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Yesterday, we looked at the Drobo FS Data Robotics Drobo FS NAS Review and Giveaway Data Robotics Drobo FS NAS Review and Giveaway Read More . While that network-attached storage (NAS) looked easy to upgrade and practically future-proof, it didn’t come with an intuitive GUI.

Synology’s DiskStation 411j (DS411j) NAS is a whole different beast and what it lacks in style, it makes up with functionality. If you were planning to buy a NAS for your home, I’ll tell you whether or not the DS411j is the right choice for you. Plus, we’ll be giving this review unit away, bundled with 4 TB of storage.

Jumping right in.

The most attractive feature about the DS411j is its price. At $359.99 for a diskless system, while the version with 4 x 1 TB drives preinstalled goes for $769.99, it’s significantly cheaper than most of its competitors. If you’re a techy DIY-er, you would instinctively opt for the diskless system, buy your own hard drives and come up with a 10 TB NAS for about $759.99. And that would be the option I’d choose, I’ll tell you why in a minute.

The DS411j is shorter but wider than the Drobo FS. It’s got a plastic front panel, fitted with a large, round power button, and indicators for network connectivity and hard disk activity. It also has a couple of cooling vents at the top and bottom.

synology nas review

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The styling sort of falls short at the back and you’ll find two honeycomb fan grills, a power inlet, a gigabit ethernet interface and two USB 2.0 ports. Interestingly, the NAS accepts USB wireless dongles — so you won’t need to physically connect it to a router. Here’s a full list of wireless dongles that it is compatible with.

As you can see from the image below, there are 4 protruding thumbscrews which attaches the rear panel to the body. Unscrew them and the panel, along with the fans flip downwards; allowing you to remove the top enclosure and reveal its innards. It’s powered by a 1.2 GHz processor and has 128 MB of DDR2 memory which is not upgradeable — however, these stats won’t mean much if you’re just a casual user.

synology nas review

Inside, you’ll find a 4-drive array. Each drive is attached to a plastic drive tray and screwed to the chassis. The drive tray is able to hold both 2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA drives. So here’s where you ask yourself if you are capable enough to perform an upgrade on this system, if necessary. Not to mention, if a drive fails, it won’t be an easy task replacing it if you’re not fond of screws. Personally, I didn’t have an easy time screwing one of the thumbscrews back on.

Installation/Detection

Before you can start enjoying the DS411j, it needs to be initialised. Synology provides a startup disk and some quick start instructions that are very easy to follow. A desktop client (Win/Mac) detects the unconfigured DS411j on the network and guides you to format the drives and install the operating system dubbed DSM.

Depending on the when you purchase the NAS, you may have to download the latest version of DSM from Synology, which is slightly over 100 MB.

synology nas review

The system takes about 10 minutes to initialise so you may want to make some coffee.

synology nas review

Once that is done, the Synology Assistant will detect the NAS and provide you with its IP address so that you are able to log in from any browser. Or just double click on the device on the list.

synology ds411j nas

And you’ll be greeted by the login screen. The default username is ‘admin’ and the password was set during initialisation (which was not pictured).

synology ds411j nas

As you can see, the DSM is pretty cool and looks like a Web OS. It’s truly the highlight of the product and in all honesty, blows every other GUI away with its multitasking capabilities. It’s that good. But at this point, we’re not out of the woods yet. There is still some configuration to perform.

synology nas review

Firstly, the drives have to be combined using RAID. The easy way to go about this is to choose Synology Hybrid RAID, which natively provides 1 disk redundancy, allows up to 12 GB of storage and the flexibility of expanding to a larger total volume size when a new hard disk is inserted into the array. Otherwise, you could manually configure the drives by selecting any RAID-protected volume types (2-4 way RAID 1, RAID 10, RAID 5, RAID 5+Spare, and RAID 6) as well as volume types without data protection (Basic, JBOD, and RAID 0).

synology nas review

As you can clearly see, the process isn’t very difficult and even someone without any computing knowledge will be able to set this system up in no time, thanks to the intuitive DSM.

synology nas review

When that is done, a new network share will be available. Using the DSM, you’re able to set the share’s access privileges and add new shares easily.

synology nas review

synology ds411j nas review

These network shares are completely cross platform and you have the option of enabling/disabling Windows or Mac support at any time by accessing the control panel.

Expansion

Depending on the RAID configuration selected, expanding the system can be a breeze or slightly more tricky. If you went the Synology Hybrid RAID route, then expanding is a mere disk exchange — swap out the lowest capacity disk for a larger one. Unfortunately, the disks are not hot-swappable, which means that you’ll need to power down the NAS before attempting to perform the upgrade — that’s mostly attributed to the fact that the body needs to be unscrewed before you’re able to reach the drives.

Management

Going back to the highlight of the device, DSM provides a simple, one-click solution for just about everything. Need a torrent client? Click and you’re set. Need a DLNA media server? Click and you’re set. Need an iTunes server? Yes, just click and you’re set. This is what I love most about the DS411j and all Synology NAS products.

synology ds411j nas review

The DSM also provides you with a convenient way of monitoring the system’s disk usage, operating temperature, memory usage and other finer details via the Resource Monitor and Storage Manager.

synology ds411j review

Other great features include a power schedule which allows you to set power on/off times, a file browser with archiving/unarchiving capabilities, remote backup, Time Machine support and remote internet access to the NAS so that you can connect to it from just about anywhere and control your torrent downloads.

synology ds411j nas review

Conclusion

Although the DS411j doesn’t look the part, it is in every way quite capable. If you can get past the fact that inserting drives into the array isn’t a piece of cake, the DS411j is a full-featured, brilliant product that’s well worth your money.

Purchase it online from any authorised reseller.

MakeUseOf would like to thank Synology for their generosity. Interesting in sponsoring? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us via email.

  1. Eric B
    February 17, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Synology stuff and DSM are really great
    Thanks for this Giveaway

  2. Eric B
    February 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Synology stuff and DSM are really great
    Thanks for this Giveaway

  3. CS
    February 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    This is the first MUO review that I've read completely as I am looking into NAS solutions. And it's written very well and is easy to read.

    Thx and well done!

  4. CS
    February 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    This is the first MUO review that I've read completely as I am looking into NAS solutions. And it's written very well and is easy to read.

    Thx and well done!

  5. monty
    February 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    This is a great site! This is my first entry and I found it because I was researching the synology product! Thanks for the excellent review!

  6. Vidyesh
    February 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

    Can we know why?! :O

  7. Vidyesh
    February 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Individuals who reside in a country embargoed by the United States; Belgium, Norway, Sweden, or India are not permitted to enter.

    Can we know why?! :O

  8. Ravi Chauhan
    February 8, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the Great give away

  9. Niekhindriks
    February 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Great article,

    Thanks for the information about the DDR2 memory which is not upgradeable, i was searching for this info for a while!

    Does it work well to stream movie's by the DS411j? For example streaming full hd blu ray movies?

    • ænon1mus
      February 10, 2011 at 2:52 am

      The only limitation is your network speed. The NAS serves it just fine.

  10. Niekhindriks
    February 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Great article,

    Thanks for the information about the DDR2 memory which is not upgradeable, i was searching for this info for a while!

    Does it work well to stream movie's by the DS411j? For example streaming full hd blu ray movies?

  11. Shailesh J Kumar
    February 4, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    This is amazing....keep up the good work Make Use Of team.....

  12. Eric Montgomery
    February 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    The Synology boxes and their DSM software are very cool! Participated and hopeful! :)

  13. slugbug55
    February 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    I'll be crossing my fingers and toes.

  14. John Bunka
    January 29, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    thanks! this is fantastic

  15. kurtumi
    January 29, 2011 at 12:55 am

    Thanks for nice GiveAway, good luck to everyone.
    http://twitter.com/#!/kurtumi/...

  16. kurtumi
    January 28, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks for nice GiveAway, good luck to everyone.
    http://twitter.com/#!/kurtumi/status/31137677902356480

  17. Yuni Ardita Sari Dewi
    January 27, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    I'm in.

  18. Stéphane M
    January 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    I'd like to have it!

  19. Rilo
    January 24, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Wow, hope i win this! ;)

  20. Arif
    January 23, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    thx to make use of.....for such a awesome giveaway

  21. arditasari
    January 22, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Please do count me in.
    Thanks.

  22. arditasari
    January 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Please do count me in.
    Thanks.

  23. Xps
    January 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    This unit looks great! I've been looking around Newegg lately for a good and affordable NAS. The GUI is very appealing and the 4TB would definitely suit my needs.

    I have a question about the eligibility. In step 1, it says I can either be a fan on Facebook or follower on Twitter, but in the blue eligibility box below it says I need to be a fan on Facebook. I'm not a fan of the "like" or "fan" feature on Facebook so I don't use it at all, but I do follow you guys on Twitter. Am I still eligible?

  24. Xps
    January 21, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    This unit looks great! I've been looking around Newegg lately for a good and affordable NAS. The GUI is very appealing and the 4TB would definitely suit my needs.

    I have a question about the eligibility. In step 1, it says I can either be a fan on Facebook or follower on Twitter, but in the blue eligibility box below it says I need to be a fan on Facebook. I'm not a fan of the "like" or "fan" feature on Facebook so I don't use it at all, but I do follow you guys on Twitter. Am I still eligible?

  25. Crakerdn
    January 20, 2011 at 12:34 am

    DROOL :} Thats all I can say......

  26. Crakerdn
    January 20, 2011 at 1:36 am

    The shipping and handling of a very heavy item may cost more than the retail item sells for Sunil..

    Now if you would like to move to Australia and stay long enough to collect it, that would work..

  27. Sunil
    January 19, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Why are people from India not allowed to enter?

    • Crakerdn
      January 20, 2011 at 12:36 am

      The shipping and handling of a very heavy item may cost more than the retail item sells for Sunil..

      Now if you would like to move to Australia and stay long enough to collect it, that would work..

    • ænon1mus
      January 26, 2011 at 5:11 am

      It's actually Facebook's policy to disallow participants from certain countries not ours.

  28. Osama Javaid
    January 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

    participated

  29. Ian H.
    January 19, 2011 at 6:14 am

    Quick question on speed: I have a Netgear NAS, and the webserver on it is incredibly slow, to the point where it's useless as a dev machine. I see this one has a faster processor, but how well does it serve pages in a PHP/MySQL environment? Thanks!

    • ænon1mus
      January 26, 2011 at 5:11 am

      Sorry Ian, I haven't had a chance to test that feature.

  30. Aswath Raja
    January 18, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Liked and Tweeted it..i hope i win..atleast this one..havent won any till now..and have taken part in many giveaways

  31. Dav532000
    January 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    I am also diabled and spend most of my time on the Pc that I built myself a few years ago, so this would come in handy for all my pictures, videos etc. Great giveaway again and with 4tb of storage what more could you ask. The dead line states -
    Friday, February 18th at 2100hrs. Liked it and Tweeted it.

  32. Ivan kolevski
    January 18, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Cool, this would be greatly used and appreciated. Thanks for the giveaway.

  33. Dav532000
    January 19, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I am also diabled and spend most of my time on the Pc that I built myself a few years ago, so this would come in handy for all my pictures, videos etc. Great giveaway again and with 4tb of storage what more could you ask. The dead line states -
    Friday, February 18th at 2100hrs. Liked it and Tweeted it.

  34. imarc cj
    January 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    that's what I need for my mac...

  35. Anonymous
    January 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Great give away. What is the real deadline btw?

  36. Greg Martin
    January 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Yep. Noticed the October 18th after I submitted everything. Maybe, I'll win in spite of the time warp.

  37. Tbabb111
    January 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    This is too cool. Now that I am disabled, I spend an enormous amount of time on the computer. It is amazing how often I have to get it cleaned up. I could really use th extra space, so I quit losing important documents and my "keepables"

  38. Ben Lang
    January 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    In, awesome!

  39. Kevin Ross
    January 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks !

  40. Stéphane M
    January 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks for this other great giveaway!

  41. Randy
    January 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm
  42. Erik C. Thauvin
    January 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Seriously, October 18th? This thing will be antiquated by then.

  43. Randy
    January 18, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Liked and Tweeted!
    http://twitter.com/#!/MrXindee...

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