However, at the time, I was not aware that Synology had just launched the DS220j could be a better option overall than the older DS218jplay and DS218j and making the TerraMaster F2-210 look even less appealing.
Synology kindly loaned me the DS220j and I have been running it alongside my DS218play for the past week.
Synology DS220j Key Features
- 64-bit 4-core CPU with 512MB DDR4 memory, delivering over 112 MB/s reading/writing performance
- Energy-saving design with only 5.06 W consumed in hibernation mode
- 24/7 Private Cloud Solution – Forget and leave your USB drives behind. Synology DS220j is an entry level network-attached storage supporting RAID 1 configuration to prevent data from sudden drive failure.
- Featuring Synology DiskStation Manager with versatile applications, providing an easy-to-use solution for data backup, file sharing, and video streaming
- Synology Moments – Centralise your photos and videos in one private place with Moments where you can group your photos by topics, share with friends & family, as well as back up freeing up storage space from your smartphone.
- Synology Hyper Backup – allows data to be backed up to multiple destinations such as local shared folders, external hard drives, network shared folders, rsync servers, and public cloud services.
- Backed by Synology 2-year limited warranty
- RRP – £ 126.38 exc VAT/ £151.6 including VAT (Amazon have it listed a bit higher at £159.99 inc VAT)
Synology DS220j vs Synology DS218j vs Synology DS218play
The Synology DS220j is a significant upgrade from the DS218j it replaces and slots in just below the Synology DS218play.
Synology has ditched the dual-core Marvell Armada 385 chipset in favour of the Realtek RTD1296 but the RAM is half what you will find in the DS218play at just 512MB. The RAM is DDR4 which will be faster than than the 512MB you saw in the older DS218j
The Marvell Armada 385 chipset uses two ARMv7 Cortex-A9 CPU cores whereas the uses a Realtek quad-core Arm Cortex A53 processor which offers significantly improved performance.
Apart from that, everything is pretty much the same, just like the DS218play is the same as the DS218 but with 1GB vs 2GB RAM. All the devices run the Synology DSM so you get all the amazing features that offers.
On Amazon the pricing is as follows:
- Synology DS220j – £159.99 (pre-order for 27th of February)
- Synology DS218j – £147.54
- Synology DS218play – recently £184 (sold out from Amazon)
From the above pricing, I see little reason to opt for the DS218j anymore. So the decision boils down to how much RAM you need.
It is worth noting that these lower-end models lack features of their pricier counterparts, for example, you are restricted to EXT4 va Btrfs.
Synology DS220j vs TerraMaster F2-210
The Synology DS220j closes the gap in the hardware specification with the TerraMaster F2-210. You now get the same chipset as the TerraMaster F2-210, but you have half the RAM at 512MB.
While I like the TerraMaster F2-210 a lot, the lacks of packages available for it combines with few companion apps make it a hard choice over the DS220j which is just £20 more.
Set-up is identical to every Synology. I experienced some issues when first setting up my DS218play, which was likely due to the drives I used. With this everything worked the first time, you just browse to the IP address of the NAS and follow the quick set up procedure which will require formatting of the drives and installing the DSM operating system. You can then set up things like Quick Connect which will aid remote connections.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good Surveillance Station was on the DS218play, the interface and web management is orders of magnitude better than cheap NVRs I have used.
It is not perfect though, for a start you get 2 camera licences, additional ones will cost about £50 so if you have several cameras it can get pricey.
It can also be tricky getting cameras to work. My H.View camera worked immediately, but my Annke ones did not. I had similar issues getting these cameras to work with my Ezviz NVR, so the problem is not exclusive to Synology, though BlueIris had no issues.
If you only have a couple of cameras (and they are compatible with Synology), I would suggest this is well worth considering over a cheap NVR.
Plex Server & Kodi
Plex Server is a popular choice for most NAS devices nowadays and it is possible to install it directly from the package manager. When you do install it though, you will need to fix the permissions for the users, so the Plex user can view files and folders.
- In Control Panel -> Shared Folders -> *select appropriate share* -> Permissions,
- Make sure to add user ‘plex' with read+execute permission to those shares.
- Also in File Station, verify ‘plex' has permission to ‘read' and ‘execute' the directories and files under the shares. (this will be the ‘others' category).
- File Station -> *select share* -> *select target directory* -> Properties -> Permissions.
- Make sure to ‘apply to this folder, sub-folders, and files'.
With this using the Realtek RTD1296 chipset the ability to transcode media is extremely limited, albeit much better than the older DS218j. Personally, I wouldn’t buy this if you plan to do transcoding, but at a push, it can go up to HD 720p and some 1080P content based on the Plex NAS Compatibility spreadsheet. I tried to play several TV shows and movies and this appears to be accurate, it was happy with 720P.
For Kodi and streaming content directly from the NAS, you should experience no issues, as this has very little demand on the processor. I easily streamed large 4K files to Kodi with no buffering issues at all.
Download station continues to be superb offering you an all in one solution for your download including torrents, Usenet and various file hosting websites.
Download speeds don’t appear to be as fast as they could be with them capping out at around 10MB/s whereas my Virgin line is rated at 350Mbps and I can normally exceed 30MB/s easily on my server.
This appears to be an issue with disk utilisation jumping up to 100%, but LAN file transfers can go up to 110MB/s. I have repurposed old drives for this so a dedicated NAS drive will likely perform better. CPU and RAM utilisation remains consistent during downloads.
Synology stands out from the crowd by the vast range of apps available, both the packages that you can install on the NAS and also the mobile and PC companion apps that allow you to make the Synology much more than network storage.
Currently, Synology lists 150 different packages to install on their website, though not all of these are compatible with the lower end models. The TerraMaster had just 40.
There are then 16 Android apps all offering various functions and a further 23 desktop apps.
Since getting the DS218play, I have become fond of the Moments app which works much like Google Photos allowing me to automatically backup my photos from my phone, ensuring I am not entirely reliant on Google for my photos.
Other highlights for me include:
- The Synology Drive Client is also superb, replicating the functionality from Google Drive.
- The cloud station applications allow you to do remote backups to your Synology NAS.
- Synology Surveillance Station Client providing quick access to the IP cameras
Backups and file transfer
With this being a NAS, the ability to do backups and file transfers across the network should be the most important feature. Depending on what you are transferring the NAS will often saturate the gigabit speeds of your network. I did find write speeds were not consistently over 100MB/s.
Copying folders filled with thousands of small files will take its toll on the transfer speeds, which is to be expected.
Price and Comparison
There are a lot of 2-bay NAS options out there, and I covered them in my NAS round-up.
The DS218play is the obvious alternative, and if it is priced low enough on Amazon it is well worth considering for the extra RAM. The DS218 increases the RAM again going up to 2GB, but this is then £65 more so quite a bit different.
TerraMaster provide the best competition if you don’t need all the frills Synology has, they have the F2-210 which is £20 cheaper or the TerraMaster F4-210 4-bay NAS which is just £20 more. The TerraMaster F4-210 is perhaps the one NAS I would seriously consider over the DS220j as four bays is much more useful so you would have to decide if you want the increased storage of the TerraMaster or increased features of Synology.
The QNAP TS-328 looks like a tempting alternative too, costing a little bit more but offering a 3 bay solution allowing you to use RAID 5 and therefore only losing a third of the available storage. This is also powered by the Realtek RTD1296 featured in the Synology DS218play and TerraMaster F2-210 but you get 2GB of RAM, giving you a bit more wiggle room for performance.
There are also a lot of arguments for going further up the ladder, a 4 bay NAS will be much better for cost efficiency with storage due to RAID3, the Intel-based models will offer significantly better performance, and RAM will play a big role when you start to do more on the NAS. Next thing you know you are spending close to £500 on a DS918+. For the sake of this review, there is little point comparing superior and much more expensive options.
The Synology DS220j sits nicely between the older Synology DS218j and DS218play in terms of pricing. It offers enough of an upgrade that I think the DS218j has become almost pointless, being just £11 cheaper at the time of writing.
While it is still more expensive than the excellent TerraMaster F2-210, and has less RAM, the additional functionality and overall user experience from the Synology ecosystem makes the TerraMaster a tough choice unless you want the absolute cheapest option possible for NAS backups.
For light home use, which is what this is designed for, the Synology DS220j offers very similar performance to the Synology DS218play, which is typically over £20 more expensive than this. I didn’t find the lower RAM holding it back, or at least not enough that I noticed. Of course, your mileage may vary, and specific applications will use more RAM, so it is always advisable to asses your needs first.
It is a hard call to say if this is better than the DS218play in terms of price/performance. Many websites sell the DS218play for close to, often over, £200 and at that price, I would probably opt for the newer Synology DS220j.
Overall, if you are looking for the best sub £200 NAS then this is probably it.
Synology DS220j 2 Bay Desktop NAS Enclosure Review Rating
- Set-up - 80%80%
- Features - 95%95%
- Performance - 90%90%
- Price - 85%85%
Identical to the DS218play but with half the RAM and a large drop in price. Much more powerful than the DS218j it replaces for just £11 more. This is probably the best budget NAS you will find.
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Last update on 2020-07-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API