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NAS Reviews

Disk Station
At a glance
ProductSynology Disk Station (DS213+)   [Website]
SummaryHigh performance value-priced two-bay NAS based on dual-core Freescale QorIQ CPU
Pros• High Performance for a non-Atom NAS
• Quiet
• Fast attached backup via eSATA
Cons• Mostly plastic construction

Typical Price: $500  Buy From Amazon

{mospagebreak toctitle=Overview, Inside, Features}

Overview

Updated 11/19/13: Corrected processor information

When I recently reviewed Synology's DS413, I was surprised at its high performance. The 413 uses a dual-core ARM-based Freescale SoC based on PowerPC e500 cores to produce throughput close to what I normally see from only Intel Atom-based NASes.

The DS213+ is basically a two-bay RAID 1 version of the DS413, with similar performance. It's the only other NAS in Synology's current offerings to use the same Freescale processor. In a decision only understood by Synology marketing, the DS213+ is positioned as the entry-level product in Synology's "Standard Business" family, while the DS413 falls under the "Workgroups & Small Business" banner. And yes, there is a DS213 that is under the same "Workgroups & Small Business" umbrella. But it uses a 2 GHz Marvell Kirkwood SoC. Go figure.

The 213+ looks like a slimmed-down DS413. It comes a mostly-plastic enclosure that I think is kind of chintzy for a business-class (and priced) NAS. The panel diagram below shows the ports and lights. Note the front panel SD card slot, which you don't get on the DS413. There's only one Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB 2.0, one eSATA and two USB 3.0 ports.

DS213+ lights and ports

DS213+ lights and ports

Note that there are no VGA or HDMI ports to support an attached console, nor is there an LCD status panel on the front.

Inside

The plastic Synology cases require care to open up. Fortunately, the folks at techPowerUp have a nice set of inside pictures in their review, which is where most of the information in Table 1 comes from, as does the board photo. Synology likes to cover its flash with a label, which wasn't peeled up to identify the device. So we don't know the flash capacity.

  DS213+
CPU Freescale QorIQ P1022 @ 1.067 GHz
Ethernet Realtek RTL8211E
RAM 512 GB DDR3
Flash ?
SATA Silicon Image SiI3132
USB 3.0 NEC D720200F1
uC PIC16F883
Table 1: DS213+ component comparison

The processor is the dual-core version of Freescale's "family of processors is designed to deliver complex application processing performance with exceptional feature integration and high-speed connectivity for IP networking and advanced media processing applications". As we found in the DS413 review, this SoC packs a pretty good punch.

DS213+ main board (Photo credit, techPowerUp. Used by permission)

DS213+ main board
(Photo credit, techPowerUp. Used by permission)

Power consumption measured 28 W with two WD RE4 2TB (WD2003FYYS) drives Synology supplied spun up and 8 W when the programmable drive spindown kicked in. Fan noise, in the default "Quiet" mode (the other two modes are "Cool" and "Low-Power") was barely audible and there was little idle drive noise in my quiet home office environment. So I rated the 213+' noise as very low.

Features

The 213+ supports all the features in Synology's DiskStation Manager (DSM) 4.1 OS. The DSM 4.1-2657 build used for testing has a very extensive feature list, which is described in Synology's DSM Highlight pages. See the DS1512+ review for a feature summary.


Performance

I tested the DS213+ with DSM 4.1-2668 firmware, using our NAS test process with RAID 0 and 1 volumes.

Windows File Copy tests show writes slower than reads by 20 MB/s for RAID 0 and almost 30 MB/s for RAID 1. In both RAID 0 and 1, reads measured just shy of 100 MB/s.

Synology DS213+ DiskStation benchmark summary

Synology DS213+ DiskStation benchmark summary

Intel NASPT File Copy results were mixed, with 99 MB/s write for RAID 0 and only 84 MB/s for RAID 1. Read throughput was lower than measured with Windows Filecopy, coming in around 90 MB/s in both cases.

iSCSI performance of 62 MB/s for write and 65 MB/s for read is just about the same as we measured for the DS413.

Attached backup tests were run with our standard Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCKU3SEF) containing a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive. Results using a USB 3.0 connection were again disappointing, with only minor gains over USB 2.0. Best throughput of just shy of 80 MB/s was again obtained using eSATA and a FAT-formatted drive.

Network backup to a DeltaCopy target on our NAS Testbed system measured around 33 MB/s, virtually the same as measured with the DS413.

Performance - Comparative

To put the DS213+' performance in perspective, I created a set of custom performance charts using the NAS Finder. Since there are no other current-generation two-bay Freescale-based NASes to compare, I chose two that run on 1.6 GHz Marvell Kirwood SoC's: ZyXEL's NSA325; and NETGEAR's ReadyNAS Duo v2. I also threw in an Intel D525 Atom powered Iomega's px2-300d to make things interesting.

The graph composite below shows Windows and NASPT RAID 1 file copy write and read results for the group. The Atom-powered Iomega tops the charts for Windows and NASPT writes. But the DS213+ takes top honors for reads in both benchmarks.

RAID 1 file copy performance comparison

RAID 1 file copy performance comparison

The one thing consistent in the results is that the NETGEAR comes in at the bottom of the group almost every time. In all but the Windows File Copy RAID 1 Read benchmark, it lags the others products by at least 20 MB/s.

I didn't check encrypted performance, because I think I've shown in enough recent reviews that you can expect at least a 50% throughput reduction on large file copies to an encrypted volume. Since the DS213+ and DS413 share common hardware, I've copied in Table 2 from the DS413 review in case you'd like to see the hit that encryption imposes on other benchmarks.

  Normal Encrypt % Diff
FileCopyToNAS 99.84 30.66 -69
FileCopyFromNAS 92.51 42.53 -54
DirectoryCopyToNAS 16.62 4.66 -72
DirectoryCopyFromNAS 19.91 13.70 -31
ContentCreation 9.27 3.02 -67
OfficeProductivity 46.27 32.56 -30
HDVideo_1Play_1Record 92.31 46.68 -56
HDVideo_4Play 106.04 46.68 -56
       
Win File Copy Write 70.19 22.2 -68
Win File Copy Read 95.75 42.63 -55
Table 2: Encrypted folder performance comparison - Synology DS413

Use the NAS Charts to further explore and compare the DS213+'s performance

Closing Thoughts

Once again, the results show that Synology has made a crafty choice of CPU with the dual-core Freescale QorIQ P1022. But this time, the price gap between its pricing and an Atom-based equivalent isn't as wide as it was with the DS413. A diskless D525 Atom-based Iomega px2-300d can be currently had for as little at $428, while the DS213+ will run you $400.

If you don't care about all the extra functions that Synology crams into its NASes and are willing to sacrifice a bit of performance, the ZyXEL NSA325 at $170 can look mightly tasty.

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