Synology DiskStation DS1513+ review:

A new level for NAS excellence

The DS1513+'s Web interface resembles a native operating system and functions like one, all within the Web page.
The DS1513 's robust Web interface resembles a native operating system and functions like one, all within the Web page. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Once logged in (the server comes with a default admin account that has no password), the Web interface -- which works with any browser, be it Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome -- looks just like the graphic user interface (GUI) of a native operating system.

If you have experience with Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, it's quite easy to figure out how the interface is organized and how it functions. There are familiar items such as the Start button, the task bar, control panel, and so on, that are used to access the settings and features of the server. You can also open multiple windows at a time for different tasks, and resize and minimize them to the task bar to call them back later. The interface is also very responsive, with smooth animated transitions. In all, it's very impressive.

Vast amount of features for both home and business
It would be an understatement to say the DS1513+ offers a lot of features. It offers everything storage- and server-related for a home or a small or medium businesses.

For one, the server can handle Time Machine backup natively, provides all type of hosting services such as SQL, FPT, VPN, and DHCP; supports popular vitalization technology (VMware vSphere 5.1 with VAAI Support, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenCenter) and up to 2,048 user accounts. Beyond that, you can add a lot more to its repertoire via the Package Center.

The Package Center is similar to the Apple's App Store. Here you can browse for and add, remove, or update applications (called packages) that run within the server. Each package offers a new feature, and most of them are free. The server supports packages developed by Synology itself, which are always free, and those from third parties. There is a large selection of packages currently available, divided in five categories, which include Backup, Multimedia, Business, Security, and Utilities.

Multimedia contains apps for entertainment, such as Audio Station, iTunes Server, Photo Station, Video Station, Plex Media Server, and so on. And the Business category contains apps for small and medium-size businesses.

The Package Center enables access to hundreds of applications that add more function and features to the NAS server.
The Package Center enables access to hundreds of applications that add more function and features to the NAS server. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

Note that while I had no problem figuring the server out and setting most of its features, setting up the server is not for novice users to undertake. While DSM 4.2 comes with many improvements and enhancements in terms of making the initial setup straightforward, especially for features that can be accessed remotely via the Internet, by nature, these require a fair amount of networking know-how. On the other hand, I believe most savvy users won't have a hard time getting the server up and running.

I tried just a few of the apps that are available, and those that I tried out worked very well. My favorites are Surveillance Station, Download Station, Cloud Station, and Plex Media Server.

The DS1513+'s Surveillance Station supports up to 20 IP cameras (only one camera license is included, and additional camera licenses cost $49 each) and could be a very comprehensive surveillance system. This feature worked extremely well in my trial. Synology also offers an app called DS Cam for both the iPhone and Android devices, allowing for monitoring your home or business via your mobile device even when you're out and about.

The Download Station is arguably the most comprehensive download application; it allows the server to download files from the Internet by itself and is able to download files from Web sites that require authentication (such as RapidShare). It also supports BitTorrent file-sharing services. You can search for desired content and double-click on the result to start the download. You can also manage the downloads remotely from a mobile device via the DS Download mobile app for Android and iOS. The server can handle up to 80 concurrent downloads at a time.

The Cloud Station works similarly to the Dropbox service, but much better. There's no limit to how many computers you can use for syncing and how much data can be synced, as long as it doesn't take up more than the available space on the server or the quota of the user account. The only limit of the Cloud Station is the fact that it won't sync files that are larger than 10GB. With support for more than 2,000 user accounts, if you have a fast connection to the Internet, you could start your own cloud storage service with this feature.

The Plex Media Server package allows the server to access and stream a large selection of online content, both free and subscription-based.
The Plex Media Server package allows the server to access and stream a large selection of online content, both free and subscription-based. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

If you're a fan of media streaming, you might already know about the Plex Media Server. The DS1513+ comes with a Plex Media Server package that allows for streaming content stored on the server to not just local devices, but also to remote and mobile devices. With this app installed and a mobile Plex app, you can watch many of your favorite shows any time, anywhere. In addition, there's also a DS Video package that works with the DS Video mobile app to offers similar media streaming experience. The DS Video package also works with a USB or networked TV tuner (such as the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Dual) to record and stream TV programs.

In all, the DS1513+ offers very impressive features. Those mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can expect from the server.

I tested the DS1513+ both with Hybrid RAID and RAID 0, and it offered stellar data rates. Note that I tested the server with just one network port. This is consistent with how all NAS servers have been tested for CNET reviews.

In Hybrid RAID, which was similar to RAID 5 in this case, the server scored 109MBps and 112MBps for writing and reading, respectively. In RAID 0, it did slightly better with 115MBps and 117MBps for writing and reading respectively. These numbers consistently topped the charts and were close to the maximum speed of a single Gigabit connection. Synology says when used with a supported switch and all four of its network ports being utilized, the DS1513+ can offers the speeds of up to 200MBps for writing and 350MBps for reading.

Performance-wise, the DS1513+ proved to be the fastest NAS server I've tested and a formidable upgrade to the already-excellent DS1511+. The server also performed very quietly; the only sound I could hear from it was that of the internal hard drives.

CNET Labs NAS performance scores
(Via wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, measured in megabytes per second;
longer bars indicate better performance)

The Synology DiskStation DS1513+ brings enterprise-grade features and performance down to a budget that general consumers can feasibly afford. Among other things, the server excelled at being a flexible and capable entertainment hub that can support a large amount of concurrent devices and users. Business users will also appreciate its vast amount of business-related applications.

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