The DS414 is one of the best NAS systems in its price segment, and for good reason.
Synology’s four-bay DS414, geared towards high-end SOHO and SMB users looking for data redundancy, continues the company’s tradition of excellence in the NAS sector.
The DS414 comes with a much better processor than its predecessor, the DS413, which makes the NAS one of the fastest in its segment. One of the main selling points of Synology’s NAS systems is the fact that they come with a host of mobile and cloud connectivity solutions, and the DS414 is no different in this regard. Along with the hardware side of things, Synology has released DiskStation Manger 5.0, the latest version of its web-based OS for the RackStation and DiskStation line of NAS offerings.
Design and hardware
The DS414 is identical to its predecessor, the DS413, in design. Which isn’t a bad thing, as the DS413 was one of the best-looking NAS units. The DS414 comes with same matte black finish that inhibits dust to a large extent, excluding the façade at the front, which features a glossy plastic finish.The front fascia serves to hide the drive bays and can be easily removed.
The DS414 comes with four drive bays, which are secured through a latch. The drive bays can be accessed by pulling the latch and removing the drive caddies.
Hard drives can be easily installed thanks to a tool-less design, with the DS414 accommodating a total of 20 TB of storage (5 TB x 4).
There is a single USB 2.0 port at the front in addition to the status indicator and LEDs for disc usage. There is also a power button at the bottom, just below the USB 2.0 port.
The DS414 features two USB 3.0 ports at the back, in addition to two dual-Gigabit LAN ports and a Kensington lock. The only feature missing on the DS414 is the lack of an eSATA port. Also, it would have been easier if there were a USB 3.0 port at the front for quick file transfers, but it isn’t that big of a hassle to connect USB 3.0 flash drives and hard discs at the back. The DS414 can read most major file systems that include EXT4, EXT3, FAT, NTFS and HFS+ (read-only).
The NAS comes with two 92 mm fans at the back of the unit. The fans run very quiet and are barely audible.
While the DS414 looks similar to the DS413, Synology has overhauled the internal hardware, which makes the NAS unit twice as fast as its predecessor. The DS414 comes with a 1.33 GHz dual-core Marvell Armada XP CPU, which is a noticeable upgrade from the 1.02 GHz dual-core Freescale CPU that was used in the DS413. The processor also has hardware-level encryption, which makes the DS414 one of the first products from Synology to include this feature. There is also 1 GB of DDR3 RAM, which is double the amount of memory used in the DS413. The result is a NAS unit that is extremely fast when it comes to file transfers. In addition, the enhanced hardware clearly makes a difference when installing and using Synology’s custom OS, DiskStation Manager (DSM) 5.0.
DiskStation Manger 5.0 installation
Synology has a web-based interface for DSM that makes it quite easy to install and configure. Navigating to http://find.synology.com from a web browser from any machine on the home network automatically searches and finds any Synology NAS connected to the network.
After the NAS is detected, you will be asked to either load the DSM from the installation disc or another file source.
After DSM is selected, the installation begins by formatting the hard drive. From navigating to the URL to a finished installation, which involved downloading and installing the latest version of DSM, took less than ten minutes.
User interface and extensibility
Once installation is finished, you are presented with the login screen. DSM 5.0 comes with a familiar window-based user interface that is easy to navigate and feature-rich. You have the ability to customize widgets, add icons to the home screen and change the NAS settings through a unified control panel. In DSM 5.0, the icons as well as visual elements have been tweaked for quad-HD and 4K screens.The user interface should feel very familiar to anyone using Windows.
From the control panel, you can configure QuickConnect, Synology’s cloud relay service that allows you to log in to your NAS even if you’re not on the same network. Essentially, QuickConnect is an easier way for you to access your NAS without having to use port forwarding. QuickConnect can also be used in conjunction with Synology’s mobile offerings, which lets you access files, videos and images from a remote location.
As with other versions of DSM, Synology has a host of mobile clients available for both Android and iOS that include DS File, DS Audio, DS Video, DS Cloud, DS Photo, DS Download and DS Finder. It would have been easier if there was a single mobile client in which all these utilities were nested, but as of now, there isn’t one.
To take full advantage of Synology’s mobile offerings, you have to ideally download additional packages like Audio Station, Media Server, Download Station and Cloud Station that bolster the functionality of the DS414. This extensibility is one of the strong points of the DS414.
For instance, through Cloud Station, you can sync content between your mobile devices, Windows machines and other DiskStations. Features like version history lets users track changes across synced files easily.
An interesting feature on the DS414 is the presence of dual-Gigabit LAN ports. The ports can be daisy-chained to achieve read/write transfers of 200 MB/sec and 135 MB/sec. More often than not, you would need additional hardware to attain these numbers. While high-end routers come with Gigabit LAN and WAN these days, the DS414 makes use of a technology called link aggregation, an IEEE 802.3ad standard through which two or more Ethernet ports can be used in parallel for increased throughput.
To use link aggregation, you need to use a switch that conforms to the IEEE 802.3ad standard, connect the two LAN cables from the DS414 to the switch, and select the IEEE 802.3ad Dynamic Link Aggregation setting from the control panel of the DS414 (Control Panel > Network > Network Interface > Create > IEEE 802.3ad Dynamic Link Aggregation). You also have to enable link aggregation on your switch. You can also tweak the firmware of your existing router, negating the need for a switch. The Asus RT-AC66U can function in LAG mode by using the firmware from here.
Since link aggregation allows for a total combined bandwidth of 2 Gb/sec, most of the time, a mechanical HDD forms the bottleneck. You also cannot use link aggregation with any current notebooks, and you have to buy a PCI-E based NIC (Network Interface Card) to take full advantage of this feature on a PC. When benchmarking using a WD Red hard drive in the DS414, I often found that the main constraint was the mechanical WD Black. SSD read/write was incredible, but then again, most users would not use an SSD for storing media content. A throughput of 2 Gb/sec means that multiple users can access the DS414 and not face any latency when streaming media.
For all its advantages, the DS414 does have a few drawbacks. The NAS does not feature HDMI connectivity, which means that it cannot be directly connected to a TV. Through Media Server, the DS414 can stream and playback content to DLNA devices, but it lacks the transcoding functionality offered by the DS214 Play. However, the DS414 does have a lot of redeeming qualities. It is quite aggressively priced at $499, features much better hardware to its predecessor and comes with the best user interface there is for a NAs device. A significant boost in processing power and the inclusion of dual-gigabit LAN make the DS414 one of the best four-bay NAS units available in the market today.
- Great design.
- Dual gigabit-LAN.
- Feature-rich interface.
- No HDMI and eSATA connectivity.
- No transcoding.