The Synology DS213air is a lightweight two bay NAS unit and lightweight is something I would never have associated Synology with. True, the box is rather small, made of plastic and has only two bays. This makes it light in weight, but functionally, it's a different story: it has a lot of tricks on its sleeve that I would like to explore with you.
One of them, as indicated in the name, is its wireless abilities.
Come along and I will show you.
First, let's talk about the box itself. Synology must be rather proud of this little unit as its name is emblazoned on both sides in perforated big letters. This is not just for show but aids in the finely tuned cooling of the unit. Just a few status LEDs and a power button grace the front and that's all you will see on this off-white coloured box.
The back has a couple of USB 3.0 ports, one LAN port and on/off switch for the Wi-Fi.
When I said it had a lot of tricks on its sleeve, I did not include the trick about how to open the box! It's not clearly indicated nor easy to slide off the side panel. Once done, it effectively separates the unit into halves. It's a very simple construction and simplicity is a good thing.
Time to install a couple of hard drives. I still had some Western Digital RED 1 TB drives, but clearly for daily use you would max out the capacity to 6 or 8 TB.
The light weight of the unit itself is enhanced by the external power pack and after plugging into the router for Internet access it's time to power it on. By the way, the little leaflet that tells you how to set up the unit has to be the most concise set of instructions ever for a NAS unit! It takes about a minute before the internal checks have completed and the unit will be sending out a Wi-Fi signal with the name DiskStation. Once we connect to that, the next step is to type in find.Synology.com so that the setup procedure can be completed. This again is a very simple procedure taking no longer than 10 minutes. In fact, one of the screens suggests we just get ourselves a cup of tea!
Well, several cups of tea and lunch later the progress bar was still stuck on 67% but I had assumed in the meantime that it was updating the DSM software from 4.1 to 4.2. When I refreshed the page I tried to connect but was unsuccessful. So we resorted to the CD that came with the unit and installed the Synology Assistant. That was easy enough and the DS213air connected immediately.
It had indeed upgraded to the latest DSM 4.2 but it would have been nice if it had indicated that it was doing so. If I had not realised that a newer software version was out I would have become anxious about the lack of progress in the installation....
I selected the Synology Hybrid Raid for my setup. SHR is an automated RAID Management system, which results in much less wasted space compared to classic RAID implementations. And if you don't know what RAID is all about: take my word and take the easy way out here – go with SHR.
One thing I noticed in having the DS213air right next to my laptop is how quiet the fan is. There is no need to hide this baby in a dark closet to prevent going deaf!
The DS213air is a unit I can get really excited about. Not necessarily about its performance, which is good and commensurate with its price point, but because of its wireless capabilities. This is a first for Synology and if you ask me it will be a standard feature for most of the NAS units that are aimed at the SOHO market.
The DS213air has built-in Wi-Fi which enables it to be wirelessly connected to a router and also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is very important in rooms where there is no LAN cable connection and gives a great amount of freedom to move around. With a couple of USB 3.0 ports in the back it's easy to plug in a printer as well that can be accessed wirelessly. One of our LTE hotspots doesn't have any LAN cable connectivity so this unit is perfectly suited for this environment!
And as a NAS/Router Combo you can create your own private cloud, which I think is a much better alternative for a lot of folks that don't trust their data to anyone outside their own home.
The new DiskStation Manager DSM 4.2 has many new and improved features such as DS cloud and QuickConnect to make this process as easy as I've seen so far. It's only a few years back that getting things to connect with your mobile phone over Bluetooth was a multistep process. The same with setting up a NAS. Mind you, it still can be configured manually to your exact specifications but you don't need IT expertise anymore to get going.
Probably one of the first things you want once the unit is set up is backing up your computer.
The DS213air has a great backup program with Data Replicator or can use many 3rd party programs for this and with the USB 3.0 ports you can quickly create off-site storage for your data.
With its brilliant software, the latest DSM 4.2, the DS213air can stream movies and videos through its DLNA/AirPlay streaming support in Video Station, whereas Audio Station supports Bluetooth A2DP technology for the best high-quality sound available.
Everything in DSM 4.2, such as QuickConnect, is geared towards making installation and connecting a hassle-free experience.
For me, this sort of user friendliness is much more important than any speed prowess. Mind you, the DS213air is no slouch with Read speeds of over 100MB/s.
Its eco-footprint is equally impressive: just 22 W during operation and not even 6 W during hibernation.
Did I mention it is ultra- quiet? The Synology engineers could not even get this NAS to hum after they were done with it!
We are going to give the Synology DS213air our Editor's Choice Award. And it should be fairly obvious why.
To qualify for our highest recommendation we look for innovative solutions to our digital lifestyle problems. The DS213air is everything that an aspiring NAS user on a budget looks for as far as usability, easy connectivity, a great feature set and excellent value for money is concerned. Street price for the DS213air without drives is less than 300 dollars (Australian).
There is only one problem: I would keep this unit as my personal NAS but I really need the extra capacity that a four or five bay unit affords. Watch this space as Synology would be crazy not to introduce the Wi-Fi feature set on a whole range of smaller NAS units. And we here at DigitalReviews as always will try to snap the first one up for a review!