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Synology DS414j review – the future of NAS?

by Rob Zwetsloot

With a dual-core processor and four drive bays, has Synology come up with the perfect upgrade for those who have outgrown dual-bay NAS boxes?


Operating system: DiskStation Manager 5.0 (Proprietary Linux-based)

Processor: MindSpeed Comcerto 2000, Dual-Core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9

Memory: 512MB DDR3

Dimensions: 184mm x 168mm x 230mm

Weight: 2.21kg

Drive bays: 4x 3.5” SATA 3.0Gb/s with sleds, 5TB maximum capacity per sled

Networking: 1x Wired Gigabit Ethernet

Expansion: 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0

Cooling: 2x 80mm fans, 18.9dBA


When you buy a Synology product, you know what you’re getting yourself in to. The company’s designs rarely change between generations, beyond a few small tweaks and improvements to the internals, and its Linux-based DiskStation Manager operating system only ever improves with time. Its pricing, however, can leave it out of the reach of the budget-conscious buyer, especially when more than two drive bays are required.

The front-facing status lights are basic, but provide at-a-glance monitoring of hard drive health and activity.
The front-facing status lights are basic, but provide at-a-glance monitoring of hard drive health and activity.

It’s a problem of which Synology is only too aware, and its response is the DS414j – the suffix indicating that the device is an entry-level NAS in its small and home office four-bay range. Designed for those who can’t stretch to the DS414, corners have been cut: the Marvell Armada XP dual-core 1.33GHz processor and 1GB of DDR3 RAM have been replaced by a 1.2GHz MindSpeed Comcerto 2000 and 512MB of RAM – a combination more commonly associated with networking hardware than storage devices.

While the DS414j retains the four drive bays of its more expensive predecessor, further changes have been made: the chassis does not provide drive access from the front, with the sleds only accessible by undoing four thumb-screws at the back of the unit and folding down a flap containing the box’s twin 80mm fans. That means no hot-swap support, and an awkward period of down-time if you need to replace a failed drive.

There are other areas in which the DS414j fails to live up to its higher-priced stable-mate, too: the single gigabit Ethernet port and weaker processor means a drop in peak throughput from the DS414’s 135MB/s write and over 200MB/s read to 80MB/s write and 112MB/s read.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives, the areas that have been trimmed in order to bring the price down, but the DS414j is still an impressive piece of equipment. The change in processor means a considerable drop in idle power draw, from the DS414’s 14W to under 9W, and a similar drop in active draw.

At £258, the DS414j is considerably cheaper than the £360 DS414, and while it comes with a few licensing and performance restrictions – 1024 user accounts to 2048, two folder sync tasks to four, 128 maximum concurrent CIFS connections to 256 and so forth – it’s more than capable of the majority of tasks required of a small-office NAS.

Performance aside, the feel of the DS414j is exemplary: the DSM 5.0 software, the latest release of Synology’s custom Linux distribution, remains a pleasure to use with an attractive graphical user interface which runs entirely in a browser. Built-in software allows the DS414j to talk almost any common network protocol, and as usual there are plenty of add-on packages available to install – including the popular WordPress blogging platform.

It’s here, sadly, that Synology demonstrates it hasn’t learnt from its previous releases: installing packages through the easy installation wizard results in an out-of-date version of the software – and with WordPress and other public-facing packages often the target of hackers, it can leave the NAS and its files worryingly under-protected.

It’s hard not to like DSM, though. It’s one of the best NAS operating systems around, and something that really makes Synology’s products stand out from the crowd. It’s also possible to manually install packages, to ensure that you have the very latest versions on offer.

The DS414j targets a tricky market: those with decent budgets will find the DS414 a far more suitable choice, while those counting the pennies can get much of the same functionality from devices costing as little as £100 – albeit without Synology’s polished DSM software.



The newest DiskStation Manager software continues to impress, but its one-click installation of add-on packages can leave you outdated and unprotected. The performance of the ARM-based processor also means some applications will perform sluggishly, but there’s no denying the DS414j excels at its core network file storage tasks while the compact size of the unit also appeals.

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    • dgrb

      I’d have liked some sort of comparison to other manufacturers’ products, e.g. the Netgear ReadyNAS line, which has had 4-bays for years.

      And no hot swap? Remind me which century this is? This box is definitely a non-starter for me, for that reason alone.

    • I still don’t understand what all those NASes offer over a HP microserver which is usually (a lot) cheaper and (much) more powerful.

    • Geoff Halsey

      Dare I suggest an old PC with FreeNAS or its sister ship Nas4Free.

    • juristr

      I’m just looking at acquiring a NAS and thought to get the DS414j as its pricing is quite appealing.

      About the hot-swap: Do you really need to swap disks that often?? Plus, unless you want to host some production system on it (like your blog, where your probably served better with the slightly morr highend version anyway) a little downtime won’t hurt :)

    • superjamie

      HP Microserver has significantly higher power usage. A DS414J with all 4 disks going uses as much power as some Microserver models’ CPU alone.

      I also expect the DS414J would be much quieter than a Microserver.

      The Synology has internal storage for the OS, plus 4 storage bays. As far as I can tell, Microservers only have 4 storage bays. This means you must either sacrifice some internal storage for the OS or boot from external storage. If you use internal storage, it then means you can’t just rip the disks out and repurpose the box.

      A Microserver means you’re managing your own OS. Sure there’s pre-made distros like FreeNAS or OpenMediaVault, but there is some appeal to being able to just “plug in and go” with a Synology.

      Underneath, the Synology is just Linux with mdadm and LVM so you can always recover the disks if the box dies. A lot of entry-level NAS devices use their own proprietary formats.

      I can’t tell if the Microservers have “fakeraid” or an onboard HP controller using cciss/hpsa driver, but I’ve had bad experiences with firmware issues on the latter, so they are all pretty awful choices.

      Cheap microservers seem limited in the hard drives they detect, some only supporting 2Tb or 3Tb drives. The DS414J supports up to 6Tb drives.

    • You are right but this is not the issue. I just recommended this very router for a friend.

      The main reason you want something like this over a microserver IMHO is support and features.

      If you are a hobbist or you want to learn like I do with my home network you get a microserver or go full d-i-y and learn something on the way.

      If you need something to just work so you can see about your business you get one of those. Paying someone to install a linux server and maintain it makes a synology look real cheap for a small business with no internal IT.