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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.