I was not sure if I would be picking up anything at all during the Black Friday Sale (BFS) this year but it turns out, I ended up picking up quite a fair amount of stuff from apparels to electronics. With that, I picked up the entry level and budget priced 2-Bay Synology DS220j ($169 USD) along with a couple of 6TB Seagate Ironwolf 3.5” HDD.
The Synology DS220j replaces a used 4-bay Buffalo LinkStation LS-QVL/E-AP. Slow, bulky and occasionally noisy, I never seemed to be able to get the Buffalo to work in my network properly. It was my first introduction to setting up a home NAS and an important one – software and GUI on the backend matters. In my research for a replacement NAS, it came down to either Synology or QNAP while considering ASUSTOR from time to time.
I do think after extensive research over the pass month, the simplest way to break the 3 brands down will be as follows. Synology if you want a simplistic GUI, not too much the user is able to customize, much like how Apple intended for your usage of their devices with modest hardware limitations. QNAP if you want more configuration ability, most up to date hardware specifications including the kitchen sink thrown in like your Android based device providing you full access (almost). ASUSTOR as a middle ground between a Synology and QNAP on the hardware front but with less mature GUI.
The Synology DS220j includes a 64-bit 1.4Ghz Quad Core Realtek RTD1296 processor which is great on power efficiency but limited by 512MB of non-upgradable (soldered on) RAM. Clearly, this is Synology limiting users by way of hardware specifications on they entry level budget NAS range. In contrast, the class similar QNAP TS-230 (oddly, costs more locally) sports the same Quad Core Realtek CPU but includes 2GB of non-upgradable (again) RAM. That is a massive 4x more RAM compared to the DS220j and should technically be able to handle network file backup/sharing processes better than the Synology. On initial setup and file backup files transfers, the paltry 512MB RAM on the Synology is definitely showing. I am hoping this will be less of an issue once my files are completely uploaded to the DS220j and indexing complete.
It was somewhat of a tough decision but I went with the DS220j for a couple of reasons. Main deciding factor was the ‘cosmetics’ of the TS-230 just did not fly with me. The form factor was different from the other QNAP NAS and it comes in a light shade of funky blue. The other reason was due to multiple reports of malware and ransomware vulnerabilities reported in QNAP NAS ecosystem. In all fairness, it sounded a little like Mac Users vs. Windows Users on anti-virus and malware. Hence, I am sure as long the user keeps the firmware up-to-date, some of the vulnerabilities would not be an issue.
The other annoying thing about Synology is their stance on having 2GB of non-upgradable RAM soldered on their mid-tier and higher-tier offerings. That limits users to a single free SODIMM slot. If you installed a 4GB SODIMM RAM module in either the Synology DS220+ ($300 USD) or the DS720+ ($400 USD), you land on 6GB of RAM. It could be sufficient for most task but an equivalent QNAP TS-251D ($280) or the TS-253D ($345 USD) would have allowed you to install 2*4GB of SODIMM RAM modules. That gives you 8GB, not limited to 6GB of RAM. The maximum recommended RAM on those CPU are 8GB anyway.
DDR4 SODIMM RAM these days are not exactly expensive. In fact, I picked up 2*4GB (8GB total) of DDR4 2,666Mhz SODIMM twice from Mac Mini owners upgrading their RAM (2*4GB to 2*16GB). Each time, I paid $30 SGD. The first $30 pair is installed in my 7th Gen Intel NUC7PJYH on a Quad Core 1.5Ghz Pentium Silver J5005 CPU. The NUC7PJYH is not the latest and fastest barebones kit but for what I need it to do, I absolutely love it and think it is the best placed NUC Kit hands down. The NUC is snappy, cooled passively and low on power draw. I did picked up the $30 second pair in anticipation of installing them in a QNAP TS-251D.
At one point, I was contemplating the QNAP TS-251D. The mid-range unit actually does pack a ton of great hardware specifications including an 64-bit x86 Dual Core 2.0Ghz Intel Celeron J4005 CPU. It came down to a bit of logical rationalization on what me intended use of the NAS would be. Mostly as a file backup server and light audio streaming. I do not anticipate running Kodi or Plex Media Server on the NAS (we got Netflix and Amazon Prime Video subscriptions). Oddly, the TS-251D comes with a Dual Core CPU rather than a Quad Core CPU as on the entry level TS-230. Also, when the TS-251D first came to market, it spotted an Intel Celeron J4005 CPU. The equivalent Synology DS220+ arrived on market within an updated Intel Celeron J4025 CPU instead. Of course, the user is limited by the non-upgradable 2GB RAM module soldered on the DS220+; the TS-251D feature 2*SODIMM RAM slots for upgrades.
At the time of this post, QNAP had already started updating the TS-251D with the newer Intel Celeron J4025 CPU; bringing it on par with the DS220+ but with fully upgradable 2*SODIMM RAM modules. However, units on Amazon continue to list the J4005 units. There was no clear way of picking up an updated J4025 unit. Amazon does not yet listed the J4025 variant of the TS-251D (or I would have picked that up instead).
What is unfortunate too is QNAP for reasons unknown to me cost a significant premium up to 20% over Synology. The DS220+ is $50-80 SGD cheaper than a TS-251D when both models are listed at marked down prices locally. Local options cost $80-180 SGD more than standard pricing on USA sites. I would have picked up a local unit if priced similar to international sites. I would like to support the local retailers but the local distributor needs to get ahead of the QNAP pricing issues here before it makes economic sense. Not too much of pricing disparity for Synology prices locally vs. international sites.
At the end of the day, it came right down to how the actual device looked in the family room. The Synology DS220j ($169 USD) had one more thing going for it. It will look perfect right next to the new Sony PlayStation 5 once I pick that up after supply issues are sorted. Call me a sucker for looks but the decision to go with the DS220j meant running on a paltry 512MB of RAM instead of 2GB on the TS-230. I might switch to a QNAP the next time I need to upgrade my NAS if Synology continues to limit users with soldered on RAM modules. That is likely a few years out so we shall see; but we never know for certain in the world of tech gear.