by Platon Scheblykin
09/05/2008 | 07:19 PM
In one of our previous reviews we tested a single-disk home-oriented Network Attached Storage with broad functionality from Synology called DS107+. Today, Synology has offered yet another NAS for us to test. The DS207+ model is a dual-disk device comparable to the DS107+ in its capabilities.
The developer has improved the functionality of some of his devices since our previous report by introducing new firmware. According to the descriptions you can look up at the Synology website, there are quite a lot of changes, from the web-interface design to the firmware-integrated applications. We guess it is a good reason for us to take another look at Synology’s NASes taking the DS207+ as an example.
1 RJ-45 port (10/100/1000 BaseT)
2 SATAII ports (internal HDDs)
Maximum internal HDD
Supported file systems
32.8W (max) – 11W (min)
160mm x 118mm x 88mm
The box contains:
The DS207+ follows the same exterior design concept as the DS107+. Its white glossy case with a straight outline and slightly rounded-off corners looks quite trendy. Although many other brands employ similar design solutions, Synology’s products, and this model in particular, have certain individuality. Designed in this style, every device looks imposing and respectable. The black plastic front panel is curved in, and the device’s buttons and indicators are all placed in the resulting depression. We like this solution because the front panel matches the overall style of the case and is also very ergonomic. The only drawback of the exterior design is that the glossy surface of the case makes dust and greasy fingerprints but too visible.
The DS207+ can be positioned upright as is indicated by the rubber feet on the sides of the case. Thanks to them the device can stand firmly on any surface, especially with HDDs installed.
The case is ventilated with a 60mm fan located at the back panel.
The cool air is coming in through the vent holes in the bottom of the case. There is no other way into. Although there are not many holes in the bottom, the temperature within the case, and the temperature of the internal HDD, remains acceptable even when the NAS is being accessed actively.
This model uses a noisier fan than the DS107+ but the HDDs are noisier still. It means the DS207+ will be quiet enough if you install quiet HDDs into it. And even if the HDDs are noisy, you will only hear them during disk operations – they are shut down after a period of idleness.
Before getting into the DS207+, let’s see how it communicates with the world around. Here is what it has on its front panel (from top to bottom):
The indication system is good. The indicators do not make up a solid line as is often the case. Two out of the six indicators are located near the buttons they refer to. The indicators differ in color and size (but all of them are sufficiently large). Finally, they have optimal brightness: they do not blind you but are visible even under daylight. All of this makes working with the DS207+ a pleasure.
The back panel carries the following (from top to bottom):
Besides that, the back panel offers a cable holder for the power adapter and a Kensington security slot.
You have to dismantle the DS207+ in order to install hard disks into it. It is easy: you only have to unfasten two screws at the back panel and shift one of the side panels to access the innards of this NAS device. You can see a steel partition here that covers almost the entire PCB. It is on this partition that the fasteners for the internal HDDs are to be found. The DS207+ can accommodate almost any 3.5” HDD with a SATA or SATA-II interface and a capacity up to 1 terabyte inclusive. The HDDs are secured on the steel partition with four screws and connected to the PCB with two short cables. The screws and cables are included with the NAS.
The quality of the case is very high, by the way. All of its details are fitted together perfectly without gaps or anything.
You’ll need more effort to access the PCB than to install the HDDs – the partition and the large number of screws should cool a casual user’s interest in the device’s internals. So we had to unfasten the four screws that secure the PCB with partition to the remaining half of the case and then the four screws that attach the partition to the PCB. After that we could take the PCB of the DS207+ into our hands.
The PCB looks impressively large occupying almost all the free space inside the case. The blue piece of textolite carries a lot of various chips and auxiliary elements. The PCB layout is clever overall, all the components being distributed evenly on the face side of the PCB. The reverse side has some surface-mounted components, a few indicators, and connectors.
There are a lot of components installed in the DS207+. We could find little information about some of them, so we’ll just name the main chips employed.
The NAS is based on Marvell’s Orion 88F5281 system-on-chip controller that incorporates a 500MHz ARM9 processor and supports PCI, PCI Express, Gigabit Ethernet and other interfaces.
The described model of the NAS comes with 128 megabytes of system memory in two 64MB DDR SDRAM chips from Hynix (HY5DU121622DTP).
The firmware is stored in a 4MB Spansion S29AL032D90 flash memory chip.
The Gigabit Ethernet port is based on an 88E1118 controller from Marvell you can meet on mainboards.
The GL850A host-controller is responsible for the three USB ports the DS207+ offers.
The two internal and one external SATA port are supported by the 88SX7042 controller from Marvell. This chip offers four SATA ports with RAID functionality.
The device’s controls and indicators are based on PIC16F627A and LC4032V chips. There are consoles for these two chips on the PCB, but the console connector for the PIC chip is not installed.
The processor is accompanied with two consoles, one of which is not installed. The missing console must be JTAG while the installed one is UART.
Having advanced hardware capabilities, the DS207+ offers a rich selection of extra services that can rarely be found on devices of its class. This functionality is supported by firmware, and the firmware image you can download from the manufacturer’s website is about eight times the capacity of the NAS unit’s flash memory chip. It is because most of the firmware is written to the internal hard disk rather than into the flash memory. When booting up for the first time, the NAS creates a system partition, over 100MB large, for that purpose.
By the way, the source code of the firmware is only available at a special request and will cost you $20. Perhaps this is the reason why PC enthusiasts do not create their own versions of this firmware. At least we couldn’t find serious projects concerning Synology products on the Web. However, you can find some info about customizing Synology’s firmware, for example at http://oinkzwurgl.org/diskstation. Although that resource is focused on junior NAS models from Synology, some of its materials should be interesting for owners of the DS207+ as well.
Judging by the forum at the Synology website and by the Wiki-page the company supports, Synology has a favorable attitude towards hardware enthusiasts. The company is among the few manufacturers of home networking equipment who officially make their product accessible via Telnet and SSH. You had to install a patch from Synology’s website to enable such access before, but recently this capability has been added into the NASes’ web-interface.
People at Synology do not wait for individual users to polish the official firmware off but do the job themselves. The services you will find available in the firmware of the DS207+ are going to satisfy most users.
Most of the services are available on the start page of the NAS’s web-interface.
To use a service you must first enable it in the Management menu that will be described shortly. We’ll now glance over the applications integrated into the official firmware. First of all, the DS207+ comes with such applications as iTunes Server, PHP and MySQL.
Now let’s see what services can be accessed from the entry page.
The DS207+ offers a file manager called File Station. You can use it to perform basic operations with files and folders on the internal HDDs as well as external disks connected to the DS207+.
The Audio Station link leads to the namesake application that can be used if you connect special speakers or an iPod to one of the NAS’s USB ports. The Audio Station allows to play music stored on the DS207+ and broadcast Internet-based radio stations via these devices. Besides, there are tools to create an indexed library of music and play-lists. You can make it even more comfortable for yourself by attaching a remote control with a USB interface.
The DS207+ can also be used as a basic video surveillance system. To enable this mode, you must connect a web-camera to the NAS and set it up using the Surveillance Station service. This application allows you to record video by a schedule or when there is any movement detected in the surveillance zone. You can also view the camera’s image in real time. The Surveillance Station can work with multiple cameras simultaneously, but you need to buy an additional license with activation key for each additional camera.
If you select the Web Station item on the start page, you will be directed to a site you can make yourself and put into a special folder on the NAS’s hard disk.
Photo Station 3 allows you to view photos and video clips stored on the DS207+ as cute galleries accessible via Internet. You can also set up your blog here.
Now let’s see what NAS-related setup options are available in the web-interface. The company has perfected the official firmware of its devices since we last tested them. The settings section of the web-interface has changed, too. It is now called Disk Station Manager 2.0.
The header of the manager window contains links to the integrated applications and exit page (Logout). A navigation menu is located in the left part of the window. This menu looks prettier than in the previous version of the firmware but has retained its laconic two-level design and logical structure. The current page with settings is displayed in the right part of the window. When you open the Manager, you can see a page with a few setup Wizards that are indeed very helpful. You can also see the My Favorites zone here. You can drag-and-drop up to 10 links to any menu items into this zone for quick access. You can also change the appearance of the start page by clicking the Complete Mode link. This displays all of the menu items in a single list.
The developer has got rid of a Help system for some reason. There is only some info about the additional services and short tips in some of the pages with settings.
Now let’s see what setup options you can use in the Manager.
So the first group of settings is Information. It contains the Status page that offers rather detailed information about the current parameters of the device. For example, it reports the current temperature of the HDDs.
The Log page is especially interesting as it provides logs of the device’s operation divided into categories. Each log is very detailed and visual.
The last page, About, contains information about the trademark, etc.
The next group is called System and contains settings related to the NAS proper. It begins with the Network page where you can specify the parameters of the Ethernet port and change the network name of the DS207+.
The Language page is for choosing the language of the NAT’s web-interface, e-mail notifications and codepage for filenames.
VPN connection parameters are specified on the PPPoE Setting page.
The system date and time of the NAS device are configured on the Time page. Parameters of the NTP protocol are specified here, too.
The way to notify the administrator about errors is specified on the Notification page. You enter the parameters of an external SMTP server and the recipient’s email here.
The power-saving mode of the DS207+ is configured on the Power page. Particularly, you can specify the idle period after which the HDDs will be shut down.
To restore the settings to their defaults and/or format the internal HDD you should go to the Restore Defaults page.
The second group of settings ends with the Firmware Update page. Here you can update the firmware and install patches that would add to the functionality of the already installed firmware.
The Privileges group is about user accounts which are created and edited on the User page.
All users are divided into groups you can create on the Group page.
Each group has its particular access rights which are defined on the Shared Folder page.
The Storage group contains settings pertaining to the folder structure on the DS107+. The HDD Management page is where you can turn data caching on and off.
The Volume page allows to perform basic operations with the disk partitions.
One of the most interesting menu groups is Network Services. It contains setup options of almost all the integrated services. The Win/Mac OS page allows setting the DS207+ up for Windows’ Network Environment or an Apple Talk network.
The integrated FTP-server is configured on the FTP Service page.
The Web Service page is for specifying the parameters of the integrated Apache server. You can also enable Photo Station 3, File Station and Audio Station from here.
The integrated UPnP server is enabled and configured on the Multimedia Service page.
You will find iTunes server settings on the iTunes page.
The Ez-Internet page allows configuring the DDNS service.
The Surveillance Station page is for enabling the appropriate application.
The last page in the Network Services page is called Terminal. It is here that you can enable/disable Telnet and SSH access.
The Backup group is about the backup feature of the integrated HDD. The current settings of the NAS can be saved/restored on the Configuration Backup page.
The Local Backup page allows saving data from the internal disk to an external HDD connected to the DS207+.
The Network Backup and Network Backup Service pages allow saving data backups to another Synology device via network.
The pages of the External Devices group provide a list of supported devices that are connected to the DS107+. You can unmount those devices there, too. You can also define which folder the data from the USB drive will be copied to on your pressing the C button on the front panel.
And last but not least, the Download Station group is about the integrated download manager. The Tasks page is for managing the list of current downloads.
The Settings page is for setting up the manager’s parameters. There are quite a lot of BitTorrent-related settings here.
That’s actually all we wanted to tell you about in this section. Without doubt, the DS207+ comes with high-quality firmware, especially in version 2. This is in fact an example of good firmware for a network device.
There are three programs in the software bundle included with the DS207+.
You begin to work with your newly bought NAS device by launching Synology Assistant. When started for the first time, the program proposes to search for new Synology devices. Then you can choose a device, load firmware into it and run a preliminary setup procedure. Afterwards Synology Assistant will allow you to perform certain operations with Synology devices in a visual manner: search for new devices, attach network disks, set up a network printer, etc.
The second program is called Data Replicator 3. You can use it to make backup copies of data from the remote machine it is installed on to the DS207+’s internal disk. The program interface consists of four screens: a data backup page, a data restore page, a settings page, and a log.
The last program is a remote client for the download manager integrated into the DS207+. It is called Data Redirector. After typing in the server address you can use this program to manage the list of downloads at the server. The client offers all the management options available on the server but provides a visual interface to them.
All the programs from the software bundle feature a user-friendly interface and are really helpful tools indeed. Surely they add more points to the DS207+’s overall score.
Judging by the specs, the Synology DS207+ is going to be as brilliant in our tests as the DS107+. It should be more exciting to test it in comparison with another brand’s product and we took a dual-disk NS2300N NAS from Promise as its opponent.
This is the equipment we used for this test session:
We’ve got devices without WLAN modules today, so we are only going to measure the speed of the NAS’s Gigabit Ethernet port. We first measure the speed of the integrated HDD using IOMeter. There are two patterns: 512 bytes to determine for maximum amount of disk operations per second and 64KB to see the maximum data-transfer rate. We exclude random and write operations in both cases to get the highest results possible.
As expected, the NAS from Synology leaves its opponent far behind. The tables suggest that the disk subsystem of the DS207+ is far superior. This is true for the internal HDDs as well as for the external flash drive. The DS207+ was communicating with the flash drive almost at the latter’s maximum speed (judging by the results of this flash drive when connected directly to a PC). The DS207+’s result of reading the 64KB pattern may be a glitch of IOMeter, however, because the speed is lower by about 19MBps when the flash drive is connected directly to a PC.
The next test is about the integrated FTP server available in both NAS devices. FTP remains an important data-transfer protocol, unfortunately not implemented perfectly in many devices (e.g. in the NS2300N). We measure the data-transfer speed not only for the integrated HDD but also for an external device, a USB flash card. We upload and download files with FlashXFP and mark the average download speed reported by the program in the server connection log. We use the following content types: a 700MB DivX movie (L), a 200MB folder with MP3 files (M), and a 200MB folder with photographs (S).
Synology’s NAS wins this test, too. It delivers quite a different level of performance even though the speed of its FTP server is far lower than the theoretical speed of directly attached disks.
One more test was performed with the DS207+ only. Synology had given us a web-camera Panasonic BL-C1, officially supported by the Surveillance Station, along with the NAS. Of course, we couldn’t help comparing the Surveillance Station and the web-camera’s own firmware. The results were identical in terms of frames-per-second. Moreover, the Surveillance Station offered a resolution of 960x720 the camera’s firmware didn’t offer. But there were problems with image quality. The image from the Surveillance Station (right) is fuzzy even at 640x480 although this fuzziness is not observed when the image is being viewed directly from the web-camera (left). This is the single drawback we could find in our tests of the DS207+.
So, the NAS from Synology is obviously better than the NAS from Promise although the latter is quite good in its own right. The DS207+ seems to be the best home-oriented NAS we have ever tested in our labs.
When we tested the Synology DS107+, it got a very positive report from us. It boasted the highest quality and broadest functionality we had seen by that moment. So we are especially delighted that Synology has been improving its product since then. Thanks to the recently released firmware the DS207+ brings about a new level of functionality. For a NAS, firmware plays an important role, and the DS207+ is an example of that.
Our tests also indicate that the DS207+ delivers highest performance. Considering this, we can recommend this NAS for every user. Its drawbacks are negligible while its price (about $320) is most reasonable.
We here at X-bit labs decided to award Synology DS207+ with our prestigious Editor’s Choice title for the best high-speed NAS server: