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Synology DiskStation DS918+ review

A capable NAS that’s great for home or small offices

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The DS918+ is perfect for prosumers or for a small office environment. There’s a wealth of configuration options, and the Synology app ecosystem offers some fantastic solutions to set up.

For

  • Easy to configure
  • Good transfer speeds
  • Plethora of software options

Against

  • Pricey investment
  • 4K transcoding not consistent

Synology have been steadily introducing various NAS models over the years that appeal to a wide variety of users. Whether you’re looking for a media sharing hub for your home, or an easy to expand storage solution for your office, they have models that cater to all kinds of needs.

The DS918+ is one such flexible variant. It straddles the line between appealing to home prosumers and small businesses, and in either scenario can easily adapt based on what software packages are installed. There are enough features here to ensure its longevity wherever its deployed, making it a flexible storage solution across a variety of scenarios

Synology DiskStation DS918+ Price and availability

The Synology DS918+ is priced at AED 2,300 and is available directly from Amazon. You of course have to keep in mind that this doesn’t include any drives, and the price for these will vary based on how much storage you put in. Also consider that if you want even faster read and write speeds, you’ll probably invest in an additional RAM module as well as two NVMe 2280 SSDs for cache performance.

Design and features

Like most of its NAS systems, the DS918+ sports a standard black, boxed look. It’s perfectly fine to tuck away in a corner once it’s been set up, as you’ll have few reasons to really physically interact with it.

At the front you have the four drive bays, which can be easily slid out and also locked in place with the included key. There’s a power button on the front, and LED indicators for the drive status, as well as USB 3.0 port for external storage.

At the back you’ll find two Gigabit Ethernet ports, an eSATA port, USB 3.0 port, and a power port. The eSATA port can be used to expand the DS918+ further with Synology’s expansion unit, taking the total number of drives up to 9.

(Image credit: Future)

The DS918+ is a four-bay NAS, and supports up to 64TB of combined storage. With Synology’s expansion unit attached this rises to a staggering 144TB, which is more than enough storage than anyone could want. Both 3.5” and 2.5” drives can be installed, with the exception being that 2.5” drives need to be screwed in using the included screw kit. 3.5” drives on the other hand can simply be popped into any of the drive trays, and then slid back into the NAS – no tools or screws required.

An interesting feature of the DS918+ is the support for a system cache through one or two M.2 SSD slots. These slots are on the bottom of the NAS, and again can be accessed and installed without using any tools. If one SSD is installed then the NAS creates a cache for reading data only. If two are installed, then you unlock speed benefits when both reading and writing data to the NAS.

(Image credit: Future)

By default the DS918+ comes with 4GB of DDR3L RAM installed, but you can bump this up to 8GB with a second memory module. Installing is a little bit tricky – you have to power down the NAS, slide out the drives, and then slip the memory module in. The extra RAM is certainly recommended if you’re running some of the more heavy-duty applications on the DS918+ such as virtual machines.

Powering the DS918+ is a quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 processor, clocking in at 1.5GHz. It’s fast enough to run most of the applications on the NAS directly, but our advice would be to pick a single task for this NAS and stick with it, such as file sharing, VPN, etc. In this way you’re not taxing the NAS’s resources across multiple applications.

Setup and software

Historically, it’s always been easy to setup a Synology NAS, and the DS918+ is no different. Simply install the required number of drives into their bays, add in the M.2 SSD cache if you so wish or additional RAM, and then boot the system up. You’ll then be quickly guided through some easy to follow instructions that install the Synology OS onto the drives. After this, you can set up your admin user account and choose what type of storage setup you’ll need. The system supports a variety of RAID configurations depending on the number of drives installed, and you can choose to use either the ext4 file system or Synology’s btrfs system, which the company says offers better data redundancy and system protection.

Once setup is complete, you can dive in and really get to know the DS918+, thanks to Synology’s very straightforward and easy to use OS. Built to resemble a desktop interface, you can quickly look at drive conditions, reconfigure file access and disk quotas, and installing additional software.

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Speaking of software, there is a huge library of applications that can be installed on the DS918+. Installation is as simple as clicking the ‘Install’ button for an application, and the system takes care of the rest. You’ll then get a new icon available for the installed app which you can use to launch the application and configure it further.

The software you install on the DS918+ will determine what role it’s going to play on your network. By default the system can be setup as a simple network storage space, but you can also use it to run more complicated applications such as managing VPN access, DNS, email, backup, and a lot more. All of this of course depends on the resources available – running too many applications on the DS918+ will lead to performance issues cropping up.

There are useful applications such as turning the DS918+ into your own personal cloud storage solution, or enabling remote access to allow for collaboration across different physical sites. There are also excellent backup solutions available that can backup to local volumes or even remotely, as well as even running virtual machines – more on that in a little bit.

Expansion and performance

As a dedicated file server, the DS918+ does pretty well. In a RAID5 configuration of four 3TB WD Red drives, we clocked read speeds of around 148MB/s, and write speeds of 112MB/s.

Performance did get a boost when we enabled the SSD read/write cache by installing two M.2 SSDs into the bottom of the unit. Once installed, you can create a cache with just a few clicks, and once the check has completed the DS918+ handles the rest. We saw read speeds climb to 211MB/s and write speeds reach 202MB/s – just shy of Synology’s advertised speeds.

(Image credit: Future)

A great use for the DS918+ is for surveillance – if you’ve got compatible IP  cameras on your network, they can easily be added to Synology’s Surveillance Station app so you can monitor them and save any required footage. The DS918+ can also be set up as a media server, and can transcode various media formats quite easily. Synology says that 4k content can also be streamed, but in our testing of a simple one minute 4k video, we didn’t get very great results. Streaming the clip (over Wi-Fi) to a nearby LG Smart TV produced a lot of stuttering in the clip, and even when we played it on a laptop connected via Ethernet, there were some instances where the playback paused for several seconds before resuming.

We were keen to test out the DS918+’s ability to run VMs, and our test involved importing a simple Linux system into the NAS and configuring it through a few steps. We were able to assign only 2GB of RAM to the VM, which would leave 2GB for the NAS to run other operations. Performance on the VM itself was fair, but we wouldn’t recommend running more complicated VMs on this NAS due to the limited resources available.

Adding in new drives or adjusting volumes is very simple as well. The system instantly recognizes new drives and walks you through the process of adjusting your existing RAID array and configuring volumes.

Final verdict

If you’re in the market for a well performing NAS and a plethora of configurations, then the DS918+ is a great start. It sports Synology’s strong OS, is easy to set up, and can grow based on your needs. The obvious sore point is that it might fall on the more expensive side, and transcoding can be a bit iffy sometimes, but if you’re ready to make a solid investment, you can’t go wrong with this model.

Nick Rego
A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys playing videogames during work hours and tinkering with the latest gadgets.