Last year, we reviewed Synology's DS107+, which earned our Editors' Choice award for its vast amount of features, great expandability, and top-notch user interface. The DS209+ impressed us even more by offering those aforementioned attributes, plus RAID configurations and unprecedented throughput speed. The unit unfortunately lacks what the DS107+ also lacked: an easy-to-use interface for the novice user. If you don't know much about computers and just want something that you can plug in and use, you might want to try something else, such as the Western Digital My Book World Edition. On the other hand, when money is not an issue and if you're comfortable tinkering with networking device settings, the DS209+ is absolutely a great choice. It offers nearly all you could ever need in a NAS server.
Setup and ease of use
The Synology DS209+ review unit we received comes with two 500GB hard drives; however, Synology does not sell the DS209+ with any hard drives and you will be required to install your own. (Most NAS servers that we've reviewed at this price, or even cheaper, come with storage.) Fortunately, the device supports SATA hard drives of all sizes from any vendors. If you want to use a RAID solution, it's recommended that you get two identical hard drives.
Unlike most NAS servers we've reviewed, the DS209+ will require a Phillips head screwdriver to install hard drives. Other than that, this process is fairly easy and straight forward.
Since we had some previous experience setting up the similar DS107+, connecting the DS209+ to our network was painless. While the process is fairly self-explanatory, the uninitiated may need to refer to the instructions included. The device also comes with a software CD that contains Synology Assistant, which detects the NAS on the network, 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.
Out of the box, the DS209+ isn't set up with any shared folders or any of its features turned on. The server's Web interface (an
Once launched, all features and functions of the DS209+ are listed in a well-organized menu on the left of the interface. Most of the setup section is handled by a wizard that guides you. For example, when we clicked on "Share Folder" and then clicked "Create," a wizard launches to walk us through all the steps involved in making a new share folder, assigning user access to that folder, etc.
The review unit comes with RAID 1 preinstalled; however, it was easy to switch between the RAID configurations, using the wizard in the "Volume Management" section. The DS209+ supports a quick mode to set up the RAID array where it skips the disk check. This helps to significantly reduce the RAID build time to about 30 minutes, down from hours, if done in normal mode.
Other than the black color and the width, which is doubled, the DS209+ shares a similar design with the DS107+, with two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a reset button on the back. On the front, it features a slick panel with blue LED indicators that show the status of the hard drive, network activity, and the power status. There's also another USB port, an eSATA port, a power button, and a USB copy button. This button copies the entire contents of a USB drive into a designated folder of the NAS' internal hard drive, making for a quick solution for backing up your thumb drive.
We don't like the eSATA port on the front; this space is reserved for a semipermanent connection, therefore having the port in the back would reduce cable clutter. Like the DS107+, the DS209+ can support three USB devices at the same time, as long as the amount of printers connected is limited to one.
We didn't delve deeply into all of the features the DS209+ has to offer, however, we were impressed with what we did try.
The DS209+'s surveillance station now supports up to 10 cameras (up from 6 in the DS107+). Unfortunately, only one camera license is included; you'll have to pay $49 per additional license. So, if you want to use it as a surveillance system, you'd be paying an additional $450 just for the camera licenses (apart from the cost of the cameras themselves). We tried the NAS server with the Panasonic BL-C1 camera and found that it had an even better response time than when we used the same camera on the DS107+. This is most likely because of the DS209+'s improved CPU speed and amount of RAM.
One noticeable change in the DS209+ over the DS107+ is its download station, which is now capable of downloading from Web sites that require authentication. We tried it with a 2GB file from RapidShare and had no problems as long as we used the DS209+'s Web-based interface . When we tried it with the included desktop software, Synology Download Director, we found that it was not compatible with Web sites that have authentication requirements. The DS209+'s Download Station now also fully supports eMule file-sharing service.
Unfortunately, the Download Station doesn't support keeping track of RSS feeds, which was a useful feature in the Zyxel NSA-220. This is rather disappointing. Since the DS209+ supports iTunes and UPnP media servers, it would be useful if you could keep track of audio and video podcasts and make them available to the rest of the devices connected to the network.
The DS209+ 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 DS209. One you've dragged your photos into this share folder, the DS209+ 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 like in Google's Picasa Web album , you can very easily add captions and comment to each photo/album. You can also apply different themes to the albums.