Synology DS1618+ review: A no-fuss, no-brainer NAS
I’ve always been more of a public cloud type of person, but you don’t have to try particularly hard to make the pitch for switching to network attached storage compelling to me.
We live in a world where more and more of our lives are tied up in this or that cloud-based service. So, on a lot of levels, it kinda just makes sense to push back against that. What's more, the software and functionality embedded in the NAS storage experience is now mature enough that you do take back control of how your personal data - be it photos, videos, documents or otherwise - is stored, you can do so without a great compromise on either the security of that data or your ability to easily access it on the go.
I’m not entirely convinced that this approach will ever become popular enough to be called mainstream but the hardware and software around network attached storage has gotten good enough that almost anyone can set up and use one now. And regardless of which brand you choose to throw money at, there’s a surplus of sizings and configurations available.
Where public cloud services are one-size fits all, NAS solutions are about building the machine that suits your individual needs.
So that’s exactly what we tried to do with the new Synology DS1618+ NAS.
CPU: Intel Atom C3538
Hardware encryption: Yes, AES-NI
Memory: 4GB DDR4 (expandable up to 32 GB)
Compatible drive types: 6 x 3.5-inch (or 2.5-inch) SATA SSD/HDD
External ports: 3 x USB 3.0 port, 2 x Expansion port, 4 x 1GbE Ethernet
Dimensions: 166 x 282 x 236 mm
Weight: 5.05 kg
Wake on LAN/WAN: Yes
AC input power voltage: 100V to 240V AC
Power frequency: 50/60Hz
Operating temperature: 0°C to 40°C
Storage temperature: -20°C to 60°C
From the outset, the DS1618+ subscribes to a lot of the usual aesthetic epithets you’d associate with Synology product.
It’s a simple, industrial metal box with all the usual finishes. The slide-out drive bays that populate the front-facing side of the thing are crowned by the power button and a neat bar of status indication LEDs. Meanwhile, the backside of the DS1618+ is largely reserved for the menagerie of ports on the unit.
Whether or not the six ports here are going to be enough for whatever you plan on using your NAS for is a difficult thing for me to gauge. However, at the very least, I can say that this amount proved adequate in my experience.
For our testing purposes, we hooked the DS1618+ up with four of Seagate’s new 14TB IronWolf drives. This process was super-straightforward - you just slide out the bay, pop the hard drive inside and slide it back in into the NAS. Rinse, repeat. It’s not quite as quick as signing up for a cloud storage solution but it’s not far off.
In terms of how it fits into the broader Synology lineup, the DS1618+ is pitched as a solid starting NAS for technology enthusiasts and small business owners - of which I fall into the former. It’s capable of peak sequential reading speeds of 2037 MB/s and supports raid configurations for those who want them.
Like many other Synology products, it’s also very easily customizable via add-ons for the unit’s PCIe expansion slot. Synology currently offer a dual M.2 NVMe / SATA SSD Slot and 10GbE network adapter card add-ons for the NAS. Again, they don't necessarily need these - but it's nice to have the option there.
Setup and Performance
After hooking the thing up with up to six hard or solid-state drives (or M.2 SSD drives if you shell out for the requisite add-on), you simply wire the NAS up to your local network and then connect to it using the Synology setup via web browser. Give or take a few firmware updates, the whole process takes about twenty to thirty minutes. Again, it could be faster - but it’s not as intensive or intimidating of an undertaking as you might expect.
Once you’ve installed all the latest Synology software, logging into your NAS pulls you into the DiskStation Manager interface. This is Synology’s NAS operating system. It’s not quite as slick as either the Windows or Mac desktops but works more-or-less the same way.
DiskStation supports clicking, dragging and dropping and even a few keyboard shortcuts. A few clicks later and we were quickly adding the NAS applications we wanted to the machine. DiskStation could be prettier - it’s true - but most NAS-buyers will find it pretty intuitive and straightforward to use.
And as with all NAS products, the DS1618+ is what you make of it. You can use it as a redundancy backup for either your local or cloud data, you can rig it up as a PLEX video streaming server, you can run virtual machines on it and you can even use it as a substitute for Google Photos using the Synology Moments app.
In fact, Synology have invested a ton in native software applications that make it super easy for you to get your NAS to do the thing you want it to do. Want to store photos? PhotoStation is right there. Want to stream video or music? VideoStation and AudioStation have you covered.
In an age where everything is becoming more and more app-driven, there’s something honestly a little refreshing about the old school computing mentality that underpins the experience offered by the Synology DS1618+. That’s not going to be for everyone, sure. But if you’re the kind of technical person who wants that extra degree of control, it’ll probably be for you.
In terms of the things I think could be better: the fans and hard drives in the DS1618+ can sometimes a little loud - but it's difficult to lean a little too hard on this point. At the end of the day, hard drives are still hard drives, and hard drives make noise. It also wouldn't hurt if the DS1618+ was a slightly cheaper, as the overall cost does inflate once the drives and any add-ons enter the equation.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a solid middle-of-the-road NAS that’s got six drives and just enough guts to do justice to most potential everyday applications, the Synology DS1618+ is a good way to go.
As with most NAS products, it’s about finding the right fit. If you need more drives, or are happy to settle for less, I’d advise you to continue your search. However, if you’re looking to dip your feet into what a network-attached storage can do for you, the mature software and straightforward specs make the DS1618+ a no-fuss, no-brainer option.
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