Synology DS213air review: Wireless feature doesn't add enough value
At a Glance
The $300 Synology DS213air is a decent two-bay NAS box whose main claim to fame is its ability to perform as an 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi access point. The unit streams media quite well; however, its name is a bit misleading in that the DS213air has more in common with the $200 DS212j than the significantly faster $300 DS213. The DS213air’s wireless feature isn’t all that unique either, since you can turn add similar functionality to any current Synology NAS box using an inexpensive third-party USB 802.11 adapter. On the upside, this router sports Synology's usual bountiful array of software features.
The DS213air uses a 1.6GHz Marvell Kirkwood mv6282 single-core CPU, and it sports 256MB of system memory. Our review unit arrived populated with two 1TB Seagate Barracuda drives in RAID 1 (mirrored). Using those components, the DS213air wrote our 10GB mix of smaller files and folders at 35.5MBps and read them at 38.3MBps. With our single large 10GB file, its performance increased to 43.6MBps writing and 74.5MBps reading. Those numbers aren't bad, but they’re slower than what we see from most of the competition these days.
I also tested the DS213air's streaming ability with a third-generation iPad, an Asus S7 laptop, and a slower Acer 7250 laptop. Music, photos, and even 1080p video streamed smoothly to all, though as with any Wi-Fi, your proximity and environment will impact results. Note that you must first configure the DS213air using wired Ethernet, pull the Ethernet cable, power down, and then power up again before the DLNA server will choose the Wi-Fi rather than wired network.
Synology's operating system (along with QNAP's) stands head and shoulders above the rest of the competition for breadth of features. The short list includes DHCP, mail and website serving, DLNA and iTunes media serving, free one-camera video surveillance, Web-based photo/video/music serving, FTP, SFTP, HTTPS, and the usual administration features. That makes it a small business server in everything but name. A demo on Synology's Web site lets you play with many of the features. You can check it out here.
The DS213Air has no front USB port for quickly copying files onto the box, but it does have two fast USB 3.0 ports in back. The unit must be disassembled to add or change drives, which isn’t a complicated process, but we much prefer the DS213’s quick-change bays.
Small or home businesses can save a lot of money by deploying a NAS box instead of a full-blown file server; but Synology’s DS213 is a much better device for the same price. Adding a USB Wi-Fi adapter to that model should cost no more than $30. Check Synology's Web site for a list of compatible adapters.