Synology DiskStation DS409slim review: Synology DiskStation DS409slim

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MSRP: $399.00

The Good The Synology Disk Station DS409slim offers fast performance, a robust Web interface, and a generous feature set in a compact, aesthetically pleasant, and practical design.

The Bad The Synology Disk Station DS409slim doesn't come with any storage and is not easy enough for novice home users to use. Its Surveillance Station requires additional license fees to support more than one IP camera and its Download Station's software doesn't fully support Web sites that require authentication.

The Bottom Line The Synology Disk Station DS409slim makes an excellent NAS server for both home and small business applications, and it fits especially well in offices with limited space.

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8.1 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

Synology Disk Station DS409slim is a true miniature powerhouse in the network-attached storage device market. It's the first 2.5-inch hard-drive-based NAS server we've reviewed that offers hot-swappable capability. However, that is its least impressive feature. The server did well in our performance tests and, like other Synology products we've worked on, including the DS107+ and the DS209+, it comes with a vast array of features, great expandability, and a top-notch user interface.

Priced by retailers anywhere from $390 to $430, the DS409slim is relatively expensive considering you must pay more for the necessary hard drives. A lot of other NAS servers (such as the WD My Book World Edition , or Iomega SctorCenter ix2-200, to name a few) cost about the same but come with terabytes of storage already included. Also note that because the DS409slim supports 2.5-inch hard drives, its ratio of price per storage is much higher than that of most 3.5-inch hard drive-based NAS servers. To make up for this, the DS409slim is uniquely compact, looks great, and offers features that are not available in many other NAS servers.

If you have a small office space, a big interest in networking, and want to get the most out of your NAS server, the DS409slim will be worth your investment.

Setup and ease of use
The Synology Disk Station DS409slim looks cute; it bears more of a resemblance to a fancy Apple accessory than to a storage device, despite its black color. It also comes in a very compact package, measuring just 4.72 inches tall by 4.13 inches wide by 5.6 inches deep, and weighs just a little more than a pound (without a hard drive).

On the front, the unit has a USB port and an array of indicator lights showing the status of the hard drives, the connection, and the power. On the side there's a vertical copy button right under the on/off switch. This is a useful feature that allows you to quickly copy the entire contents of a thumb drive onto the NAS' internal storage. On the back is another USB port (for printers or an external hard drive), an eSATA port (for high-speed external storage devices), a Gigabit Ethernet port, and, of course, the four drive bays. Each bay comes with a very sturdy tray that firmly holds the drive; nonetheless, you can easily remove and install a drive on the tray using a screw driver. The trays can be pulled out of the drive bays easily.

The cooling fan, located on the bottom of the unit, is larger than we'd expect for a drive of this size. The DS409slim's four "feet" give it ample clearance for ventilation.

We tried the DS409slim with four 32GB hard drives, though only one is necessary. If you want to set up the drives into a RAID configuration, you'll need at least two hard drives for RAID 1 and RAID 0 and at least three for RAID 5. Also, the drives can be configured in RAID 6 and JBOD setups. It only takes a minute or so to switch the DS409slim's hard drives from one setup to another if you choose not to perform the disk check. With disk-checking, this time increased to about 30 minutes, which is still relatively still short compared with other NAS servers that can sometimes take hours to complete the same job. This time will vary depending on the capacities of the attached hard drives.

It was easy enough to set up the DS409slim, though there's no help manual included in the package. The device comes with a CD containing Synology Assistant software that helps map network drives, installs a printer (if you want to connect a USB printer to the NAS server), and launches the Web interface to manage the server. The Web-interface is one of the best user interfaces for NAS servers we've seen.

Once launched, all features and functions of the DS409slim are listed in a well-organized menu on the left of the interface. Most of the setup section is a wizard that guides you through. For example, when we clicked on "Share Folder" and then clicked "Create," a wizard launched to walk us through all the steps involved in making a new share folder, assigning user access to that folder, etc.

Running Synology Disk Station Manager 2.2 firmware, the DS409slim shares the same robust feature set as the DS209+ had. The DS409slim's Surveillance Station now supports up to 8 cameras (down from 10 in the DS209+, possibly due to the size of the unit). Unfortunately, just like with the previous model, only one camera license is included and you'll have to pay $49 each for any additional licenses. Thus, using the DS409slim as a complete surveillance system would require you to spend an extra $400 or so just for the camera licenses (apart from the cost of the cameras themselves, of course).

The second significant feature of the DS409slim is its Download Station, which supports Web sites that require authentication (such as RapidShare, eMule, and BitTorrent file-sharing services). Unfortunately, however, its Download Director software desktop application, which allows for remotely managing the Download Station, doesn't support starting a new download from sites that require authentication. So if you want to download a big file from a subscription service, you'll need to log into the NAS' Web-interface to do so. The Download Station also doesn't keep track of RSS feeds.

Like with the DS209+, the DS409slim comes with Photo Station 3, which allows you to easily to organize photos into albums and may be the device's biggest selling point for home users. Once activated, a share folder called "photo" will be created on the DS409slim. One you've dragged your photos into this share folder, the DS409slim will take care of the rest and turn each folder of photos into a well-organized, customizable album. You can then browse the album via a Web browser and (just like with Google's Picasa Web album ) you can very easily add captions and comments to each photo and album.

Furthermore, Photo Station includes a blogging function, which allows forwriting your own blog linked to the photo album. You can also create user accounts to allow and limit access to the photo album. We tried a folder of about 500 photos and the NAS server took about 10 minutes to generate thumbnails for them all.

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