Network attached storage products are generally designed for standard 3.5-inch hard disk drives just because such HDDs offer largest storage capacities and a lowest cost per gigabyte. Considering that SSDs with their high speeds and low capacities are not optimal for NASes, the only possible alternative to 3.5-inch HDDs is their 2.5-inch counterparts. Compared to their bigger cousins, 2.5-inch HDDs have lower capacities and speeds but the same cost per gigabyte, although the latter parameter has been affected by some recent events.
Anyway, what can a 2.5-inch HDD offer to a NAS user? First of all, it consumes less power and produces less heat and noise. And second, it is just smaller! While the first group of advantages can be enjoyed with any NAS, the small size calls for a special compact NAS design. There are but few such models on the market as yet. Two years ago we reviewed Synology’s DS409slim and now we are going to take a look at its successor DS411slim.
Like the 409 model, it has four bays for 2.5-inch HDDs, so the total storage capacity can be quite high (or you can build a fault-tolerant NAS). Another interesting feature is that the DS411slim has an eSATA port along with two USB 2.0 connectors.
Package and Accessories
Synology's product box has become somewhat more eye-catching with pretty colorful pictures against a white background. The downside of the unified packaging is the lack of info about the specific model. You can only see a brief list of its specs, included applications and the contents of the box. The photograph is not large enough to give a clear notion of the exterior design of the product.
Notwithstanding the small dimensions of the NAS itself, its box is rather large at 22.5x22.5x15 centimeters. Besides the NAS, it contains a stand, an external 12V/3A power adapter, an Ethernet cable, some screws, stickers with numbers for the disk bays, a brief installation guide, and a CD with software and documentation. The accessories are in fact the same as those of the previous model and, with the exception of the stand, those of most other modern NASes.
The stand is meant to ensure efficient ventilation because this NAS has a vent grid and cooling fan at the bottom of its case. The software bundle is standard for Synology: DSAssistant (for setting the NAS up in Windows, Mac OS and Linux), Download Replicator (for managing downloads) and Data Replicator 3 (for managing backups). You can also find electronic user manuals and a firmware file on the included CD.
The DS409slim’s design must have been so successful that the manufacturer hasn't changed anything in its successor. Unfortunately, it means a lot of glossy surfaces that get dirty easily. And they haven't thought about putting a cleaning napkin into the box. The DS411slim is indeed compact at 10.5x14.2x12 centimeters. It is smaller than many dual-disk NASes designed for 3.5-inch disks.
System status, LAN and disk indicators can be seen on the front of the case with one USB 2.0 port below them. Control buttons (Power and Copy) and a couple of LEDs are on a side panel.
You install disks into the DS411slim from the back panel, like into standard hot-swap bays. The disk retention frames are made of plastic to reduce the weight of the NAS and make it smaller. The disk bays lack any locks or latches but, considering the low weight of 2.5-inch HDDs, this design is quite reliable.
The back panel also offers one eSATA port, a second USB connector, a LAN port, a Reset button and a power connector. Everything is exactly like in the previous model. Take note that the USB port is very close to the LAN one, so you won’t be able to plug a thick flash disk in when a LAN cable is connected.
The NAS stands on four tall rubber feet that make it steady on a slippery surface and provide more air for the cooling system. Thus, the exterior design is very good. The DS411slim is beautiful, easy to use and reliable, the only problem being its glossy surfaces.