This is the review of the latest prosumer Network Attached Storage by Synology, the Synology Diskstation DS918+.
Although I have been using various models of Synology DiskStation NAS since I bought my DS1511+ back in 200?, DS412+ has always been my favorite model as it provides a balance between expandability (with its 4 Bay) and its quietness and performance at the workload I’ve been throwing at it. The pain comes when I realised that the DS412+ is not on the supported list of models for the upcoming Virtual Systems Manager (VSM) which I’m very keen to use to reduce the number of physical machines I have running at home. Earlier this year, I have toying around with the idea of getting a DS916+ to replace my DS412+. I didn’t want to get the DS1517+ or the DS1817+ as they are a little too bulky for my liking to be used as a daily workhorse. Luckily, the Synology Diskstation DS918+ was announced and I know I have to give it a try.
Unlike the DS916+ that it is replacing, the Synology Diskstation DS918+ forego the front cover type of design and went for the full slot design used in the high end models of Synology NAS. For this season, Synology has positioned the Synology Diskstation DS918+ as the highest-end model of 4 Bay NAS comparing it with the other 2 4-Bay models of DS418 and DS418play. The Synology Diskstation DS918+ is still expandable through the use of the Synology DX517 to add on another 5 bays of storage. The Synology Diskstation DS918+ also capable of up to 8GB memory expansion on paper, but could be 16GB in real life (I’ll cover a bit on this later on.). The Synology Diskstation DS918+ also has 2 x slots for M2 NVMe SSD cache which will provide the high speed caching capabilities previously found in the higher end Synology NAS models. I’ll also cover how the NVMe add on works in another review subsequently.
Let’s take a look at the key technical specifications and features of this powerhouse that can be found at the Synology product website.
Now let’s start looking at the Synology Diskstation DS918+ starting from the external packaging. The Synology Diskstation DS918+ comes in the usual environmentally friendly brown carton with the easy carry handle. Around the external of the carton also contains information about the key features of the Synology Diskstation DS918+ and also it’s connectivity and port options.
Opening up the carton, the inside contains a few more carton compartments containing the accessories that comes with the Synology Diskstation DS918+ and below which will reveal the Synology Diskstation DS918+ itself.
The accessories that come with the Synology Diskstation DS918+ includes, the power cord and power brick (actually I preferred built in power supply like the DS1515+), 2 x UTP cables, keys for locking of HDD enclosures, mounting screws (actually not really needed) and a simple Quick Installation Guide leaflet.
The Quick Installation Guide leaflet is really a simple pictorial guide on how to take out the HDDs casing, mount HDDs, and how to connect up the Synology Diskstation DS918+ to the network before the software setup portion can commence. Simple and easy to understand information.
Below the accessories, carton reveals a nicely wrapped Synology Diskstation DS918+ itself. The carton packaging protects it from knocks and damages with ample space between the walls of the carton and unit itself without the need to have much environmental unfriendly foam packaging.
As mentioned earlier, the new Synology Diskstation DS918+ now follows the full external slot design on the high-end models such as DS1517+ and DS1817+ compared to the previous range of DS412+ to DS916+. This design is better for access to the HDDs should you need swop them out from the chassis. Having used the Synology DS412+ and DS1511+ for many years, I don’t think there is much difference in the amount of dust accumulated within the NAS for both designs.
Besides the On-Off power button, the front of the Synology Diskstation DS918+ now only have one USB3.0 connector. The power and individual disk status LEDs are still nicely lined on the right side of the Synology Diskstation DS918+. One cool feature about these LEDs now, just in case you are now aware, is that the brightness of the LEDs can be adjusted from “Hardware and Power Settings” in DSM. The LEDs can also be scheduled to be turned off so that the brightness will not cause any unwanted disturbances should you so happen to place the Synology Diskstation DS918+ in your bedroom. Each of the HDD enclosure still comes with its individual locking mechanism to prevent any accidental removable of the HDD. Although Synology has provided keys for locking, you can easily use a flat screwdriver to do the same if you happen to misplace the original keys.
At the rear of the Synology Diskstation DS918+, there are the 2 big fans to ensure sufficient cooling. The 2 x Gigabit LAN ports, one more USB3.0 port, power input and the 1 x eSATA port to connect to a Synology DX517 5-bay Expansion Enclosure are also found below the cooling fans.
Removing all HDD enclosures, right inside the Synology DS918+ is a very compact daughter circuit board with all the SATA power and data connectors to which the HDD enclosures will be connected to when slotted in.
The main circuit board with all the computing powers are to the right side of the daughter board in the Synology Diskstation DS918+. Although most of the board is behind the steel structure of the casing, the ram slots are situated nearer to the main opening of the Synology Diskstation DS918+ such that they are very accessed for memory upgrades. The standard Synology DS918+ comes with 4GB of RAM and according to the specifications, another 4GB can be added to expand to 8GB. However, I manage to add on another 8GB of RAM to the empty slot to increase the total RAM to 12GB. I’ll cover more of this in another blog post later on.
The HDD enclosure is pretty much like those used for DS1515+. There is no need for any screws or tools to hold the HDDs onto the enclosure as there are 2 side plates specially designed for the purpose. However, if you are more old school, screws are still provided for this.
For my setup, I’ll be using 4 x 4TB Western Digital Red NAS HDDs that used to be sitting in my Synology DiskSation DS1511+ which was decommissioned recently.
The installation and setup of the Synology Diskstation DS918+ was very fast and straight forward. After about 20 mins to install the HDDs and connect up the Synology Diskstation DS918+ to my network, the software portion was another walk in the park. The creation of the volume and checking it was the one that took a bit a while, almost 24 hrs but I left it to run in the background while I set up and install the rest of the packages such as the Video Station, Download Stations, and even Docker. For more information on the details of the steps to take for the DiskStation Manager (DSM) installation, you can refer to my older blog posts such as the one I did for when reviewing the Synology DS216Play.
However, I did encounter some issues when installing the packages from SynoCommunity. Keep hitting errors on dependencies and packages not even appearing in the Package Center of DSM. Upon research, it seems that the Synology Diskstation DS918+ is a bit too new and yet to be officially added to the compatibility lists of quite a number of packages available in the SynoCommunity. But this downside gave me a good reason to explore using Docker containers instead and I’ve managed to install a number of my usual utilities in Docker instead of via the usual SynoCommunity versions. I’ll cover those in another blog post soon.
So how does the Synology Diskstation DS918+ perform against my older Synology DiskStation NAS? I did a simple test using the NAS Performance Tester between my Synology Diskstation DS918+ and the older Synology DS412+ using file sizes of 100MB, 400MB, and 1000MB. Seems that the newer Synology Diskstation DS918+ is able to provide more consistent and stable performance of more than 110MB/s throughput for both read and write scenarios while the Synology DS412+ will start to face constraints as the size of the file increases. Nevertheless, with the performance numbers getting so close to the theoretical throughput of a Gigabit network (125MB/s), I would think that it is soon for me to look out for an upgrade for my network in order to harness the full power of the Synology Diskstation DS918+.
Below are some results of the test. NAS Drive letter M is the older Synology DS412+ while the NAS Drive letter S is the newer Synology Diskstation DS918+.
Overall, I would think that we all agree that Synology products always live up to it’s name and reputation in terms of performance and features. As a replacement of my aging Synology DS412+, I would certainly say that the Synology Diskstation DS918+ is worth every cent and will continue to take up the old tasks my trusty Synology DS412+ has been doing and also any new tasks I’ll be throwing to it in the next few years to come. My own home network may not be really doing justice to the true throughput performance of the Synology Diskstation DS918+, but until I’m able to upgrade this constraint, I’m very happy with the stability I’m getting out from the device now.
I’ll be covering on the upgrading of RAM and installation of of NVMe M2 SSD in the Synology Diskstation DS918+ in the later posts. Do keep a lookout for them!