Review of Synology DS1812+ in real life

Update: I’ve blogged about the issues with choosing hard disks for NAS units since running the DS1812+ for 4 months here http://niallbest.com/future-nas-favourite-western-digital-red-hard-disks/
 

I really pushed the boat out after my last trip away and treated myself and the household to a Synology DS1812+ NAS.  I’d been on the lookout for a way of unifying the house data storage and while the DS1812+ seems eye wateringly expensive for a home system given it’s an unpopulated NAS it does offer some very good plus points.

  • Fast – 194MB/s write and 202MB/s read performance + USB 3.0 support.
  • Small sized – Size (HxWxD) : 157 X 340 X 233 mm barely more than 8 disks!
  • Low power – UPS reports 45W in use and only 18W in standby.
  • Good official support – See later.
  • Refined –DS1010+ was great, evolved to a DS1511+ and further refined with the 12+
  • Growth – 4 bays free plus the DX510 expansion units if needed
  • Apps & OS – DSM 4.0 is fantastic, useful optional apps  and good mobile support.

There are also some negative points in my view, but they are outweighed by the positives.

  • Cost – at over £700 diskless it’s a large investment.
  • Reliability concerns – See later.

Disks
Choosing the right disks for my DS1812+ was driven mainly by cost.  I would have liked to go with the new Hitachi 4TB disks but they were is short supply and horrendously expensive (£295) when I bought in March 2012 so I went with the Seagate Barracuda 3TB disks that I found on offer (£130).

The newer Seagate Barracuda model ST3000DM001 uses just three 1TB platters (down from five 600MB platters in the older model) resulting in better throughput thanks to better data density and cooler running, an important consideration in a NAS.

As seems to be the way with Seagate recently there has been a firmware update for the Seagate Barracuda 3TB model range.  I’ve written before about the complicated nature of Seagate Firmware updates in my most popular blog article  but thankfully my ST3000DM001 disks arrived with the latest firmware installed.

With 4x Seagate Barracuda 3TB disks in a RAID 5, formatted with the ext4 file system I have a usable array of 8.05TB.

First impressions
The Synology DS1812+ feels really solid when you unpack it.  You get a UK power lead, two bags of screws (one set for 2.5” drives the other for 3.5”) two LAN cables (not snagless) and two funky hexagonal keys to lock the Seagate Barracuda 3TB drive caddies in place plus a manual and CD with software.

There are also 4x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x eSATA (for adding another 2x DX510 5 bay expansion units!), a reset button and a locking point.

Setup
You need to install the Synology Assistant to A) find the DS1812+ on your local network as it defaults to DHCP addressing and B) so that you can install the software, DSM (Disk Station Manager) currently a much updated version 4.0.

The DSM software takes up a very small amount of space on your disk array so you need to have your disks installed in the device first.

I’ve installed my disks in positions 2, 4, 6 and 8 to allow more cooling.  Leaving disk tray 1 free as to the left of that (looking from the front) is the passively cooled CPU which can get quite warm and will raise the operating temperature of the disk in position 1 by 2c-3c.

DS1812+

Unexpected death & bad NVRAM
After about a week of use I noticed that the DS1812+ wasn’t switched on, I assumed that I’d turned it off as I was still testing.  I thought nothing of it until I came to switch it back on and it was totally dead, no power, no nothing.  Still after a disgustingly poor RMA experience with Dabs.com my current DS1812+ has been flawless.

Also, at the same time, it emerged that Synology had an issue with very early DS1812+ and DS1512+ units having bad NVRAM chips where the unit wouldn’t resume from a reboot, instead just flash the blue power led.  Synology quickly published a news article and a dedicated support email address where you could email in your serial numbers (and get a quick reply in 24 hours!) to check if they were affected, it turns out neither of mine were affected so I guess my failure was one of those things?

Day-to-Day
In everyday use the Synology DS1812+ is flawless for my needs.  If you check the supported disks and UPS recommendations from Synology it cuts down on a lot of hassle.

I’m running the APC Back UPS RS Pro 900 and it reports a modest 45w-50w under load, only 18w when the disks spin down giving a huge two and a half hours of runtime (only device)

The DSM 4.0 software is really nice to use.  It offers a graphical environment to manage your Synology via a browser either http or securely via https.
You can extend the basic capability of the device by installing different packages developed both by Synology and other 3rd parties.  This is nice because it means if you don’t want to utilise some feature you don’t need to have it running idly using system resources and exposing a larger attack surface to the outside world.

Synology DSM 4.0 Package Centre

The DS1812+ default RAM is 1GB, upgradable with a 2GB module, but 1GB seems enough in the home environment with less than 5 users.  I’ve got the Audio & Photo station installed along with the media server and the iTunes Server and I’m using only 20% of the RAM total.

Although the headline read and write figures are impressive you’d need a nice disk setup or multiple users to reach those limits.
From my Dell e6510 laptop with its 500GB 7.2K RPM disk transferring large 4GB iso images over a wired Gigabit network max writes to the Synology are about 80MB/s via a windows shared folder.  Read speeds are slower due to the laptop hard disk but there is no problem with streaming multiple HD quality video files and working with file storage simultaneously.

Temperatures of the device seem fairly consistent;  I’ve had the Fan Speed Mode set to Cool Mode and I see the CPU between 55c – 60c under load.  The disks vary more, 28c – 35c.  All of this in a 15u rack under the stairs in my house which is 20c ambient.

Mobile Apps
Synology provide some pretty decent mobile apps for both Android and iPhone which work with files, photos and music.
The photo viewing app is perhaps the most impressive when used along with the Photo Station package on the hardware itself.  Using an iPad it turns the device into a really slick photo browsing tool making picture viewing really easy.  Some of the apps could do with a little more polish but using your Android phone as a portable mp3 player is a nice benefit of having the Synology do all the hard work for you.

Conclusion
For my situation as a data hungry power user the Synology DS1812+ is the ideal device for me and my household data storage needs.  It’s fast, capable, backed by a company that are constantly updating and improving their software and hardware.

The only downside could be the cost.  I was rather apprehensive of spending this much on a device but having used it for a couple of months now I’m very pleased.  It does seem that you get what you pay for in terms of the build quality and the usefulness of the software & support Synology offer.

I suspect I’ve got a lot more still to get from the Synology DS1812+.  I’ve yet to setup the DDNS service, external access, configure the Download Station or try out an IP Camera with the Surveillance Station package.  There is also the Cloud backup solution offered by Synology that is coming out of Beta soon that is a real plus for all disk station users.

Overall the Synology DS1812+ is probably going to be my best hardware purchase of 2012.

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27 Responses to Review of Synology DS1812+ in real life

  1. Pingback: Review of Synology DS1812+ in real life | NAS Guide

  2. Ray says:

    Can you tell me what transfer speeds you get with your DS1812+

    I get around 45 MB transfer for reading and writing with mine windows pc over gigagbit lan wired with cat5e cabling on one lan port of the DS1812+

  3. Niall says:

    Hi Ray,

    Any read / write speeds you get are going to be limited by the source or destination disks you are using, not just the Synology DS1812+ unit.

    Personally, using the internal 2TB Western Digital Green in my HTPC I get writes of 80MB/s to the Diskstation. Reads from the DS1812+ to the single SATA 2.0 disk are slightly slower, 70MB/s. This is for a large continuous image file of 8GB

    Copying smaller files from the DS1812+ is worse, 546 8 mega pixel photos is about 35MB/s to the WD Green drive but that’s to be expected. I’m not too bothered about small file performance its not what I’m using the device for primarily.

    All these speeds are from Windows 7 using CIFS protocol for regular file copy. 1GB wired LAN with CAT 5e cable via a single Netgear GS105 switch and regular frames packet size.

    If you want to increase the write speed to the unit you then copying from a SSD or RAID1 setup would certainly let you push more data to the unit. Enabling jumbo frames on the LAN can help too.

    Niall

  4. Ray says:

    Niall,
    Many thanks for your comments 🙂
    I will take your notes in consideration

    Ray

  5. Pingback: Heat analysis in the home for computers | Niall Best's Blog

  6. Hugh Parker says:

    Hi. I want to use my NAS to host my XBMC database. My current DS410J is far too slow. Do you have any experience with using the 1812 as an SQL server?

  7. Niall says:

    Hello Hugh,

    I don’t have any experience of running SQL Server on the DS1812+ hardware, but we have used the slower (1.67GHz dual core vs 2.13GHz dual core CPU) DS1010+ here at work to store SQL Server databases on in a RAID1 connected via iSCSI over a 1GB LAN.

    Sadly I don’t have any stats, it certainly wasn’t any slower than running on regular server hardware for the 20 – 30 internal users we had accessing the data.

    The DS410j CPU is only 800Mhz single core so its a huge step up to the 2.13GHz dual core CPU used in the 12+ Synology models.
    Given that the DS1812+ is really designed for small to medium workgroup business users your going to have plenty of headroom if you have one or two users pulling data via XBMC.

    Niall

  8. Brilliant, thanks.

  9. Jason says:

    Does it have scheduled power on/off?

    I currently use a QNAP and wanting to try Synology since I need expandability and heard so many great things about your model NAS.

  10. Niall says:

    Yes, Synology via the DSM software offer full power on & power off on a schedule on a day-by-day basis.

    If you look on the Synology.com website there is a live demo of the new DSM 4.1 software in public beta test that you can try.

    Niall

  11. Johnny says:

    Niall, Could you confirm that you only get 5.63TB With 4x Seagate Barracuda 3TB disks in a RAID 5, formatted with the ext4 file system. I would have expected around 9-10TB

  12. Niall says:

    Oops! That should read 8.05TB not 5.63TB. I wrote the blog post after I’d seeded the DS1812+ from my other machines & disks and must have mistaken the total size.

    Thanks Johnny for spotting that one.

    Niall

  13. Will says:

    Hi Niall,

    Thankyou for highly informative review. I am a home user with a huge data appetite and your review suited my curiosities perfectly.

    In particular I must show gratitude for indicating a suitable model 3TB hdd to use with this impressive hardware. This concern was a stumbling point for me as my budget is limited and this exact NAS unit is a must so unfortunately the drives are where the compromise must be made. If finances allow I am considering upgrading to the new Hitachi 4TB drives in the future.

    I am assuming the HDDs are performing adequately for you. My primary use for the NAS will be for storing and streaming large media files over a gigabit home network, so I am satisfied my needs will be well served.

    Awesome job mate! Cheers!

  14. Niall says:

    Hi Will,

    Thanks for your comment, it’s always nice to get feedback.

    Your situation sounds similar to mine, I was fed up with half useful solutions which is why I went all out on the Synology DS1812+ as a good base.

    In terms of disks your comment got me to update my thoughts on suitable disks for NAS devices. Yes the Seagate Barracuda 3TB disks are OK, yes they were a good price but now I feel things have moved on with Western Digital and their new NAS specific Red line of hard disks.

    I’ve blogged about my experience here http://niallbest.com/future-nas-favourite-western-digital-red-hard-disks/

    Western Digital do not yet offer a 4TB disk in the Red series, so if you really need 4TB Hitachi are the only way. They have been verified by Synology I know there has been some discussion on the user forum about them.

    Good luck with your purchase.

    Niall

  15. Hans Heintz says:

    You report power consumtion as being 45/18, while synology says 72/29. I wonder if the difference, even in hibernation, can be explained by having installed more disks. I am thinking about buying 1512+ or 1812+ and main reason for choosing the first would be power consumption.

  16. Niall says:

    Hi Hans

    I would assume that I get lower figures as only half my drive bays are populated in my DS1812+ (4 out of 8). My power readings were taken as the draw from the UPS with only the DS1812+ attached; I’m not 100% sure of its accuracy but hopefully give a general idea.

    I don’t think you can get away from the fact that more disks mean you’ll use more power, the DS1812+ and DS1512+ both have the same CPU, RAM and probably board layout internally. The DS1812+ has larger 120mm fans which will draw slightly more power than the 80mm fitted to the DS1512+. Overall I felt that having 8 disk bays over 5 was a better reason to choose the DS1812+

    Good luck with your purchase

    Niall

  17. Thomas Wilson says:

    Great review, Niall — you answered my questions about the DS1812+. I too am a data hog, having consumed nearly 70% of my Drobo FS’s 10.84TB in less than six month’s usage. While I’m happy with the Drobo, I’m less than thrilled about the lack of expansion capability, and so am looking to move to the DS1812+ Later this fall. In the interim, your review really helped me solidify my choice of the DS1812+. Thanks again for a great review.

  18. Niall says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for your kind words, I’m glad that my review helped you out. Thinking back to my review of the DS1812+ or any Synology product, it really needs two reviews; one for the hardware and another for the DSM software which takes great hardware and just makes it awesome. I’m sure you’ll be really pleased with your unit when you purchase it.

    Niall

  19. Jean-Luc Belanger says:

    Hi Niall
    Excellent review, very informative.
    I have been looking for a NAS for a while that has decent capacity and expansion possibility and then I saw that one.
    Now I just stumble onto your review and that solidify my choice.
    I’m looking to use it for movie storage and the capability of using DLNA to send over to my Samsung TV. Have you tried the media server that way or do you know if that works well?
    Also do you know if it supports adding larger size drive after the initial setup?
    In the event of a power failure that would extend past the duration of the UPS, can it be setup to shutdown?
    Thanks for all your info.
    Jean-Luc

  20. Niall says:

    Hi Jean-Luc

    I’m glad you found my review useful. Although I do use the DS1812+ to store movies I don’t stream them via DLNA, but I do stream music to a wireless radio via DLNA and it works well, the interface on the web radio is the only tricky part. I have not tried the Synology media server application that was added with DSM 4.1 as I had started using the Plex media server to stream movies to a iPad; it works excellently. The Synology applications for mobile on both Apple and Android platforms are great.

    To answer your other questions Yes, you can replace disks with larger capacity ones and expand the total array size.

    In the power options if you have a UPS attached you can choose the time before shutting down the diskstation, 5, 10, 15, 30, 60, 90 minutes or immediately. With my APC Back UPS RS Pro 900 I get at least 2 hours of runtime, but I do not think there is any way via the user interface of the UPS sending a signal to the Synology DS1812+ to tell it to shutdown because the batteries are about to expire. There might be a way via the command line, perhaps ask on the Synology forums?

    Niall

  21. Jean-Luc Belanger says:

    Ni Niall
    Once again, excellent info!
    I don’t know yet when I will get my hands on that NAS, the sooner the better, but I will certainly use your input.
    Thanks again and have a great day.
    Cheers!

  22. Peter Robinson says:

    Hi Nial,

    Good review, but i wish to ask you a question:
    How difficult is to change the drives in this product?
    Eg: you have all the 8 bays populated with 2 TB drives and you wish to upgrade to 4 TB.

    Is it simple as it is with the Drobo system? Or there is a lot of configuration to do? Someone told me that on Raid systems you need to rebuild it and you can’t mix drive sizes. The same happens here?

    And how about redundancy? The Drobo gives-me redundancy up to two drive failures. Wish to know what kind of protection I can get.

    Thanks in advance!
    Peter – From Brazil. 😀

  23. Niall says:

    Hi Peter

    Physically changing the disks in the DS1812+ is easy, just unlatch and slide out. 🙂

    In terms of upgrading the array to larger disks it depends if you are using a standard RAID level such as RAID 5 (1 disk redundancy), RAID 6 (2 disk redundancy) or Synology Hybrid Raid (either SHR or SHR-2)

    For RAID arrays you would need to swap each disk in tern and let the array rebuild. Once you have completed all the disks in the array you would be left with the new space as an unused section of the volume. You could then expand the array volume to include this free space so yes with RAID there is some additional work but it’s very easy thanks to the Disk Station Manager (DSM) software. You can use different sized disks in standard RAID configurations but it is very inefficient to do so. The usable space in a RAID array is limited by the smallest disk in the array so stick to all 2TB then move to all 4TB etc.

    If you are using either SHR which is single disk protection like RAID 5 or SHR-2 which works like RAID 6 and offers dual disk protection the upgrade procedure is similar. Swap all the disks and the Synology software takes care of the process and offers you the maximum space it can automatically. SHR and SHR-2 are more flexible than standard RAID levels once you are using more than 4 disks.

    You can check out the Synology RAID / SHR calculator here to see how much disk space you get with different redundancy levels and different number of disks. http://www.synology.com/support/RAID_calculator.php

    Niall

  24. André says:

    Hi Niall,

    I bought a QNAP TS 869 PRO and when turning it on for the first time, I immediately noticed an irritating, constant, high-frequency noise that proved enough for me to return it, despite the following tests that I did and that proved me that I would have loved it if not for that darn noise (that comes from the PSU little fan). So, I returned it.

    That left me without what would have been my first NAS server so now I am looking for some other NAS and the choice that I have is the Synology 1812+. But, aware of the noise problem with the QNAP, I searched the internet and found that the 1812+ may have the exact same problem (google “synology 1812+ noise psu fan”) so I am afraid of ordering one. The NAS will be placed in my “home office room”, which means, the place I stay most of the time during the day, and it is a very quiet room, despite having my two computers (that I built myself to be quiet!) there on also most of the time.

    So, my question is: are you that kind of guy, like me, that is easily irritated by high-frequency, constant noises and, if yes, what can you tell me about the noise that your 1812+ makes? Usually, the two big 120mm fans that you see on the back don’t make an irritating noise, you can only hear the air flowing through them, which is a “good” noise, I am talking about the small 40mmx40mm that exists, in the 1812+, INSIDE the enclosure and that may be loud enough to bother “sensible” people like me.

    Thank you, and thanks for this page, it is very helpful.
    André

  25. Niall says:

    Hi André

    I understand how you feel, my works laptop sometimes emits a high frequency whine from the power pack when charging. It’s not loud but once you know it’s there you can’t help notice it!

    Personally I have my Synology 1812+ in a rack unit under the stairs so noise isn’t too much of a problem. You can hear that “good” noise you mention of the 120mm cooling fans although the disks more than the unit when being loaded, I’ve set my cooling options to ‘cool’ rather than ‘quiet’ but its not loud, even a telephone conversation drowns out the noise. Very late at night when the house is quiet you know the unit is still on but its not disruptive even if all the doors are left open.

    I can’t say that I have noticed any type of high-frequency noise from the PSU fan, although I haven’t sat an listened to the unit under the stairs like you might in an office environment but it certainly hasn’t caught my attention like my laptop charging does!

    If I was to use one in a home office I’d keep it under a desk perhaps out of the way just to help keep things quieter, but I guess the best option is to order from a reputable retailer who will allow a return if necessary and see for yourself as the topic of these noise is very subjective and I’d hate to offer advice that doesn’t fit your situation.

    Thanks and good luck

    Niall

  26. Alex says:

    Hello, I want to purchase this unit. My use of it will be with NO Raid at all. Just pure JBOD. (I hate raid, and I urge you to read some articles about raid reconstruction, black hole errors, silent corruption, and smart soho don’t do raid).

    Anyway, putting this dilemma aside, Is it possible, in a JBOD configuration, to remove the hard drive in case of a hardware failure and plug it directly in a sata port in another pc and see all your files in there ?

    What i want to do is 6 JBOD drives, and 1-1 mirror using a norma backup program that runs daily.

    in jbod, do all the hard drives spin up even if you only use one of them ?

    thanks for any help you can give me on this.

    cheers

  27. Niall says:

    Hi Alex

    You certainly have a thorough backup schedule outlined there with daily 1-1 backups and its good that you have identified you need that level of effort to protect what must be valuable data to you.

    To answer your question, yes you may remove disks and read them in another system, provided that the new system can read the EXT4 file system. Unfortunately I’ve no idea about your second question as I have only ever used the Synology with RAID disks and looking at the SMART stats they have very similar start / stop counts.

    Thanks

    Niall

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