Synology DS213air review
Centralising storage is becoming increasingly important as consumers move from PCs and laptops to storage-poor tablets for their home computing needs, but there can be practical difficulties. NAS drives can be noisy and intrusive, yet most require a wired network connection, making it tricky to hide them away in a quiet corner.
That’s precisely the dilemma Synology’s latest box – the two-bay DS213air – is designed to solve. As well as a Gigabit Ethernet connection at the rear, this box boasts 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless, which gives it far more flexibility than your average Ethernet-only NAS drive.
It also makes it incredible easy to set up. Once you’ve secured one or two hard disks under the thin, plastic case, and switched it on for the first time, it’s possible to connect directly to the DS213air’s wireless network and set up the disk array, without having to worry about having to run a setup utility on a PC or laptop first.
And once you’ve done that, you can choose to deploy the wireless in a number of ways. First, it can be used to connect the DS213air directly to your home wireless network, as with any other client device. You won’t get particularly fast performance in this mode – file transfers will be as fast as your wireless network allows for – but it keeps cable clutter to a minimum, and you can place the drive wherever you like.
In the second wireless mode, the DS213air operates as a wireless access point, allowing laptops, tablets and phones to connect to the NAS directly over its own, private wireless network. In this mode, it needs a wired connection to the network for updates and access to the internet.
Finally, cable users can connect the DS213air directly to their cable modem and use the DS213air as a wireless router. The basic, single-band 2.4GHz wireless capability and lack of extra Ethernet ports at the rear, however, means this method doesn’t hold much appeal.
However you choose to deploy the DS213air, though, it retains all the features that have made its predecessors consistent favourites here at PC Pro. It’s packed with features, and its Windows-like DSM 4.2 web UI makes every aspect of it incredibly easy to use, from file browsing to setting up more advanced features, such as the bundled web server. It’s extendable via a range of downloadable software packages, and a selection of free Android and iOS apps makes browsing files and streaming media child’s play.
And with a speedy 1.6GHz processor on board, performance is excellent. Over a wired Gigabit Ethernet connection, top speed hit 68MB/sec and 71MB/sec for large file reads and writes, and smaller, 512Kb files copied across at 33MB/sec 71MB/sec. Direct file transfers over the DS213air’s 2.4GHz network came in at 13.2MB/sec at close range, dropping down to 3.5MB/sec from a distance of 40m with a wood wall and a double-glazed window in the way.
With a quiet cooling fan, and both the USB ports on the rear now upgraded to USB 3, the only gripe we have with the DS213air is that lack of advanced 5GHz connectivity. It’s also a little pricey for a dual-bay enclosure. However, those two considerations make a comparatively small dent in what is, in all other respects, a fantastically easy-to-use and powerful NAS drive.
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|UPnP media server?||yes|
|HIbernate on idle?||yes|
|Dimensions||100 x 226 x 165mm (WDH)|
Security and administration
|Kensington lock slot?||yes|
|Admin support for users||yes|
|Admin support for groups||yes|
|Admin support for disk quotas||yes|