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Maximum PC Staff Mar 19, 2010

Synology DS409+ NAS

At A Glance

Synapse

Fast performance; incredible array of features and services.

Cylons

Expensive for a machine that ships driveless; web interface is somewhat obtuse.

Powerful and feature-rich, but not for newbs

The Synology DS409+, though targeted at small- and medium-size business owners, is a great addition to any home network, with a robust web admin panel, media streaming of all stripes, cross-platform support, and easy backup—of the computers on your network, and of the NAS itself. To call this merely “network-attached storage” does the device a disservice.

The DS409+ is a squat brown-black box with a minimalist feel, and it ships sans drives, so you’ll have to provide your own. The ports are on the back of the device and include two USB 2.0, one eSATA, and one Gigabit Ethernet. In addition to two 8cm fans, the hinged back panel contains four thumbscrews, which, once unscrewed, allow the panel to open and the top of the case to lift off. The DS409+’s four hard drive trays accommodate 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives, which must be screwed into the trays and slotted into the NAS box’s SATA backplane. The DS409+ can be configured with up to 8TB of storage; we tested ours with four 750GB Samsung Spinpoint HD753LJ 7,200rpm hard drives in RAID 5, making a 2TB volume. (The DS409+ also supports JBOD and RAID levels 0, 1, 5 + spare, and 6.)


The staid exterior of the Synology DS409+ belies its feature-packed but slightly obtuse web interface.

With its 1.06GHz Freescale CPU and 512MB of RAM, the DS409+ turned in excellent performance. We transferred a 2.79GB file from our PC to the NAS in just a minute and a half, and from the NAS to the PC in 60 seconds; 600MB of smaller files took just 22 seconds to copy to the NAS, and 18 seconds the other way. That’s better performance than Seagate’s BlackArmor 440 (reviewed in August), which has a higher-clock processor but half the RAM of the Synology.

The web administration panel is incredibly full-featured—and slightly daunting. Admins can see at-a-glance data on disk usage, S.M.A.R.T. hard drive diagnostics, user quotas and permissions, and the status of network services. And oh, the services! In addition to the by-now-standard fare of iTunes and DLNA/UPnP media streaming, the updated firmware lets the DS409+ act as a web server, hosting PHP and MySQL databases, an FTP server, and a mail server. The DS409+ also supports terminal access via telnet/ssh. One of our favorite features, AudioStation, can stream your music library to any computer, iPhone, or Windows Mobile smartphone. Or the DS409+ itself can act as a jukebox if you connect it to a set of USB speakers. PhotoStation does the same for photos. Surveillance Station acts as a control panel for your networked webcams; Download Station lets you schedule BitTorrent, FTP, RapidShare, and other P2P downloads—you get the idea. The included Data Replicator 3 software lets users back up their local machines to their private folders on the NAS.

The DS409+’s web interface gives you a satisfying amount of control over a dizzying array of features, and though it’s not very user-friendly, we can’t complain about a lack of amenities. It’d be nice if the drives were more accessible—we liked the front-mounted hot-swap bays on the Seagate BlackArmor 440—and $550 is steep for a device that ships without drives. Ultimately, though, the DS409+ is a powerful and speedy NAS device that is just as appealing to the home networker as to the SMB owner, and we don’t hesitate to recommend it.

Benchmarks

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Cylons
Size as tested
3TB (2.25TB in RAID 5) 6TB (4.5TB in RAID 5)
PC to NAS, small (min:sec)0:220:39
PC to NAS, large (min:sec) 1:31 2:38
NAS to PC, small (min:sec) 0:18
0:17
NAS to PC, large (min:sec)
1:00 1:04
Best scores are bolded. We used the contents of Maximum PC's November 2007 CD for the small-file testing, and a single 2.79GB file for the large-file testing. All scores are averages of three transfer trials.
THE VERDICT

Synology DS409+ NAS

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