You don’t have to take the NAS apart to install your disks, but you may want to do so to clean the fan. Unfortunately, the fan is not easy to get to. You'll need a slim and long cross-point screwdriver and the NAS has to be almost completely dismantled in the process. There is a robust metallic chassis under the plastic exterior. The PCBs and the fan frame are all secured on it.
The main PCB has not changed much but its chips have been replaced with more advanced ones. For example, the processor is now a Marvell 88F6282 chip with a clock rate of 1.6 GHz and a small heat-spreader. The system memory has been doubled to 256 megabytes and it’s now DDR3. The flash memory chip is 4 megabytes (it is used to install firmware and boot the OS). Like its predecessor, the DS411slim has a SATA controller Marvell 88SX7042, a LAN chip Marvell 88E1116R and a USB hub GL850G.
The NAS is quite effectively cooled by a 60mm Evercool EC6010L12ER fan. Our HDDs were no hotter than 42°C during our tests. Considering that the fan is located at the bottom of the NAS case and that 2.5-inch HDDs are generally not loud, the NAS turns out to be quiet and can be recommended even for home environments. The fan's operation algorithm can be prioritized for temperature, silence or reduced power consumption. According to the power adapter's label, the NAS doesn't need more than 36 watts of power. The manufacturer specifies a power draw of 16.8 and 9.6 watts when working and idle, respectively. Thus, some of the abovementioned advantages of NASes with 2.5-inch disks are indeed implemented in this model.
Starting the DS411slim up is no different from starting up any other Synology NAS. You put your disks on the plastic frames and insert the frames into the NAS (the disk bays have no locks, by the way). Next you install system software using DSAssistant. The latter utility is available in versions for Windows, Mac OS and Linux, so there should be no compatibility problems.
Besides initializing the NAS, DSAssistant can be used to search for it on the LAN, connect network disks and printers, implement the WoL feature, monitor the NAS's resources and upload photos to it.
A web interface is provided for setting the NAS up. It’s based on modern web technologies and looks like a mini desktop with windows and other pretty-looking features. It is available in multiple languages and supports SSL (you can load your own certificate and change the port numbers).
The new interface may be somewhat confusing for inexperienced users as it offers more freedom than necessary. The older design with a fixed menu tree is usually easier to comprehend. On the other hand, the desktop concept is widespread and shouldn't take long to get used to, especially as there are an integrated help system and a basic setup wizard. Anyway, if you’ve worked with the older type of user interface, you'll have to spend some time learning the new one.
There is a taskbar at the top of the interface window. It has an icon for minimizing windows, a button for opening the main menu of programs, a search field and a notification area. You can have any number of windows open but only for the pages available on the main menu. For example, there can be only one Control Panel irrespective of what page is open in it. However, you can create multiple desktop shortcuts to its internal items.
Besides the administrator, ordinary users can access the NAS’s web interface, too. They will be able to change their password and the desktop’s visual theme and use any of permitted services. Password complexity rules (minimum length, different character sets) can be enforced.
The admin can replace the background picture of the start screen with another picture, change the port numbers or redirect everyone to the protected version of the interface page.
Overall, Synology's web interface is pretty and interesting but not always simple and intuitive.
We used DSM 3.2-1955 for our tests. Synology releases firmware updates for all its NASes simultaneously (the only exception being the models of 2007 which stopped at version 3.1), so the following description can be applied to many other Synology NASes.