Today’s highly digital world got rocked when the pandemic changed our lives in a matter of weeks. With digitalization becoming the primary driving force behind the global economy, there’s a lot more utilization for data than ever before. While we may not be creating content as freely as we used to, there is no stopping the amount of consuming it. With games and movies serving as the main entertainment as a sizable portion of the population are forced indoors, many are getting to know their media library much more. And are also realizing their PCs can’t hold all of their medias.
We’ve reviewed NAS many times before but never in this kind of circumstances wherein people who now enjoy digital movies and content also have to maintain their own library of digital content, some of which they create their own. The age of the creator has brought on a new audience for large storage which brings with it the need to familiarize with storage that’s not always a USB hard drive.
In this review, we’ll take a look at the Synology DiskStation DS920+: a 4-bay network-attached storage that offers a rich set of features from simple storage all the way to virtualization for specialized network applications, all of which you have the option of using other than just using the NAS for pure file storage.
Synology lists the DiskStation DS920+ for Php31999 and replaces the DS918+. Read on to find out more.
Features and Specifications: Synology DiskStation DS920+
- Usage Backup & stream media through personal cloud
- Diskless System
- Intel Celeron J4125 4-core 2.0GHz, burst up to 2.7GHz Processor
- 2 x 10/100/1000M
- 2 x USB3.0
|Maximum Drive Bays with Expansion Unit||9|
|Maximum Internal Raw Capacity||64 TB (16 TB drive x 4) (Capacity may vary by RAID types)|
|CPU||4-core 2.0 (base) / 2.7 (burst) GHz|
|Hardware Encryption Engine (AES-NI)||✓|
|Memory||4 GB DDR4 (Expandable up to 8GB)|
|RJ-45 1GbE LAN Port||2 (with Link Aggregation / Failover support)|
|Compatible Drive Type||3.5″ SATA HDD, 2.5″ SATA HDD, 2.5″ SATA SSD, M.2 2280 NVMe SSD|
Synology ships their NAS products in brown cardboard boxes which they usually put a sticker on denoting the models. The same is the case with the Synology DiskStation DS920+. That said, focusing on the contents inside we have a power adapter, LAN cable, some documentation and the NAS itself. The Synology DiskStation DS920+ is a 4-bay network-attached storage powered by an Intel Celeron J4125 quad-core CPU. This makes it quite a decently capable NAS and its 4GB of starting memory is a good take-off point but can be upgraded to a maximum of 8GB of DDR4 memory.
Like most Synology DiskStation designs, the DS920+ features a full black body made in plastic. The sides are bare but features the Synology logo vents. These have been their design choice for a very long time. At the back is where most of the connections lie and as a straightforward solution, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ features only the essentials. Two 90mm fans are on the back as well to facilitate cooling. These are dynamic fans and will spin up and down depending on internal temperatures and workload.
Going back to connectivities, we have a single USB3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) port on the back. On the other side we have the dual 1GbE LAN ports, which are capable of being bonded through software for link aggregation. This is still my biggest gripe on this model but I’ll talk about that in the conclusion. Last up, aside from power and the Kensington lock notch, we have an eSATA port which is used for Synology’s expansion units, specifically the DX517.
At the front, we have the power button which is illuminated to show power status. We also have the status indicator lights as well as a USB3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) port and of course, the four drive bays.
The bays include a locking mechanism which allows them be secured with a simple key from Synology. It involves a plastic hinge so this is intended more as a safeguard for physical drive locking integrity than actual physical safety. The lock twists which allows the drive tray to be pulled from the bays.
Synology uses drive tray to lines the 3.5″ or 2.5″ to the drive bays. You can use the included drive locks for 3.5″ bays but you’ll need to screw in 2.5″ drives through the bottom screw holes.
The drives are connected to the system via SATA backplane. Make sure that you align your drive with the backplane as forcing your drives may damage the tray, the slide bracket or the actual backplane itself.
Users will have the option of upgrading their memory via a single DDR4 SODIMM slot on the left side of the NAS, pictured above. Now Synology urges you to use Synology first-party or certified modules but as you can see, you can use other modules for your use. There are parts that may not work. For example, our 16GB DDR4-2933 SODIMM single stick ADATA XPG module did not work with the Synology DiskStation DS920+ but this stick doesn’t work with a lot of our NAS so please take note of compatibility. The spare memory we used was a Kingston CBD26D4S9S1ME 4GB DDR4-2666 SODIMM module.
Closer Look – DSM Software
If you’re not that familiar with tech, Synology does have a lot of tools to help you out with the installation process. Their manual has a quick setup guide that should get you up and running once you have installed the drives, connected the NAS to the network and have powered it on.
The first you have to do is to find the NAS to set it up. In most regular usage, the NAS will be on the same network as most of the other network clients. If you’re using a router behind your modem, make sure to connect the NAS to the router as that serves the network.
Now time to setup, if you already know the network IP of the NAS, then opening up the browser and typing the IP will do but for first-time users, you’d be happy to know that Synology has a tool to help you find and manage multiple NAS in your network.
Download and install Synology Assistant. It’s completely free.
Once installed, the tool will scan your network for existing and powered on NAS. As you can see we have a couple of NAS in our network and the Synology Assistant shows us a lot of info including the status of our NAS and seems like our DS920+ has not yet been installed. Highlight the DS920+ and click connect on the top menu.
You’ll be presented with an installation menu on first install and you’ll be able to breeze through them as they’re presented as simple as possible. For those who are moving disks away from other NAS brands, certain file systems can be moved from one another including our DS218+ system moved to the DS920+.
After installation and one more login, you’ll be presented with the menu above. Synology DiskStation Manager or DSM is now on version 6 which is a long time away from my first DSM which was DSM 1.8. Still, Synology has managed to maintain an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface versus its contemporaries in the industry.
The strongest part of the Synology’s DSM is their app library. Synology’s first party and 3rd-party app offerings is rich and provides features for many of the NAS’ intended application like Video Station for entertainment, an office solution, multiple backup solutions and even virtualization solutions for those that need networking appliance apps.
This underlying library of applications makes the Synology DiskStation and the DS920+ a strong option for a rather budget option for varied home-use or SOHO application NAS.
Another feature Synology brings with the DS920+ is the M.2 SSD cache. The DS920+ has 2 M.2 slots on the bottom of the case which supports two M.2 SSDs and will operate at Gen3 speeds. You can use the SSDs are cache acceleration for the actual drive arrays on the NAS for both read and write. I highly encourage read-only setup as you wont be flooding this drive with write requests and you probably don’t need it as the inbound pipe through the gigabit LAN just isn’t sufficient for that kind of traffic.
Uses will have the option of using up to 4 drives and setting them up in various RAID arrays such as Synology Hybrid RAID-1 (SHR) or SHR-2 for easier expansion or more traditional RAID arrays like RAID0/1/5/6 or RAID10. I personally went with RAID10 but you can opt to go with RAID5 if you want more capacity but if you’re not that familiar, I highly recommend sticking with SHR.
Router/Switch: ROG RAPTURE GT-AC5300
Intel Core i7-10700K
32GB TridentZ RGB Neo DDR4-3600
ASUS ProArt Z490 Creator 10G
ASUS 10GbE PCIE Card
Seagate FireCuda 910 Gen3 1TB SSD
NAS Disks: 4x Seagate IronWolf ST4000VN008-2DR166
Now these tests are meant to highlight the performance of the DS920+ in best-case scenario. We’ve setup a fast client as well as the fastest possible setup for the NAS with RAID0 and RAID10.
Crystal DiskMark 8
|5||Random 4KB Read||16.23||16.27|
|6||Random 4KB Write||14.82||14.12|
Real-World Transfer (Witcher 3 Install Folder)
(Average MB/s and Completion Time in seconds)
I do acknowledge that I did not perform a stress test but if your use-case has a situation wherein a NAS will get bogged down by multiple users, I do assume you’re more than knowledgeable enough to gauge that for yourself. Still, the main thing I want to highlight here is that in both potential fastest setup, we are hitting similar numbers. Familiar NAS and networking people will know why already but going back a few segments earlier we mentioned that the DS920+ features 2 1GbE LAN. And as good as that sounds, Gigabit ethernet is something that’s a little bit on the entry-level side nowadays. With multigig ethernet now a thing, this is sorely the biggest limitation of the DS920+ as demonstrated by our test.
User Experience and Conclusion
For anyone looking for basic expansion storage, any NAS will do but as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, some things have just been accelerated to insane levels including digital media consumption. So, if you’re a content creator, a streamer or someone who likes to encode DVD and Bluray videos or just like to store data, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ presents the next level of storage that you may get. While it can function as a simple backup storage, it can also provide you some other bonuses: I mentioned earlier that Synology has a built-in office suite. If your kids are doing remote schooling and you’re dedicating their study time for purely study, if you’re savvy enough, you can limit their internet access and they can use Synology Office as an alternative to cloud-based options like Google Docs. Another extended use is the Docker app which lets advanced users use virtualized applications for many networking use. If you’re a student learning networking appliances like firewalls, this serves as a good playground versus physically building a PC.
Of course those are some of the theoretical uses of the Synology DiskStation DS920+. More traditional applications like backup, media servers etc. are extended thru scheduled and automated backups as well as transcoding for media. I personally use the DS920+ as my direct backup of my games library as well as my work folders with the work folder synced in real-time while the games are backed up every week. But why back-up games anyway? Well, in case your internet provider is not the best in the world or you have an outage, getting back from a backup will save you from downloading a 50GB game that would probably take hours to a few minutes from a backup. Not to mention, patches in Warzone are nearly as large as the game itself. When doing streams, all my stream recording are recorded directly into the DS920+ and are then synced to my cloud storage, completely automated, which can be accessed by another person from a remote location that does the editing for the videos.
At around $690 or Php31,999 (PH MSRP), its certainly a steep jump-off point if its your first NAS but the economics does involve data integrity and while you can buy a 2-bay for less, two 4TB drives will be probably cost just a bit less than four 2TB drives but you’ll get the same capacity with faster performance. Of course this is totally optional, but its going to be expensive moving from a 2-bay NAS to a 4-bay NAS than just scaling your disks to match the storage you need plus protection.
That said, the Synology DiskStation is more intended for tech-savvy users and SOHO/SMB applications. Still, its an easy choice for a highly expandable NAS as well for both entertainment and backup/file storage use. While I do point out the need for multigig as the most glaring issue here, not all homes have them as well and given the hardware needs, it might increase the cost as well, As it is, the Synology DiskStation DS920+ is priced just right for its feature set and making it jump to $800 may make it compete with more business-oriented solutions and draw it further away from home-use. If you don’t need the RAID solutions of a 4-bay or the advanced features, you can check out Synology’s product library on their website or use their NAS selector to pick the best one for you. Let me know in the comment if you need help in choosing the right NAS for you.
Synology’s DiskStation DS920+ is a great option for people looking to invest in growing storage as well as a centralized entertainment repository but its underlying features also makes it great for those that need a lab NAS to play around with.
Synology backs their DiskStation DS920+ with a 3-year warranty. Extended warranty are sold separately. I give it my B2G Recommended Award![one_half]
- Very easy to use
- Extensive app library to maximize feature set
- M.2 slots for SSD cache
- Tool-less drive installation
- Link aggregation
- Expandable storage
- No multi-Gig connectivity, even 2.5Gbps would’ve been great
- No LAN status LED indicator