The Synology DVA3221 AI and GPU Enabled NVR NAS for Surveillance
One of the most popular and continuously evolving ways that users want a NAS drive is for home and business surveillance. Whether it is the security of family or for much more enterprise requirements, CCTV and surveillance solutions are very much the vogue right now in the NAS server industry. A competent and fully-featured NVR solution is not a cheap thing and although fantastic surveillance software is available on even lower-tier budget NAS solutions, but if you want to get set some serious NAS based surveillance in place, then these are going to cost you a little more. Synology currently has one of the best surveillance software applications available in the market today and it arrives bundled with an included camera licences with every single NAS drive they sell. Performance on different NAS drives vary and despite continued research and development on the surveillance station software, there comes a point when the biggest jumps in the software require the biggest jumps in hardware to support them. The brand new DVA3221 NVR NAS
is a solution (following up from the early in 2019 released DVA3219) that completely increases the potential of this software and introduces artificial intelligence into the equation for real-time deep video analytics. In real terms, it means that in a multitude of different ways your surveillance footage is analysed at the point of recording and in real-time, to denote potential security threats and/or eliminate false alerts. So let’s take a good look at this brand new NAS and discuss whether the DVA3221 is worthy of its impressive price tag at almost £1,400+ without hard drives, cameras and tax. Let’s go!
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Synology DVA3221 NVR NAS Design
Given that the new Synology DVA3221 NAS
arrives at quite a high price point and is the 2nd GPU card powered solution in their NAS portfolio, the retail box that this drive arrives in is surprisingly small. I do not know why I thought it would be bigger, perhaps the advanced nature of the surveillance and the fact that most GPU cards arrive in big retail boxes, I just had an image of an angry-looking, unbranded, labeless box.
However, featuring the usual brown box design and informative labelling, the DVA3221
retail kit is quite a clean package and was not what the industrial box I was expecting at all.
A closer look at this NAS purchase shows us the usual accessories that Synology bundle with their servers. This includes the DVA3221 unit itself, 2x RJ45 CAT5e LAN cables, first-time installation guide, keys for locking hard drive trays and screws for installing different kinds of media in the bays.
Once we remove the Synology DVA3221 surveillance NAS
from its packaging, we find a brand new chassis design for this premier NAS. Arriving at a size that is comparable to that of the DS1621+, this 4 bay NAS uses the additional chassis space to support that internal Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card that we will talk about later on.
Looking at this chassis head-on, we can see that in order for that card to be installed in the available PCIe Gen 3 slot, the hard drive bays have been moved around half an inch right from the centre. Despite this less symmetrical design, it still manages to fully involve the Synology design aesthetic.
The four bays of storage on the Synology DVA3221
support the very latest and largest capacity hard drives and SSD over SATA. Thanks to data storage configurations of RAID and Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) systems, this means that even with a robust RAID level, you still have a good degree of storage potential.
Though it is a shame that the Synology DVA3221 does not support dedicated M.2 NVMe SSD bays as found in the DS1621+ or DS1821+ (more is the PCIe slot available to upgrade the device in terms of network connectivity or adding caching bays), as this would have been a boost to performance on the diskstation side (negligible improvements to the Surveillance side with a heavy write, low read architecture), though that may well have pushed this NAS drive’s price point into a tricky area.
As with all Synology NAS drives, the DVA3221
features multiple LEDs on the front of its innovative chassis and these denote everything from system and drive access activity, to the health of your NAS drive and network access. Of course, these light can be dimmed to benefit those working within close confines of this NAS on a regular basis, though it’s worth mentioning that because of the fan featured on the rear of this device and on the GPU card inside, that it typically makes a pinch more noise than other 4-bay Synology NAS Solutions.
Also found on the front of the DVA3221 is an additional USB 3.0 port that is primarily designed for fast deploying and actioning of USB localised backups. This is one of many different features of this device that set it apart from a number of their NVR surveillance only solutions and help it find a place between dedicated surveillance use and a powerful diskstation NAS solution.
Much like other Synology NAS drives, the DVA3221
features the Synology brand logo on either side of the chassis which is ventilated to greater assist active airflow throughout this device. Given the internal graphics card of this device features its own active processor fan, the necessity and advantages of the ventilated panels are even more impressive.
All in all, nothing hugely surprising in the chassis of the Synology DVA3221 NAS, as it appears to be a modification of the DS1621+/DS1621xs+, but it is still a fantastically compact chassis for such an impressively performing device.
Synology DVA3221 NVR NAS External Connections
Taking a look at the rear of this device, we can see that the backplane of the Synology DVA3221 NVR
is a distinctly modified alternative to those in the DS1621+ and DS1621xs+ released in late 2020. Placement of the ports seem largely unmoved compared with those older NAS, but where they featured a PCIe expandable slot, the DVA3221 has additional cooling vents in place.
This modification of the existing Synology chassis exists to further promote passive and active airflow throughout this device and as most GPU cards generate an impressive amount of heat from the memory onboard, I’m glad Synology has taken this into consideration, as well as facilitating airflow via the GPU card’s own fan.
In more familiar territory, the Synology DVA3221
features USB ports that allow compatible and supported peripheral devices to be used via the Synology DSM software and user interface. Typically supported peripherals would be external storage, wireless dongles, UPS connected notifications and other dongles. We will talk about these ports again in a little, but more because it highlights one of the more disappointing areas of this device and one of only two areas of the DVA3221 that actually disappointed me, much in the same ways the DVA3219 did in the previous generation.
Another common Synology function that is supported on the DVA3221 surveillance NAS is the twin expansion eSATA ports that allow connectivity of two DX517 expansion chassis, allowing you to have up to 14 bays of RAID enabled storage. Early in the reveal of the previous device, I misunderstood the ’32’ in the model ID was to represent the maximum number of storage bays, however, I was mistaken and the 32 actually represents the simultaneous top-end surveillance IP cameras supported on this device at one time via the control deck. This is general camera support and with regard to AI-assisted deep video live analysis, the system supports up to 6 on-going simultaneous tasks (with the older gen DVA3219 supporting up to x4).
In terms of network connectivity, the DVA3221
arrives with 4 x 1 GB RJ45 LAN port which allows users with port trunking and/or link aggregation support to achieve speeds of up to 440MB/s transmission. Additionally, these ports can be used independently to provide alternative connections between clients and the DVA3221 host, as well as being used as a connection heartbeat between 2x DVA3221 NVR devices in a Synology High Availability setup. It would have been nice to see network ports with greater than 1-gigabit ethernet connectivity, but I can appreciate that the majority of high-end surveillance users will not take advantage of this, as even high-end cameras will struggle to over-saturate 100MB/s (and if they did, your storage consumption would go through the roof).
Overall the port and connections on the Synology DVA3221
are good enough for most business users to get a good start on their new NAS storage system and given that this device support both the diskstation manager and surveillance station user interface, most users will be happy with just network and internet interaction with this device. However, there is no avoiding the point that whilst the rest of the Synology Surveillance optimised NAS drives in their product range (NVR1219, NVR216 and VS960HD) also feature HDMI out and USB keyboard mouse connectivity (KVM) that allows you to create a standalone surveillance solution – as well as as the traditional network and internet access, the DVA3221 does NOT give you HDMI/Local Video-Out. I discuss this more in the video below:
Normally this would not bother me, HDMI and KVM support is something that Synology has largely avoided in 99% of their range. However, given that the DVA3221
features the Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card, I cannot see a logical reason why they have abandoned the option of a standalone surveillance setup with a visual device and KVM support overall. In fact, I was so curious about this fact, that I went to the extra step of removing both the Synology NAS chassis and the graphics card in question.
As you can see, my suspicions proved true given that this card features both a DVI and HDMI output, but are not possible to connect too in a physical sense because of the NAS backplane. I considered connecting an HDMI cable to the card whilst the device was in use, However, the chassis, once the card is fully installed in the PCIe gen3 slot, leaves no room for a cable or even an angular adaptor for me to test this theory. An interesting point none the less and one I would like to discuss directly with Synology soon.
Another area of contention is the fact that the graphics cards hardware resources are currently only available for use within the surveillance station application and these graphical resources cannot be implemented towards other NAS tasks such as Virtualisation and 4K Transcoding within/outside of Plex media server. However, I did ask Synology about this and was informed that they are constantly looking for ways for their software and hardware within their ranges to work together as much as possible and the ability for a Diskstation to use graphical resources in this way is potentially an option in the future. That said, this si something that I asked last year and we have yet to see anything commercially pro-active on this yet, so maybe don’t hold out for it!
Synology DVA3221 NVR NAS Internal Hardware
The DVA3221 NVR NAS
features familiar internal hardware in terms of CPU and available memory. Arriving with the Intel C3538 Atom CPU, this quad-core processor with a 2.1 GHz clock speed has already proven on several occasions to be a highly capable processor for everything from surveillance to virtual machines and multimedia use in the likes of the DS1819+ and DS1618+. I know it is not the most popular processor in the market right now since Synology has moved their SMB devices towards the Ryzen embedded V1500B, but Synology has spent quite a few years working with this CPU family and has optimised the hell out of it for the DSM platform. Though it’s the support of 4K is less than other Celeron and Pentium processors right now, it is still a CPU with a tremendous amount of potential still left in it.
Once again, they could have opened the door to a more capable processor such as the Intel Xeon found in the DS1621xs+, but this would have only served to increase the base price point of the DVA3221 again. This CPU is further supported with 8GB of DDR4 memory, that can be upgraded all the way to an impressive 32GB of memory. Additionally, this memory is Error Code Correction (ECC) memory, which is especially attractive to business users and (in the case of an NVR solution) is another layer of protection from data failure to have. If you intend to use the DVA3221
to its full potential, it is recommended that you increase the base memory of this device to at least 16GB, as although the memory on the graphics card provides great real-time analytics and analysis of captured footage, the standard memory of the NAS is still going to be tremendously important for the typical running of this device.
Synology DVA3221 NVR NAS Surveillance Abilities
Despite the fact that almost all Synology NAS devices arrived with surveillance station and camera licences included, the performance of the security software will always differ on each Synology NAS device because of its respective hardware. Until recently, these differences could be measured in easy and straightforward terms, such as:
- Number of simultaneous cameras one time
- Frame rate of individual cameras recording
- Resolution supported by individual cameras simultaneously
These three ways were the key measurements with which you could decide the right Synology surveillance station NAS for your needs, as different CPU and memory combinations lead to varying levels of coverage.
What makes the DVA3221
so different is both the Nvidia graphics card inside and the extra real-time supported surveillance add-ons that it enables with its. Typically, a surveillance NAS will be used as a means of being notified of and actioning security alerts. The bulk of security alerts can simply be described as ‘Thing A is in the field of vision of Camera B
‘, and should not be. The DVA3221
supports all of the control and alerts that you would find on almost any Synology NAS, such as motion detection, light detection and heat (depending on the camera in question). These alerts will almost always require you to assess recorded footage after the event
you are being notified about, reviewing and assessing old footage after the fact and making a judgement on whether this is a perceived negative action. This not only takes time, but also manpower, and with so many false alarms in play (trees moving in the wind, motion detection in a busy environment or night vision tracking as LED hardware switches time of day activity, etc) this can lead to both excessive time-wasting and unreliable results.
The answer to this is DVA (Deep Video Analysis) thanks to this, that means that footage is being analysed by an AI inside the DVA3221 and false alerts and unreliable data can be eliminated instantly. The DVA3221 is smart enough to know the difference between a person and a car, a tree and a bag, and so on and so forth – as well as being able to be programmed to identify things, rather than on motion or blobs of pixels. In real terms that means that you can monitor an entire area over multiple cameras, filled with constantly moving people, and yet it can see if someone has left an unattended item or a vehicle has entered the scene. Likewise, because it can differentiate the difference between items moving in the wind and items that have their own traction, it can alert you to the movement of things without wasting your time with a leaf falling off a tree.
This system of deep video analytics goes even further though, with recognition of people and trigger zones. In real terms, that means that you can draw an area of effect, or a start and finish line digitally thanks to the surveillance station user interface that the deep video analytics AI in the DVA3221 can work with to identify if people move in and out of a given zone, as well as keep count and subtract numbers if needed. This kind of analytics can, of course, be done by humans later on and with hours, days, weeks and months of recorded footage, but it saves huge amount of time and resources to have this kind of video analysis done in real-time.
These are the things make the Synology DVA3221 such an impressive device and are likewise the reasons for that price. Currently, there are practically no other commercially available units like the DVA3219 and DVA321 for home and business users that provide this level of support and outside of NAS, the best you will find and is subscription-based or premium software lead surveillance platforms that still require a hefty and larger hardware purchase. QNAP has closed the gap considerably, with support of AI-assisted processes in their QVR Pro platform, as well as the support of numerous graphics cards on their own NAS platform – but they have still yet to package and present the solution for surveillance in the polished and complete way we find in the DVA3221.
Synology DVA3221 NVR NAS Conclusion
The Synology DVA3221 is a NAS that when I heard it could be used as a surveillance station NAS and a Diskstation NAS made me very happy indeed. However, now with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that this compromise in dedicated surveillance use has led to some choices (the CPU and lack of HDMI/DVI + KVM output) that in many ways limit its complete potential. I have no hesitation in saying this is the very best and most capable surveillance NAS that Synology has ever produced, and once you take into account the inclusion of that graphics card and 8 camera licences for surveillance station, the price can even be justified for the most part. What it comes down to is whether you desperately need these features and don’t mind paying more now to save lots later. A year from now Synology might allow users to install their own graphics cards or will find a way to introduce some deep video analysis features on to non-GPU NAS – of this there is no guarantee, but if you need these features in 2020/2021, this is the best NAS you can get right now.
|PROS of the DVA3221 NAS
||CONS of the DVA3221 NAS
- Incredible Surveillance Monitoring Options
- Real-Time AI Camera recording saves hundreds of man-hours
- Internal GTX 1650 Graphics Card and Chassis is intelligently designed
- 8 Camera Licenses included (worth around £300)
- BTRFS and SHR Support
- Upto 32GB DDR4 Memory Support
- Dual Surveillance Station and DSM Support
- 4 LAN Ports for LAG
- Can be used for VMs, PLEX and rest of the Synology App Collection
- Great Surveillance Person/Thing tracking
- Intelligent Motion Tracking
- Intelligent Counting and Border Control
- Additional Deep Video Analysis Options
- Graphics Card features HDMI/DVI Ports on the card, but they are not available on the DVA3221
- Quite expensive for a 4-Bay NAS
- No Keyboard Video Mouse (KVM) support
- The CPU is a little disappointing
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The improvements in this graphics card are what largely makes up the improvement between these two NAS, but the 8GB of DDR4 memory that arrives with the DVA3221 (4GB greater than the DVA3219) is a welcome addition, given that the system is designed for large scale IP Camera use. Network cameras from companies like AXIS, Edimax, Hikvision and (current person recommendation) Reolink are all quite hungry for memory when deployed in higher resolution and frame rates, pushing larger and larger data packets for the NAS to storage – more memory is essential for more cameras and/or smoother coverage. Alongside this, both systems support BTRFS as the file system (as well as EXT4) and the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) drive configuration – which is always a plus!
Finally, in terms of software and it’s performance, both systems support up to 32 cameras, as well as arrive with 8 camera licenses to attach IP Cameras to the system. Performance differs across the spectrum of frames rates and resolutions on each system, but at a general level of recording and playback, the DVA3221 is the better choice in terms of software operation, thanks to that increase of memory and improved GPU card.
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One thought on “Synology DVA3221 AI NVR NAS Review”
Where is the DVA 3221 software review?????
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