Introduction

The consumer Network Attached Storage (NAS) market has seen tremendous growth over the past few years. As the amount of digital media generated by the average household increases, 4-bay solutions based on ARM platforms are turning out to be quite attractive for home users. Low cost and power efficiency are some of the positives for these types of solutions.

Synology targets the average home user market with the j-series models. These units have traditionally provided consumers with a very budget-friendly entry-level window into the DSM (Disk Station Manager) ecosystem. With drive capacities on the increase, we have seen people move to 4-bay NAS units in order to take advantage of RAID-10 (despite the loss of effective storage space). This helps to avoid (to a certain extent) risk-prone rebuilds associated with RAID-5 arrays. We have already evaluated solutions from Western Digital (WD EX4) and LenovoEMC (ix4-300d) in this space. In late April this year, Synology introduced the DS414j to provide consumers with an alternative in this market segment.

Western Digital and LenovoEMC's solutions are based on Marvell SoCs, but Synology bucks the trend by opting for a Mindspeed Comcerto C2200 dual-core communications processor in the DS414j. The SoC has two Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.2 GHz and plenty of hardware acceleration engines. The other specifications of the DS414j are provided in the table below.

Synology DS414j Specifications
Processor Mindspeed Comcerto 2000 (2x Cortex-A9 @ 1.2 GHz)
RAM 512 MB DDR3 RAM
Drive Bays 4x 3.5"/2.5" SATA 6 Gbps HDD / SSD (No Hot-Swap)
Network Links 1x 1 GbE
External I/O Peripherals 1x USB 3.0 / 1x USB 2.0
Expansion Slots None
VGA / Display Out None
Full Specifications Link Synology DS414j Full Specifications
Price $417

The DS414j runs Linux (kernel version 3.2.40). Other aspects of the platform can be gleaned by accessing the unit over SSH.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

The Synology DS414j is a 4-bay unit. Users can opt for either JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 or RAID 10 configurations. We benchmarked the unit in RAID 5 with four Western Digital WD4000FYYZ RE drives as the test disks. Our testbed configuration is outlined below.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evoluion 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Hardware Platform & Usage Impressions
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  • imaheadcase - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    How fast they are is not very important, most reading/write is on the NAS itself. You are always limited more by network speed than anything with these setups. However that is not a problem since most people are pulling from drives and will saturate at 1gig NIC anyways. Reply
  • bebimbap - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    When viewing the small NAS market as a whole, it seems they are neither performance/cost effective compared to building your own system, or future proof, as expansion is very expensive or time consuming. The point of small NAS seems to be "I want a new working NAS NOW"

    If the case were that a small business owner or home owner who did not want to ever invest in tinkering with his network or computers would gladly invest in this kind of device. Especially ones who frequent the Apple/Dell store or another boutique to buy their latest best in class computer.
    Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, July 12, 2014 - link

    Indeed I'll have bought my off the shelf NAS, configured it, set it up and making it earn its keep while you were still wondering which hard drives and RAID card to put in your PC box.

    Plus I'll never have to touch it again till I replace it.
    Reply
  • uhuznaa - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    I'm always surprised that these things don't offer more than just plain storage. If you have a networked Linux platform anyway, why not offer things like at least CalDAV/CardDAV for your own "private cloud" for contact and calendar syncing? Or SMTP/IMAP (with a configurable smarthost if you don't have a static IP address)? Add encryption and some key management features and you could use it to replace most of the "Cloud" with a secure solution sitting right in your living room. Reply
  • AJRobins - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    Uh, many Synology products do, including the DS414j mentioned in this article. While lower-end products don't support these, products like the DS414j and above can use various addons such as wikis (mediawiki, docuwiki), CMS (drupal, joomla), databases (mariadb/mysql), mail servers, revision control (git, svn), languages (java, python, perl), various backup solutions (amazon glacier and other cloud services), and a number of other services. Reply
  • bernstein - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    @Ganesh: I really don't understand why i as a home user should avoid a NAS without hotswap! i mean whats the hassle of shutting a nas down, exchanging disk & starting it again? what's the problem of those 5mins of downtime? not quite the same, but home user's neither need redundant PSUs, routers, laptops, internet connections, etc. Reply
  • DanNeely - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    Even beyond the few minutes needed to swap the drive itself, to minimize the risk of a 2nd drive failure resulting in data loss, it's safest to do the raid rebuild with the server offline. At that point you're looking at several hours to several days of effective downtime. From that standpoint a few minutes to power the box off becomes a rounding error. Reply
  • samsp99 - Sunday, July 20, 2014 - link

    That's assuming that you have a drive spare that matches the ones already in the NAS. I would suspect for most home users a new drive will need to be ordered, so the extra time to power down the unit is minor in the grand scheme of things. Reply
  • asendra - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    I think you should not only compare to similarly priced NAS but to other Synology devices like the step up DS414, at least to compare if the extra price is worth it or not.
    I'm actually looking to buy a 4 drive NAS, and I was almost decided to get the DS414, but maybe the performance difference is not enough to justify the +100$ it would cost me.
    Main thing that has made me reconsider is the lack of plex server support in al this Synologys...

    Other option I've considered is buying a HP Microserver G7, install XPenology, and save 200$, but I don't mind paying for simplicity and less headaches.
    Reply
  • alanh - Thursday, July 10, 2014 - link

    Echoing ascenda's comment, it would also be nice to see a comparison with the previous generation Synology products. I've been using a DS413j for about 2 years now and it would be interesting to see how it compares. Reply

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