Over the past few years Synology have packed their product catalogue with a wide range of NAS devices. From single bay models up through enterprise solutions they offer something for pretty much every consumer. That in itself is great but what they are also very good at is keeping each area of their product stack up to date. The next NAS price point to be refreshed by Synology is their single bay, budget conscious product. We take a look at the replacement for the DS112j in our Synology DS115j Review.
We start this Synology DS115j review with a look at the packaging and bundle. As is normal for Synology we get a white and green box with the DS115j info added through a couple of stickers. Inside there is a compact power supply, network cable, quick start guide and screws.
The Synology DS115j
The Synology DS115j is shown above and uses a very similar styling to the DS112j that it replaces. We get a plastic casing with the Synology logo on each side, perforated to allow airflow around the drive and four rubber feet sit on the base. The front surface has some discrete branding and then on the right edge we find a dark grey section which has our status LEDs and power button.
The Synology DS115j measures 166x71x224mm (HxWxD) and weighs around 0.71kg. Turning round to the back of the system we find a 92mm cooling fan exhaust, Kensington lock slot, power input, GB LAN port and two USB 2.0 connectors.
We open the DS115j by sliding the left and right sides of the casing in opposite directions, a very simple process.Once open we can see that there is space for a single drive in this model, 3.5″ or 2.5″.
Elsewhere inside we have an upgraded CPU when compared to the DS112j, this model featuring a Marvell Armada 370 running at 800MHz with hardware encryption engine and floating point unit to enhance performance. The DS115j also has 256MB of DDR3 and from its SATA 2 port can take drives up to 6TB in capacity.
Synology DS115j Review – Installation
For our Synology DS115j review we went with a 2.5″ Western Digital drive for our initial testing, moving to a larger capacity 3.5″ 5TB drive later. Both worked without issue and required no more than a few screws to secure. The same can be said of the casing which slides back together and then is screwed together at top and bottom.
Going into our Synology DS115j review we knew pretty much what to expect from the setup process as the experience on the low end models is just the same as the higher priced parts we recently reviewed. We start by launching the DiskStation Assistant which quickly and easily sends us to the web interface for our NAS. In here we get a quick summary of the unit before selecting the OS install file from the web, or locally. Next up we choose our main username and password and then it is on to the automated portion of the install.
It takes less than 10minutes to install DiskStation Manager and get to the login screen which gives us a quick summary of the time and local weather. The final step is to set up our remote access ID and then we are into the main OS.
Synology DS115j Review – Synology Disk Station Manager Operating System
As with the other Synology NAS devices, once installation and setup is complete we land on the home screen. This is in effect the ‘desktop’ and has a familiar Windows like UI experience which features taskbar, icons/shortcuts and a main menu (start) button.
On the desktop are the default icons which include File Station, Control Panel and Package Centre. Along the top taskbar we have a ‘start’ button on the left and over on the right, a search function, user account menu, display options as well as a notification system and (when appropriate) an icon informing us that there is a USB device currently connected. In the bottom right corner we have our quick access status indicators. Here we can see over health status of the system, the current CPU/memory usage as well as bandwidth use.
The start button, situated top left opens a menu with pretty much access to all the features of the NAS. This includes any additional apps installed via the Package Centre.
The Package Center, is Synology’s ‘App Store’ here we can find packages to download and install on our NAS to improve functionality, these are categorised into Backup, Multimedia, Business, Security and Utilities. We can also see which apps we have installed and make sure we are running the most up-to-date packages. This allows full control of just what is available on the NAS without bloating the initial install.
Looking next to the Control Panel, we have a large array of options available from user admin, firewalls, IP blocks, Traffic Control and a whole lot more. All aspects of the NAS and the way it functions are user configurable, though novice users will find that very few of the options need tweaking out of the box. Control Panel also gives us access to a feature which allows us to update our DiskStation to the latest OS version. The latest software can also be downloaded manually from the Synology website.
One of the key apps within DiskStation Manager is File Station. This is a file browser and allows us to trawl our NAS at a directory level. It also allows the user to access the files on another device to easily upload them to the NAS. As well as the usual file control abilities rename, delete, cut/copy/paste we can compress files into .zip archives directly on the NAS and create share file links that allow users who don’t have credentials for the DiskStation to download the file.
Elsewhere Audio Station allows management of the music library stored on the DiskStation and like VideoStation and PhotoStation allows us to view our content on other devices such as TVs, phones and tablets (or give external access to items such as our photos to family members).
Synology also have a full suite of mobile apps available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone too. These include media players for streaming audio and video content as well as mobile versions of File Station and DSFinder.
Synology DS115j Review- Conclusion
When buying an entry level NAS we need to have our expectations set a little. We won’t be getting a powerful multi-core CPU or masses of memory. In this arena USB 3.0 support (and SATA3) are somewhat of a luxury that would only add cost. What do we get? Well we get a stylish looking, compact casing which feels sturdy and an installation process which is quick and simple. The CPU used is powerful enough to manage our content without issue and the OS experience responsive. That said, we do really need to stick to one task at a time to maximise this aspect. In terms of drive performance the unit is rated for around 100mb/s read and 60MB/s write with idle power use just 3w. All very good for an entry level device. All of this is enhanced by the presence of the floating point unit which takes on tasks such as transcoding audio to mp3 on the fly to reduce bandwidth.
Keeping in mind that the DS115j is the entry level model it is great to see that the OS used by Synology is the exact same on this model as their more expensive NAS devices. That is the key selling point of this model, and the rest of Synology’s range. Without doubt it is the best NAS operating system we have used, by far. It is intuitive and we can configure it exactly as we wish, from the users through the normal functions such as media streaming or back-ups and then onto more niche functions such as video surveillance from up to 5 cameras.
With a great RRP of £78 ($120 and €75.50 before tax), all in all an ideal first NAS.