Rapid Review: Synology DS119j Single-Bay NAS

Image: Synology

One of the consequences of the shift from traditional hard drives towards SSDs has been shrinking on-board storage in many computers. While spinning drives are slower than SSDs, they are far more capacious and offer vastly superior bang for your storage buck. That's led many of us to look for external storage solutions and the rise in popularity for cloud storage. The Synology DS119j offers up to 14TB of external storage that's easy shared and accessible across both your local network and across the internet.

What Is It?

Network attached storage devices used to be complex. And while Synology has maintained a strong focus on technical capability, they have blended that with an eye on ease-of-use that sets a high standard that others have struggled with. The DS119j is a single disk NAS that's focussed on personal use although I think it would make a fine device for families and small businesses. There are lots of applications such as a local backup location - it supports a number of backup tools through installable apps and services - or as a media server using Synology's software or several other options.

Synology's user focus begins with the setup process. I installed a single 2TB drive I had available although it can handle up to 14TB on a single disk.

The physical disk installation took about five minutes. The front panel of the casing slides off and there's a caddy system the drive sits in. There are some screws for holding it firmly in the box with the DS119j.

Image: Anthony Caruana/Lifehacker

The software set up, once the unit is powered up and connected to your network using an Ethernet cable, starts with simply going to http://find.synology.com in your browser. The NAS was detected straight away. From there, it was a matter of accepting the EULA and hitting "Set up" to install the Diskstation Manager (DSM) software on the drive. This gives the NAS a nice GUI for configuration and access to a library of plug-ins to add new functions to the NAS.

It's important to note the set up process wipes all the data on the disk you install.

The setup process also lets you choose the autoupdate option you like and it will install a few apps and services such as a media server, photo and a tool for managing automatic downloads from torrent sites, FTP servers and other places. But you can skip that step.

Specifications

Processor Marvell Armada 3700 88F3720, 64-bit, Dual Core 800 MHz
Memory 256MB
Ports One Gigabit ethernet port and two USB 2.0 ports
Drives Single bay with support for up to 14TB, also supports external drives via USB
Size and Weight 166 mm x 71 mm x 224 mm, 700g (without drive)

What's Good?

There's a lot to like about the Synology DS119j. With the Toshiba drive I installed, the unit was very quiet which makes it an option worth considering in a small office.

It's hard to discuss the DS119j without considering Synology's DSM software. Ultimately, a NAS is just a single purpose computer. But DSM simplifies the task of managing and getting the most from the hardware.

I've already discussed previously how one of Synology's higher-end units, the DS1517+, could be used to run your own cloud service. That some functionality is available in the DS119j as it shares the same software underpinnings. So, it's possible that the DS119j could be used in a small office - although it's important to note that the availability of just a single drive means there's no redundancy if the drive fails. That means you'll need a backup solution as well.

Performance was solid. In order to keep the price of the DS119j at a consumer-friendly level, they have cut a few corners although they're unlikely to be of great concern in the sorts of use-cases Synology is targeting. The use of a Marvell processor means some of the apps that are available to other Synology units aren't accessible to the DS119j. For example, Plex is only supported on Intel and ARM processors so it cannot run on the DS119j.

But, if you're using the DS119j for important data, you can configure it to back data up to services such as Amazon Glacier, or services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

All those services are easily accessible and can be installed from the Package Center that is part of DSM.

It's also worth noting that the DSM software is regularly updated with new features, access to new third-party packages and patches.

What's Bad?

My chief criticism of the DS119j is that it's not quite as fully featured as I'd like. The decision to go with a Marvell processor limits many of the extra applications that are available to the DS119j. And, if I'd never used a Synology NAS before I'd probably not have noticed it. But I was thinking it would make a great backup location, using the Acronis True Image service and their iOS and computer software, for the family. But that software isn't available to the DS119j - just as Plex insult either.

That said, the array of apps and services accessible through the DSM Package Center is impressive and will suffice for most home users.

Should You Buy It

If you're looking for a low cost, easy-to-share storage solution for your home then the Synology DS119j is a solid option. The real competition that I see is off-the-shelf USB storage that can connect to the USB port found on most modern routers. But then you won't get access to all the different apps and services Synology offers.

The Synology DS119j retails for just under $200. You'll need to also purchase a hard drive.

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Comments

    The CCTV "Surveillance Station" app is worth investigating on DSM too.

    "While spinning drives are slower than SSDs, they are far more capacious"

    Not true anymore, Samsung have a 30tb ssd and I saw someone else has done a 100tb ssd in a 3.5" form factor.

      I did go on to say the bang for storage buck was the issue.

        Yeah the 30 or 100 won't be cheap! Although the 100 is interesting because you could fit it in a 1 drive NAS like this one (assuming they support capacities that high!) whereas you'd need an 8 drive HDD with 8x12tb drives to match that, that would cost $10,000 easy and take up a lot of room.

    Thanks for attempting to explain why I need one of these and what the alternatives are (eg USB flash for local backups). One thing I am interested in though is what is the power consumption of these devices?

      It's a tough question as, to some degree, it will depend on the drive you install. But Synology claims 10.04 W (Access) and 5.01 W (HDD Hibernation). Also, you can schedule it to power on and off at specific times so it's not running overnight or at times when you know it's not needed.

    I've been stung by using NAS as backup - twice now.
    My first [ASUS] 4-bay NAS developed a hardware fault within a year. I kept the drives, got a refund, and moved onto QNAP.

    As you noted, adding a drive to a NAS wipes it.
    Rescuing the data on my original drives was a massive undertaking, but assorted tools and utilities let me get most stuff back.

    Before I could restore everything, the month-old QNAP NAS failed.

    The morals I learned?
    1- NAS is not a backup.
    2- have multiple backups [USB plugins are ideal for this].
    3- NAS rated quality drives won't save you if the NAS itself fails.
    4- Any NAS that just over-writes new disks is a disaster if you ever change / replace / upgrade your setup.

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