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When it comes to NASes, we usually test either top-end or, on the contrary, low-end products. The former are indicative of the manufacturer’s technological achievements whereas the latter offer the most appealing price/performance ratio to the customer. Synology uses the sign “+” and the letter “j” to mark its top- and low-end products, respectively. However, the company also offers in-between models, like the DS211 to be discussed in this review.

Synology’s dual-disk NAS series includes four products as of the beginning of 2011. These are the DS211j, DS211, DS211+ and DS710+. The latter is based on the x86 platform whereas the others have ARM processors and differ in processor clock rate, memory amount and external interfaces.

It’s not so easy to choose among them. Of course, a NAS is going to work better if equipped with a faster processor and more memory, but it’s hard to predict the practical effect you can achieve with a more advanced configuration. The only advice we can give you is to choose a brand and decide how many HDDs you need in your NAS and then buy the most expensive and fastest model you can afford. Another approach to shopping, and the one that may make you consider the DS211, is when you find the performance of the cheapest model too low (for example, in P2P networks).

Package and Accessories

Synology’s recent products come in a very plain sort of packaging. It is a cardboard box with a few small stickers indicating the model name and specifications of the product. The accessories to the DS211 are also standard for the company. Besides the NAS, the box contains an external 12V/6A power adapter, an Ethernet cable, some screws, a CD with firmware and utilities, and a quick installation guide.

The manufacturer doesn’t offer new software tools, preferring to enhance the existing ones instead. DSAssistant can now work with Photo Station and can start up a NAS remotely. You need this tool when you initialize your newly bought NAS because it installs the firmware. Of course, it is available in versions for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Download Redirector (available for Windows and Mac OS X) is a download manager that hasn’t been updated for a while, so the NAS’s web-interface is currently handier for that purpose. The data backup utility Data Replicator (Windows only) is rather old, too.

You can download all the software from the manufacturer’s website if necessary. Besides, you can find a few extra modules there that you can add into the NAS’s firmware to enhance its functionality.

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