Today weíre looking at the new DS1618+ NAS from Synology. I have reviewed a number of other Synology NAS units in the past - the DS415+ and DS715 for example. Their base capabilities are well known, so I'm focusing on what makes the DS1618+ interesting rather than re-hashing over what it shares with previous units. The DS1618+ is notable for a couple of reasons: One, the new Denverton C3538 CPU; and two, the six drive slots, which helps to fill a gap in the product line between four-drive units like the DS918+ and eight-drive beasts like the DS1817+.
The Denverton C3000 series of CPUs has replaced the C2000 Avoton Atom CPU in Intelís low-power product lines, the Avoton line falling out of favour due to an inherent fault that Intel announced in late 2016. It seems that the chip could have issues with its internal clock which would make a device unresponsive. This was unfortunate, as it was used in a lot of low-power applications, including a number of Synology NAS units. However, to their credit, Synology immediately extended the warranty on affected NAS products. I had two units with C2538 CPUs and they never missed a beat.
As for those six drive slots, Synology already have the DS1517+ with five drive bays, but that is using the old Avoton C2000 chipset. While it hasnít been shown the door yet, I suspect it will passed over when you can spend $100-150aud more and get a newer, faster chipset with DDR4, more RAM capacity and an extra drive slot.
The DS1618+ uses Synologyís mature and stable operating environment, DSM (Disk Station Manager). This is a web based management interface currently on version 6.2. Virtualisation is a strong focus in DSM these days, as well as private cloud functionality, plus strong backup applications, including the option to back up to public cloud service providers directly.
The interface itself is ďwindows-likeĒ and is very responsive. In the 3 years Iíve been using Synology NAS units, Iíve never had any issues with the web interface, nor any of the native Synology-created applications. There is a large third-party collection of applications, with SynoCommunity being the most well-known repository of apps available
The DS1618+ shares a lot of the same physical features and options as many of its siblings, down to the same hard drive caddies, to four 1Gb ethernet ports, USB 3 ports, one eSata, and a PCIe bay - although the only cards available are for two M.2 expansion cards and a 10Gb ethernet card, all three from Synology.
The NAS also supports up to 32GB of ECC DDR4 RAM. Synology kindly sent two 16GB ECC SO-DIMM sticks, which install via a small hatch on the bottom of the NAS unit.
The fans seem to be a little more audible in this model, compared to the larger fans in my older DS1817+. Synology actually say that the DS1618+ is quieter than the older DS1517+, at 23.7dB and 26.2dB respectively. So if you have an older model with smaller (they appear to be 90mm) fans, the DS1618+ should be a mild improvement. For me, I stopped noticing it after a day or two - the nearby PC is louder than the NAS.
The drive caddies are still the same plastic units used for the last few generations of Synology NAS units, and they are perfectly acceptable. The retention bars used to secure 3.5Ē drives canít be used with 2.5Ē drives, so if you have a bunch of SSDís or older laptop drives, you end up with a small collection of retention bars sitting in a drawer. Itís a small gripe, and itís unlikely to be easily fixed since the screw holes on the two drive sizes donít match up, but itís still a little annoying.
The Intel Atom C3538 is a quad-core unit, running at 2.1GHz - but without turbo capability. The older C2538 ran with four cores also, at a higher 2.4GHz clockspeed. However, the new unit has four times as much L2 cache - 8MB vs 2MB - and supports DDR4 2133. TDP for both CPUs is the same at 15w, but the newer chip architecture has clearly gained a lot in the four years between the C2000 and C3000 releases. You can compare the specifications of the two CPUs here on Intel's site.
To compare the performance of the newer chip against the older C2538 CPU - in this case in a DS1817+ - Iíve used Geekbench 4ís CPU benchmark, running in a Windows 7 Professional virtual machine, which is hosted on a SATA3 SSD.
As mentioned earlier we have 32GB of DDR4 ECC RAM in the DS1618+, which meant I could benchmark with both 4GB and 8GB VM configurations. Unfortunately, the DS1817+ has a maximum of 8GB total and will not let you set more than 6GB to any one virtual machine. Iíve left the scores for the 8GB configuration for interestís sake.
Testing was done with both 2 and 4 core configurations, and while I couldnít test an 8GB configuration on the DS1817+, the results from the DS1618+ shows that RAM had very little impact - as you would expect as itís a CPU test. It should be noted that users can only assign ďcoresĒ to a VM, not virtual CPUs and then define the number of cores each vCPU has.
The testing shows the newer C3000 chipset has 15-20% improvement over the old C2538 CPU, and on an anecdotal level, the Windows 7 VM was surprisingly responsive and usable on the DS1618+, via the web-based remote interface. Itís not exactly meant for gaming, but even with 2 cores, it was functional and could be used as a virtual desktop environment in a pinch. By comparison, the VM running on the DS1817+ was sluggish and would drive anyone mental for extended usage.
Virtualisation is something that Synology has embraced strongly in the past couple of years, with the native Virtualisation Management application being advertised quite strongly on DSM-specific sites, and even in the DSM internal app store.
However, I feel like just running a virtual Windows desktop isnít really the point of virtualization on a Synology NAS - trimmed down, command-line-only Linux distros are more suited. Virtual machines are generally more memory-hungry than heavy on the CPU usage, and the maximum amount of RAM of 32GB provides support for quite a few active VMís - as long as they're not CPU intensive.
The DS1618+ has a lot in common with other Synology NAS products, with a similar set of features, form-factor and options. However the new Denverton C3538 CPU provides more horsepower and greater memory expansion options, making the newer unit a superior NAS, with genuine virtualisation capability. For a small office/home office environment, it may be just what is required for expansive storage with redundancy and extended workload capabilities.
A very large 'thank you!' to Synology for the review unit.