terramaster NAS platform has seen a huge number of improvements in recent years (TOS version 5 was launched in Summer 2022), with new apps, services and modes included, Synology and DSM is still considered the dominant force in NAS software. The Synology DSM platform feels alot more responsive, has a huge number of first-party applications (As well as mobile and desktop client applications too) and although 3rd party application support is available in a number of their tools, the real strength in the Synology software is how the brand releases it’s own 1st party alternatives (allowing you to create a single ecosystem of tools for your NAS storage and network). Use Skype or Whatsapp? Then you can use Synology Chat. Use DropBox or Google Drive for team sharing and local storage synchronization? Use Synology Drive. Use Google Docs, Google Cloud Space and Google Workspace? Then use Synology Collaboration Suite and Active Backup. Plex or Emby? Use Synology Video Station instead, as it has metadata scraping and no subscription. Even high-end business is covered. Synology Virtual Machine Manager instead of Hyper-V or VMware, Surveillance Station instead of Milestone – the list is huge AND crucially, all of these apps are compatible with 3rd party tools too, whether it is to sync with them to create a bare-metal NAS backup, or to open and continue from your 3rd party setup into a 1st party setup. Below is my full review of Terramater TOS 5 and Synology DSM:
Now, this isn’t to say that the Terramaster TOS system is not good, it is better than it has ever been, very responsive, features improved 1st party apps in its latest version (new AI-powered Photo recognition tool Terra Photos, Surveillance Center application, VM support, improved muti-tier and multi-site backup manager and more), but the apps and the GUI does not feel quite as polished as the Synology platform and you definitely get the feeling that a larger % of the cost of a terramaster goes towards the hardware than the software. If you are only planning on using the NAS as a target drive for your 3rd party tools, then the Trramaster will support you well. Just know that the total Hardware+software type buyer will want to opt for Synology and the award-winning DSM.
Synology DS920+ or Terramaster F4-423 NAS – Conclusion and Verdict
Overall the choice between the Synology DS920+ and the Terramaster F4-423 NAS comes down to too main factors. 1) Do you prioritize Hardware or Software? As the Terramaster is the best for the former and the Synology is much better for the latter! 2) What do you expect from the NAS system? If you want a system that is designed to just be your storage system and sit in the background and do its job, then the Terramaster will not only be the more economical choice, but it will also be the one that is better for direct and no-frills tasks. If however, you want a more dynamic system or one that you plan on wrapping your small business around – then the Synology will be the better choice, as it has been designed with precisely this kind of user and deployment in mind. If you came to this article wondering why the Terramaster NAS online always seems to be more affordable/cheaper in price, I hope this guide helped you understand. Both the DS920+ and F4-423 or among the best examples of what each brand has on offer right now in 2022 – but it is a case of what you, the end user, want for your money.
|Synology DS920+ NAS
|| Terramaster F4-423 NAS
|Reasons to Buy||Reasons to Buy|
|More User Friendly with noticeably more polished Apps, Tools and GUI
Synology HybridRAID Migration and Expansion
Includes 1st party apps to replace/sync with your existing 3rd party ones
Better File Throughput internally
The BEST NAS Surveillance Application
Enterprise Grade tool Active Backup Suite
1st Party Cloud offering in Synology C2
|Much More Affordable and Regularly on Offer
TRAID Flexible RAID
Easy Software Switch to TrueNAS (HERE)
2.5GbE by Default
USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gb) Connectivity for Storage
Wide HDD and SSD Compatibility (upto 22TB – Dec ’22)
TOS 5 has an AI Photos App and Surveillance (Entry Level)
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