• Synology DS710+ NAS Review

    Can a Network Attached Storage unit make you feel good? Maybe that's pushing it a bit. I can say Synology as a company and its DS710+ NAS unit have put me in my comfort zone. Synology's information dissemination and its implementation of a vast array of features are outstanding. I've been able to thoroughly research and answer all questions about the DS710+ by simply browsing the Synology website for information. This doesn't usually happen when I review any type of product. The DS710+ offers many more features than Joe Sixpack will ever use. Synology's implementation of these features doesn't increase complexity one bit. The DS710+ operating system named DSM 3.0 is a breeze to use. Once setup users can either forget about the DS710+ as it will run without user intervention for the foreseeable future, or use any of its built-in capabilities. I never thought I would use many of these capabilities but I'm glad I did. The DS710+ is much more than a place to store music for iTunes or J River Media Center to access. The Synology DS710+ is an affordable dual disk Network Attached Storage unit that's capable of going all the way to eleven if needed.


     

    INFORMATION and IMPLEMENTATION

    When I started researching the DS710+ I found more information on the Synology website than I could possibly digest. I wanted to know exactly how the DS710+ could be expanded, what hard drives were supported, and what the user interface offered, among other items. I found all this information out in the open. That sounds like something all manufacturers should offer, but in reality this information is usually out of date or hidden deep within unsupported user forums and old dead-end conversations from frustrated users. My Synology experience was off to a good start.

    The Synology DS710+ Network Attached Storage unit ($479.99 diskless) is a two drive enclosure capable of storing a maximum of four terabytes unprotected or two terabytes when RAID1 drive mirroring is employed. Despite audiophile dreams of a ten terabyte library most people can easily fit their entire music collection on a two drive NAS unit like the DS710+. Those fortunate enough to have larger libraries or those who want to plan for future expansion beyond a few terabytes are still in luck with the DS710+. This NAS unit has an eSATA expansion port in the rear that can be connected to the Synology DX510 ($499.99) five drive expansion unit for a combined total of 14 terabytes. One important tip about using the eSATA expansion port on the DS710+. When using the Synology DX510 eSATA expansion unit the original volume on the DS710+ can be expanded to the entire size of both units combined. Thus, if drive D: was two terabytes using only the DS710+, the same drive D: can now be increased with the DS510. This is very nice because iTunes can only monitor one Music Folder location and the Synology expansion unit allows volume expansion without reformatting the NAS drives. During the review I connected a non-Synology eSATA external drive to the DS710+. I was unable to expand a volume or even include the eSATA disk in a newly created volume. Continuing with the same example of an iTunes library on drive D:, adding the non-Synology eSATA expansion disk would force me to create another drive such as E: and split my music library on both drives D: and E:. Anyone who has used iTunes in this manner is well aware of the potential disasters that lie around every corner. I don't recommend it. Fortunately I had a lot of success using my non-Synology eSATA disk as a backup drive. eSATA connections at 3 Gbit/s are considerably faster than USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/s) and FireWire 400 (400 Mbit/s) or 800 (800 Mbit/s). With a one terabyte Hitachi eSATA drive connected to the DS710+ I scheduled a data backup to run daily at 3:00AM. As a test I ran the backup a few times manually and was very impressed at how little time it took to complete. A nice feature built into the Synology backup program is the ability to never erase previously backed up files. I'm a firm believer in using this feature and here's why. A major percentage of all data loss is due to user error. I have accidentally deleted an album or two over the years and not realized I'd made the mistake until I wanted to hear the deleted tunes. Using the never delete feature of the Synology NAS one can accidentally delete a few albums and the backup drive will still keep a copy of those albums. In other words the backup copy of the main drive is not a mirror. Using RAID1 the main drive is already mirrored. Another mirror doesn't make much sense.

    DiskStation Manager 3.0 (DSM) is the operating system used by the DS710+. DSM isn't like most NAS drive user interfaces (see video 1, video 2). It's actually a desktop presented to the user within a web browser. When connecting to the DS710+ using Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome the user sees a regular looking desktop with icons for Control Panel, Disk Management, etc… It's just like using a regular Windows computer with a start button except the Synology button isn't labeled. As an example of the excellent information provided by Synology on its website it's now possible for potential customers to test drive a Synology NAS using DSM 3.0. From any computer in the world users simply access this Link with the user name admin and password synology. Users can performa almost every function (no rebooting or upgrading allowed) and browse the documentation or help files if they get stuck. How's that for an in home demo?

    Initial setup of the DS710+ is really easy and wizard driven. The provided Synology Assistant program automatically locates the NAS on the network and guides the user through setup. Upon first connecting to DSM running on the DS710+ a nice wizard is presented to the user and suggests basics tasks like creating a shared folder, creating users, and browsing more of the unit's capabilities. Users who just want a place to store their music so iTunes or J River Media Center can access it don't need to do anything after the initial creation of a volume and a shared folder. The DS710+ was plenty fast over my Gigabit Ethernet Cisco based home network. Despite its small size the unit has more than enough power to serve up music.

    DS710+Additional capabilities of the DS710+ that I found useful or fun to use include support for Apple's Time Machine backup, UPnP/DLNA Media Server, Logitech® SqueezeCenter, iTunes Server, Audio Station, and the DS Audio iPhone application. I won't go into extensive detail about each of these capabilities but I will mention a couple surprises I found. The coolest surprise I found was when using the built-in application called Audio Station. This application presents the user with a music playback interface to browse their collection of music and Internet radio. The standard way to play this audio is to stream it back to the user via a web browser. This isn't groundbreaking nor is the fact that users can access this content from their office or anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. The surprising piece to me was when I connected my dCS Debussy directly to the DS710+ rear USB port. I was able to send audio straight from the NAS to the Debussy's asynchronous USB interface and out through my audio system. I played both 16 and 24 bit music at sample rates of 44.1, 88.2, and 96 kHz without any problems. I tried to verify the bit transparency of the audio output but I was unable to complete the test. I used the Wavelength Audio WaveLink USB to coaxial S/PDIF converter in an attempt to send audio to my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC. I want to see if the HDCD indicator illuminated when HDCD encoded tracks were played view the DS710+ Audio Station application. Unfortunately the DS710+ did not recognize the WaveLink although it did power the unit successfully.

    The second cool surprise I found was also within the Audio Station application. The DS710+ supports UPnP/DLNA and is itself a Media Server. Within the Audio Station interface is the option to select a Media Renderer. A Media Renderer is a device that accepts music from the Media Server and outputs the audio. Using Audio Station I was able to select the PlugPlayer app on my iPhone 4 as the Media Renderer. I sent audio directly from the NAS to my iPhone with only one minor glitch that was likely my fault. OK not the coolest thing in the world. There are other ways to get music from the NAS to an iPhone, namely the DS Audio iPhone application available through the iTunes app store for free. However, using the Audio Station app to select my J River Media Center music server as the Media Renderer offered an unexpected experience. I successfully sent audio using the NAS user interface to the J River machine bit transparently at all sample rates from 16/44.1 through 24/192. When and why would someone ever do such a thing? I don't know, but the fact that it's possible to stream high resolution audio from this $479 NAS unit via Ethernet opens up possibilities for use with an X Box, PS 3, Blu-ray player, etc… as long as they support UPnP/DLNA.

    Many companies offer NAS units with all kinds of capabilities. For example the QNAP TS-559 NAS I reviewed back in June 2010. The QNAP unit has a plethora of options and capabilities but I had a heck of a time getting them to function as promised. Synology's implementation of the capabilities on its DS710+ is outstanding. Everything I tried just worked. There's something to be said for promising a lot and delivering a lot.

             

     

    USING THE DS710+

    The DS710+ supports connections to Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux based computers. Enabling Windows File Service on the NAS allows both Windows and Mac to connect. Mac File Service must only be enabled if the built-in Time Machine capability is to be used. On other NAS units Windows File Service is frequently referred to as SMB while Mac File Service is called AFP. I enabled both services only because I used Time Machine. In my testing I've never found a consistent benefit from using Mac File Service or AFP. Since I need my Windows computer to connect to my NAS units as well I simply go with Windows File Service or SMB as it supports both OS X and Windows.

    On my Windows computers I simply mapped a drive to the Music shared folder on the NAS and check the box to reconnect every time I login to the computer. After mapping the drive letter M: I directed J River Media Center to import music from the M: drive and watch this drive for changes. That's it. No additional tech geek configuration needed. On my Macs I selected the DiskStation in Finder (on the left pane) to connect to the DS710+. A major gripe I have with OS X is its inability to automatically mount a network drive at login. I've used the AutoMountMaker application in the past and created my own script to get around this shortcoming.


    According to Synology the noise level attributed to the DS710+ is around 22 db(A) or that of a buzzing insect [Link]. Synology conducted noise tests using a DS710+ loaded with Seagate one terabyte drives (Model ST31000520AS), two G.R.A.S. type 40E microphones setup one meter from the NAS front and back, with background noise of 17.2 db(A), temperature of 23.6°C/74.48°F, and humidity of 58.2%. I found the DS710+ to be fairly quiet unless I backed it into a corner where the walls reflected its fan noise straight back to me.

     

    CONCLUSION
    CASH-ListThe Synology DS710+ Network Attached Storage unit is a comforting device. There is much more information available from Synology about this unit than one can consume. Synology isn't hiding any critical details deep within a user forum. It's all out in the open. Want to test drive the DMS 3.0 operating system? Go ahead, it can be done on the Synology website. In addition to well implemented software the DS710+ has a great hardware design. It's physically scalable to seven total disks and 14 total terabytes with the Synology DX510. Audiophiles with an eye on the future of high resolution audio know a single album can eat up four gigabytes or more. Purchasing a two disk DS710+ now doesn't lock one out from expanding disk space as their music collection expands. From the day the DS710+ arrived until the completion of this review it's really been a pleasure using this NAS. In a way it's like using a Mac computer. As the old saying goes, "It just works." I'm happy to place the DS710+ on the C.A.S.H. List as the first two drive NAS to earn a place next to the four and five drive behemoths.



     





     


     





    Product Information:

    • Price: DS710+ Diskless = $479.99

    • Price: DS710+ & DX510 Expansion Unit = $939.99

    • DS710+ Product Page - Link

    • DS710+ User Giude - Link [PDF]

    • DS710+ Quick Install Guide - Link [PDF]

    • DS710+ Datasheet - Link [PDF]

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    Comments 39 Comments
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      a Drobo FS setup? <br />
      <br />
      Thx<br />
      Ted
    1. Afveep's Avatar
      Afveep -
      Chris-<br />
      Which formats will it support for music? Will it do AIFF? I can't seem to find this info on the product web site.<br />
      Tom
    1. mgs's Avatar
      mgs -
      Tom - It will stream AIFF from its iTunes Server (without meta data, it seems). Check full specs at:<br />
      http://www.synology.com/us/products/ds710+/spec.php <br />
      Maybe Chris can tell us if he tried this.<br />
      <br />
      I am about to decide myself between the 710+ and the 4-bay 411+, which has identical specs except that (i) the HDs are not hot-swappable and (ii) the 411+ has dual-core CPU. But then the Thecus N4200PRO is about to come out, and my decision is not as easy anymore.<br />
      <br />
      Recommendations from Chris or other members will be most welcome.<br />
      <br />
      Michael
    1. Dan Gravell's Avatar
      Dan Gravell -
      Sounds like a *really* nice device, and good support too.<br />
      <br />
      Are there any applications to re-organise your music?
    1. Afveep's Avatar
      Afveep -
      Thanks Michael, but it looks like AIFF is not a supported format except, as you mention, through the iTunes server. I was inquiring as I'd consider using this NAS to feed my PS Audio Bridge/PWD DAC, which connects through the DNLA server. My current NAS, the ReadyNAS Duo (with which I am otherwise very happy), also does not support AIFF, so I've had to convert all of my music files to FLAC. I'd prefer to keep them native.
    1. StephanLJ's Avatar
      StephanLJ -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      Try this: Mount the NAS manually, Open System Tray, open Users, choose the tab next to Users (I don´t know the English term because of my German system it might be called Objects at startup) and drag the symbol of your NAS from the desktop into this window. Next time you start your Mac the NAS will be mounted.<br />
      <br />
      Greetings Stephan
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Stephan - Thanks for the suggestion. I haven't tried your method for a couple years but the last time I did the mounted drive opened a finder window at every login. Is this still the case? Hopefully not. <br />
      <br />
      Thanks again.
    1. StephanLJ's Avatar
      StephanLJ -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      yes it opens a Finder window, sorry.<br />
      <br />
      Stephan
    1. LC's Avatar
      LC -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      I have a DS 1010+ with 10To, it's really a nice NAS.<br />
      No problem, very easy to configure.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Stephan - Do you know how to make the finder window not appear? That would be great.
    1. the monkey's Avatar
      the monkey -
      Chris (and others), what would you use as a backup solution for your data on this NAS?
    1. mgs's Avatar
      mgs -
      ...and, further more, if one uses an external hard drive attached to the NAS for, say, nightly backups, is there any need to use Raid 1? Why not use Raid 0 for double the storage room on the NAS (provided of course your external drive is as large)?
    1. the monkey's Avatar
      the monkey -
      I plan to use RAID 1 for drive redundancy (but not backup).
    1. Audio_newb's Avatar
      Audio_newb -
      Unless you are really paranoid (or have really mission critical data that needs frequent backup) it would stand to reason that you wouldn't use RAID 1 in addition to another backup. I think most people who are looking at a NAS, at least in SOHO use, are not planning another unit for nightly backup. If you are planning that, however, I personally might still think twice about RAID 0 on a NAS. Because in this case the network is usually the limiting factor speed wise, you probably won't gain that much of an increase in RAID 0. Thus, although it is clearly the least glamorous mode, you might just be good with JBOD. This way even if you lose a drive, you don't have to do a full rebuild. Also, god forbid you get a bad sector on your nightly backup, JBOD would be much easier to deal with then a failed multidrive RAID 0 rebuild. Just my 2 cents though as I'm no IT guy.
    1. mgs's Avatar
      mgs -
      I am not interested in RAID 0 to gain speed, I'm interested in doubling the storage space that I would get from RAID 1. You are forgetting one thing: Drive redundancy (in RAID 1 or higher) is no protection for, e.g., accidentally deleting files/tracks or modifying in any unwanted way your library/database. The only way to recover from this is if you have a recent external backup - rebuilding the RAID does not help.<br />
      <br />
      With that in mind, I would feel much more comfortable if I had external backup, independently of what RAID configuration I used. I have not gone there yet but I am thinking that if I got external backup, I might as well use RAID 0 for doubling the storage space I could get from a NAS like the 710+ with RAID 1. There are, of course, financial considerations as well, and therefore I have not yet decided myself which way to proceed - I am just considering my options at the moment and that's why I asked for the opinions of others that have gone through the motions already.<br />
      <br />
      I also hope that Chris will find the time to share his (extensive) experience with the rest of us on this.<br />
      <br />
      Michael
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi mgs - There is no absolute need to use RAID1 if you have a good backup. If you are going to use RAID0 or JBOD and have an eSATA drive connected to the DS710+ for backup you will be just fine. <br />
      <br />
      I prefer to use redundant RAID levels like 1 or 5 simply because recovery from failure is so simple. I'm not worried about 100% availability that RAID1 or 5 may provide me, but I like being able to pull a drive and replace it without doing anything else.
    1. mgs's Avatar
      mgs -
      You said: "There is no absolute need to use RAID1 if you have a good backup. If you are going to use RAID0 or JBOD and have an eSATA drive connected to the DS710+ for backup you will be just fine."<br />
      <br />
      That's exactly what I am planning to eventually do. Start with the 710+ in RAID1 (and external eSATA backup) and later, when the need comes for more space, use it in RAID0 rather than add a DX510. At that time, the eSATA backup will be simply indispensable. Unless of course by that time I have accumulated so much hi-res music that I would really need the DX510!<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again.<br />
      <br />
      Michael
    1. jerry_rig's Avatar
      jerry_rig -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Based on this review, in particular the statement "I played both 16 and 24 bit music at sample rates of 44.1, 88.2, and 96 kHz without any problems", I purchased a DS 710+ and loaded it with 2 Hitachi 2T drives. After buying an Audiophileo AP1 USB-to-SPDIF converter, I tried to send 24 bit files to my DAC over the Synology's USB port using Audio Station. Unfortunately, all I got - at all sample rates - was a 16 bit feed.<br />
      <br />
      I reached out to Synology support and they confirmed my findings. Here's what they told me:<br />
      <br />
      "Yes, you are correct that the USB ports are sending a 16 bit signal rather than a 24 bit signal. Currently, none of our units support a 24 bit signal, and there are no current plans to release units which will send 24 bit signals through the USB ports. However, this is something we can definitely look into, and I will bring your suggestion to our Development Team for consideration to include it in future DiskStation models."<br />
      <br />
      Had I known this was in fact the case, I would not have purchased this unit. I admit its other features and convenience are very nice. But this is unacceptable and I feel they should at least inform users of the limitation.<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi jerry_rip - What a bummer. I wish I could have completed the bit perfect testing with the converters I had on hand.
    1. al101's Avatar
      al101 -
      Yes Aiff is supported.