Synology DS1019+ Review: Powerful, Capable, Restrained
Synology DS1019+ Review
Synology this week is launching the DS1019+, a 5-bay counterpart to last year's 4-bay DS918+. Like most of the company's "Plus" series devices, it is aimed at higher-end home users and small businesses with a price (without drives) of $649.99.
Synology loaned us a review unit of the DS1019+ prior to launch, and after adding it to our growing shelf of network storage devices, we spent some time seeing how this new model compares to its predecessors and counterparts.
Specifications & Design
The design of the DS1019+ is virtually identical to that of the DS918+, with the same style of drive bays, same case material and color, same basic layout of ports and status lights, and even an almost identical list of technical specs. The biggest difference between the two by far is simply the addition of a fifth drive bay on the DS1019+. So, if you liked the look and feel of the DS918+, you should feel the same way about the DS1019+.
Following the design trends of other Synology NAS devices in recent years, the DS1019+ is compact considering its capabilities. It measures in at 166mm x 230mm x 223mm (about 6.5 x 9.0 x 8.8 inches) and weighs about 5.6 pounds without drives. Included in the box is the power adapter with region-appropriate power cord, two five-foot Cat5e Ethernet cables, an accessory kit with two keys for the drive bay locks, 20 screws for mounting 2.5-inch drives in the 3.5-inch drive bays, and a quick installation guide.
Like almost all Synology NAS devices, the DS1019+ ships without drives, so you'll need to add your own mechanical or solid state drives in order to use the device. If want to configure the NAS with a traditional RAID, you'll want to populate the drive bays with drives of the same capacity and ideally from the same vendor. If you need to mix-and-match drive vendors, at least aim to use drives with identical performance specifications. Similar in concept to Drobo, Synology also offers a "Hybrid RAID" (SHR) option that allows users to combine drives of different sizes or later expand the array by replacing smaller drives with larger ones. Depending on drive types and size mismatches, however, there is a performance penalty to going this route compared to a similar RAID configuration utilizing identical disks.
As alluded to, the 1019+ is powered by the same CPU found in the DS918+: the Intel Celeron J3455, a quad-core 10-watt Apollo Lake part. With base and boost clocks of 1.5GHz and 2.3GHz, respectively, the J3455 is more than powerful enough to accommodate the transfer and management of data on the NAS, and it also supports hardware video transcoding, which is a huge advantage for services like Plex.
The device with ships standard with 8GB of RAM (2x4GB DDR3L 1866 SO-DIMM) and Synology claims that this is the maximum amount of RAM the device can support. We unfortunately didn't have additional DDR3 memory in the correct capacities in order to test this claim.
The DS1019+ sports five drive bays, each capable of accommodating either 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SATA drives. 3.5-inch drives attach to each drive sled via tool-less tension brackets, the same that we've seen on previous Synology NAS devices. The 2.5-inch drives attach via four bottom-mounted screws, and a complete screw set for this purpose for all five bays is included in the box.
In addition to the five bays, the front of the NAS displays indicator lights for overall system status and each drive's activity. It also includes a USB 3.0 port and lighted power button. There's no "one-touch" or "fast copy" button for initiating a file transfer to or from an attached USB drive, but users can configure such behavior in software (e.g., "when a USB drive is connected, copy all files from the drive to the designated folder on the NAS") by installing Synology's USB Copy package from the package manager.
The rear of the DS1019+ contains exhaust grills for the dual 92mm fans, two gigabit Ethernet ports, an additional Type-A USB 3.0 port, Kensington Security slot, and an eSATA port which is used to connect Synology's 5-bay DX517 expansion unit. With that single expansion unit, a complete DS1019+ setup can support up to ten drives (hence the DS1019+ name).
Once again similar to the DS918+, the DS1019+ includes two M.2 NVMe slots. The slots are located behind a pop-out panel on the bottom of the device, and the drives snap in with a plastic clip instead of the usual tiny M.2 screw. This makes the installation of M.2 drives an easy, tool-less process, but we do wonder about the long-term durability of those plastic clips for users who may frequently change out their cache drives (this would be a small percentage of users, to be sure, but it's something to consider if you'll be changing the M.2 drives more than a few times).
Unfortunately, the DS1019+ only recognizes these M.2 drives as cache; they cannot be used to create a standard storage volume or be added to an existing storage volume as member disks. The benefit of having a volume comprised entirely of NVMe flash is quite limited due to the device's reliance on gigabit Ethernet ports, but with capacities continuing to rise for NVMe drives (and prices continuing to fall), it would have been a nice feature to have the option off adding that extra capacity to an otherwise full storage volume.
Overall the DS1019+ has a solid, familiar design. Indeed, it's look is almost identical to that of recent generations Synology NAS, like the aforementioned DS918+ or DS718+, just with more drive bays.
Here's an overview of key technical specifications for the DS1019+. For the complete list of specs, see the device's product page on the Synology website.
|CPU||Intel Celeron J3455
1.5GHz Base / 2.3GHz Boost
|RAM||8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3L SO-DIMM|
|Bays||5 (10 total with expansion)|
|Cache||2 x M.2 NVMe|
|Max Raw Capacity||70TB (14TB x 5)
140TB (14TB x 10 with expansion)
|Max Volume Size||108TB|
|Gigabit LAN||2 x RJ-45|
|USB||2 x USB 3.0 Type-A|
|eSATA||1 x 6Gbps|
|Power Consumption||38.59W (Access)
|Noise Level||20.8 dBA (Quiet Mode)|
10GbE MIA & Excess Cache Speed
The only real downside with the DS1019+ design is the lack of dedicated 10-gigabit networking options. The built-in ports are limited to 1Gbps, and the NAS doesn't include a PCIe expansion slot for adding your own 10Gbps-capable NIC, like we did with the DS1618+ last year.
Synology has long supported link aggregation, which allows you to combine multiple connections from your NAS into one faster connection, but it requires that all hardware in the chain support it, too, and many switches or routers, even high-end ones meant for power users and small business, don't offer that feature. Indeed, there are network switches on the market with at least a couple of 10GbE ports that are currently priced lower than most gigabit-only NICs that support link aggregation. And, even if you had the setup to make it all work, link aggregation on the DS1019+ only gets you a theoretical maximum of 2Gbps.
Any user can, however, use both gigabit ports for a failover or load balancing configuration. In both cases, you connect separate Ethernet cables from each port on the NAS to unique ports on your switch or router. With a failover setup, the NAS will automatically switch to the second connection if the port or cable on the primary connection fails. With load balancing, each individual connection to the NAS is still limited to 1Gbps, but the NAS will attempt to route traffic from multiple simultaneous sources between the two Ethernet connections so that, for example, two users could each connect at 1Gbps at the same time.
Now, we're a bit biased here when it comes to fast networking. Ever since migrating our storage setup to 10GbE in 2017, we've become spoiled by the speed, and having a gigabit-limited storage device on the network feels like a downgrade. Of course, not everyone has that perspective and many would be happy to cruise along at 1Gbps for quite a while. But as both wired and wireless speeds continue to increase, having at least the option to move to some form of multi-gigabyte networking down the road would have been appreciated. Synology made a great move by adding a PCIe slot to its $750 6-bay DS1618+ last year, and it's also available on the older, higher-end, and harder-to-find DS1517+, which the DS1019+ is possibly destined to replace in the product matrix. We had hoped to see the further expansion of a 10Gbps upgrade path in Synology's product line, but those hopes were unfortunately in vain.
The lack of 10GbE on the DS1019+ is especially interesting considering the use of NVMe drives for the NAS cache. Even though large, fast hard drives can easily saturate a single gigabit network connection, the use of an SSD-based cache is still important for ensuring fast access times or accommodating many simultaneous users. But when compared, for example, to cheaper SATA-based flash, it's not likely that the vast majority of users would notice the difference that NVMe-based flash offers. There are certain applications or workloads that might benefit, such as large database servers or virtual machines, but at the point where SATA-based flash would become a bottleneck, the CPU would have likely already exposed itself as the true limitation.
There's a benefit of having the cache in an M.2 form factor so that you don't need to "waste" one of the 3.5-inch drive bays on a 2.5-inch SSD for cache (although this is still an option). The issue is that those M.2 ports are NVMe only, and won't work with cheaper SATA-based M.2 drives like the Samsung 860 EVO or Crucial MX500. A combo M.2 port that supports both NVMe and SATA M.2, as is found on many motherboards, would have been a more convenient option for users.
Software & Setup
We're not going to go too deep into the software and setup process of the DS1019+ since, first, it's both very easy thanks to Synology's setup wizard and, second, nothing much has changed software-wise with the DS1019+ release.
The basic steps of setting up the DS1019+ involve installing your storage drives and optional M.2 cache drives, connecting the device to power and your local network, and then using Synology's tools to automatically locate the NAS's IP address and connect to it. An online version of the tool is available at find.synology.com, or your can download the Synology Assistant, a desktop application available for Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. In our many years of experience with Synology NAS devices, we've found that the desktop app almost always discovers devices that are missed via the web-based tool, so if you're not seeing your new NAS in the online tool, try the desktop app before engaging in other troubleshooting steps. If you manually assigned an IP address to the NAS or otherwise already know it, you can also navigate directly there in any modern web browser.
Upon initial setup, the Synology Wizard will walk you through the setup process, downloading and installing the latest version of Synology's well-regarded DiskStation Manager (DSM) operating system and checking your drive configuration and capacities. It will then suggest various options for how you would like to configure your storage array(s) and cache, although experienced users can skip the suggestions and manually enable any supported configuration.
Speaking of supported configurations, the use 5 bays on the DS1019+ limits the RAID options somewhat, at least when using only the DS1019+ without its expansion unit, since choices like RAID 10 require an even number of disks. Of course, you could always use just 4 of your bays for a RAID 10 volume and then set up the 5th bay as its own volume or a hot spare. But assuming you want to use all five bays together, supported options include Individual (Basic), JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and Synology Hybrid RAID with either single- or dual-disk redundancy.
The cache setup is another factor with a few limitations. When creating a cache, you have the choice of a read-write cache or read-only cache. As the Synology setup instructions warn, a read-write cache can result in data loss if a problem with the cache volume or SSD drives themselves occurs before the cached write data can be written to the storage volume.
Probably to mitigate the chance of a problem occurring, you're only allowed to create a mirrored RAID 1 volume when creating a read-write cache with two NVMe drives. The issue of data loss on a write-enabled cache exists in all caching configurations of that type, but other NAS devices we've used, such as those from QNAP, allow you to risk it by enabling a striped RAID 0 write cache anyway. Similarly, when setting up a read-only cache, you only have the option of creating a striped RAID 0 cache. These limitations will suit the needs of the majority of users, but it was a bit odd to not have the choice like you do on other products.
In terms of adding additional features and capabilities to your NAS once it's up and running, Synology's DSM continues to offer an excellent experience. Users can browse for hundreds of applications in the Package Manager -- ranging from Synology-made utilities such as Hyper Backup, which automates backups of your NAS data to another NAS, an rsync server, an external storage device, or even cloud storage services like Google Drive and Dropbox, and Surveillance Station, which can act as a central hub for a complete multi-camera security monitoring and recording setup, to third party apps like Plex, Docker, and WordPress -- and install them with a single click. Power users can also add third party packages from a number of communities. Other NAS platforms have good software with typically equivalent features, but DSM remains, hands down, our favorite NAS operating system.
First, a note on the scope of our performance testing: even though the price and features of the DS1019+ aim it at the high-end home and small business market, it's still capable of carrying enterprise-level workloads in certain circumstances. Our target audience is PC hardware enthusiasts, and although we're happy when certain parts of our coverage cross paths with enterprise-level admins, we are not experts in that field and are not equipped to test at that level or range of performance. So, if you're interested in running a multi-thousand-user database or hosting remote virtual machines, we recommend you check out one of the sites specializing in an enterprise-grade focus, such as our friends over at StorageReview.
For our testing, we're looking at both real-world transfers as well as Plex performance in order to take advantage of the processor's hardware transcoding capabilities. We created our storage array with five Western Digital WD100EMAZ 10TB drives. These are drives obtained from the popular WD "easystore" external hard drives and have the performance characteristics of the company's Red line of NAS drives. We used two 250GB NVMe drives for the device's cache, a Samsung 970 EVO and Samsung 970 Plus. Synology advises using two identical drives but we didn't have access to identical drives of the same capacity, so we paired the EVO with the EVO Plus, which has similar performance in most categories except for writes where it exceeds its predecessor.
Our storage array was configured as a RAID 6. This doesn't give us maximum performance but, by offering protection from two drive failures, it seems to be an option that many users concerned about data integrity would choose. With the gigabit bottleneck, we also wouldn't experience any performance disadvantage compared to faster RAID configurations for most common workloads. For the tests in which it was enabled, our cache was configured as a RAID 1 read-write cache assigned to the primary volume. Our test PC from which we connected to the NAS is an i7-6950x-based system with 64GB of RAM at 2666MHz, a 2TB Samsung 960 PRO system drive, 10GbE networking provided by the Intel X540-T1, and running Windows 10 Version 1809. A Netgear XS708E 10GBase-T switch connected everything.
First, a quick look at sequential performance. As expected, sequential transfers easily hit the network connection bottleneck. When both copying a large file to the NAS and from it, performance stayed steady at around 113MB/s (theoretical maximum is 125MB/s and you'll always fall a bit short of that due to overhead so, give or take a few megabytes-per-second, these speeds are basically hitting the real-world gigabit limit).
To test the benefit of the cache, we used Iometer to measure total IOPS, average latency, and maximum latency. These are combined averages for each metric which tested a combined workload of reads and writes. Our workload test 8K transfers split between 75% reads and 25% writes and 50% random. In the chart below, higher is better for the IOPS category while lower is better for the latencies (response times).
It's clear that the NVMe cache helps, and significantly at that. But the question is whether most users at this price range and feature set would have workloads where this would make a consistently noticeable difference.
For Plex, we installed the latest version of Plex Media Server and copied various movies and TV shows to the DS1019+ for the purpose of adding to the Plex library. Part of the "magic" of Plex is that it can automatically convert your existing videos as you play them for the purposes of device compatibility or bandwidth limitations. The Celeron J3455 CPU in the NAS is capable of software-based transcoding, but as a relatively low-power part, it can't handle very much before it becomes overwhelmed.
Starting with full Blu-ray rips of two films and a target bitrate of 8Mbps, we could only transcode two streams before buffering occurred. And even then, as you can see in the Synology Resource Monitor, the device's CPU was maxed out, meaning that any other operations occurring on the NAS could be negatively affected while you were streaming.
But once we enabled hardware transcoding, a Plex Pass feature that only works on systems with the specific processors and GPUs that support it, it was a whole new game. With hardware transcoding, we could transcode five simultaneous streams before hitting an issue. Adding a sixth stream introduced intermittent buffering, but if you were using lower resolution source files with less demanding motion, you may be able to squeeze out additional performance.
Further, since the CPU transcodes video using dedicated hardware, having all of these streams running didn't max out our CPU, meaning that even heavy Plex usage likely won't affect other operations occurring on the NAS.
It's true that, in general, hardware-transcoded videos won't look as good as those that went through software transcoding, but the quality difference can be negligble and hardware transcoding quality gets better with each new hardware generation. So for a device like the DS1019+, it's definitely worth a shot if you need to transcode more than two HD movies at once.
We should note that you can also use hardware transcoding via Synology's own media server app, which you can find for free in the Package Center.
Due to its strong similarities to last year's DS918+, the DS1019+ isn't particularly exciting. Rather, it's a solid expansion of Synology's "Plus" lineup that adds an extra drive bay for those who felt constrained by the 918+ and gives you the RAM upgrade to 8GB out of the box.
But, just like the 918+, the 1019+ also feels a bit confusing due to the choice to continue to offer NVMe-only cache on relatively lower-tier models. While the cache can make a difference in some situations, most users buying at this price point and performance level probably won't notice a difference, at least not between NVMe and what a SATA-based M.2 drive could offer. In short, it seems like the users or workloads who could most take advantage of ultra-fast NVMe cache would also expect a higher performing processor, faster networking options, or both.
And even for home and small business users who want a bit more performance, spending $100 more on the DS1618+ gets you a sixth drive bay and a PCIe slot. You do lose the built-in M.2 slots, but there are PCIe cards that combine M.2 adapters with 10GbE NICs. You also get less RAM to start, but that can always be upgraded by the user down the road, while the other features exclusive to the DS1618+ will never be available on the DS1019+. That said, here's a basic comparison of the "mid-sized" (4-6 bay) Synology Plus lineup:
|CPU||Celeron J3455||Celeron J3455||Intel Atom C2538||Intel Atom C3538|
|RAM||1 x 4GB (Max 8GB)||2 x 4GB (Max 8GB)||1 x 2GB (Max 16GB)||1 x 4GB (Max 32GB)|
|Ethernet||2 x 1GbE||2 x 1GbE||4 x 1GbE
10GbE via PCIe
|4 x 1GbE
10GbE via PCIe
|Dedicated Cache||2 x M.2 NVMe||2 x M.2 NVMe||No
NVMe/SATA M.2 via PCIe
NVMe/SATA M.2 via PCIe
If you're OK with gigabit speeds and need just a bit more storage space or redundancy than 4 bays can provide, the Synology DS1019+ is a fine choice. Our disappointments with the product only apply to certain use cases; overall there's nothing "wrong" on a hardware or software level. But if 4 bays will suffice, there's not much reason to spend the extra $100 over the DS918+ since they are practically identical in every other respect. Even if you plan to upgrade the RAM in the 918+, a 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM is only about $20, so you'd still save a bit sticking with the smaller model.
But power users hoping for more capability at the lower end of the pricing tier will have to keep waiting. The DS1618+ still remains an excellent option for those who want 10-gigabit networking, and you'll get an extra drive bay as well.
As stated earlier, we think that DiskStation Manager remains the best NAS platform currently available, but companies like QNAP are moving aggressively ahead in terms of hardware by adding native 10GBase-T and more powerful processors to more and more products, and they're catching up in terms of software too. There's always going to be a lower-tier NAS targeting entry-level needs and price points, but that's what Synology's "Value" series is for. In response to pressure from QNAP and others, we'd like to see them quickly bring these not-so-enterprise-only features to the rest of the Plus line in the next full revision cycle.
So, while it's hard to go wrong with the DS1019+ or its counterparts in the Plus series, you may be missing out on more powerful or flexible features that aren't too far off.