For the past 6 years or so I have used a proper server for my NAS, first with the HP Microserver, then moving on to old PC hardware I no longer use.
However, self build servers tend to be big, relatively expensive and use up quite a bit of electricity. I wanted to use old drives in RAID for a backup solution of my work which led me on the hunt for an affordable NAS.
This led me to the TerraMaster F2-210 and I came away very impressed. It is about the cheapest solution out there but depending on your requirements it may be a little underpowered or lack some of the features people want from a NAS.
So I have spent some time scouring Amazon for the best Network Attached Storage there is available. It is not necessarily a comprehensive list of all NAS devices on the market, but it covers the main ones available on Amazon.
2-Bay Network Attached Storage (NAS) Comparison
|Price||Reviews||Rating||1-star reviews||Plex Transcode||CPU||RAM|
|ARMv8 (Realtek 1296) 1.4Ghz||1GB|
|x64 (Celeron J3355) 2.0-2.5Ghz||2GB|
|Synology DS218j||147.5||627||4.5||0.06||None||ARMv7 (Armada 385) 1.3GHz||512MB|
|Synology DS218play||196||343||4.4||0.06||Software |
|aarch64 (Realtek 1296) 1.4Ghz||1GB|
|x64 (Celeron J3355) 2.0-2.5 Ghz||2GB|
|Buffalo LinkStation 220D||79.97||339||3.7||0.19||Not Listed||Marvell ARMADA 370 (800MHz)||256MB|
|QNAP TS-231P||169.52||265||4.5||0.04||None||ARMv7 (Alpine AL-212) 1.7 Ghz||1GB|
|x64 (Celeron N3060) 1.6GHz||2GB|
|WD My Cloud EX2 Ultra||149.99||1311||4||0.12||None||ARMv7 (Armada 385) 1.2Ghz|
|Neatgear ReadyNAS 212||243.78||297||4.1||0.13||Software|
|ARMv7 (Cortex A15) 1.4Ghz||2GB|
|ASUSTOR AS3102T V2||231.58||5||4.3||0||Hardware|
|x64 (Celeron J3060) 1.6GHz||2GB|
|ASUSTOR Nimbustor 2|
|x64 (Celeron J4005) 2.0GHz||2GB|
|x64 (Celeron J3355) 2.0GHz||2GB|
Plex Server is a popular requirement for many people wanting a NAS, and the ability to transcode video provides a good point of reference for performance.
Some NAS devices state transcoding abilities above what I have listed below. The Synology DiskStation DS218play is one notable example where the product page clearly says 4K Ultra HD video transcoding. In this case, I assume it is done through Video Station, whereas Plex clearly states that the version of their app does not do any hardware transcoding for this NAS.
All my transcoding data is taken directly from the Plex NAS Compatibility spreadsheet.
To the best of my knowledge, all the NAS devices have at least gigabit ethernet. There are a couple of exceptions worth noting.
The Asustor Nimbustor 2 AS5202T has two 2.5 GbE ports.
The QNAP TS-251B-2G has a PCIe slot for either a 10GbE network card, a QM2 dual-port M.2 SSD/10GbE card, or even a Wi-Fi card.
While Plex is popular, it is not the only piece of software people like to run on their NAS. So, before you commit to any device you should look into what else it offers you.
Synology doesn’t offer the best value for money in terms of hardware, but I think most people would agree they are a country mile ahead when it comes to their DSM software and the features it offers.
On the flip side of that, TerraMaster has offered everything I need so far, and using Docker, Apache etc I am sure I can replicate any missing features it has compared to Synology.
Some units have some unique hardware features too, Asustor & QNAP have the option for improved ethernet performance. Asustor has upgradable RAM, and they have HDMI out, so you can have it as an all in one NAS and media player solution
If Plex is important, I would whittle down the choices to whatever suits your needs by transcoding capabilities. The TerraMaster F2-221 is a stand out choice being just £230 and can transcode 4K.
The Synology DS218+ is only £60 more, and it includes the vast array of features DSM has, which includes things like Surveillance Station allowing you to integrate CCTV cameras. I would probably stick with Synology if you want the NAS for business purposes too.
You can’t fault the TerraMaster F2-210 as the absolute budget option, but if you don’t care about Plex or other CPU intensive tasks then the Synology DS218j is only £8 more.
Last update on 2021-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API